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Ground Beef: Not Just for Meat Sauce and Burgers

January 17, 2021 | by Elizabeth Kurtz

Full-flavored recipes that you'll want to add to your repertoire.

Ground beef is a freezer staple. I often buy it in bulk when it’s on sale and use it for everything from weekday tacos, everyday meat sauce, meatballs, burgers and my own lachmagine. It’s affordable and always very versatile. It holds up well to bold seasonings because it’s rich and meaty and needs to be paired with flavors that can hold up to that.

Here are some full-flavored recipes using ground beef that are not currently in your repertoire. These more unique flavor combinations are more like what you order in a restaurant but are easy to create at home. Try them and spice up your weeknight menus.

Asian Spiced Ground Beef Rice Bowl

Serves 4 - 5

Rice bowls are very on-trend for good reason. They have that make your own component, are both lunch and dinner appropriate and the prep time is both quick and make-ahead easy. I use lean ground meat in this.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef 90% lean
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups hot cooked white or brown rice

Shredded carrot, sliced cucumber, edamame, cubed mango, sliced green onions and sesame seeds and any other topping of your choice

In a large skillet, over medium heat, cook the ground beef and garlic breaking it into crumbles until no longer pink.

In a small bowl whisk brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, red pepper flakes and pepper. Pour over the ground beef and let simmer for another minute or two.

Fill individual bowls with hot rice. Top with ground beef and juices and any toppings of your choice.

Taco Stuffed Spaghetti Squash


Photo by Maria Siriano

Serves 4 - 6

A twist on traditional taco meat, stuffed into our family favorite, roasted spaghetti squash. Cheese pictured here is vegan and non-dairy so it can be used with meat, but feel free to omit. The original version of this recipe appeared on an episode of The Kitchn.

  • 2 medium spaghetti squash (about 5 pounds total)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups grated vegan non-dairy cheese, or omit

(note* to make this kosher, do not mix meat and dairy)

Optional toppings:

Sliced scallions, pico de gallo, non-dairy sour cream, fresh cilantro, hot sauce

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray or oil; set aside.

Cut each squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Mix 1 tablespoon of the oil with 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin in a small bowl, then brush the cut sides of the squashes with the spiced oil, using it all. Season the squash generously with salt. Lay the squash cut-side down in a single layer on the baking sheet.

Roast until soft when poked with a fork, 45 to 60 minutes. While the squash is roasting, cook the filling.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess grease and return the drained beef back to the pan over medium heat.

Add the red bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, coriander, and cayenne if using and stir to coat the beef. Add the water, stir to combine, and simmer until the flavors meld, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Taste and season with more salt as needed.

When the squash is ready, place the baking sheet on a wire rack. Flip the squash halves over with tongs, then use a fork to shred the inside of each squash half, leaving about 1/2 inch of unshredded squash left in the shell. Divide the ground beef mixture among the squash shells and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the non-dairy cheese.

Bake uncovered until the beef mixture is heated through and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes more. Top with toppings of your choice.

Indian Naan Sandwiches with Cucumber Tzatziki


Photo by Lauren Volo

Serves 4

These fantastic flavored sandwiches are both lunch and dinner friendly. The cool tzatziki is the perfect topping to bold flavored ground beef.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 4 pieces naan bread (available at national markets and Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup Tofutti sour cream (non-dairy)
  • 1/2 cup diced, seeded cucumber (about 1/2 cucumber)
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh mint or cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • Zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 medium head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 200°F.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beef or lamb and season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Break the meat up into smaller pieces and sauté until cooked through and browned, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the naan and make the tzatziki.

Stack the naan in a pile and completely wrap in aluminum foil. Heat in the oven until warm, about 5 minutes. Place the Tofutti sour cream, cucumber, mint or cilantro, coriander, lemon zest, remaining 1/4 teaspoon cumin, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine; set aside.

When the meat is ready, remove from the heat. Place the warmed naan in a single layer on a work surface. Place a handful of iceberg lettuce on the center of each naan. Divide the meat over the lettuce, top each with a couple tablespoons of tzatziki, and divide the red onion over the tzatziki. Serve warm.

Shepherd's Pie Revamped


Serves 6

Old-fashioned Shepherd's Pie is updated with bolder flavorings and garlicky mashed potatoes. This serves a crowd.

  • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 cup Tofutti sour cream (non-dairy sour cream), or mayonnaise
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons margarine, softened or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray


  • 4 slices facon (imitation bacon made with beef) or pastrami, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 to 3 medium carrots, roughly chopped, (about 1 cup)
  • 3/4 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 (12-ounce) bottle beer
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ teaspoon paprika

Prepare potato topping: In a large saucepan add the potatoes and garlic and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain. Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large bowl. Add the Tofutti sour cream, 1/4 cup of the broth, margarine, salt and pepper, and beat on low speed with a hand mixer until the potatoes are light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. If the mixture is too dry, add the remaining 1/4 cup broth. Do not overmix. Cover and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 10-inch round baking dish with nonstick spray.

Prepare filling: Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the facon/pastrami and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and almost crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the facon to a plate; set aside.

Add the oil to the drippings in the skillet and put over medium heat. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the sugar, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes. Stir in the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, until the beef begins to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the carrots, peas, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the beer, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes Add the cooked facon, the broth, rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish. Spread the potato topping evenly over the beef mixture. Bake until the filling is hot, the topping is lightly browned and the edges are bubbly, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and paprika and serve.


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