This healthy ground beef taco meat is packed full of hidden vegetables and brimming with authentic Mexican flavor. Added veggies boost health and flavor while padding your wallet at the same time!
I’ve learned that some of my best ideas come from extreme circumstances. For example:
In order to get out of debt, we learned how to create a grocery budget. That led me to create this blog and my course Grocery Budget Bootcamp, and allowed us to pay cash for our house.
Then, we embarked on the Whole30 (an elimination diet that prohibits soy, gluten, grains, sugar, dairy and legumes) and we were eating crazy amounts of meat.
In order to stay within budget, I found ways to stretch ground beef and came up with what is now our FAVORITE ground beef taco meat recipe!
Why we love it:
- More veggies, less meat. You’re adding healty (hidden) vegetables and stretching your beef AND your budget to create more meals with less money. Win-win.
- The homemade taco seasoning is unbeatable. I’m not going to lie here…this seasoning is AWESOME.
- Kid-approved. This recipe is tried and tested on picky eaters. Because the veggies are mixed in with the meat, they taste like, well…meat!
- Freezes well. Stock your freezer and toss your taco meat in a variety of dishes.
- Whole-30 compliant. No grains or legumes…just vegetables and meat!
- Olive oil
- Ground beef (or alternative ground meat)
- Homemade taco seasoning
Notes on Ingredients
- Onion + Celery. Be sure to FINELY dice the onion and celery (think the size of 2 pieces of rice) so that it blends well into the meat and your kids won’t bother with the hassle of picking them out.
- Mushrooms. According to the resident picky eater, as long as the mushrooms are chopped finely as well (not quite as small as the onion – think 4 pieces of rice), they taste just like the meat. Try brown or cremini mushrooms if you or your kids aren’t mushroom lovers.
- Carrots. Shred the carrots instead of chopping, and aim for smallish shreds. I recommend this box grater.
- Beef. If you don’t love beef, you can substitute any ground meat. Personally, I prefer grass-fed beef, and if you can’t find it locally, or are looking for a consistent, trusted supplier of quality meat, I recommend checking out Butcher Box (you can read my personal review HERE and find out how I prioritize quality meat in our budget HERE). Get our Exclusive Crumbs Readers deal HERE.
- Cabbage. This is an optional add-on for those of you who love cabbage (in which case, you should try my egg roll in a bowl). Again, chop finely to blend well.
- Choose the right pan. The vegetables will let out liquid as they cook, so it’s important to use a shallow pan. This allows the excess liquid to evaporate quickly and create a delicious ground beef taco meat that’s solid clumps instead of soggy meat mash (which we don’t like!).
- I used this 12” cast iron skillet and it was the perfect size for this recipe
- Make your own taco seasoning. In addition to tasting AMAZING, this allows you to adjust the level of seasoning, cuts down on additives, and saves money.
- Freeze some taco meat. I’m all about freezing things for later (a la yogurt and tomato paste and breakfast sausage and meatballs and even this step-by-step freezer cooking guide), so I highly recommend doubling or tripling this recipe and freezing it for later.
- Cook one batch at a time.
- Let cool and then portion out 2 cup servings into freezer-safe containers. Double wrapping prevents freezer burn, which doesn’t ruin food, but can make it taste less appealing.
- If you’re making something else or feeding a family on the Whole30 (here’s a sampling of what we ate in a week), freezing in 2 cup portions lets you easily pull out additional bags.
I freeze meals a LOT, so I’ve learned a few things along the way, and of course I want to share them with you! Here are some of my most-used freezing hacks:
- Tip #1: I freeze meat in sandwich bags, then put those sandwich bags in a larger gallon bag. I typically re-use plastic bags if I keep something like pretzels or grapes, but I don’t re-use any bags that I’ve used to store meat.
- Tip #2: I’ll toss the smaller sandwich bags, but re-use the gallon bag since it didn’t touch the meat. This also makes the meat a bit more flexible for my tiny freezer!
