You Should Consider Adding Oatmeal To Your Taco Meat. Here's Why

Back in 2011, Taco Bell came under fire for adding oats (among other things) to its taco meat. The chain was the target of a class-action lawsuit which alleged that its beef taco filling was only 36% meat, according to Eater. Taco Bell offered a statement that claimed this wasn't true, and that their filling contained 88% beef and "12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture." The statement clarified that the chain uses 3 to 5% oats in its seasoned beef, and to quell any remaining inquiries, Taco Bell even added an FAQ section on its website breaking down its ingredients in 2014, HuffPost shares.

So why the outrage over a little oatmeal? Historically, oats have been added to ground beef as an extender, used to stretch beef as much as possible. By incorporating them this way, oats can help you save money on ground beef, at a time when beef may be more expensive for years to come. Oats are cheap and can last a long time — at least a year after being opened, according to Healthline — and adding them to your ground beef will make for more taco meat, burgers, or whatever else you're cooking.

Although adding oats to its meat wasn't the best look for Taco Bell it probably wasn't such a bad move. Because while oats can help with cutting costs, there is another, more delicious reason to put them in your ground beef.

Oatmeal enhances the texture of ground beef

Alexis Wold, a restaurant owner in Arizona who makes her family's dishes, shared her recipe for taco meat with NPR featuring, you guessed it, oats. Although she recognized that the addition of the oats most likely originated with wartime shortages, Wold enjoys it for another reason. She says oats help her taco meat adhere better, and it creates an ideal texture.

Wold isn't the only one who feels this way. Delishably claims that adding oatmeal to ground beef makes for a softer burger, and makes the taste a little less meat-heavy. Academic research has even been done on the subject; an article in the journal Foods claims that incorporating oats into ground beef may result in a juicier burger because the protein in oatmeal can soak up the moisture that would normally be lost to the pan during cooking.

Even Taco Bell, despite the controversy, insists it uses oats for this reason. "Each ingredient helps make our Seasoned Beef taste great," the chain claimed on its website in 2014, according to ABC News. "Ingredients like oats and sodium phosphates help make sure the texture is right."

And oats are a whole grain food, so adding them to beef will not only make your beef juicier but healthier to boot (via Healthline). Foods points out that oats provide an additional source of protein, and make a burger with less fat content. That sounds like a win-win to us!