When it comes to recipes using ground beef, this Instant Pot taco meat should be every household’s staple. It’s affordable, freezer-friendly and super versatile with different ways you can use up the leftovers. We’ll show you how to make very delicious spiced ground meat that you can do during meal prep or enjoy in tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas, pasta and rice dishes.
WHAT IS TACO MEAT?
Just in case you live somewhere with a distinct lack of Mexican or Tex-Mex eateries and you’re not familiar with the concept of taco meat, let us make quick introductions.
Taco meat is made from ground beef (not too lean to preserve some flavor and keep it juicy) that has been fried with a mix of spices, chili, garlic and tomatoes or tomato sauce. The meat is fried and braised until the broth it’s cooking in is thickened into a gravy. This gravy coats the meat and gives it lots of flavor and shine. Taco meat shouldn’t be too dry but it’s not a meat sauce either. It needs to be stiff enough to stay in a taco and hold well inside an enchilada.
Well-seasoned taco meat makes the perfect protein base for many dishes such as tacos, burritos, nachos, quesadillas, enchiladas, rice casseroles, salads and wraps. By adding more broth and tomatoes to taco meat, you can turn it into a pasta sauce. Check out 11 ways to use up leftover taco meat here.
Taco meat is nutritious (check out nutrients below) and our recipe is gluten-free, paleo, Whole30 and keto-friendly.
HOW TO SEASON TACO MEAT
Taco meat has two key parts to it: ground beef and spice seasoning mix. Better quality beef will give you more flavorful taco meat. If you’re counting calories, getting leaner ground beef might save you a few but to get the juiciest results, look for ground meat with 5-10% fat.
The second key element is the taco seasoning which consists of different spices and herbs such as cumin, coriander seed, paprika, chili and dried oregano. There are many variations, of course, but these are the more accessible spices that we used in our recipe. Aromatics such as onion and garlic are often used for more flavor.
There are many ready-made taco seasoning options and pre-mixed blends. Feel free to use those, we noted required amounts in the recipe below.
HOW TO COOK TACO MEAT IN INSTANT POT
Cooking taco meat in Instant Pot is easy and allows you to lock in all those nutrients and flavors during pressure cooking. The meat is first cooked on HIGH pressure and then thickened into stiffer consistency using the Saute function of the Instant Pot. Everything is done in one pot, which is easy to clean up afterwards. Here are the basic steps and you will find the full list of ingredients, instructions and nutritional breakdown in the recipe card below.
Step 1. We are using onions, garlic and red jalapeno chili which we saute in a little oil until just softened.
Step 2. The meat and taco seasoning spices are added and cooked through together briefly. Still on Saute at this point.
Step 3. Water is added (you could also use stock or bone broth). At this point, you can turn the Saute function off. It’s very important to stir the water through the mix and use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the bottom to make sure nothing is stuck. This will prevent the really annoying BURN error that can happen if anything is burnt during the Saute stage.
Step 4. Add the crushed tinned tomatoes BUT do not mix! Tomato sauce has a tendency to thicken and caramelise during cooking, which in newer models of Instant Pot can cause the BURN error.
Step 5. Pop the lid on top and pressure cook on HIGH for 10 minutes with 5-10 minutes natural pressure release. Once you’ve released the remaining pressure and opened the lid, the taco will look more like meat sauce. At this point, stir it through and set the Instant Pot to Saute function again.
Step 6. The final step is to thicken the sauce into gravy, which will stiffen our taco meat. Sauteeing will allow the mixture to come to bubbling, which combined with frequent stirring, will evaporate much of the excess liquid. Depending on how stiff or thick you want the taco meat to be, this can take anywhere between 5-10 minutes. We did ours for about 8 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently!
Look at how rich and shiny this taco meat looks! Are you ready to tuck in? We served it with a few chili slices, scallions and cilantro. We did simple tacos with avocado, lime and cheese on the side. You can add salsa, corn, beans, rice or whatever you like.
