If you’ve ever been to Mexico, it’s likely you fondly remember how wickedly delicious the tacos were
BY MICHELLE MCGLINN
If you’ve ever been to Mexico, it’s likely you fondly remember how wickedly delicious the tacos were. Usually filled with well-marinated meat and simple, fresh toppings, those tacos might have even changed your life. With this recipe from Michelle McGlinn, your tacos nights at home can be life-changing, too.
Ground beef isn’t a typical filling for authentic Mexican tacos. It’s unlikely you’d find ground beef in many dishes at all, besides a picadillo or maybe a stuffed chile relleno. It’s a popular meat in America because of how inexpensive and quick-cooking it is, making it a popular choice for commercial taco restaurants.
While delicious, it’s hard to braise large cuts of beef or roast big shoulders of pork for a weeknight dinner. To recreate that authentic street taco taste in under 20 minutes, we used quick-cooking ground beef flavored with spices, lime, and adobo and cooked until crispy for a similarly delicious filling. Crumbly cotija, fresh onion, and cilantro will quickly replace the lettuce and tomato of taco nights past, making these easy street tacos your new favorite Tuesday treat.
Everything you need for easy ground beef street tacos
First, grab ground beef. We recommend opting for lean ground beef for this recipe since we will be draining any excess fat in the skillet and won’t need the extra grease (unlike a burger, which benefits from juicy fats). To season the beef, you’ll need cumin, chili powder, lime juice, salt, pepper, and a can of chipotles in adobo. Unless you like your tacos extra spicy, you won’t need the whole can of chipotles and can save the rest for something like chipotle mayo. For toppings, you’ll just need a small white or yellow onion, fresh cilantro, and cotija cheese. If you can’t find cotija, try queso fresco, which is found in most grocery stores near cheeses like feta or mozzarella. Finally, get the smallest tortillas in the store — they’ll be about 4 inches wide and sold as either corn or flour street taco shells.
Cook the ground beef
Something many people don’t know about ground beef is that cooking it on high heat can give it a crispy, caramelized texture, adding a richness similar to the sear on a steak. To get this crust on a crumbly meat, heat a cast iron over medium high heat and add the oil and beef. Crumble the beef as it browns, then let it cook without stirring for several minutes. Using lean ground beef will help here; the dry heat is what will crisp the beef. After a few minutes, toss the beef, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Repeat the process again until the beef is about half caramelized and crispy.
Season the beef
Add in the adobo sauce, chipotles, cumin, chili powder, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Crush the chipotles with the back of a spoon to combine, and stir the seasonings into the beef until well incorporated. Taste and add more salt and pepper or adobo as desired. If the mixture is too spicy (the adobos can sneak up on you), just squeeze in a little more lime juice to tone it down.
Build the tacos
Assembly is a breeze, especially if you have a handy sous chef to help you chop the veg. Warm the tortillas to package directions — typically they are warmed in the microwave for a few seconds or heated on the stovetop until hot. If you have a gas stove, try putting the tortillas directly on the flame to warm through.
With the tortillas warm, layer two shells with ground beef, then top with chopped onion. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, then add a handful of cilantro. To jazz it up further, try adding pickled red onions, chipotle mayo, or mashed avocado.
Serving and storing ground beef street tacos
These tacos not only make an excellent taco Tuesday, but also make a good meal prep for the rest of the week, too. The seasoned ground beef lasts for a week in the refrigerator and the toppings can be chopped and saved ahead of time to make lunches a breeze. If you don’t want handhelds for lunch, make a taco bowl out of the leftovers, piling the ground beef and veggies on top of rice and beans.
These easy ground beef street tacos pair well with chips and guacamole, fresh pico de gallo, baked flautas, and tender rice and beans. And if you’re looking to step up your game for a seriously delicious taco night? Try our slow cooker barbacoa; the super-tender beef pairs perfectly with the simple toppings suggested here, too.
Easy Ground Beef Street Taco Recipe
1 pound lean ground beef
4 tablespoons sauce from 1 can chipotles in adobo, plus 2 peppers
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
Juice from ½ lime
½ tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon pepper
1 cup cotija cheese
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 small white onion, diced
12 to 16 (4-inch) tortillas
Crumble ground beef in a large skillet over medium high heat until very browned and sticking to the skillet.
Once browned, add the adobo sauce and peppers, chili powder, cumin, and lime juice and salt and pepper. Crush the peppers with the back of a spoon until broken down, then stir to combine into the beef.
Once beef is completely coated, remove from the heat.
Warm tortillas according to package directions. Layer 2 tortillas together, then add ¼ cup beef. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, white onion, and cilantro. Serve warm.