- Tip #3: I like the types of baking dishes that come with lids, like this one. It’s great for traveling, yes, but I REALLY like it because if I run out of time to portion everything in the freezer, I can cover it up and put it in the fridge!
Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Cook the vegetables. In a large heavy bottom skillet (I use my 12” cast iron skillet), warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, celery, mushrooms and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.
Step 2: Add the ground beef and taco seasoning.* Break up the beef using a pastry cutter or a wooden spoon and stir until everything is mixed well.
*Psst! I have a secret savory tip for you! Try Ava Jane’s Kitchen for your salt, whether using it in my homemade taco seasoning or topping your meat with a dash of salt before serving. Why? For one, because it doesn’t have microplastics (gross, right?). It’s also SO GOOD! Plus, you can get a bag for just 1¢!! (Get your penny bag of salt on this page.)
Step 3: Cook the ground beef on medium heat until it’s no longer pink. The juices and water should be evaporating, but if they’re not, you can turn the heat up slightly. Stand at the stove if you turn the heat up and stir constantly so as not to burn the meat or vegetables.
Step 4: Serve as you would ground beef, preferably in tacos!
What kind of ground beef is best for tacos?
Any type of ground beef or meat can be used for tacos, but I prefer grass-fed organic beef (I highly recommend Butcher Box, and there is a special offer for Crumbs readers HERE), mixed with a whole bunch of fresh vegetables to add flavor and nutrition to my tacos.
Are homemade tacos healthy?
Yes! I use organic, grass-fed beef from a trusted source, and boost the nutrition with loads of fresh vegetables so all the nutritional bases are covered!
How do you season taco meat from scratch?
This taco seasoning recipe utilizes common spices in your kitchen (chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, and oregano) and allows you to adjust the spiciness of your seasoning. It’s super easy to make and doesn’t have any of the preservatives and anti-caking agents that make store-bought seasonings less healthy!
More Mexican Favorites
The Very Best Slow Cooker Carnitas
Spicy Citrus Black Beans
The Best Tex-Mex Migas
Slow Cooker Mexican Potato Soup
5 days to save $75Need to save money on real food? Download my free guide to saving $75 in 5 days using easy, practical baby steps.
Watch How to Make Ground Beef Taco Meat
Ground Beef Taco Meat
This recipe for ground beef taco meat uses homemade taco seasoning and it’s hands down the best taco meat in the world. It makes awesome authentic tacos – even better than Mexican restaurants. My kids always ask for seconds, so double or triple this recipe. It freezes well and is Whole30, Paleo compliant.
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Main Meals
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup finely diced onion (about 1 large onion)
- 1 cup finely diced celery (about 2–3 stalks)
- 1 cup finely diced mushrooms (about 4 oz)
- 1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 large carrots)
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2–3 Tbsp homemade taco seasoning
- In a large heavy bottom skillet (I use my 12” cast iron skillet), warm olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 cup finely diced onions, 1 cup finely diced celery, 1 cup finely diced mushrooms and 1 cup shredded carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.
- Add the 1 lb ground beef and 2-3 Tbsp taco seasoning. Break up the beef using a pastry cutter or a wooden spoon and stir until everything is mixed well.
- Cook the ground beef on medium heat until it’s no longer pink. The juices and water should be evaporating, but if they’re not, you can turn the heat up slightly. Stand at the stove if you turn the heat up and stir constantly so as not to burn the meat or vegetables.
- Serve as you would ground beef, preferably in tacos!
- Calories: 260
Very easy and very tasty. Used impossible burger, because there was some in the fridge. Will definitely make again.
Kyare - Team Crumbs
So glad to hear this, Rebecca!
Love this recipe and use it all the time, was curious if you think it could be used in chili? or even to make meatballs… thinking it might be too much stuff to get it to stick but I might try it! If anyone has tried let us know, I’ll report back what happens to with my experiment!
Would love to know if this can be made into meatballs as well!!
SJ - Team Crumbs
Hi Courtney and Suz, Absolutely! Use the seasonings on this recipe but use the flour and eggs called for here instead of Italian seasoning.
