Ground Beef goes in the slow cooker with spices and hot sauce, and a few hours later you have perfectly browned and seasoned ground beef for tacos, burritos, or taco salad!
(For Friday Flashbacks I feature recipes from the past that have been my personal favorites, and this method for "browning" taco meat in the slow cooker is one I've used over and over since I first posted this a few years ago.)
Maybe everyone but me knows about the idea of cooking ground beef in the slow cooker without pre-browning the meat, but when I saw this idea popping up on various blogs, I was intrigued. I don't use a lot of ground beef, but I do love Taco Salad, and the idea of having Spicy Ground Beef for Tacos, Burritos, or Taco Salad in the freezer was enough to get me to try this method. I love the ground beef tacos you get at a Mexican restaurant, where the meat is highly seasoned and very finely broken apart, so that's what I was going for.
I was fully prepared to try this several times to perfect the recipe, but my first try was a winner! I did use a very generous amount of Cholula hot sauce to season the meat, so if you're making this for kids (or adults who don't like much heat) you probably want to use the smaller amount listed in the recipe.
There's a lot to love about this recipe, but an added bonus is that you can cook this meat in the slow cooker without heating up the house, so you can enjoy Taco Salad all summer long. (On my other blog, Slow Cooker from Scratch, I'm sharing Slow Cooker Summer Dinners for the next few months, and this is definitely perfect for that!)
I know some people start with frozen ground beef, but that didn't appeal to me so I thawed the meat overnight in the fridge. Put 3 pounds of very lean ground beef in the slow cooker, breaking it apart with your hands. (I used the Ninja Cooker that Lydia sent me, but you can use any 4-5 quart slow cooker.)
Mix together the Cholula hot sauce (original flavor), ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and water.
After an hour I used a potato masher to start to break the meat apart. At this point I was worried that I shouldn't have added the water, but it worked out fine.
At two hours I mashed the mixture with the potato masher again, and the water was being absorbed nicely.
After three hours the ground beef is getting to be just the texture I wanted. It was probably done enough at this point, but I let it cook about 45 minutes more.
I got quite a few little containers of seasoned ground beef to put in the freezer, and each one was enough to make a large taco salad or several tacos.
(Makes enough highly seasoned spicy ground beef to make about 9 taco salads, 9 burritos, or 12 tacos. Recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from Mexican Restaurant taco meat and several posts on various blogs about browning ground beef in the slow cooker.)
I used my 6 quart Ninja Cooker to make this, but it was barely over half full, so any 4 or 5 quart slow cooker will do. (I froze most of my meat, and if you have a really large slow cooker you might even want to increase the recipe.)
3 lb. lean ground beef (I used lean ground beef from Costco with 9% fat; don't use fatty ground beef since you're not draining the meat)
1/2 - 3/4 cup Cholula hot sauce (Buy the big size bottle at Costco or at a Mexican market for this recipe. For kids, I would definitely use the smaller amount of hot sauce.)
2 T ground cumin
2 T garlic powder
2 T onion powder
1 tsp. coarse grind black pepper (or less, to taste)
salt to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 cup water (plus 2 T more water as needed if you're using the smaller amount of hot sauce)
Thaw ground beef overnight in the fridge, or if you forget to plan ahead, thaw in hot water for about 20-30 minutes. Spray cooker with non-stick spray, then put the thawed ground beef into the slow cooker, breaking it apart with your hands.
Mix Cholula hot sauce, ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and water. Pour the hot sauce mixture over the ground beef and use a large spoon to stir it into the meat.
Cook the meat and spice mixture on high for 3-4 hours. After each hour, remove the lid and use an old-fashioned potato masher to mash the meat mixture about 8-10 times, so that by the time it is done the meat will be finely crumbled. If you're using the smaller amount of hot sauce, you might want to add a couple of tablespoons of water part way through the cooking time. (You can probably cook this for 6-8 hours on low and mash it every couple of hours, but I haven't tried that.)
Use meat mixture to make Taco Salad, Ground Beef Tacos, or Beef Burritos. The meat freezes well. I freeze mine in small containers so I can thaw it quickly in the microwave whenever that Taco Salad craving hits me.
South Beach Suggestions:
If you use lean ground beef and a moderate amount of low-fat cheese and Ranch dressing, you can make Taco Salad with this meat, suitable for any phase of the South Beach Diet. Tacos or burritos made with whole wheat or low-carb tortillas could be eaten for phase two or three.
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.
More Tacos from the Slow Cooker:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos ~ Living Lou
Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos with Spicy Slaw and Avocado ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos ~ Leite's Culinaria
Slow Cooker Spicy Shredded Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Slow-Cooked Carnitas Tacos ~ Bella Eats
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)
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