22 Quick and Easy Recipes in 30 Minutes (or less) + 5 Chef Secrets To Make You A Better Cook!

Beef Tacos

Tested & Perfected Recipes

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy.

Whip up a family favorite: old-school Tex-Mex beef tacos with crispy shells, juicy seasoned beef, and everyone’s favorite toppings!

beef tacos with all the fixings on plate

Remember those classic Tex-Mex beef tacos from your childhood? The ones with crispy shells, brimming with juicy, seasoned beef, and a variety of toppings that made dinnertime fun, long before Taco Tuesday became a thing? These are those very tacos, only better, and they’ll bring back all those flavorful memories. Building on the classic recipe, I “chef it up” by quickly mixing the ground beef with baking soda before cooking. This little trick ensures the beef turns out extra tender.

When serving, set out optional toppings like shredded lettuce, Mexican-blend cheese, diced tomatoes, and sour cream so everyone can make their own perfect taco. And if your family loves taco night as much as mine, consider making a double batch of the beef filling and stashing half in the freezer. When you’re ready for round two, just thaw and reheat the beef, prep the toppings, and dinner’s on the table!

“I will never use a pre packaged taco seasoning mix again! My 8 year old who is a picky eater ate five tacos and would have eaten more but we told him he had to save some for his other siblings!”

Felice

What You’ll Need To Make Beef Tacos

what you'll need to make beef tacos

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a medium bowl, mash the beef with the baking soda and salt. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. This process raises the pH level of the beef, making it more alkaline and resulting in a more tender texture. I use this technique in many recipes, including my beef enchiladas and ultimate chili recipe, to ensure the meat stays juicy and flavorful. (Time-Saving Tip: Use the time that the beef is sitting with the baking soda to chop the onions and garlic and measure out the spices.)

beef and baking soda in bowl

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes.

chopped onions in the skillet

Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Do not brown.

onion and garlic in skillet

Add the beef and spices.

adding the beef and spices to the skillet with the onions and garlic

Cook, stirring constantly and breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice.

Adding the tomato sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice to the beef in the skillet

Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat so that no chunks remain, until the liquid has reduced and thickened (the mixture should not be completely dry), 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

cooked beef taco mixture in skillet

Using a wide, shallow spoon, divide the filling evenly among taco shells; place two or three tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing the toppings separately.

You May Also Like

Video Tutorial

Beef Tacos

Whip up a family favorite: old-school Tex-Mex beef tacos with crispy shells, juicy seasoned beef, and everyone’s favorite toppings!

Servings: 6 to 8
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Beef Filling

  • 2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, from 1 lime

Shells and Toppings

  • 16 Taco Shells (warmed according to package instructions)
  • Optional: shredded Mexican blend cheese, shredded iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, diced avocados, diced onions, chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, mash the beef with the baking soda and salt. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Do not brown. Add the beef, chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper and cook, stirring constantly and breaking meat up with a wooden spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat, until the liquid has reduced and thickened (the mixture should not be completely dry), 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  3. Using a wide, shallow spoon, divide the filling evenly among the taco shells; place two or three tacos on individual plates. Serve immediately, passing the toppings separately.
  4. Note: Nutritional info does not include optional toppings.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (8 servings)
  • Serving size: 2 tacos
  • Calories: 380
  • Fat: 20g
  • Saturated fat: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 24g
  • Sugar: 3g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 26g
  • Sodium: 535mg
  • Cholesterol: 74mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

See more recipes:

Comments

  • Would it be enhancing at all to replace the water with beef broth here?

    • — Andrew on February 17, 2024
    • Reply
    • Sure, Andrew – beef broth would work nicely here. I would use low-sodium or cut back on the salt just a bit.

      • — Jenn on February 17, 2024
      • Reply
  • Jen- do you ever make your own hard shells? Would love a tutorial on that! Great recipe

    • — Jill on February 5, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jill, I can’t say that I have — I’ll add it to my list of potential “how to’s.” to create. Thanks for the suggestion!

      • — Jenn on February 5, 2024
      • Reply
  • I grew up on the retro taco kits and I am not ashamed to say that I still love these American beef tacos. A few years back, I started making my own taco seasoning and making tacos from scratch that way. We don’t have these types of tacos often because my husband isn’t the biggest fan (it may have been the only thing I was capable of making when we first married 😅). As an avid follower, I knew I needed to try these tacos and they did not disappoint. So much more flavor, so tender, and saucy (without being watery). Also love that you can have dinner on the table in an hour or less. The best part was when my husband said that these were the best tacos I’ve made and we should eat this recipe more often! Hooray! Thank you, Jen. ☺️

    • — Lilee on January 26, 2024
    • Reply
  • I usually love your recipes but this was a complete miss for me. It was so incredibly overseasoned (I’m guessing because of the 1/4 cup chili powder) that it was barely edible. I had to rinse off a bunch of the spices to try to salvage dinner. I wouldn’t make this again.

    • — Stacey on January 6, 2024
    • Reply
  • These are SO good! I made the recipe EXACTLY as written, and it did NOT disappoint! Thank you!

    • — Kim Dean on January 2, 2024
    • Reply
  • This recipe was so good! I made nachos and it was a huge hit. Will definitely be making this again and again!

    • — Kelly S on December 18, 2023
    • Reply
  • Nothing but raves from the family!

    • — Kerrie on December 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Absolutely perfect!! Thanks Jenn

    • — Lyne H on December 3, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, if I wanted to add more heat, could I sub out 2 tablespoons of the chili powder with 2 tablespoons of chipotle chili powder?

