20 Ways To Use Up Leftover Taco Meat

Taco meat is a staple part of Taco Tuesdays in homes nationwide. This concoction is made of two main ingredients: ground protein and taco seasoning. Although the taco filling is traditionally made with beef, many folks will modify the recipe to include ground chicken or turkey for less saturated fat or opt for a vegan replacement like textured vegetable protein. The seasoning itself can be either store-bought or made at home with ingredients like cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. 

Once you prepare the ground meat of choice and the seasoning, it can be stuffed into your tacos. But what happens if you make a little bit too much filling or people opt for another protein besides the seasoned grounds? Not only does it leave you with tons of leftovers, but it will also be accompanied by taco fatigue. Here are some of our favorite ways to use leftover taco meat that isn't making more tacos. 

Add it to chili

Cool fall nights are perfect for hearty bowls of chili. Instead of thawing a package of ground beef to make your favorite recipe, try adding taco meat instead. Not only will the meat add some quality protein to each spoonful, but the taco seasoning will also enhance the other spices in your recipe. 

Since your taco meat is already cooked, you won't have to go through the process of browning it in the pan beforehand. Just add your seasoned meat, along with your other ingredients like canned tomatoes, beans, peppers, and onions, to the pot or slow cooker with a splash of tomato sauce and allow it to cook down until thick and flavorful. Serve your chili with a Mexican cheese blend, and pop a spoonful of sour cream on top. 

Prepare a Tex-Mex lasagna

No Sunday meal would be complete without lasagna. This layered Italian pasta dish is often made with plain ground beef or ground sausage, but our rendition uses leftover taco meat instead. It's reasonable to assume that the flavor of the taco meat might not quite align with the Italian ingredients in traditional lasagna, so we recommend making a slight deviation toward a Mexican lasagna instead. Start with layers of lasagna noodles (we're team no-bake noodles), or get creative with corn tortillas instead. Layer the noodles with your choice of cheese (we prefer a cheddar or Mexican blend), taco meat, beans, corn, and canned tomatoes. Once your lasagna is assembled, bake it in the oven until the cheese is oozy and the structure has sunk.

Stuff it into peppers or tomatoes

If you're on a low-carb kick, you're going to love these stuffed tomatoes and peppers. If you're going with the bell peppers, you will want to steam or par-bake them first so they soften. Then, fill each of your pepper halves with the leftover taco meat, beans, onions, and the cut-up pieces from the stems. Cover the peppers with cheese and bake in the oven. We love stuffed peppers with a bit of cilantro on top, but you can also add sour cream or a kick of hot sauce if desired. 

Tomatoes are a bit sweeter for stuffing but tend to get super soft and wilted when baked. The best type of tomato to use for stuffed tomatoes is large Beefsteaks because they are sturdy and can fit a ton of filling. 

Amp up your pasta

Pasta can be a carb-heavy dish in need of some protein balance — and that's where taco meat comes in. You can use your meat for many different pasta preparations. If you're a big fan of bolognese, try adding your taco meat to the sauce. The cumin and chili powder in the taco seasoning will help balance the sweetness of your tomato sauce, while the meatiness will add some texture to any shape of pasta you choose. You can also add taco meat to your macaroni and cheese recipe for its Mexican flavor, which pairs well with copious amounts of cheese. 

Another common use for leftover taco meat is to make a mock Hamburger Helper. This blast-from-the-past meal is perfect for a cold winter night in. Simply mix your meat, cooked pasta, cheese, tomatoes, milk, and broth and cook down in a skillet until creamy. 

Stuff empanadas

Empanadas are pie pockets that you can stuff with whatever your heart desires. For these pockets, you'll only need a few ingredients: leftover taco meat, refried beans, cheese, and canned biscuit dough. That's right — you don't even have to make your own dough for this recipe! 

Once you've flattened your biscuit in the palm of your hand, add a swatch of refried beans, a sprinkle of cheese, and the taco meat. The key is not to overfill the empanada, completely seal the edges with a fork, and prick small holes in the top for the steam to escape. Add a sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of the taco meat juice (if you have some left over), and bake the empanadas until golden brown. Serve your pies with pico de gallo and sour cream.

Add it to your soup

We guarantee that once you eat taco soup, you won't return to canned chicken noodle or minestrone again. For a creamy taco soup, mix your leftover taco meat with canned tomatoes, peppers, chicken stock, and cream cheese. Although putting this bagel spread in your soup might seem strange, the fattiness will upgrade your soup, while the tanginess will help balance the savory flavors. Once the cream cheese has simmered down, add corn and black beans. 

