Red meat often comes up in conversations as being “bad for you.” But, if it’s prepared in healthy ground beef recipes and eaten as part of a healthy diet, it can actually be a nutritious food.
Aside from delivering amino acids that increase satiety, speed up metabolism, and build lean muscle, ground beef contains healthy doses of iron, zinc, niacin, selenium, vitamin E, and B vitamins—nutrients that support blood formation, as well as brain and nervous system function. And it’s easy to incorporate red meat into meals, especially when you’re cooking with ground beef.
We know you probably have some questions around ground beef. Read on for the answers, plus 17 easy ground beef recipes you and your whole family will love.
Can I eat ground beef on a diet?
Yes, you can. See, The World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting weekly consumption of red meat to three portions a week (about 12–18 ounces total). Consuming fat in excess, healthy or not, results in one thing: flab. Ground beef is sold with 5 to 30 percent fat, giving you the option to choose from 80-95 percent lean varieties. However, the leaner the cut, the lower the vitamin and mineral content. So no, you don’t have to stop eating red meat completely.
We recommend going for 90 percent lean, which yields fewer calories and fat than regular ground beef. When possible, it’s best to go for grass-fed. It’s naturally lower in calories and fat than grain-fed beef, and it contains more heart-healthy omega-3s, less saturated fat, and as much as four times the vitamin E.
How to cook ground beef
Ground beef is very simple to make, and it cooks fairly quickly. You just need a skillet and a stovetop.
Place the meat in the skillet—along with any seasonings—and wait for all the pieces to brown, stirring occasionally. When they’re no more pink meat, that’s how you know the meat is done. You can keep browning it in the pan for as long as you like to get that desired level of crispness. According to the USDA, you should cook ground beef within two days of purchasing it, unless you freeze the meat.
We consulted with Chef Will Savarese, executive chef at Robert’s Steakhouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to get some more insight on everything you need to know about cooking with ground beef, too, and his tips for perfectly browning prove just how simple cooking with ground beef is.
“Make sure you start with a hot pan with oil. Cook in small batches to get even color on it, and don’t overcrowd it,” he says. “When forming meatballs, patties, or working with ground beef, dip hands in cold water so [the meat] doesn’t stick to your hands.”
How important is a meat thermometer when cooking ground beef?
To destroy any bacteria, it’s suggested to cook ground beef to a minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a meat thermometer to help you check the temperature.
Chef Savarese explains that while a meat thermometer isn’t necessarily essential, it is helpful, so there is no harm in using one when you’re cooking beef.
“Using a meat thermometer isn’t so important unless you are making a meatloaf that has other ingredients like eggs,” Chef Savarese tells us. “Or if people are older or younger [who] have immune issues, then I suggest you use one and [be sure] serve the meat at 160 degrees.”
What’s the difference between minced beef and ground beef?
When you’re cooking with beef and following along with a recipe, you might see “minced beef” or “ground beef” listed. But have no fear, it’s the same type of meat, just chopped up differently.
“Minced is usually done by hand and diced small, and ground beef is ground using a grinder with different sized dies,” Chef Savarese says.
How can I tell if the ground beef I want to cook with has gone bad?
One thing you want to be careful of when cooking meat is checking to make sure it’s not spoiled. Savarese’s advice is classic: if you see or smell anything suspicious with your meat, then it’s most likely not good anymore.
“Use your nose and sight. The color goes pretty fast on ground beef, so use your nose,” he advises. “Then, use your hands and check the texture: [if it’s] sticky and tacky, [then it’s] no good. Rule of the kitchen: ‘When in doubt, throw it out.'”
What can I make with ground beef?
From chili to Shepherd’s pie to tacos, the possibilities are endless.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of the best healthy ground beef recipes you can make right at home.
Though it’s light in calories, this is still a potent bowl of goodness—served with a lightly dressed salad, it makes for an incredible weekday dinner. Also perfect for meal planning as it will keep great frozen in the fridge. Double the recipe and you’ll be set for the week!
Get our recipe for Italian Meatball Soup.
This jalapeño cheeseburger recipe packs a bite for you spice lovers, while still staying lean thanks to a few smart swaps, which cut calories dramatically. This is a restaurant-worthy burger you can actually perfect right in your own kitchen.
Get our recipe for Jalapeño Cheeseburger.
This version of the Swedish meatball cuts the beef with turkey, which is tender and light like veal, but considerably leaner. You’ll save on calories, but you’ll gain considerably on taste!
