What is Taco Bell Beef Made Of? A Look at the Ingredients

Taco Bell is one of the most popular fast food chains, serving over 2 billion customers each year. Their menu features tacos, burritos, quesadillas and other Tex-Mex favorites made with seasoned ground beef. But have you ever wondered exactly what is in Taco Bell’s beef and how it’s made?

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients and preparation process for Taco Bell’s famous seasoned beef.

The Main Ingredient – Beef

The number one ingredient in Taco Bell’s seasoned beef is just that – beef. They use 100% USDA premium ground beef with no fillers, extenders or binders added. The beef is sourced from American cattle and meets USDA standards for quality.

Taco Bell states that their ground beef is similar to what you would buy at your local grocery store to make tacos or chili at home. It comes purely from beef and just like the beef you cook with, it is drained of excess fat during preparation.

Seasoning Blend

While the main component is beef, Taco Bell does add a signature blend of seasonings and spices to give their ground meat its iconic flavor. The exact seasoning amounts and components are proprietary, but according to Taco Bell, the blend contains:

  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Chile peppers
  • Paprika
  • And other natural flavors

This seasoning mix adds the tangy, slightly spicy taste that makes Taco Bell’s seasoned beef instantly recognizable. It’s what gives their tacos, burritos and other menu items their signature southwestern flair.

Why Does Taco Bell Beef Contain Added Water?

One ingredient you may notice on Taco Bell’s list is added water. After the beef is cooked and seasoned, water is added before it is shipped to restaurants.

Adding water serves two purposes:

  1. It allows the flavorful seasonings to absorb and spread evenly throughout the beef.

  2. It helps keep the beef moist and juicy when it is reheated during cooking.

The added water allows Taco Bell to lock in the taste and texture of their signature seasoned beef. It helps replicate the fresh, just-prepared taste even when served hours after initial cooking.

Other Ingredients

Along with beef, seasoning, and water, Taco Bell’s beef contains a few other ingredients used as binders and preservatives:

  • Trehalose – A natural sugar that enhances the beef flavor
  • Oats – Help bind and preserve the beef
  • Sodium phosphates – Help maintain texture and moisture
  • Caramel color – For aesthetic purposes only, no flavor
  • Maltodextrin – A mildly sweet sugar that balances flavor
  • Modified corn starch – Thickens and maintains consistency
  • Cellulose gum & carboxymethyl cellulose – Thickeners
  • Torula yeast – Adds flavor
  • Lactic acid – Controls acidity for proper flavor
  • Artificial flavors – Adds more black pepper flavor

All of these additional ingredients are standard preservatives, acids, sugars, gums and thickeners commonly used in processed foods. Taco Bell states they are safe, natural and help provide the perfect tasting Taco Bell beef.

Preparation Process

Taco Bell has a systematic process for prepping their seasoned beef before sending it to restaurants:

  • Ground beef is cooked thoroughly to USDA standards
  • Excess fat is drained off
  • Signature blend of 7+ seasonings is added and mixed in
  • Water is added to help disperse spices evenly
  • Methylcellulose and other binders are added
  • Beef is packaged and shipped to Taco Bell locations

At the restaurants, workers simply reheat the prepared seasoned beef and add it to menu items as they are ordered. Following this standardized process allows Taco Bell to offer consistent tasting seasoned beef across all their locations.

Is Taco Bell Beef Low Quality?

There is a common myth that Taco Bell uses low quality “Grade D” beef. However, this is completely false according to Taco Bell and food safety organizations. The USDA does not even grade ground beef like they do steaks, so Grade D beef does not exist.

Taco Bell states they use only high quality USDA-inspected beef, never meat from old dairy cows or other questionable sources. The ingredients added are for flavor and freshness, not to cover up poor meat.

So while their beef may be highly processed for quick service restaurants, it does not come from inferior meat sources. It is real ground beef with natural seasonings added.

Why the Beef is So Cheap

You can get a beef taco or burrito from Taco Bell for just a couple dollars, which is much less than similar dishes at a sit-down Mexican restaurant. So how can they offer beef so cheap?

There are a few reasons Taco Bell beef is low cost:

  • Mass production – They buy beef in enormous quantities to keep costs down
  • Lower overhead – Cheaper real estate and labor vs restaurants
  • Lots of fillers – Added thickeners and binders are inexpensive
  • Minimal meat per dish – Each item only contains a few ounces of beef

The small amount of meat, plus low operating costs and bulk ingredient purchases allow Taco Bell to sell items made with beef much cheaper than standard restaurants.

Is Taco Bell Beef Healthy?

While Taco Bell’s seasoned beef tastes great, is it actually healthy? Let’s break it down nutritionally:

  • High in protein from the beef
  • Very high in sodium from added salt
  • Has added sugars
  • Lots of preservatives and thickeners
  • Minimal nutrients from real vegetables or grains

Overall, Taco Bell’s beef is fairly low in nutritional value. The high sodium and saturated fat from greasy ground beef is concerning for heart health. The added sugars and fillers also make it a processed, inflammatory food.

However, in moderation, Taco Bell beef can be an occasional indulgence in an otherwise healthy diet. Just be mindful of portions and sodium content if eating regularly.

Alternatives to Seasoned Beef

If you love Taco Bell but want to make slightly healthier choices, consider substituting out the seasoned beef:

  • Black or pinto beans add fiber
  • Grilled chicken or steak cuts down saturated fat
  • Fresco style removes cheese, sour cream, mayo
  • Vegetarian items use beans instead of beef

Exploring the menu can help find ways to still enjoy Taco Bell’s flavors in a more balanced meal.

So next time you bite into a Taco Bell classic like a Crunchy Taco or Cheesy Gordita Crunch, you’ll know exactly what the seasoned beef is made of. While it may be highly processed, it starts with quality ingredients like real USDA beef and natural seasonings. In moderation, it can be an indulgent treat.

How Taco Bell Meat Is Made!


Is Taco Bell beef real beef?

It then is slow-cooked and simmered with proprietary seasonings and spices to provide Taco Bell’s signature taste and texture. Our seasoned beef recipe contains 88% quality USDA-inspected beef and 12% seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture.

How much of Taco Bell meat is filler?

The “taco meat filling” as it’s written on their containers has only 36 percent real beef; the rest is a combination of chemicals and odd-ball ingredients like ‘cocoa powder’. The USDA defines “meat taco filling” as having at least 40 percent fresh meat.

What type of beef is taco meat?

These days, beef barbacoa is the most common taco meat found in restaurants. You’ll enjoy how savory and juicy barbacoa is – it’s a texture reminiscent of barbecue sauce!

What is Grade D meat used for?

D Grades: The D grades are applied to carcasses which are not youthful. They are typically given to carcasses from cows and represented 11.8% of the total graded cattle in Canada in 2021. Beef given a D grade is typically used for ground beef and further processed products.

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