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Versatile, freezer-friendly and affordable, this Instant Pot taco meat is a must-have recipe for every household. Make a large batch for a taco party or use it up in nachos, casseroles and salads. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, Whole30, low-carb friendly.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 serrano or jalapeno chili, diced
1.8 lb / 800 g ground beef (we used 93% meat, 7% fat)
5 cloves garlic, diced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2/3 cup water
1 cup chopped tinned tomatoes, passata
- Turn the Instant Pot on and press the Saute function key. Add the olive oil, onions and chili and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times, until softened and golden brown.
- Add the beef and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring and breaking the clumps of ground beef with a spatula.
- Add the water and stir through the beef, making sure to scrape the bits off the bottom. Water will help to deglaze the bottom and anything that might be stuck, which will prevent the possibility of BURN error.
- Press Cancel to stop the Saute process. Add the tomato sauce on top and spread it evenly with a spoon. DO NOT stir the sauce into the meat but rather layer it. Sometimes, the new models of IP can be very sensitive to burning high-sugar ingredients such as tomato sauces, so for this recipe, it’s best to leave it at the top of the meat.
- Set to Manual/Pressure Cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes. After 3 beeps, the Instant Pot will start to build up the pressure. This will take about 5-10 minutes.
- Once the timer goes off, allow 5-10 minutes for natural pressure release and then point the top valve to Venting to do a quick release. Open the lid and stir the sauce through. At this stage, it will have a lot of liquid from the meat juices, so we will use the Saute function again to thicken the sauce.
- Press the Saute and cook the beef for 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently. This will allow the liquid to evaporate and the sauce to thicken to you preferred consistency.
- Cool down before storing in the fridge or freezer.
Ground beef amount: if using more ground beef, make sure to add more water and more crushed tomatoes; you can also add a little more of each spice.
- For 2lb / 0.9 kg ground beef use 1 cup water and 1.25 cups tomatoes (salt and spices should be about the same, but taste for salt).
- For 3 lb / 1.3 kg ground beef, add 1/2 teaspoon of each spice, 2.5 teaspoons salt, 1.5 cup water and 1.5 cups tomatoes.
TACO MEAT FAQ
How long is taco meat good for? How to freeze taco meat?
Taco meat will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer. Make sure to cool down the meat first before storing it in an airtight container or heavy-duty freezer bags. Make sure to label the containers if storing in the freezer. To use frozen taco meat, defrost it overnight in the fridge or in a microwave.
What do to with leftover taco meat?
Taco meat can be used in so many ways besides tacos. You can use it as a filling in burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas; as a topping on salads, naked burrito bowls, nachos; in sandwiches, sliders, wraps and burgers; in rice casseroles or pasta, dips, lasagna and much more.
How many calories in taco meat?
Using our recipe, you’re looking at 265 calories per 5 ounces of taco meat or 140 grams (give or take), 28 grams protein, 5.5 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fibre, and 14.5 grams fat. The calories in taco meat will depend on the fat content of the ground beef used. We used ground beef that was 93% meat and 7% fat.
How much taco meat per person?
This really depends on what you’re using taco meat for. On average, 5 ounces or 140 grams of taco meat should be enough for an adult but you can stretch it out with the addition of other things like beans, rice and corn.
How to reheat taco meat?
On a stovetop, reheat in a pot or a frying pan over medium-high heat with a splash of water. You can also do this in the Instant Pot using the Saute function. Otherwise, microwave for 2 minutes on HIGH until very hot.
How much meat per taco?
This will depend on the size of the tacos and how many other toppings you want to add but 2 heaped tablespoons should be a good start.
How to thicken taco meat?
The easiest way to thicken taco meat is by using the evaporation method. You can do this on the stovetop or Instant Pot. Make sure to turn the heat up to bring the taco mix to bubbling. Cook on medium-high for 5-10 minutes (maybe longer if quite watery) and make sure to stir frequently, which will help to evaporate most of the excess liquid and thicken the gravy to your liking.
You can also sprinkle taco meat mixture with a little flour, which will also thicken the sauce.
How much taco meat for 20?
This question often comes up from people throwing together a taco party. Somewhere between 5-6 ounces / 140-150 grams of taco meat should be a sufficient amount, provided you have other taco fillings on the table such as guacamole, salsa, maybe cheese, corn or beans. Our recipe uses 1.8 lb/800 g ground beef to make about 6 servings, so for 20 people, you are looking at 3-4 times that.