Best Tex Mex Taco Hack
Use my hack, and you’ll be half way done before you even start cooking this dinner.
Taco Tuesday is, hands down, the most surefire dinner win in our house. But tacos aren’t just for Tuesdays, and they can in my option be as easy as take-out. Or easier.
Even without the little sauce packets full of stuff you don’t want.
Here is my go-to, brainless, taco hack, that I can nearly always pull out of my culinary hat with what we have on hand, and in under half an hour.
Stuff You’ll Need to Have on Hand
- Taco shells, tortillas, or large lettuce leaves
- Ground beef, turkey, or chicken – a pound or two
- Cornstarch or arrowroot
- Spices in rough order of importance: Cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried parsley (optional for flavor twists – smoked paprika, chipotle, coriander)
- Taco toppings of your choosing: salsa, avocado, lime, cilantro, chopped/shredded leafy veg, cheese
Make a quick and easy spicy slurry mix – a teaspoon-ish each of:
- cornstarch or arrowroot
- cumin, paprika, onion powder
- garlic powder
- dried oregano
- dried parsley
You can also get a little fancier with a pinch of coriander, a little smoked paprika, chipotle . . . and also increase or lower (or eliminate!) spices to customize. But this is the basic mix I use.
Cook your meat. Or, thaw frozen, pre-seasoned meat:
Use this hack to save yourself time and sanity: I buy and cook ground meat in bulk, seasoning it with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper per pound of meat, less if you’re low sodium.
This is a brainless ratio, and makes the meat ready to go for whatever dish you happen to be making – tacos, spaghetti and meat sauce, pad thai, picadillo, sloppy joes, chili (this is seriously my favorite all time prep hack).
I cool the meat completely, then store and freeze flat in gallon freezer bags (roughly 2-3 lbs of raw meat will fit in one bag after cooked and cooled). Pull out whatever quantity meat you need, whenever you need it.
Make a spicy slurry.
Mix the cornstarch and spices with water in a glass measure. It doesn’t have to be a glass measure, but I like it, because I can see that the slurry is mixed nicely.
You can either pre-mix your slurry as I’ve show here, or you can hack this further, and just dump the spicy slurry mix straight into the dish of ground meat, then add some water, and mix it all up really well.
- onion powder
- garlic powder
- parsley in the center
Mix the meat and the spicy slurry, and heat until thickened. If you’re doing this in a pan, just stir over low heat. If you’re microwaving (as I did here), just stir every couple of minutes or so until thickened.
Fill those taco shells, or warmed tortillas, or lettuce leaves (we love lettuce wraps here), top, and devour.
Finally, you get to top your tacos with whatever you enjoy most. Shredded leafy veg, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, cheese, avocados, salsa, sour cream (we just use the plain yogurt we always have on hand), chilis . . . my guys are pretty happy with just meat and cheese (or tonight, just meat and shredded leafy veg, we’re out of cheese).
On this particular night, i had some on-its-last-leg radicchio and kale, so I chopped it all up, dressed lightly with olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and sugar. This made a tasty, and healthy, topping.
I also threw on some chopped avocado and hot sauce. The great thing about these tacos is they are so easy AND versatile. Not to mention tasty. And if you have leftover meat, it makes great nachos the next day, too. Yum!
- 1-2 lbs Ground beef or turkey
- 1-2 tspn Cornstarch or arrowroot
- 1-2ea tspn Cumin, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried parsley
- Cook your meat ahead of time in bulk. You can use it for plenty of other dishes, but tacos will love ground beef, which is always so easy to season.
- Prepare a spicy slurry in a glass container. It's up to you how spicy you want this - just add spices accordingly. Combine cornstarch with at least cumin, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. Dried oregano and parsley are a great added bonus. Kick up the flavor a notch with smoked paprika, chipotle and coriander.
- Combine the slurry and your meat over heat until you get a nice thick filling for your tacos. Use low heat if doing in a pan on the stove. Microwaving works great too. Just be sure to stir every 1-2 minutes depending on your microwave's power.
- Fill up your hard or soft taco shells (a.k.a. warmed tortillas), or lettuce leaves and top to your heart's content!