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Two hard shell tacos filled with taco meat, cheese, and salsa on a plate.

Taco Night, Simplified

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4.9 from 53 reviews


Recipe simplified from this other mostly simple recipe for beef tacos. I most often make a double batch of this — the meat keeps for a long time in the fridge and it freezes well, too. 


  • Taco Seasoning: I like the Whole Foods 365 brand, and if you have one you recommend, please share in the comments. Update: Three recommendations from commenters include The Spice House, Penzey’s, and Siete Foods. My experience with taco seasoning packets is that they tend to be saltier, so if you have a heavy hand (as I do) when seasoning meat and onions, etc., consider holding back a bit or omitting altogether.
  • Ground Beef: I look for grassfed ground beef or humanely raised (for reasons I discuss here and here) and look for 20% fat. 
  • Tortillas: For soft tortillas we love the Vista Hermosa brand, which I find at Whole Foods, or Caramelo, which I mail order (and which takes weeks, so if you do it, buy a lot and store them in the freezer). 


for the taco filling:

  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped to yield about a cup
  • 1 packet (1 oz | 28 g | about 3 tablespoons) taco seasoning, see notes above
  • kosher salt to taste
  • 1 pound ground beef, see notes above
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic, cider (or other) vinegar

for serving:

  • tortillas, hard shell (stand up or otherwise), soft, or whatever you like 
  • shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a blend 
  • shredded Romaine lettuce
  • salsa, homemade or purchased, I like the La Mexican brand sold in the produce/refrigerated aisle
  • sour cream, optional
  • diced avocado, optional


  1. Make the taco meat: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spice packet; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef and cook, stirring often, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. (Note: you may need to use a spatula to break up the block of meat into smaller pieces before you can stir frequently.) Add tomatoes or tomato sauce, water, and vinegar; bring to simmer.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until liquid has reduced and thickened (mixture should not be completely dry), about 10 minutes. Taste, adjust seasonings with salt. This can be done up to 5 days (or longer actually) in advance and reheated slowly before serving.
  3. For taco night: If using hard tortilla shells, you can toast them in the oven or toaster oven at 350ºF for about 2 minutes. If using flour tortillas, wrap the tortillas in foil, and place in a 350ºF oven for 15 minutes or until warm. Sometimes I just toast them in the toaster. Remove from oven, and transfer to tea towel to keep warm. Place shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, sour cream (if using), and avocado (if using) in bowls. Start assembling as you wish.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican, American