Slow Cooker Taco Meat
Slow Cooker Taco Meat cooks in the CrockPot with spices and hot sauce and makes spicy low-carb ground beef for tacos or taco salad! And when you make taco meat using the slow cooker, there’s no need to brown the meat!
PIN Slow Cooker Taco Meat to make some later!
When I used to teach school I’d take Taco Salad for lunch several times a week, and I’m still a huge taco salad fan even now that I have more lunch options. So when I first saw this idea for Slow Cooker Taco Meat that cooks mostly unattended without pre-browning the meat, of course I had to try it.
Since then I’ve been a complete convert to this method of cooking ground beef for tacos! And I love having little containers of taco meat in the freezer so I can make taco salad whenever I start to crave it.
There’s a lot to love about this low-carb spicy ground beef that browns in the CrockPot, but an added bonus is that you can cook this in the slow cooker without heating up the house, so you can enjoy Taco Salad all summer long! And if you prefer using the Instant Pot, check out Instant Pot Taco Meat for an Instant Pot option that will also keep the kitchen cool!
What ingredients do you need for this recipe?
(This is only a list of ingredients; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)
- lean ground beef
- Cholula Hot Sauce (affiliate link) or other hot sauce of your choice
- ground Cumin (affiliate link)
- Garlic Powder (affiliate link)
- Onion Powder (affiliate link)
- coarse grind black pepper (or less, to taste)
- salt to taste
What ideas inspired this Slow Cooker Taco Meat meat recipe?
I love the ground beef tacos you get at Mexican restaurants, where the meat is highly seasoned and very finely broken apart, so that’s what I was going for when I worked on this recipe. I used a very generous amount of Cholula Hot Sauce (affiliate link) to season the taco 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. I let the meat cook for nearly four hours on high for that broken-apart texture I like so much, mashing with an old-fashioned Potato Masher about once every hour.
Want Slow Cooker Taco Meat with green chile flavors?
If you’d like taco meat with green chile flavors, replace the Cholula hot sauce and water in this recipe with Herdez Salsa Verde (affiliate link).
Toppings for Ground Beef Tacos:
Ground Beef Tacos would be delicious with Tomato-Avocado Salsa, Tomato-Avocado Salsa with cucumber, Avocado Salsa, or Spicy Mexican Slaw.
More Beef in the Slow Cooker:
If you’re a slow cooker fan, check out 20 Keto Slow Cooker Recipes with Beef to find more tasty beef recipes like this one.
How to Make Slow Cooker Taco Meat:
(This is only a summary of the steps for the recipe; please scroll down for complete printable recipe. Or if you use the JUMP TO RECIPE link at the top of the page, it will take you directly to the complete recipe.)
- 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 lean ground beef in the slow cooker, breaking it apart with your hands. (I used the Ninja Cooker (affiliate link) that Lydia sent me, but you can use any 4-5 quart slow cooker.)
- Mix together Cholula Hot sauce (or other hot sauce of your choice), ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and water.
- Pour the spicy mixture over the ground beef. Then use a large spoon to stir the seasoning mixture into the ground beef and start to cook on high.
- After an hour I used my Potato Masher (affiliate link) 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.
- I make this Slow Cooker Taco Meat over and over, every time I run out of taco meat in the freezer!
More Tacos to make in the Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker:
- Flank Steak Tacos
- Slow Cooker and Instant Pot Beef Tacos ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker
- Instant Pot Cheesy Chicken Tacos
- Slow Cooker and Instant Pot Pork Tacos ~ Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker
- Instant Pot Sriracha Chicken Tacos
Weekend Food Prep:
This recipe has been added to a category called Weekend Food Prep where you’ll find recipes you can prep or cook on the weekend and eat during the week!
Slow Cooker Taco Meat
I love this idea of using the slow cooker to brown ground beef to make spicy taco meat and I make this often so I can always have meat on hand for Perfect Low-Carb Taco Salad!
- 3 lb. lean ground beef (see notes)
- 1/2 cup Cholula hot sauce or other hot sauce of your choice. (see notes)
- 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 only about 1/2 tsp.)
- 1/4 cup water (plus a little 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 slow cooker 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 (affiliate link) 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 Kalyn's Black Bean and Beef Taco Salad, Perfect Low-Carb Taco Salad, or any Ground Beef Tacos, Lettuce Wrap Tacos, or Beef Burritos of your choice. I freeze mine in small containers so I can thaw it quickly in the microwave whenever that Taco Salad craving hits me.
