How to Make Taco Meat Like Taco Bell

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Use this Taco Bell Taco Meat recipe to learn how to make taco meat taste just like takeout. Then you can recreate all your favorite menu items at home!

Salty and savory with just a touch of heat — There’s something uniquely delicious about the Taco Bell™ ground beef recipe that makes their tacos a crave-able snack at any time of day.

While there are dozens (or more!) taco meat recipes out there, none have ever come as close to tasting like this fast food favorite. Once you know how to make taco meat at home, there will be no reason to wait in the drive thru again!

titled: how to make taco meat

Taco Bell Taco Meat Recipe

There really isn’t anything difficult about making taco meat. Just brown the ground beef, and add a little water and Tex Mex spices. Then, let it simmer and cook until it thickens up.

However, there’s one trick that’s extremely important when making this copycat Taco Bell meat recipe.

Be sure to break up the beef into very small pieces, so the texture is consistent. It’s just as crucial as getting the seasoning right!

Once all of the liquid has been absorbed, it’s ready to serve! Spoon it into taco bowls or shells, or set out a walking tacos buffet.

And, of course, you’ll want to use it to make some of our other Taco Bell recipes! You can make a Mexican Pizza, beef Quesarito, or a Crunchwrap Supreme!

homemade taco bell taco seasoning and taco meat ingredients

Taco Bell Beef Ingredients

  • Ground Beef
    I prefer to use 85% lean ground meat, but feel free to use your favorite. For fattier blends, you will need to drain off any excess grease before adding the spices.
  • All Purpose Flour
    This ingredient isn’t typically used in an authentic taco meat recipe, but Taco Bell ground beef has a very specific texture that we’re trying to achieve. A little all-purpose flour helps to thicken the mixture so it all sticks together.
  • Spices
    Garlic and onion powder are must in just about any savory dish! Cumin, chili powder, and paprika add more flavor and heat without making the meat too spicy.
  • Beef Bouillon
    You’ll want to use a concentrated paste for this Taco Bell ground beef recipe, not the dry cubes or granules.
  • Sugar
    Don’t worry — this doesn’t give the beef a sweet flavor! There is just enough to balance the flavors and prevent a sharp aftertaste.
  • Water
    Liquid helps the spices distribute throughout the browned meat, locking in all of the delicious flavor.
browning ground beef in skillet

PRO TIP
If you don’t have time to stand at the stove, you can cook ground beef in a slow cooker!

adding water to taco bell taco seasoning in skillet of ground beef

How to Make Taco Meat FAQ

Can I use a packet of taco seasoning instead?

Personally, I like to use homemade spice blends whenever I can, simply to avoid the added preservatives and artificial colors. That said, your favorite taco seasoning blend will work just fine. Or, some stores carry the branded Taco Bell taco seasoning.

overhead: ground beef simmering in skillet
Does Taco Bell use real ground beef?

According to their website, yes. There have been rumors over the years that their signature blend includes horse meat and other fillers, but the company states that they only use 100 percent USDA premium beef.

What’s in Taco Bell taco seasoning?

Unfortunately, the ingredients are a bit of a mystery. Their website does note a “signature blend of 7 authentic seasonings and spices,”. They also say they have removed artificial flavors and colors in favor of natural alternatives.

For this Taco Bell taco meat recipe, I use a blend of savory and hot spices, plus a little bit of sugar — and a surprise ingredient, beef bouillon paste! This combination creates a unique flavor that (in my opinion) tastes just like the Taco Bell beef.

making taco bell meat recipe in skillet

Prep Ahead Instructions

Once you learn how to make taco meat, it becomes second nature to whip up a batch in a few minutes. It doesn’t hurt to cook it up in advance for parties, just don’t let it sit out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours. 

If you need to prep ahead, refrigerate the mixture and reheat it on the stove when it’s time to eat.

spoonful of authentic taco meat

How To Store Taco Meat

Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container and refrigerate. Be sure to use it within 2 to 3 days. You could also double or triple this Taco Bell meat recipe and freeze some for future meals!

