Copycat Taco Bell Beef Recipe

There's really not that much of a secret to how restaurants make their foods taste so good. From a fine dining establishment to a fast food chain location, restaurants rely heavily on four things to make foods taste great: cream, butter, sugar, and salt. You'll find a decent amount of each of the latter two in this Copycat Taco Bell beef recipe, and that's why it tastes oh-so-good.

Thanks to the rich blend of spices used here, you get a lot of flavor in this beef. But how does Taco Bell make its ground beef so moist and tender? Okay, so that one is a bit of a secret, but it's a secret chef, food writer, and registered dietician Kristen Carli of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness is happy to share" "The original Taco Bell beef actually uses oats in order to retain moisture," she says. "This works at home as well, and you cannot even detect the oats in the texture."

So, let's gather our spices, beef, and oats and get cooking!

Gather your ingredients for this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe

To cook up this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe, you'll need olive oil, ground beef, oats (rolled oats work well), MSG such as Ac'cent (don't judge too fast, we're going to talk about this!), chili powder, salt, sugar, ground cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder. Make sure you grab all these ingredients before you start cooking.

You're also ideally going to want a large cast iron skillet on hand, but any good pan will serve you fine.

A few words on monosodium glutamate for this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe

MSG, also known as monosodium glutamate, got a bad reputations a couple decades back. Yes, when overused, as is often the case in both prepared, packaged foods and in restaurants (Asian restaurants draw an unfair amount of MSG ire), the stuff is bad for you. So is salt. And sugar. And so on. As reported by the Mayo Clinic: "The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified MSG as a food ingredient that's 'generally recognized as safe.'" 

And it's one you surely eat all the time already, anyway, according to Healthline, if you ever eat Pringles, Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, many types of BBQ sauce, pepperoni, and a ton of other foods you probably eat on a regular basis. In moderation, MSG is not more harmful than other flavor-enhancers like salt. And enhance flavors it does. As Carli says: "The MSG brings the real flavor in this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe, and I wouldn't skip it."

Process the oats into a powder for this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe

There are basically three types of oats, not counting whole oats, which are more suited to horses than humans. First, you have minimally processed steel-cut oats, where the hulled groat is chopped into two or three pieces. Then you have rolled oats, where the groat is steamed, thus partially cooked, and flattened out in a roller for quicker cooking. Finally, you have quick oats, which are even more crushed and broken down than rolled oats.

As you'll be breaking the oats down until they are quite pulverized, really any oat will do, but make it a bit easier on yourself and consider rolled oats. Place said oats in a food processor and pulse the blade until they are ground into a flour.

Cook the beef with oat flour to make your copycat Taco Bell beef recipe

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat up the olive oil. Once the oil is hot (but before it reaches its smoke point), add the beef and two tablespoons of oat flour. (Note that you will likely have a little left over. You can use this in a wide variety of other recipes, so don't throw it out.)

Cook the copycat Taco Bell beef recipe, breaking up any chunks with the back and sides of a wooden spoon, and don't let that ground beef sit around unattended while you brown it.

Spice things up with this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe

As soon as the meat for your copycat Taco Bell beef recipe is cooked through, reduce the heat to medium and add the Ac'cent (or whatever MSG you choose), chili powder, salt, sugar, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. If the beef seems to be drying out, reduce the heat slightly and drizzle in a bit of oil.

And that's it, you did it! Use your copycat beef in tacos, burritos, salads, fancy Sloppy Joes, and so on. And you can "store the beef in an airtight container for up to five days in the fridge," says Carli, adding that it "re-heats in the microwave easily."

Copycat Taco Bell Beef Recipe
5 from 395 ratings
Don't want to go through the drive-thru? No problem. Just whip up this copycat Taco Bell beef recipe in the comfort of your own home.
Prep Time
Cook Time
copycat Taco Bell beef recipe served alongside toppings
Total time: 20 minutes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • ¼ cup oats
  • 1 teaspoon MSG such as Ac'cent
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Place the oats in a food processor and pulse until ground into a flour.
  2. In a large skillet at medium heat, pour the olive oil, then add the beef and 2 tablespoons of oat flour. Cook, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until no longer pink.
  3. Add MSG, chili powder, salt, sugar, cumin, onion powder, and garlic powder. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
Calories per Serving 338
Total Fat 25.3 g
Saturated Fat 9.0 g
Trans Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 80.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 6.3 g
Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
Total Sugars 1.3 g
Sodium 291.9 mg
Protein 20.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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