Living in Texas, we appreciate a really good beef taco. Â Until recently, however, we didn’t bother trying to make them at home, believing that the home-cooked version couldn’t possibly be as good as the tacos we get at our favorite Tex-Mex joints. Â Turns out we were quite mistaken. Â We found a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that is even better than what we had previously considered the best tacos around. Â Although these tacos require more ingredients and steps than the home version made with the store-bought flavor packet, the beefy end result is well worth the (minimal) extra effort.
Update:Â We’ve made these tacos with ground turkey (93% lean) instead of beef, and honestly cannot tell the difference. Â So if you’re craving beef tacos, but trying to eat less red meat, this is the recipe for you.
Heat a couple of teaspoons of vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat, add a chopped onion and a dash of salt, then cook until the onion begins to soften — about 5-6 minutes.
While the onion cooks, prepare the seasonings: Â combine 3 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl; and mix together 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon brown sugar in another bowl.
Add the garlic and spices to the onions, stir together and cook until fragrant — about 1 minute.
Add a pound of lean (90% or less)Â ground beef to the onion and spice mixture and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the beef is no longer pink — about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato sauce mixture to the meat, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and breaking up any big chunks of beef, until the liquid reduces (but not completely — there should still be a bit of liquid in the pan) — about 10 minutes. Â Taste and add salt & pepper if necessary.
Set up your taco-building station with whatever garnishes you prefer. Â We like chopped lettuce and tomato, sour cream, cheddar cheese and sliced avocado. Â Homemade taco filling is as “from-scratch” as we felt like doing on a weeknight, so we used store-bought taco shells, warmed in the oven.
Stuff the taco shells with meat and garnishes and enjoy your new favorite taco! Â And save the trip to a Tex-Mex restaurant for something with a higher degree of difficulty — like mole sauce.