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Ground Beef Tacos

This ground beef taco recipe will have everyone excited for taco night! The ground beef tacos get loaded with a blend of juicy taco meat, homemade taco seasoning, creamy refried beans, punchy salsa and tangy green chilies that is then smothered with cheese, baked then piled with your favorite toppings. The tacos are simple yet flavorful and the perfect addition to your easy weeknight dinner arsenal. You can make the ground beef taco recipe the old school way with hard taco shells (pictured) or you can use the incredible taco meat filling in soft tortillas as well – because you are going to want to eat the filling with a spoon! This ground beef taco recipe is also make ahead and freezer friendly so you can get dinner in the oven in minutes.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 26 minutes
Total Time 31 minutes
Servings 10 -12 tacos


  • 10-12 stand up hard taco shells
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar or Mexican cheese blend

Taco Meat

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup salsa medium for more of a kick
  • hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste

Toppings (pick your favs)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 baking dish with standing taco shells. Evenly divide 1 cup cheese between taco shells. Bake the taco shells for 8 minutes (baking crisps up the shells and the cheese prevents the shell from becoming soggy).
  • Meanwhile, brown beef and onions in a large skillet, breaking up clumps of beef as you cook. When almost browned, add all seasonings and garlic and continue to cook until beef is completely cooked through. Drain off any excess grease (if there is any).
  • Add refried beans, salsa and green chilies. Stir over medium-low heat until the beans are completely incorporated into the beef mixture. Taste and season with salt and hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste if desired.
  • Evenly divide taco meat between taco shells followed by 1 cup remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until cheese is completely melted.
  • Top tacos with lettuce and other desired toppings such as tomatoes, sour cream or guacamole.


Tips and Tricks

  • Ground turkey. You are welcome to substitute the ground beef with ground turkey. If you really want the turkey to taste like ground beef, then I also suggest adding 2 teaspoons beef bouillon.  It infuses the turkey with rich, beefy flavor that will blow your mind! If you do use beef bouillon, then omit the salt called for in the recipe and add salt to taste after the filling is combined with the beans and salsa.  Beef bouillon contains salt so you will likely need less salt than the recipe calls for.  
  • Cook meat with refried beans.  Cooking the beef with the refried beans prevents the meat mixture from becoming “wet.”  Instead, the beans soak up any extra liquid.  If you choose to omit the beans or use pinto or black beans, you will want to reduce the amount of salsa and cook until the moisture is evaporated.
  • Fill just before serving.  You can bake the taco shells with the cheese at any point, but you’ll want to wait and add the ground beef taco filling just before baking then serve immediately.
  • Prep toppings ahead of time. While the tacos are baking, take this time to prep the toppings, that way you are ready to serve as soon as the beef tacos come out of the oven.

Make ahead

This ground beef taco recipe will become soggy if assembled ahead of time but you can prepare all of the ingredients, keep them separate, then just assemble when ready to eat.
  • The beef:  Prepare taco meat according to recipe directions, cool, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  When ready to use, simply reheat over medium heat in a skillet until warmed through.
  • The toppings:   You can also prep all of your toppings ahead of time by chopping and storing in airtight containers or baggies.  The guacamole and avocado crema (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac/crema to prevent oxidation. 


The taco meat freezes very well so all you have to do is heat it up, add to the taco shells or tortillas and dinner is served!   To freeze:
  • Prepare taco meat according to directions.
  • Cool to room temperature.
  • Add filling to a freezer size plastic bag.
  • Press bag flat and squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  • Seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to use, defrost taco meat in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Transfer filling to a skillet and warm over medium heat.
  • If the filling seems dry, stir in some water or salsa.