    • — Marky Stachura on November 19, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes — just keep in mind that it will give it a lot of heat!

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Can this recipe be halved? If so, do liquids remain the same? Ty

    • — Paul on November 18, 2023
    • Reply
    • Yes and yes. 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi, unfortunately tom sauce is not one I usually have on hand, would crushed work as well? Or would any other sub work?

    • — D on September 28, 2023
    • Reply
    • I think you could get away with crushed tomatoes but for the best results, I’d go with tomato sauce (plus you can buy an 8 ounce can of it — exactly what you need for the recipe).

      • — Jenn on September 29, 2023
      • Reply
  • These were the best beef tacos I’ve ever made.

    • — Cristina on September 22, 2023
    • Reply
  • I often add sliced (then halved or quartered) zucchini and yellow squash to my taco mixes. It cooks til soft and even kids will happily eat it with these vegetables included.

    • — beka on September 21, 2023
    • Reply
  • The beef filling is great

    • — Ernie on September 14, 2023
    • Reply
  • Normally I use the Frontera skillet sauce with mild red chile and cumin that comes in a pouch (I don’t like the powdered mixes). I couldn’t find it at the supermarket this week, so I tried this recipe. It was sensational and it will be my go-to beef taco recipe from now on. No more store-bought taco seasonings!

    • — Agnes on September 13, 2023
    • Reply
  • I will never use a pre packaged taco seasoning mix again! My 8’year old who is a picky eater ate five tacos and would have eaten more but we told him he had to save some for his other siblings! Thanks for livening up one of our favorite meals, tacos!

    • — Felice on September 12, 2023
    • Reply
  • Made the beef tacos tonight for the first time and followed your recipe exactly. They were delicious and my husband loved them. Will try the enchiladas next. I have tried many of your recipes following the exact recipe and they have all been delicious. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Cathy on September 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • We enjoyed this recipe very much. The combination of spices is just right. I do not like using commercial taco seasoning mixes as they all seem to have bioengineered ingredients that we are trying to avoid.

    • — Lorraine on September 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Fantastic Taco Night Recipe! My husband and daughter loved it. They both said we should make this again.

    • — Stefanie on September 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • So much better than the taco seasoning mix! I was glad it made a lot – my 2 teenage boys and their friends devoured this.

    • — Suzanne on September 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • I really appreciate the recipes for 6-8 people! We are a party of 6 and this feeds us with room for a friend to join or leftovers. Thank you for another delicious dinner!!

    • — Stephanie on September 9, 2023
    • Reply
  • Family says this is really, really good! Note, I used an 11@ nonstick skillet and it was full, especially before the liquid reduced. So use a very large pan. Very flavorful, esp compared to homemade tacos made with packaged taco seasoning. Try this recipe and you won’t be satisfied with the packaged variety.

    • — Margaret on September 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • I made this yesterday as soon as I saw recipe in my email! Similar to the icky envelope taco mix, but soooooo much better!!!! Everyone loved it!

    • — Carol on September 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Thank you for this recipe. I find the store bought taco mix salty. This is perfectly seasoned and my entire family agrees that we will use your recipe going forward.

    • — Nancy on September 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Not sure how to describe the taste… it’s an extremely heavy flavor. Maybe too much chili powder? IDK… unfortunately don’t think I’ll make this again

    • — Ian on September 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Any ideas for getting a corn tortilla super crispy??

    • — Sheri Young on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sheri, Are you frying your own?

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2023
      • Reply
  • THANK YOU for the baking soda tip — I can’t wait to try it. ❤️
    I use baking soda for so many things around the house that I buy the big bulk bags!

    I also want to try your seasoning mix. I have been making my own this year and I will never go back to the packaged ones.

    Your recipes are always terrific, please keep them coming.
    I appreciate you so much! And, I love telling people where I got my recipe when sharing a dish. 😍

    • — Sue Geo on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • ❤️

      • — Jenn on September 7, 2023
      • Reply
  • What if you use 93% ground turkey? Would you still use the baking soda? I have put a small amount in beef/lamb ground meat mixture for kafta kebabs.

    • — Sharon on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sharon, No need to use the baking soda with ground turkey.

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I’m eagerly awaiting this recipe! Could you please share the brands of chili powder and taco shells you recommend? I’ve been updating my pantry with your choices. Any tips for choosing ground beef (prepackaged or store-ground)? Thanks a lot!

    • — Oleda on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Oleda, Nothing fancy here – I use McCormick chili powder, Old El Paso stand and stuff shells, and prepackaged ground beef. If you wanted to go all out, you could fry your own taco shells, but I honestly never bother b/c this is meant to be quick and easy!

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2023
      • Reply
  • I love the idea of making up your seasonings yourself. I haven’t tried that. And I know from other recipes you have that the baking soda trick is amazing. We will be having these Friday night!! 😋

    • — Lizzie on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • I did not make this recipe but I think it is a pretty good one to feed a family. The only
    way to eat corn tacos is if you fry the corn tortillos.

    • — Barbara L Gray on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • Has anyone tried this with Impossible “meat”? Any suggestions on preventing it from being too dry? Thank you!

    • — Annie on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • I learned the baking soda trick from your sloppy joe recipe, and I’ve been using it for our Taco Tuesdays ever since – such a great tip! I love that you always explain why we’re using certain ingredients… it’s really helped up my game when cooking outside your blog. Can’t wait to try this one!

    • — Katie R. on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
  • What does the baking soda do for the meat?

    • — Grace on September 7, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Grace, It makes the beef tender.

      • — Jenn on September 10, 2023
      • Reply

Add a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.