I would love to understand how to make the stretched meat in to meatballs. Can anyone help clarify this for me?
This was really yummy! I didn’t have any corn starch or cayenne pepper and it still turned out good. Tasted much better than pre-packaged seasoning. My husband and 2yr. old ate it all up.
Karen @ Team Crumbs
We’re so happy to hear that! 🙂
Can this be frozen in portions after it’s all cooked, or only refrigerated?
Karen @ Team Crumbs
Hi Tanya! Yes, it would be great frozen. Make sure that it is completely cooled first, and portion into individual freezer bags. Push all of the air out and label the bags with the date. It should be good in the freezer for 3 months. 🙂 Enjoy!
Thanks so much. I have made this recipe before but I was out of carrots, so I used cauliflower rice and it worked great. My daughter never knew.
Tiffany, I didn’t follow your recipe exactly but added the quantities of celery, onion, carrot & mushroom that I already had on hand to my ground beef and cooked everything together. I even forgot to add my homemade taco seasoning but this made a pretty good taco salad!!! Thanks for this awesome idea. So glad I found your website.
You’re so very welcome, Allison!
I didn’t think this stretching meat idea was going to fly with my hubby but we really need our budget to stretch further. So I gave it a go, homemade taco seasoning and all. I didn’t have time or patience to chop or grate anything so I just toss all the veggies in my food processor. Hubs unfortunately came in before I finished cooking and could see the colours. So I had to tell him but once cooked you couldn’t tell the difference. And everyone loved it.
I’m so glad everyone loved it Sabrina! There have been a few times when hubs walked in when I was trying something new in the kitchen. If I can scoot him out long enough for me to finish, he never knows the wiser, LOL!
You have homemade taco seasoning in the recipe but where is the recipe for it please?
Oops! Sorry about that Norah! Here it is: https://dontwastethecrumbs.com/2018/05/homemade-taco-seasoning-recipe/. I’ll update the recipe too. Thank you for pointing that out to me!
We make tacos ALOT! I usually use over 2 lbs of ground beef for the 4 of us (this includes 2 teenage boys who love tacos) and the meat is almost gone. Often I would grate some veggies I.e. carrots and zucchini but your idea of the brown mushrooms/onions/celery chopped small is great!! My younger son would ALWAYS pick out the mushrooms but because they were chopped small he did not notice….. I felt with all the veggies this is a much healthier version of tacos and everyone loved it …… ESPECIALLY with the homemade tortillas. Thanks for all the helpful practical tips!!
You’re very welcome Laurie!
I didn’t have all the ingredients but used what I had and your idea here and was pretty shocked when my kids gobbled it up and didn’t appear to even notice!! I’m doing it from here on out and love that it’s adding nutrition to the meat but also stretching it so it’s frugal! Win, win in my books. Thanks!
You’re very welcome Carly!
I add pureeed or grated zucchini or squash and a can of pumpkin purée to stretch mine, and I sometimes throw in celery or mushrooms as well. It’s not no carbs, of course, but sometimes I also add retried black beans. I much prefer the texture over whole so I can pick pretend I’m eating straight up meat. 😉 Depends what I have around.
My friend was over when I attempted to stretch some ground beef for us and six kids for a taco salad. She didn’t tell her kids about the additions, and They unsuspecting oh gobbled it up. Some had seconds, and my friend even noted that the pumpkin gave it a creaminess that made her not miss the cheese. There was even enough ledt for my husband to have it when he came home from work, and I thought surely he’d be digging For leftovers!
I love these creative additions Christie!
Thanks for the ideas. My husband is a hard “no” on celery, but I can use all the other ideas. Fantastic.
I would just like to add, I have an electric 4-cup chopper that chops onions, mushrooms, celery, and carrots to a great minute size. I use it all the time when I make soup with vegetables in it because my daughter does not eat many vegetables at all. I can put vegetables in anything, and she will eat them if I chop them in the chopper.
Thanks for the tip Missy!
Hi Missy, not sure if you will see this question, what kind of chopper is it?