Forget the drive-thru, this is how to make a beef tacos recipe that tastes just like Taco Bell tacos for an easy Taco Tuesday dinner at home any night of the week.
You Quiero Taco Bell Tacos
“So, where did you have lunch today?”
It’s pretty much the same question I ask my husband every day. I mean, there’s only so much stimulating conversation to be had when documenting our day to day after all these years of marriage. And pretty much every day for the past 20 years he has the same answer. “Taco Bell.” If he was a guy who was into tattoos, it’s likely he’d have, “Yo quiero Taco Bell” emblazoned somewhere on his body.
And I have to say, I can’t blame the man for loving his tacos, because say what you will about fast food—I’m not much of a fan—but Taco Bell tacos are pretty much the cat’s meow when it comes to drive-thru Mexican food.
I blame my mother-in-law for creating my man’s Taco Bell taco obsession. Because my MIL makes the best homemade beef tacos ever, and while it took me a while to realize it, one of the reasons they are so good is because they taste eerily similar to the beloved Taco ala Bell.
Years ago I ditched my own ground beef taco recipe in favor of hers, and today I’m finally sharing the secrets to these homemade tacos that make them taste so good they could very well curb your drive thru habit too.
Ground Beef Taco Ingredients
My MIL’s ground beef tacos are revered in the family, and probably the most often requested dinner for family gatherings, next to her Curry Turkey Pot Pie (my birthday favorite!) or Hamburger Soup. She takes her ground beef tacos seriously, and while this recipe is super easy to make, there are several key ingredients and techniques that make it special, and so frigging delicious:
- Ground beef
- White onion
- Tomato juice
- Yellow corn meal
- Taco shells
- Shredded cheese
- Taco seasoning
Fortunes have been made on packaging taco seasoning, but it’s so simple to make from your spice drawer, why not make it from scratch?
- Chili powder
- Garlic salt
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Taco seasoning is pretty salty on its own so don’t be alarmed if you take a taste and feel it’s too much.
What’s the Best Ground Beef for Tacos?
For this taco meat recipe, use an 85% lean ground beef. You don’t want anything too lean, otherwise you’re liable to wind up with dry taco meat.
How to Make Tacos
As you brown the beef, use a flat edged wooded spatula to really chop up the beef into small pieces. I find this easiest to do once the meat has begun to brown, breaking down easier than when raw. Once the meat is in smaller bits, stir in the onions and garlic and continue to cook.
My MIL says the flavor in these tacos comes from browning the beef really well, building crisped bits on the bottom of the pan. Watch it though, so the beef doesn’t burn or char.
The taco spices are added to the ground beef toward the end of browning and cooked for a minute or two to sear into the flavor of the meat and awaken the flavor of the spices as they heat.
So far the ingredients for these tacos are pretty standard, but here is where we change up the expectation. Tomato juice is added to the ground beef and spices to deglaze the pan and pull up all those browned bits, plus adds moisture for the super special ingredient that my mother in law adds to make these tacos taste most like Taco Bell: Ground cornmeal.
I know, right? Cornmeal makes perfect sense as a taco meat ingredient. It tightens up the beef mixture after the tomato juice is added, and adds another layer of maize/corn essence combining with the Mexican flavors. If the mix feels too thick, add a bit more tomato juice (V-8 works too), or even water to thin and cook the cornmeal.
Two of the hallmarks of a bad taco are 1) a cold taco shell and 2) cheese that still carries the chill of the fridge. That’s why the last step of my MIL’s delicious tacos is in the assembling of the tacos should not be skipped and totally worth completing this extra step.
see more: 70 Cinco De Mayo Mexican Recipes
Use a baking sheet or a casserole dish to snuggle yellow or white corn taco shells together upright, then spoon the taco meat into the shells and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Bake in the oven or a toaster oven at 400°F until the cheese melts and the shells begin to brown.
Finally. It’s time to dress these babies up.
My husband always complains there’s never enough sour cream and I always crave avocado.
Everyone has their favorite toppings. And since you’re making them yourself, now is the time to load them up the way you like ’em.
see more: 31 Healthy Mexican Recipes to Make Now
Can I Use Ground Turkey Instead?
Technically, yes. But if you’re truly looking to make copycat Taco Bell tacos, ground beef is the way to go.
Can I Use Store-Bought Taco Seasoning?
Again, you technically can. But your homemade taco recipe won’t taste just like Taco Bell’s.
Tips for Making the Best Tacos
To break down the taco meat really finely, use a potato masher or a meat masher. Or, use your spatula and take your time breaking up the ground beef.
After you’ve stirred in the tomato juice and cornmeal, you’ll need to let the taco filling bubble away for a good 10 to 15 minutes. If you try to serve your ground beef tacos right away, the filling will be too soupy.
Make your life easier by putting all the taco toppings into serving dishes and let your family top their tacos as they see fit.
What to Serve With Tacos to Make a Meal
- Easy Mexican Coleslaw Recipe
- Creamy Avocado Salsa Verde
- Chopped Mexican Kale Salad
- Mango Margarita With Chile Salt And Lime
- Chunky Citrus Guacamole
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Bookmark this recipe and leave a comment below, or take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats
Just Like Taco Bell Tacos
- 1 pound 85% lean ground beef
- 1/2 white onion , diced
- 2 cloves garlic , pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoons garlic salt
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons pepper
- 2 cups tomato juice
- 1/4 cup yellow corn meal
- 12 taco shells
- 2 cups cheddar cheese , shredded
- sliced lettuce
- chopped tomatoes
- sour cream
- Add the ground beef to a large skillet over medium high heat and cook until browned, about 10 minutes, breaking into small pieces as it browns.
- Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the beef is well browned and the onion is translucent.
- Add the cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, kosher salt, and black pepper and cook for another 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
- Stir in the tomato juice and cornmeal and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the juice has cooked down and the cornmeal softens, stirring occasionally. Add more tomato juice or water if the mixture clumps.
- Place the taco shells on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and spoon about 1/3 cup taco meat into each shell and sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Broil in a toaster oven or oven until the cheese melts.
- Garnish the tacos with fixings and serve.
- I like white corn taco shells, but yellow corn or even soft shells make a great Taco Bell style taco.
More Taco Recipes You’ll Want to Make Too
- Breakfast Tacos Recipe
- Blackened Fish Tacos With Creamy Avocado Sauce
- Grilled Steak Tacos
- Shrimp Tacos With Garlic Avocado Crema
- Slow Cooker Smoky Pulled Pork Tacos
- Stewed Chicken Tacos
- Fried Avocado Tacos Recipe
Craving more life balance, less stress, and better health? Check out my Nourished Planner, the daily planner to help create simplicity and under-schedule your life.
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