Portion the seasoned ground beef into freezer-safe Ziploc bags so you can thaw just what you need in the refrigerator overnight. 

Cooked taco meat keeps well for up to 3 months in the freezer.

Enjoy!

With love, from our simple kitchen to yours. 

bowl of copycat taco bell meat

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taco meat close up

Taco Bell Taco Meat Recipe

Donna Elick
Use my Taco Bell Taco Meat recipe to learn how to make taco meat taste just like takeout. You can recreate your favorite menu items at home!
5 stars from 2 reviews
Tried this recipe?Please comment and review!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Main
Cuisine Tex Mex
Method Stovetop
Servings 4 people

Equipment

Ingredients
 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Add ground beef to a large skillet over medium heat. Cook until browned, using a meat chopper or potato masher to break the meat into very small pieces as it cooks.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and bring to a simmer.
    Continue cooking, breaking the meat apart as necessary, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
  • Use as desired, and enjoy!

Donna’s Notes

  1. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 days.
  1. You can substitute the spices with a packet of your favorite taco seasoning, or a packet of Taco Bell taco seasoning.
  1. Breaking down the meat into very small pieces is just as important as getting the seasoning right for this copycat recipe. The longer the meat cooks, the easier it becomes to break it down.

Nutrition

Serving: 4ounces | Calories: 258cal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 90mg | Sugar: 1g | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 3mg

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Originally published April 2022.

titled pinterest image: how to make taco meat like taco bell

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10 Comments

  1. What is the red blob you show in several pictures and why isn’t it in the ingredient list? It looks like about 2tbsp of tomato paste, which can’t be correct since that would easily overpower 1lbs of ground beef.

    1. Hi Chris,
      Your guess is correct – there are 2 tablespoons of tomato paste in the recipe. We don’t think it overpowers the other flavors at all. Hope you enjoy the recipe!

      TSRI Team member,
      Becca

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks for correcting the ingredients! Wanted to make this the right way! Wasn’t sure if that was tomato paste or not and YES the recipe is DELICIOUS!!! Thanks so much!

      1. 5 stars
        I’m 69, very athletic and still thin (skinny, 31 waist) mainly because I eat fruit and vegetables my whole life and avoid hard to chew meats and sugar, and no vices, causing me to never been sick since childhood. However, I was born and raised in L.A. eating burritos and tacos at Taco Bell. It is the only meat I love, but I eat there very rarely now because I live 50 miles away, up in the mountains and it takes too long to get there. But if I lived nearby I’d eat there every day. So you can understand my excitement and joy when I found this recipe, especially after reading a dozen other recipes over the last several months in frustration. And it’s not just the recipe but your delivery, the words you use, very loving, very supportive, very instructive. I haven’t bought hamburger since my teens. But today, Thursday Sept 15th, I’m going to buy 1 lb of grass-fed 80/20 beef at my local Vons costing I believe $9, plus the paste. That should come to about $1 per taco. I’m also saving this page on my phone so that I can access all those other yummy recipes (chili lime chicken taquitos, yum). And that’s all except I’d like to add that people who comment they can’t print the recipe must be too lazy to take the 60 seconds it takes to write them down. And they’re probably using a desktop computer which no one has used in the last 10 years. Even laptops are outdated. Phone technology is king. So I hope I can make this as well as you and I’ll eat Taco Bell food everyday way up here in the mountains.

        1. What a heartwarming comment, David – thank you so much for taking the time to share your excitement with us! Enjoy your grass-fed tacos – I’m sure they will be delicious! 🙂

          TSRI Team member,
          Becca

  3. We have tried to print this recipe but unable to get the ingredients and instructions to print on our computer. We got the comments and ads, several pages that are useless but no ingredients and instructions. Please help!!!!!

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble, Levada. I just tested the print button from my computer and my phone and didn’t have any issues. You might want to try right clicking on the print button, then open it in a new browser tab.

      TSRI Team member,
      Becca

    1. Hi Bill,
      That would be in step 2 where it says “Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet and bring to a simmer.” Hope that helps!
      TSRI Team Member,
      Holli

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