This recipe made with 1/2 cup of hot sauce is only mildly spicy; I often use as much as 3/4 cup of Cholula when I make it. But you can use even less than 1/2 cup hot sauce at first if you prefer. Then taste it part way through and decide if you want even more hot sauce.
I used Cholula hot sauce for this recipe, which doesn't have any carbs. Buy the big size bottle at Costco or at a Mexican market.
I used lean ground beef with 9% fat; I wouldn't use very fatty ground beef since you’re not draining the meat.
This recipe created by Kalyn but inspired by quite a few other variations I saw on Pinterest!
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 367Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 7gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 135mgSodium: 550mgCarbohydrates: 4gFiber: 1gSugar: 0gProtein: 44g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.
Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This low-carb and gluten-free Slow Cooker Taco Meat is perfect for Kalyn’s Perfect Taco Salad, or eat the meat inside lettuce cups or over cauliflower rice or slaw for a meal that’s suitable for all types of low-carb eating plans. If you use lean ground beef this would be suitable for the original South Beach Diet. You can also use low-carb tortillas and make tacos if you prefer.
Find More Recipes Like This One:
Check out Slow Cooker Recipes for more easy ideas in the slow cooker. Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Instagram, on TikTok, or on YouTube to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.
Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe for taco meat cooked in the CrockPot was first posted in 2013, and I’ve been making it ever since. The recipe was last updated with more information in 2023.
35 Comments on “Slow Cooker Taco Meat”
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This is our very favorite taco meat. We make it all the time. Now, as we're cooking as much of the food in our freezer in preparation of evacuating for Hurricane Irma, I see I only have 90/10 ground beef….do you think that extra 1% of fat will make a big difference? Thanks! 🙂
So glad you have enjoyed it. Sorry to hear about the hurricane, stay safe! I don't think that will make a difference at all on the fat content.
This was very good!I left the cover partially off for the last half hour or so to cook a bit more moisture off but I don't think I needed to; as it cooled it thickened up quite a bit.
So glad you liked it Anna!
Can you use a smaller amount of meat.
You could use less meat if you scale down the whole recipe and use a smaller slow cooker. But unless you don't have any freezer space, I recommend making the full amount because this freezes beautifully. I love being able to grab some from the freezer.
I think any hot sauce you like the flavor of will work, although the original Tabasco is a lot hotter than the hot sauce I used. You might start with a smaller amount of hot sauce, you can always add more!
Can i use a different hot sauce then that don't have it if so any recommendations i usually have red hot buffalo hot sauce or red hot original Cayenne pepper hot sauce
Adriana, I'd look for a recipe that's meant for chicken, like Slow Cooker Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos. You can use that chicken in any taco, burrito, or tostada.
Could you do this same recipe with chicken breasts?
Glad you liked it! I'm about to make my second batch.
I was intrigued by this recipe, so in the spirit of playing-with-my-food, I made it. I turned out very well. It seemed odd not to brown the meat, but, the flavor was very good. In fact, I used this instead of the Italian saugage for the grilled portobellos. It worked out just fine (i.e., there weren't any leftovers)! Thanks!
Aha, good point. I hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense. Thanks for all you're doing Kalyn! Love the blog!
Donna, it's not just you. I feel that way regularly when I see things around the web! Glad you like!
Why is it that I wind up saying to myself "Well, duh" when I read so many of your recipes? Thanks for making my light bulb go on once again. Totally gonna try this for a weekend slow cooker recipe.
Hi Patti, I'm guessing it will work great with venison; please let us know what you think!
Hi Kalnyn, Love this idea. Wonder how vension would work? Since that seems to be our main meat will have to try it.
Karen, I should have know you would be ahead of the curve on this method! I need to try it with ground turkey next.
Chasing Joy, I was thrilled with how this produced perfectly browned meat with just the texture I wanted. Hope you enjoy!
I had a couple of duh moments while reading this. First, I'm with you, I never thought of cooking ground beef in the crockpot and second using the crockpot more during the summer is a brilliant idea. I always thought of the crockpot as a winter cooking tool. How silly of me!!!! Anyhoo, I'm definitely going to try this as taco salads are also one of my favorites. Thanks. 🙂
I love that you can do this! I do this with ground turkey all the time. I hate standing at the stove cooking it. I just throw in the crockpot and it works so great 🙂
Lydia, I am loving the taco meat. And I do love how the Ninja will let you brown things, but you can do this in any slow cooker.
Oh, this is absolutely my kind of recipe! For some reason, I've never thought of cooking ground beef (or ground turkey?) in the slow cooker. Now I can't imagine why not. Definitely going on my list to try ASAP. (And I have to say that a slow cooker that lets you brown and slow cook in the same pot is brilliant, isn't it?)