Get our recipe for Swedish Meatballs.
What if we told you there’s a way you can make a meal that not only tastes great, but requires minimal effort on your part and is healthy for you? Enter our hearty slow cooker beef goulash recipe.
Get our recipe for Slow Cooker Beef Goulash.
One sliders recipe wasn’t enough, we give you two, so you’ll be able to deliver some huge flavor for a truly mini caloric price tag. They’re great for appetizers, snacks, and parties!
Get our recipe for Sliders.
This Bolognese follows the same technique used for an authentic, velvety sauce, but subs in turkey for veal and lean sirloin for beef (but if you can only find ground beef, that works just fine). You can serve this over dried spaghetti or fettuccine, but fresh pasta really is best.
Get our recipe for Bolognese Sauce.
While there are many different types of taco combinations to make (like shrimp or pork carnitas), nothing can truly beat the classic combination of a beef taco. This beef taco recipe is the exact type of thing you would imagine when planning for Taco Tuesday, and much healthier than making a quick order over at Taco Bell.
Get our recipe for Beef Tacos.
While some popular chains do sell burgers with more than 1,000 calories, you can actually enjoy a delicious burger with bacon (yes, bacon!) for a mere 402 calories. By simply adding some guacamole and fresh salsa, you’ll have a flavorful patty that will keep you feeling full and satisfied.
Get our recipe for Paleo Bacon-Chile Burgers With Guacamole and Fresh Salsa.
Thanks to a clear list of ingredients on the Wendy’s website, it was easy to put together this recipe. According to the list, the Wendy’s chili has a chili base, tomatoes, chili beans, pink beans, kidney beans, onions, celery, green peppers, ground beef, chili pepper, garlic powder, and spices. While the recipe also has sugar and modified corn starch in it, we know that you can have a delicious chili without either of those additives, so we didn’t bother adding them into our version.
Get our recipe for Copycat Wendy’s Chili.
Typically, cheeseburger soup consists of the following delicious ingredients: ground beef, cheese, and potatoes. But what if you’re attempting the keto diet and can’t have those extra net carbs? Whether you’re attempting the keto diet, or simply looking for more low-carb meal ideas, this Instant Pot keto cheeseburger soup is perfect to have for dinner (or lunches!) throughout the week.
Get our recipe for Instant Pot Keto Cheeseburger Soup.
One of the many by-products of the Great Burger Boom of the 21st Century is what you might call the bourgie burger. You’ll recognize it by its exotic condiments and its 20-syllable menu name. Even chains like Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s have tried their hands at the bourgie burger—with predictably precarious results. Our take on the upscale dish is a mushroom swiss burger, and it’s a snap to make, tastes like it costs 20 bucks, and packs fewer calories than an average salad. This recipe calls for ground sirloin, but you can easily substitute with lean ground beef instead.
Get our recipe for Red Wine-Infused Mushroom Swiss Burger.
This recipe lightens up the meatball (using sirloin and turkey instead of veal and pork), but, more importantly, it ditches the spaghetti in favor of polenta, an Italian staple of stone-ground corn with a fraction of the calories, but just as hearty, creamy, and completely delicious.
Get our recipe for Meatballs with Polenta.
This is meat and potato fare at its finest: a slow-simmered mixture of ground red meat and vegetables blanketed with a warm cover of mashed potatoes in one shepherd’s pie recipe. The dish is traditionally made with lamb (you know, since shepherds look after sheep), but sirloin—or lean ground beef—makes a leaner and perfectly tasty pie.
Get our recipe for Shepherd’s Pie.
The bad news is you can’t have this inspired creation, or any other restaurant-style burger, without a massive caloric investment. The good news is that our immensely satisfying 340-calorie version of the patty melt is never more than 15 minutes away in the comfort of your very own kitchen. While this recipe calls for either ground sirolin or ground turkey, you can still keep it lean by using lean ground beef instead.
Get our recipe for Patty Melt.
There’s nothing quite like taking a bite out of a juicy burger, and while the idea of firing up the grill might seem daunting, you don’t actually have to cook a burger that way. Instead, you can pan fry your patty for an easy way to satisfy your burger craving. However, we take things one step further, creating the perfect fried egg burger, complete with a special sauce that rivals any you would find at a restaurant.
Get our recipe for Pan Burger With Fried Egg and Special Sauce.
