How to Stretch Your Taco Meat

how to stretch taco meat

Growing up I never understood why my mother always made refried beans whenever we had tacos. My brother and I would each have two tacos (sometimes three), refried beans, and sometimes rice. I didn’t complain because I was being fed, but I grew up believing that refried beans were a part of cooking tacos (we didn’t have much ground beef, but we were full). I was surprised when I ate tacos at friends houses and they didn’t have refried beans.

Little did I know, my mom made the beans to help stretch the taco meat.

See, we grew up without a lot. Well, our basic needs were met. My mom had us at a young age, and worked her butt off as a single parent to provide for me and my brother (my father contributed $0 to my upbringing). We had a pretty decent life, we always had food on the table, and we always had a roof over our heads, so we were doing better than a lot of the people I grew up with.

As a grown woman, it dawned on me how little money my mom made, and had in her pockets during that time. How was she able to take care of me, my brother, and herself? How did she do it? Clearly she made sacrifices and used different methods to stretch the food we had.

My mom stretched food so far that to this day there are items my brother and I refuse to eat. Refried beans is one of them (well I eat it sparingly), and jambalaya (we won’t touch it….I ‘ll have to make another post talking about it, lol).

As I transitioned to living a more frugal lifestyle and sticking to a strict budget, some of the things I learned as a child came back to me. Hence, stretching my taco meat. I’ve heard of people stretching their taco meat by adding lentils, oatmeal, or refried beans. As mentioned above, I’m not a big refried bean fan, so I had to come up with another strategy to bulk up my taco meat for less.

This is the method I use. This is how to stretch your taco meat:

Since I don’t eat refried beans (that much) I opted for black beans, kidney beans, and rotel tomatoes to bulk up the meat, and add flavor. Using this method easily adds another pound or more to your ground beef, or ground turkey. It fills you up, saves you money, and  it also freezes well.

For example, I got my ground beef for free at Target using Target mobile coupons, Target Cartwheel, and Shopkick points. I got the kidney beans on sale when they were $0.39 a can at Price Chopper. The black beans were $0.59 a can at Aldi, and I purchased a package of 8 rotel tomatoes cans from Costco for $5.94 which is around $0.74 a can (I use rotel tomatoes a lot), but I also have other brand cans of tomatoes I’ve gotten for free or super cheap by using coupons.

taco meat add ins


How to Stretch Your Taco Meat
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Use this recipe to stretch your taco meat. Using these add-ins easily adds another pound or more to your taco meat.
Recipe type: Taco Mead Add-ins
Serves: 8
  • 1 lb ground beef or ground turkey (more if you are doubling).
  • 1 chopped onion (I used half)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can drained black beans
  • 1 can drained kidney beans
  • 1 can partially drained rotel tomatoes (or any diced tomatoes)
  • salt & pepper for taste
  1. Brown ground beef or ground turkey (cook with the onions, garlic, and salt & pepper). Drain.
  2. Place ground beef or ground turkey back into the pan, pour taco seasoning on the meat and prepare per taco packet instructions.
  3. Add drained black beans
  4. Add drained kidney beans
  5. Add partially drained rotel tomatoes
  6. Stir and cook until beans are done. I put my stove on a low setting, covered the skillet with a lid, and let it simmer until done.
Do you have other ways of stretching your taco meat or ideas you use to stretch meats in your home? Let me know in the comments.



  1. January 15, 2016 / 10:40 am

    this is an excellent idea! I always add beans and a little bit of short grain brown rice to my taco meat! so glad others do the same. Seriously good idea!

  2. Miyako
    January 24, 2014 / 11:55 am

    lol Im going to do this add a pack of chili seasoning and make chili…boom all done for me. Thanks girl

  3. January 20, 2014 / 6:11 pm

    That’s a great idea Sara. I’ll add a can of corn the next time I make a batch.

  4. Sarah
    January 20, 2014 / 5:43 pm

    We do the same thing, only I add a can of corn to ours as well. Leaves lots of leftovers to serve with rice or tortilla chips the next day!

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