Once your soup has thickened to your liking, serve it in bowls with tortilla chips for dipping and an extra scoop of sour cream on top. If you like the feeling of a hardy soup sans cream, omit the cream cheese and make your recipe as directed. 

Make your plate of fries into a whole meal

We love a good plate of fries after a long night out. The crispy spuds are even better when accompanied by a decadent meat and cheese mixture. Your taco fries can include any other leftover produce or dips you have in your kitchen, too; we recommend topping the crisp fries with melted cheddar cheese, taco meat, cilantro, salsa, and sour cream. 

Reheating your frozen French fries in the air fryer is one of our favorite frozen French fry tricks. This appliance will give you the texture of your fries being deep fried, just without the extra calories and the oil splatter all over every surface in your kitchen. If you're making fries for a crowd, you can bake them on a sheet pan and serve straight from it. 

Scoop it into your baked potato

Baked potatoes are one of those foods that can be relegated to the title of "side dish" or made into a whole meal. If you have leftover taco meat, you can have plump, hearty baked potatoes that have a hefty dose of protein to boot. Besides the taco meat, you can add a layer of cheese, sour cream, and bacon to the top of your potatoes. 

The worst thing about baked potatoes, though, is that baking them (and baking them properly) tends to take forever. Luckily, the astonishingly simple trick to cut potato baking time in half will only require an extra step. Instead of wrapping your spuds in foil and baking them hot, cut them lengthwise and place them face-down on a baking sheet. This method ensures crispy edges and a soft-baked interior in a mere 25 minutes. 

Use it as a pizza topping

Pizza pizza! Although it might seem like a catch-all for any leftover food to "just add it to pizza," using taco meat as your pie's protein is actually super delicious and resourceful. You won't have to allocate any extra time to cook your meat if you're using your leftovers, and you'll only need to purchase a pack of store-bought pizza dough to make your pie. 

Instead of the traditional tomato sauce base, we recommend adding a schmear of refried beans to your dough. Then, add your shredded cheese (preferably low moisture to prevent your pie from becoming too wet), taco meat, corn, and olives. Once your pie has been sufficiently baked, you can pile on your other fresh garnishes like sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro. 

Skip Chipotle and use it for a lunch bowl

After we tried our first burrito bowl, we never went back to eating plain tacos. You can craft your bowl with whatever toppings you have lying around — including leftovers. Start with a base of rice, quinoa, or lettuce, and pile on your warmed taco meat, beans, sliced avocado, and tortilla chips. You can also finish your bowl out with a sauce, like salsa, taco sauce, or spicy aioli. And for a crunch, sprinkle a little extra tortilla chips on top. 

Burrito bowls are excellent to pack for lunch or to make for a customizable dinner option. You can even serve your bowl base and toppings with tortilla wraps on the side for stuffing. They're a crowd favorite and can be modified to your favorite toppings. 

Keep things light with zucchini boats

Zucchini boats are an easy way to make eating vegetables fun. To prepare your stuffed zucchini boats, you'll first need to char them in a skillet with some oil. Cook with the flesh side down first before flipping and charring them on the skin side. Then, scoop out the flesh and add it back to your filling mixture, which can be amped up with beans, corn, quinoa or rice, and tomatoes. Top your boats with cheese and bake them until the cheese is melty and the squash is firm.

The best zucchini size for stuffed zucchini boats are the medium ones. Although you would think bigger is better, the large zucchinis are a hassle to pre-bake — and you may have just to cut them in half anyway.

Make it into a casserole for a family-friendly dinner

Midwesterners had it right when they started putting literally anything into a casserole. It's hard to beat a crisp layer of hash or tater tots, salty meat, and gooey cheese all packed into a single bite. And with leftover taco meat, your dream casserole is closer than you'd think. 

You'll want to start by layering your taco meat, corn, cheese, and black beans on the bottom of your greased baking pan. Then, you can layer on your frozen tater tots on top. If you prefer extra crispy tater tots, you can par-bake the tots for about ten minutes on a separate tray before layering them in the pan. Top the casserole with enchilada sauce before baking and finishing with an extra sprinkle of cheese.

Mix it into your breakfast frittata

You can enjoy leftover taco meat any time of day with a breakfast frittata. The preparation for this dish couldn't be simpler; just mix your taco meat with veggies like peppers and onions and add it to your skillet. Cast iron is the best for baking a frittata in because it will perfectly crisp up the edges, which makes removing it from the pan super simple.

Other mix-ins that mesh well with the taco meat include shredded cheddar cheese, chopped jalapeño peppers, and bacon. We recommend serving your frittata with a cilantro garnish and a bottle of taco sauce for a hint of spice. You can also dollop your sour cream on top or serve it with guacamole for some extra healthy fat. 