From an Italian grandmother herself, here’s how to make classic Italian meatballs at home, simmered in a spicy sausage-tomato sauce for hours before serving on a bed of pasta. Or keep it low carb with zucchini noodles!
Get our recipe for Classic Italian Meatballs.
Sure, traditional pasta is great. But have you tried taco pasta? This easy dinner recipe takes all of the things you love about tacos—seasonings, spice, and yes, cheese—and converts them into a pasta format. Taco Tuesday is about to take on a whole new meaning.
Get our recipe for One-Skillet Taco Pasta.
The inspiration for this cowboy burger comes from a Carl’s Jr. classic, the Western Bacon Cheeseburger, a how-can-it-not-be-delicious commingling of beef, barbecue sauce, and fried onions. Problem is, the small version of Carl’s burger packs 750 calories and a full day’s worth of saturated fat. Thankfully, ours doesn’t! Use lean ground beef instead of ground bison or beef sirloin if you can’t find them.
Get our recipe for Cowboy Burger.
Also known as “bean stew,” this classic Italian dish can easily be made at home—for fewer calories! We are sorry they don’t come with Olive Garden breadsticks, though.
Get our recipe for Copycat Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli.
Deconstruct a classic burrito bowl, remove grains and dairy, and you’ll get this satisfying and healthy beef burrito bowl. We’re using cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, and rely on spices and vegetables to punch up the flavors.
Get our recipe for Whole30 Beef Burrito Bowls.
To keep this Instant Pot chili recipe keto, we decided to leave the beans out of it. Not only for those who are attempting a low-carb diet, but for all of those bean haters who believe a can of black beans or kidney beans should never grace the holy presence of a pot of chili.
Get our recipe for Instant Pot Chili.
This meatloaf can be made in all different types of ways. However, to make sure this meatloaf was a close copycat to Cracker Barrel meatloaf, we decided to find the meatloaf ingredient list on their website. According to Cracker Barrel, their meatloaf recipe has tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. Hence why this recipe has a whole can of tomatoes, as well as diced green peppers and onions.
Get our recipe for Copycat Cracker Barrel Meatloaf.
Traditional meatballs are made with a mixture of beef, pork, and veal. Turkey, lean and tender, replaces the latter two in these meatballs, saving you major calories while simultaneously providing your taste buds with major yum.
Get our recipe for Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs.
This style of burger maximizes crust development and helps the beef retain a ton of juiciness. Try it once, and you may never go back to bulky grilled burgers again.
Get our recipe for Smashed A.1. Swiss Burger.
To stand-in for the creamy sauce and cheese topping, we pour a mixture of coconut milk and nutritional yeast over the top before baking. Everyone will love this Whole30 shepherd’s pie, whether you’re following Whole30 guidelines or not!
Get our recipe for Whole30 Shepherd’s Pie.
We replace the mystery meat with lean ground sirloin (but you could also use lean ground beef), sear it in a cast-iron skillet until beautifully browned, then bring the classic ingredients together inside a single, squishy sesame seed bun.
Get our recipe for Copycat Big Mac.
Whether it’s winter or summer, we say anytime is a good time for a hearty bowl of chili. This recipe features staples like ground beef, kidney and black beans, cheese, and veggies for a spicy, protein-packed meal that will fill you up, yet still have you wanting seconds.
Get the recipe from Averie Cooks.
No meal pleases a crowd better than lasagna, and this version is whipped up in a slow cooker, so all you have to do is layer in all the ingredients and let it cook for a few hours. It’s perfect for busy weeknights or when you still need to get the rest of your dinner party in order before your guests arrive. This lasagna goes classic, mixing ground beef, spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and fresh basil. Is your mouth already watering?
Get the recipe from Gimme Some Oven.
OK, so we know meatloaf has a very distinct look to it, but there is still plenty of ground beef in there that makes up the loaf, so we naturally had to include it in our recipe roundup. And why not return to a classic dish from your childhood? This meatloaf is juicy and tasty, and we promise it’s unlike the ones you’ve had before.
Get the recipe from RecipeTin Eats.
If you’re looking for a classic meal that only requires one pot, this is the one for you. Not only is there less cleanup, but for this dish specifically, you’ll want the pasta to be perfectly coated in all the flavors that come from the ground beef and broth. What’s a good beef stroganoff if it’s not dripping in flavor, right?
Get the recipe from Taste & Tell.
