Buy the Cookbook

Beef | April 24, 2012

Cook’s Illustrated Beef Tacos

What’s better than a good homemade taco? We love this quick and easy meal adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Beef Tacos recipe. I used their basic recipe as a base to make my own version of this family favorite.

One of my favorite dinners as a kid was tacos. How I loved taco night! It’s a favorite at our home too. Well, maybe my favorite, because it’s such a quick and easy dinner. My usual taco night ritual includes throwing some lean ground beef into a pan, adding a chopped onion, some V-8 juice and a package of taco spice mix. Lately, I’ve been on a “make your own mix” kick. I found this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated and decided to give it a try. Yum. Loved it. Oh, and in case you are thinking “why would I make these when I can jump in the car and pick up 3 tacos for $1 at Taco (fill in the blank)??” Read this:

In a study conducted…it was found that famous taco chain “meat mixture”, which it dubs “seasoned beef” contained less than 35 % beef. If these figures are correct, the product would fail to meet minimum requirements, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to be labeled as “beef”. The other 65% of the “meat” is made up of water, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, silicon dioxide, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch (amongst other ingredients more suited to a test tube than a taco). Full article found here.  Yikes! The “meat” is less than 35% meat???? Scary.
Insert this taco recipe that is 100% delicious.  The spices that go in the meat are the best part. Their flavors combine perfectly to make the tastiest taco. Just cook up the meat on the stove and add it to your taco shells with all of your favorite taco toppings. I always go with a little shredded lettuce, some freshly grated cheese, and chopped  tomato. Hard or soft shell tacos work or just throw everything on a  pan and bake until cheese is melted. What are some of your go-to taco toppings? Maybe a little dollop of sour cream or a squirt of sriracha sauce too! Mmmmm.
You’re going to be surprised at how simple this recipe is to make. They come together so nicely and make the perfect dinner to feed a small crowd, a big crowd, or just one person craving some really good tacos. Want to try other taco recipes? You HAVE to try these fish tacos with jalapeño mayo…to die for. This yummy taco platter is perfect for bringing to a dinner party. And I really can’t think of a more delicious taco than these tacos al pastor with GUAC on top. So many tacos, so little time!

Taco Tuesday.
This one’s for you.

5 from 1 vote

Cook’s Illustrated Beef Tacos

Author Cooks Illustrated



  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (about 1 1/2 cups) minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce or tomato juice or V-8
  • 1/2 cup chicken or beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar (optional)
  • 8 taco shells


  • grated cheese, chopped lettuce, tomato, grated carrots, chopped avocado, salsa, sour cream.


  1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, spices, and salt and cook for about 1 minute. 

  4. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up until no longer pink, about five minutes.

  5. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar, and sugar (if using) until thickened, about 10 minutes.

  6. Season with more salt, pepper or spices to taste.

Recipe Notes

-When I make this recipe, I purchase corn tortillas and fry the tortillas in a little (about 1/4 cup) vegetable or canola oil on each side over medium high heat, for about 1 minute. Remove and fold over to form a shell and let drain on paper towel. Keep warm in oven at 250 degrees until ready to eat.



19 thoughts on “Cook’s Illustrated Beef Tacos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

    1. Anon,
      I bought corn tortillas and heated up some canola oil in a frying pan (about 1/4 cup) over medium high heat. Place the tortillas in the pan (one at a time) and fry on each side just until it starts to crisp up . Remove and place on a paper towel to drain, and fold in half while still warm.

  1. Oh my goodness, this is too funny. We were in a hurry last night & went through the drive thru at Taco Bell. My husband & I each had 2 soft tacos and then all evening talked about how upset our stomachs were and wondered just what was in that "beef". ;0) Your tacos look wonderful!

  2. I'm not totally surprised that the "meat" at Taco Bell isn't. Much like "Sugar Free" Cool Whip isn't. First two ingredients: water, corn syrup. Bleh!

  3. I made this. I wound up adding more cumin as I found it was a bit blander than I anticipated. Overall, a handy recipe to have. This would even be good on slider buns for a southwest sloppy joe. ????

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Suz, I’ve never thought to make a southwest sloppy joe! Great suggestion.
      Thanks so much for reading ABK,

  4. This recipe is supposed to include a teaspoon of ground coriander, but it’s missing from your ingredient list. 👍🏻

  5. Looks and sounds delicious! When you fry your shells they’re still soft? Those look crunchy, but the way you describe making them it sounds like they’re soft?

  6. 5 stars
    I am not a fan of taco seasoning packets. So I was all over this recipe. Super easy to throw together. I had teenagers continually peeking into the kitchen to see what the yummy smell was. I topped the tacos 🌮 with cilantro, avacado and cheddar cheese.

    1. Oh, me either, it tastes so much better with your own seasonings. That’s why I love making this recipe, too! Thanks for sharing, Sarah,

    1. Hi Elaina, yes you can prepare the meat and then freeze it for later, thank you for asking!