Stuff it inside a crescent ring

We're always looking for clever ways to use canned crescent rolls, and a taco ring is just one of them. This visual spectacle is just as cool to look at as it is to taste. Plus, it's perfect for an appetizer at your next party. You'll need two cans of crescent rolls for a standard wreath. Place the crescents int a sun-shape with the pointy ends pointed outwards. Then, spoon in your warmed taco filling with cheese and beans, if desired. Then, fold the tips over the filling to make a ring, tucking below the bottom layer to secure it in place. Then, bake until the crescents are golden, and fill the center with your favorite toppings and spreads like sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and olives. 

Use it for nachos or walking tacos

Nachos and walking tacos are the most hands-off ways to use leftover taco meat. For those unfamiliar, a walking taco is essentially nachos, but instead of using standard tortilla chips, the topping is piled into a bag of corn chips or Doritos. It's a portable meal that can be customized to whatever leftover taco toppings you have. For each 1-ounce bag of chips, you'll need about half a cup of beef mixture. This will ensure that you have a little bit of filling and chip in every bite.

Besides the meat, you can also add corn, lettuce, avocado, and pico de Gallo to your recipe. Our favorite chips to use for this recipe are sweet chili Doritos or chili cheese Fritos.

Wrap it in an egg roll for an easy appetizer

Egg rolls are the perfect appetizer for DIY Chinese takeout or for a small-bites platter at your next party. But instead of stuffing your fried egg rolls with the standard pork, Asian seasoning, and green onions, opt for your leftover taco meat instead.

For this recipe, you'll want to use store-bought wonton wrappers; don't try making your own. Then, add just a little bit over two tablespoons total of meat and cheese to the center of the wrapper. The key to making these appetizers is to fill the roll appropriately and always secure the sides properly so the filling will stay intact. Once your egg rolls are stuffed, plop them in an oiled skillet and cook until browned on each side. You can serve these rolls with crema, sour cream, salsa, or all three.

Mix it with sauce for an upgraded Sloppy Joe

The benefit to making Sloppy Joes with your leftover taco meat is that it has the same crumbled consistency, and the spices in the seasoning will mesh well with the tomato undertones of the Sloppy Joes sauce. If you want to stick with the Mexican flavors in the taco meat, reheat the meat with salsa and add water as needed to reach the perfect Sloppy Joe's consistency. Serve your sandwiches on soft buns layered with cheese, lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. 

You can also opt to reserve just the meat and spoon in some store-bought Sloppy Joe's sauce. You can also make your own sauce by mixing together brown sugar, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and ketchup and adding it directly to the meat. 

Make Sunday dinners special with taco meatloaf

Meatloaf is another recipe that is within reach when you have leftover taco meat in the fridge. You can take several different avenues with this recipe, including the classic meatloaf or a Tex-Mex version. Add your meat to a bowl with eggs, shredded cheese, and crushed corn chips for the latter. Bake the loaf, covered with foil, in your oven before pulling it out and schmearing on a layer of chunky salsa. Return it to the oven uncovered before adding a layer of cheese and baking again until gooey. 

For the American version, add your taco meat to a bowl with a binder like eggs, oatmeal, or soaked bread. It's important to note that because this taco meat is already cooked, it tends to come out drier than if you made it with raw, seasoned beef. 

Bake it into taco pie

It wouldn't surprise us if the origin of a loaded taco pie came from the American Midwest. After all, where else could you see layers of pie crust, refried beans, taco meat, and cheese covered in a mixture of fresh taco toppings?

Unlike a standard pie crust, our recipe for this comfort classic uses instant corn flour (masarepa), seasonings like cumin, melted butter, and boiling hot water. This gives it a more tortilla-like texture, but we could also foresee substituting it with a standard frozen pie crust in a pinch. And unlike tacos, which have a short shelf life due to the shells, this pie can last up to three days and can be enjoyed for work-day leftovers. Top your pie with sour cream or guacamole for a delicious and filling meal. 

Enrich your queso dip

Queso has been crowned the king of dips on many, many occasions. But, opting to add some taco meat to your cheesy dip is an easy way to up the ante — and use up your leftover meat. If you're using a canned queso dip, you can add the taco meat to it when it's warming up on the stove. You can also embellish your recipe with extra spices like cumin or cayenne or garnish your dish with a sprinkle of cilantro or some chopped jalapeño peppers. 

This cheese dip is also easy enough to make on your own rather than opt for the canned version. All you need to do is combine a cheese of choice with cornstarch and evaporated milk. We love classic extra-sharp cheddar, but you might also add some Pepper Jack to the mix.