How to Perfectly Season Ground Beef for Nachos

Nachos are the ultimate crowd-pleasing appetizer. With crispy tortilla chips, melted cheese, beans, salsa and all your favorite toppings, they make for an irresistible snack. But the key component that brings everything together is the seasoned ground beef. When it’s properly spiced and cooked, it takes the nachos to a whole new level of flavor.

So how do you make sure the ground beef is seasoned just right for nachos? Follow this guide to learn the secrets to flavorful, next-level nacho beef.

Choosing the Right Ground Beef

  • 80/20 ground beef: The best choice is 80% lean and 20% fat ground chuck. The higher fat content ensures the beef stays juicy and flavorful when cooked.

  • Ground sirloin or 90/10 beef: Leaner beef like sirloin can dry out and get crumbly in nachos. Go for fattier 80/20 chuck for best results.

  • Ground turkey: Extra lean turkey dries out easily. Add oil when cooking and stir in cheese to boost moisture.

  • Plant-based beef: Works well but add taco seasoning to boost the flavors. Cook with a little oil to prevent sticking.

For optimal flavor and texture, 80/20 ground chuck is the winner. The fat keeps it tender while the chuck provides beefy flavor.

Spice It Up With Taco Seasoning

The easiest way to infuse a Tex-Mex flavor into the beef is by using taco seasoning mix. You can make your own or use a store-bought packet. Here are some taco seasoning ideas:

  • Chili powder – For smoky heat and color
  • Cumin – Earthy, aromatic flavor
  • Oregano – Fresh herbal note
  • Onion powder – Powdered onion flavor
  • Garlic powder – For richness
  • Crushed red pepper – A touch of heat
  • Salt – To amplify all flavors
  • Black pepper – For punch and bite

Combine 2-3 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of ground beef. For bolder flavor, use the larger amount. Add it to the beef while browning for evenly distributed spices.

Best Practices for Cooking

Follow these tips to get perfectly browned, crumbled beef for your nachos:

  • Use a heavy skillet – Cast iron or stainless steel work best to get crispy browned bits. Nonstick may cause sticking.

  • Heat oil first – Add 1-2 tbsp oil and heat before adding beef. This prevents sticking.

  • Cook over medium-high heat – Higher heat helps the beef brown instead of steaming.

  • Break up large clumps – Keep scraping and breaking up meat so it cooks evenly.

  • Cook until browned – Don’t stop just when the pink color disappears. Keep going until nicely browned.

  • Drain excess grease – After cooking, drain in a colander to remove excess fat before adding to nachos.

Flavor Boosts Beyond Seasoning

In addition to taco seasoning, incorporate these ingredients while cooking to amp up the flavor of the beef:

  • Onion and bell pepper – Sauteing aromatics like onion and bell pepper adds a flavor base.

  • Minced garlic – Browning garlic deepens the savory flavor.

  • Chopped jalapeno – Adds mild heat and smokiness.

  • Tomato sauce – Tomato paste or canned diced tomatoes lend acidity and richness.

  • Beef broth – Adds meaty flavor and keeps the beef moist.

  • Splash of vinegar – A touch of red wine vinegar brightens up the beef.

  • Dash of hot sauce – A few drops of Tabasco or Cholula enhances spice.

  • Worcestershire sauce – Umami notes boost the meatiness.

  • Mexican beer – Use a splash of Corona or Modelo to deglaze the pan.

Nacho Beef Cooking Methods

There are a few different ways you can cook the seasoned beef for nachos:

Stovetop Skillet

This traditional method involves browning the beef in a skillet on the stovetop with onions, peppers and spices. It gives you the most control over cooking.

Benefits: Great for getting browned crispy bits. Lets you building layers of flavor.

Downsides: Needs more active cooking time and cleanup.

Instant Pot

For fast weeknight nachos, cook the beef in the Instant Pot or pressure cooker. It speeds up hands-on time.

Benefits: Faster cooking with less monitoring. Still gets flavorful, juicy beef.

Downsides: No crispy browned bits form with this method.

Slow Cooker

If you want totally hands-off cooking, just toss the ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning.

Benefits: Super simple and walk away method. Great for parties.

Downsides: No browning, so flavors are less complex.


For a sheet pan nacho bake, spread out the beef on a baking sheet and roast in the oven.

Benefits: Minimal cleanup and you can roast peppers/onions too.

Downsides: Need to stir periodically to prevent sticking.

Nacho Topping Ideas

Once your beef is perfectly cooked and seasoned, time for the fun part – piling on all the toppings! Get creative with these tasty mix-ins:

  • Shredded cheese – cheddar, Mexican blend, pepper jack
  • Black beans or refried beans
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped green onions
  • Sliced black olives
  • Pickled jalapenos
  • Pico de gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauce or taco sauce
  • Cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Avocado
  • Corn

Adjust the toppings and sauces to your preferences. Not a fan of spicy? Skip the jalapenos. Want to add more veggies? Throw on some sautéed bell peppers or zucchini. Get the whole family involved in customizing their nachos.

Loaded Beef Nacho Recipes

Once you’ve mastered the art of seasoning beef for nachos, try out these drool-worthy loaded nacho recipes:

  • Skillet Beef Nachos – The classic appetizer loaded with all the fixings.

  • Cheesy Beef Nacho Bake – Ooey gooey with melted cheese.

  • Sheet Pan Steakhouse Nachos – With tender sliced steak and crispy waffle fries.

  • Buffalo Chicken Nachos – Spiced ground chicken with buffalo sauce and blue cheese crumbles.

  • BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos – Topped with smoky shredded pork shoulder.

  • Breakfast Nachos – With scrambled eggs, tater tots and bacon.

  • Beef Chili Nachos – Piled high with hearty beef chili.

Nachos are the perfect canvas for creativity. Don’t be afraid to try unique flavor combinations using different proteins, global spices, veggies and sauces to complement your seasoned beef. The options are endless!

So next time you host a game day party or have a nachos craving, remember these tips for flavorful beef that will take your nachos up a notch. Your friends and family will be begging for the recipe!



How can I spice up my nachos?

Forgo regular jalapeño pickles (unless you’re really craving them) and try pickled red onions, pickled ramps, or even mango pickle on your next batch of nachos. And if you want to try your hand at pickled watermelon rind, we’ll be right there with you, cheering you on. Go wild with market veggies.

Do you put meat or cheese first on nachos?

Spread out a layer of chips, followed by an even distribution of meat and beans, then lots–I mean lots–of cheese. Complete coverage guarantees you don’t commit the cardinal sin of nacho making: the sad chip with no topping. Repeat until you have an impressive tray a few layers high, then bake.

What to serve with beef nachos?

The best side dishes to serve with nachos are salsa, guacamole, cream cheese gravy, sloppy joes, refried beans, pico de gallo, lazy enchiladas, crispy chicken wings, Spanish rice, chicken burrito bowl, tostilocos, ranchero sauce, pineapple salsa, chicken tortilla soup, blooming onion, turkey chili, taco casserole, and …

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