Taco meat – it’s not just for tacos! Try this easy slow cooker taco meat recipe for a flavorful base that can be served with just about anything! From family taco night to nachos to a salad topping, everyone is sure to enjoy this delicious ground beef seasoned with my made-from-scratch homemade blend.
Can I make taco meat in the slow cooker?
A common misconception about slow cookers is that you can’t cook ground meat this way. If no one has already told you, yes, you can cook ground meat in the slow cooker – and that includes your taco meat!
With that being said, there are a few caveats to ensure proper food handling, safe temperatures, and thorough cooking for ground meats. Always be sure that ground meat is completely thawed before slow cooking. The slow cooker will not be able to cook the meat fast enough at the appropriate temperature without possible food safety concerns.
It’s important to note that when you cook ground meat in the slow cooker without browning it first, you may lose a little flavor that comes from the crispy edges. However, taco meat is the perfect solution for flavorful ground meat since it is covered in plenty of seasoning and includes the added juiciness of diced tomatoes. All in all, the slow cooker is a great option for a large batch of filling taco meat!
You don’t need much for super flavorful slow cooker taco meat! This combination in the slow cooker totally frees you up to just set out a spread of toppings and have a delicious meal in no time. This taco meat recipe is mild but a true crowd-pleaser!
Just ground beef, canned tomatoes, and seasoning yield tasty results.
- Ground beef: I recommend using 93% lean ground beef or another very lean option so you don’t end up with a slow cooker full of grease. You could also use ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground bison as a lean substitute OR together in a combination of ground meat.
- Diced tomatoes: Just one large can of diced tomatoes is enough to add extra flavor and keep the meat from drying out. Be sure to drain the tomatoes ahead of time to prevent watery taco meat.
- Taco seasoning: Use my made-from-scratch homemade taco seasoning for an easy and healthy spice option. If you don’t already have this pre-mixed, I recommend making a double or triple batch to keep on hand. The ingredient list may look a bit long, but it only takes 5-10 minutes to mix up spices from your pantry and you can store the extra for meals later on.
Optional: For a spicer version of this taco meat, add ¼ – ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (ground up chipotle peppers) or cayenne pepper per each pound of meat.
How To Make Taco Meat In The Slow Cooker
- Begin by adding your raw ground beef to the slow cooker. Use a spatula or hamburger meat chopper to break it apart so that there are no large clumps.
- Next, add the drained diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and stir everything together.
- Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours until the meat is fully cooked.
- Give the mixture a good stir with a clean spatula to break apart the meat prior to serving. Finally, serve with a slotted spoon to leave out any unwanted remaining grease.
- Serve over your favorite taco shells or tortillas with all the toppings! If you will be serving this for a party, keep the slow cooker turned on warm for the duration of the meal.
How To Best Use Slow Cooker Taco Meat
If you love the taste of tacos and Tex-Mex, you can find so many ways to use taco meat!
The most traditional way, of course, is to serve taco meat from the slow cooker in crispy taco shells or warm, soft tortillas and sprinkle with a bit of shredded cheese. Add lettuce, tomato, and sour cream if you feel like it! Even the simplest tacos are favorites for just about anyone.
You could also serve this taco meat over nachos or in burritos alongside Tomato Corn Salsa or a side of beans such as Slow Cooker Refried Black Beans with Roasted Garlic. Top off a Southwest salad with a scoop of meat and all the extra toppings. Or, just use it as a flavorful ground beef base in other recipes such as casseroles or pasta dishes.
Include some extra nutrition in the slow cooker with veggie additions! Frozen corn, chopped squash or zucchini, finely diced onion, or colorful peppers will all cook well with the ground meat.
Just one more idea (see, I told you there were so many options!)… For a kid-approved option, mix up a quick cheese sauce and mix it into the taco meat after cooking! Check out my recipe tips for whipping this up right before serving.
Storing and Reheating
Cook a large batch of easy taco meat to serve a crowd or have plenty of leftovers for easy meals!
Store meat in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure the meat has cooled prior to freezing. This is a perfect option to cook ahead and freeze for no-cooking days or when you need a meal to take to someone.
Reheat your leftovers in the microwave or in a skillet on the stove. Make sure to defrost in the fridge if frozen!
Slow Cooker Taco Meat FAQs
- Can I use a different type of meat instead of beef for this recipe? You could also use ground turkey, ground chicken, or ground bison along with the tomatoes and seasoning for similar results.
- Can I put raw ground beef directly into the slow cooker? Yes, you can place raw ground beef into the slow cooker. Be sure the meat is fully thawed and use a meat chopper or spatula to break it up prior to and during cooking.
- Can I use frozen meat for this recipe? No, do not place frozen ground meat into the slow cooker. For food safety reasons, the meat should be thawed prior to slow cooking.
- How can I ensure my taco meat isn’t too dry or too watery? If the taco meat is too dry, add a few tablespoons of water and mix until it is the consistency that you prefer. For meat that is too watery, simply drain or remove some of the liquid from the slow cooker with a spoon or ladle.
- Are there any shortcuts to speed up the cooking process? To make this recipe in a hurry, you can fully brown the ground beef in a skillet ahead of time. Then, combine it with tomatoes and seasoning in the slow cooker to heat it up.
Easy Slow Cooker Taco Meat Recipe
- Slow Cooker
- slotted spoon
- 1 pound ground beef 93 % lean
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes drained
- 2 tablespoons homemade taco seasoning
- Add raw beef to slow cooker and use spatula or hamburger meat chopper to break apart
- Add tomatoes and seasoning and stir everything together
- Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 until meat is fully cooked
- Give it a good stir and use a clean spatula to break meat apart as much as desired
- Use slotted spoon to serve
- Thoroughly cool taco meat, then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stove. Defrost first if frozen.
- To make a spicier version, add ¼ – ½ teaspoon chipotle chili powder or cayenne pepper.
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (Shred yourself from a block for best results)
- Melt butter, then whisk in the flour and let it all cook for about 2 minutes.
- Slowly add in the milk while you are still whisking (don’t stop whisking to prevent lumps!).
- Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring continuously until it’s nice and thick and will coat the spoon.
- Take it off the heat, and stir in the cheese sauce to the taco meat until it is all melted and smooth. Scrumptious!