simple taco meat recipe

Your Guide to the Ultimate Build-Your-Own Taco Bar

Last Updated on April 30, 2020

They’re easy. They’re tasty. They’re tacos! 

If you’re looking for a simple dish that pleases a crowd, tacos are a no-brainer. A build-it-yourself taco bar is a great idea for parties, last-minute dinner guests, or simply spicing up the typical mealtime routine. 

Get the party started

There are tons of reasons to love tacos, but one of the best is probably because they’re so adaptable. Even the recipe for taco meat can be easily adjusted and scaled based on how many people you’re serving, the level of heat you’re looking for, how much time you have—the list goes on. 

Best of all, there’s no need to buy one of those packets of taco seasoning—you likely already have everything you need for the perfect spice mix right in your pantry. 

This basic recipe for seasoned taco meat is a great place to start. It uses a pound of ground beef, but it’s really simple to multiply if you need more (or divide if you’re cooking for one or two). Bonus: It only takes 10 minutes to prepare.

Check out our “Ten-Minute Tacos” below:

taco meat recipe

Simple Taco Meat

4.08 from 13 votes
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Protein: Beef
Cut: Ground Beef
Diet: Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Keto, Paleo, Whole30
Course: Main Course, Meal Prep
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 4 people


  • 1 pkg ButcherBox ground beef
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste


  • Preheat sauté pan on medium-high heat.
  • Crumble ground beef into hot sauté pan. Add remaining ingredients, constantly stir ground beef until fully cooked.
  • Serve with your favorite taco or taco bowl accompaniments.  Great for meal prep!
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Go beyond the basics

The best part about a build-your-own bar is the fact that everyone has the chance to customize. 

There’s nothing wrong with lettuce, cheese, salsa, and sour cream—but if you’re feeling more adventurous, tacos are the perfect platform for creativity. Try these ideas and twists for simple upgrades that’ll make your taco bar the talk of the town.

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash
  • Tortillas: If you’re building your own taco bar, try making your own crispy taco shells too. Instead of buying hard corn taco shells, simply warm yellow or white corn tortillas on the griddle.
  • Rice and beans: Try something new—make taco bowls by using rice and beans as the foundation for toppings in addition to flour/corn tortillas or crispy taco shells.
  • Pickled onions: They’re not as strong as the usual chopped white onions, plus they’ll add a unique layer of flavor. Take it a step further with other pickled veggies or even kimchi.
  • Shaved cabbage: It holds up better than shredded lettuce, giving tacos extra crunch.
  • Grilled vegetables: Amp up the nutritional value and bring a charred, savory flavor to your tacos with grilled peppers, squash, mushrooms, and more.
  • Plain Greek yogurt: With mild flavor and extra protein, it’s a great swap for sour cream.

Build your bar

After your taco meat and toppings are prepped and ready to go, it’s time to set up your bar or topping stations. This can be as basic or as festive as you’d like. Remember, you really can’t go wrong with tacos. Use these tips for a stress-free setup:

  • Don’t forget the essentials. The first stop of your taco bar should include plates, napkins, and utensils—just in case there’s a tortilla overflow. It’s also important to include serving spoons or forks alongside each topping. 
  • Do a temp check. Are cold ingredients cold? Are warm ingredients warm? You might want to add an ice bucket to hold things like Greek yogurt and salsa, or serve your taco meat in a slow cooker set to “warm.”
  • Label, label, label. Some toppings might be easy to identify, but others can be tricky—there’s nothing worse than accidentally adding a heap of extra-hot salsa. You can use tape, paper signs, or even mini chalkboards to identify your ingredients.
  • Add some spice. This applies to more than the tacos themselves! Make your taco table extra festive by adding a colorful covering, sprinkles of cilantro, fun confetti, mini maracas, tiny potted cacti, and more.


Bonus: Sides and sips

Try these fun taco bar extras to take it to the next level:

  • Nacho chips and queso
  • DIY guacamole station 
  • Flavored margaritas or lemon-lime mocktails

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Danielle Sirk is the Senior Copywriter at ButcherBox with a background in storytelling and food marketing. She believes in the power of meal prepping, poetry, running, and the great outdoors.