Classic American-style Beef Taco Recipe

Sometimes I think about culture and wonder what exactly constitutes culture? Is it the things we do, eat, drink, and say on a global level? Sure. Is it also the things we do, eat, drink, and say in the privacy of our own homes? Absolutely. Of course culture – in the most broad sense – is about more… much more. Just checking out the Wikipedia entry, you can see that the concept of culture is a big deal. In advanced societies such as ours, it’s the fabric of life. It matters.

Instead of thinking about culture globally today, I want to tackle it on the micro level. As in, the culture in my own home. Jeremy and I live in New Orleans on one side of a double shotgun house. Our landlords live on the other side. We have no kids and no pets, just a few plants to keep us company. We live pretty simply, and we like it that way. Like many Americans, we participate in our fair share of American culture. We both love baseball and like football, mainly because of our own home team, the Saints. We support the arts by donating, visiting and attending events/shows/galas. We drive nearly everywhere we go, but if we chose to, we do live in an area where daily bus and/or bike transportation would get us 90% of the places we want to go. We like burgers, beer, pizza, and of course, tacos!

Classic American-style Crunchy Beef Taco Recipe

I cook nearly every day of the week. While we do dine out occasionally, I am ultimately responsible for 42 meals each week. We both eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so whether we dine out or eat in, decisions have to be made about what it is that we’re going to eat, and how we’re going to handle that. Some weeks it’s a daunting task, while other weeks are easy and effortless.

For the longest time, it never dawned on me to include tacos as part of our regular dinner rotation. Like many people our age, Jeremy and I both grew up eating tacos at home and at Taco Bell. The basic American-style beef taco is still what we both think of when we think “tacos” – crunchy corn shell, spicy ground beef, crisp shredded lettuce, cool chopped tomato, and sharp cheddar cheese shreds. I’m sure there are many others who think of this when they think of tacos.

Classic American-style Crunchy Beef Taco Recipe

To honor our adopted tradition of tacos, I am bringing you what I feel is the quintessential classic American beef taco recipe. Of course, Americans didn’t invent tacos. Heck, we didn’t even perfect them. Honestly, like many other things, we’ve just co-opted them to fit into our culture. Tacos such as these have been changed and adjusted to suit the standard American palate. I am thankful, however, that I’ve traveled quite a bit, and I’ve actually had real tacos in Mexico. They’re lovely and among my favorite tacos. Honestly, I’d take one of those over an American taco any day.

But there’s just a certain charm to the classic American beef taco that appeals to me. We’ve actually eaten them twice in the past two weeks. Jeremy LOVES these tacos and says he could eat them every day. I’m pretty inclined to agree with him, although I enjoy them most when I haven’t had them in a while. The taste of the seasoned meat and the creamy cheese just send me back to childhood. The crunchy taco shell is pleasant when it hits the mouth, crumbling in an instant. More often than not, I’ll go back to an old trick from my childhood – crush the taco shells from the beginning and just make a taco salad – oh, perfect!

Of course, this taco recipe doesn’t disappoint in the seasoning section. I’ve created a custom blended taco seasoning mix as opposed to using a pre-made seasoning packet. If you’re even just a semi-serious home cook, you really should have all these seasonings in your pantry anyway. They’re standard, nothing too out of the ordinary.

Seasoning Mix for Classic American-style Crunchy Beef Taco Recipe

One other thing I do differently than you might be accustomed to is that I start the seasoned ground beef by sautéing onion and tomato in a little oil. I find this increases the flavor level of the tacos exponentially. I also use lean ground beef so I have no fat to drain off. I simply just mix it all in with the taco meat. This method has treated me very well so far and has resulted in the tastiest taco meat I’ve ever made.

Delicious spiced beef for Classic American-style Crunchy Beef Taco Recipe

So while we have many different customs in our household and participate widely in American culture, we like to think that we’re special in some way. That we do things differently. I think this is common among our generation – we don’t want to ever “be left out,” but at the same time, we don’t just want to do “what everyone else does.” Finding yourself and your values today in this country can be a challenging task. Jeremy and I handle it by drawing on the things from our backgrounds and childhoods that still resonate with us to this day. Couple that with the values that we’ve developed ourselves via our own life experiences, and it makes for a pretty good start. And some killer American-style tacos.

What about you? Are there wider cultural traditions that you have in your household that you consider special or sacred? Are you also a fan of tacos? What are your favorite kinds? Please dish it all below in the comments. I’d love to hear what you find important in terms of cultural practices and to hear about your yummy taco creations!

Classic American-style Crunchy Beef Taco Recipe

Yield: 12 tacos (about 4 servings)

Classic American-style Beef Tacos

This classic American-style beef taco recipe is made from a custom seasoning blend and uses fresh tomato and onion as seasoning in the ground beef.


Taco Seasoning Mix:

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Seasoned Beef:

  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as grape seed, olive or safflower oil)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (sub dark turkey meat, if desired)
  • 1 recipe taco seasoning mix (from above)

To Finish the Tacos:

  • 1 recipe of seasoned beef
  • 1 package taco shells (hard or soft, your choice)
  • Toppings:
    • 1 1/2 cups finely shredded lettuce
    • 1 cup chopped fresh tomato
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1-8 ounce tub of sour cream


  1. Check the taco shell box and pre-heat oven to directed temperature.
  2. Add all the ingredients in the Taco Seasoning Mix section to a small bowl and stir gently with a fork to combine.

Seasoned Beef:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the tablespoon of neutral oil over a medium high flame.
  2. Add the onion and cook until translucent and lightly browned, about seven minutes. Stir often to ensure even cooking.
  3. Add the tomato and continue to cook until the tomato breaks down a bit and is softened, about five minutes.
  4. Add the ground beef and the taco seasoning mix. Stir well and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through, about seven to ten minutes.

To Finish the Tacos:

  1. Bake taco shells according to package directions.
  2. Once the taco shells are done, it’s time to assemble the tacos.
  3. Add some of the taco meat a taco shell.
  4. Top with lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, and sour cream, as desired.
  5. Eat immediately.

Prep:15 min

Cook:25 min

Total:40 min

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