Drop the takeout menu once and for all with this recipe. When you’re craving Chinese food, it’s easy to just call your local restaurant, but why not try your hand at making classic dishes like beef and broccoli? This healthy ground beef recipe is ready in 15 minutes and requires just one dish. Plus, you’ll be saving yourself tons of calories and eating a meal that isn’t drowning in sodium as takeout often tends to be.
Get the recipe from FiveHeartHome.
A twist on the basic taco is to turn it into a taco salad. But don’t worry, just because you’re ditching the shells (and saving yourself some calories!) you won’t miss them, as this recipe amps up every other ingredient. Yes, that means more meat, beans, and veggies! You can even skip the sour cream and swap in plain Greek yogurt in its place for an even healthier version.
Get the recipe from Averie Cooks.
RELATED: 150+ recipe ideas that get you lean for life.
Avocados are always a go-to weight-loss food, so why not add them to a quesadilla? According to research published in the journal Diabetes Care, a diet rich in monounsaturated fat can prevent abdominal body fat distribution by actually turning off certain fat genes. And that’s not all—a study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased appetite for up to 5 hours afterward. This idea has us thinking about stuffing less cheese and more avocado into our quesadillas.
Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.
Transport your tastebuds from Ireland to Sweden with these gravy-battered meatballs. Pair them with mashed cauliflower or veggie noodles for a balanced meal.
Get the recipe from Damn Delicious.
When you’re craving Mexican food, don’t think about heading to the drive-thru when you can whip up some enchiladas right at home that are guaranteed to be the much healthier option. The best part about this recipe is that you can easily freeze the leftovers, so you’ll have more on hand.
Get the recipe from Diethood.
It’s important to make sure you’re meeting your daily veggies servings, so why not make them the star of the dish? In this healthy ground beef recipe, bell peppers are stuffed with ground beef, rice, mushrooms, corn, plenty of herbs, and some cheese for a hearty dish that will truly leave you feeling full and satisfied.
Get the recipe from Foodie Crush.
Ramen noodles might get a bad rep, but this recipe proves they can be tasty and hey, pretty good for you, too! With the addition of ground beef, onion, garlic, and beansprouts, you just need one pot and a few minutes to have this tasty meal ready to eat.
Get the recipe from RecipeTin Eats.
Manicotti is one of those comfort foods you might turn to, and making these stuffed shells yourself will make you appreciate the dish even more. Pasta filled with meat, cheese, and sauce? Nothing is better. Plus, this is another meal you can easily freeze and heat up when you need a quick dinner. Pair it with a salad, and you’re good to go.
Get the recipe from Taste & Tell.
How clever is this? Fiber-filled bell peppers take the place of tortilla chips in this flavor-packed nacho recipe—a healthy ground beef recipe if we’ve ever seen one. Chili powder, ground cumin, salt, and garlic powder make up the fajita seasoning that gives the ground beef a special kick, and Greek yogurt, avocado, and lime juice make for a tangy avocado cream sauce.
Get the recipe from Fit Foodie Finds.
Originally a way to use leftovers, Shepherd’s pie has become a menu staple in Irish pubs around the U.S. Channel your inner Irishman (or woman!) and whip up this savory meal—this time, it’s on top of baked potatoes!
Get the recipe from Cupcakes and Kale Chips.
All you need is 15 minutes to cook up this perfectly seasoned beef, and you’re on your way to some truly delicious tacos. You simply have to cook the meat in a skillet, and once it starts browning, you add in cumin, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. This creates taco beef that isn’t saucy, so you can go ahead and add homemade pico de gallo to each taco for some added “sauce.”
Get the recipe from How Sweet Eats.
A crock pot or other slow cooker is a great way to cut down on prep time, making them a staple for easy ground beef recipes. This Mexican casserole combines classic ingredients like black beans, ground beef, bell pepper, cheese, corn, and spices with protein-packed quinoa and Greek yogurt for a filling and wholesome meal.
Get the recipe from Well Plated by Erin.
If you’re not as familiar with chimichurri sauce, prepare to have your tastebuds awakened. The herb-based Argentinian sauce is usually paired with steak, but here, it’s added to one of our favorite healthy ground beef recipes along with rice for a one-pan dinner you’re going to turn to again and again.
Get the recipe from Cooking Classy.
And if you can’t get your hands on ground beef, try one of these 107 Vegetarian Recipes for When the Meat Aisle Is Empty.