Make this Taco Rice recipe all in one skillet with savory ground beef, salsa, taco seasoning, and plenty of cheese. This fast and easy dinner idea brings together all of your favorite Tex-Mex flavors in 30 minutes or less.
If you love this ground beef and rice recipe, you need to give my Fiesta Chicken Casserole a try!
Cheesy One-Pan Taco Rice Recipe
Today we’re turning simple white rice into a zesty all-in-one meal, loaded with ground beef, onions, taco seasoning, salsa, and melted cheese. Taco rice is a quick and easy skillet dinner, and I love making it on weeknights or as a fun twist on Mexican night. Everything comes together on the stovetop in under 30 minutes, and we never run out of topping ideas.
If you’ve never tried taco rice, prepare to be hooked. This easy ground beef and rice recipe is beefy and cheesy and jam-packed with Tex-Mex flavors. Top your rice with avocado, sour cream, and more taco toppings. It’s my idea of comfort food!
What Is Taco Rice?
Believe it or not, the original taco rice was invented in Japan. Okinawan taco rice consisted of seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese, salsa, and lettuce served over Japanese rice. A chef created taco rice at a cafe on the island of Okinawa, and it became popular with locals as well as US military personnel stationed there.
Taco rice isn’t to be confused with Mexican rice. Mexican rice is a side dish consisting of rice and sometimes veggies, cooked in broth and seasoned with taco seasoning. My recipe is basically a combination of both dishes!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Just a few simple ingredients are all you need to make this flavorful Tex-Mex taco rice recipe. Below is a quick overview, with the full ingredient amounts available in the recipe card below the post.
- Yellow Onion: You’ll saute diced onion and garlic with a bit of extra virgin olive oil for aromatics.
- Ground Beef: I recommend using lean ground beef (85-90%), but you can also make this taco rice skillet with ground turkey or ground chicken. See further down in the post for more variation ideas.
- Taco Seasoning: Choose your favorite packet of taco seasoning from the grocery store, like Old El Paso (or similar).
- Rice: I like to use uncooked long-grain white rice or brown rice. I don’t recommend using pre-cooked rice as it will become too mushy.
- Chicken Broth: You’ll need low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for simmering the rice. You can also use Homemade Chicken Stock if you prefer.
- Salsa: Use your preferred brand of jarred salsa, either mild or spicy, chunky or blended. This is the perfect way to add a little heat to your rice if you’d like.
- Cheese and Cilantro: I use grated cheddar, along with cilantro, for topping and garnishing the finished rice.
Can I Use Minute Rice Instead?
Yes, just keep in mind that instant rice will cook much faster, so you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
How to Make Taco Rice
I use my 9-inch nonstick skillet with a lid for this recipe, but you can use any sized skillet you have on hand, as long as it has a cover. This taco-inspired meal comes together in 3 easy steps:
- Saute: Start by sauteing the onion in a hot skillet with olive oil. Once softened, stir in the ground beef and break it up while it browns. Lastly, stir in the garlic.
- Combine: Next, you’ll sprinkle in the taco seasoning, then add in the rice. Pour in your broth and salsa, and let the skillet come to a boil before lowering the heat. Cover and simmer the rice, stirring occasionally, until tender. The liquid should also be fully absorbed by now.
- Finish and Serve: Garnish your taco rice with a generous sprinkle of cheese and cilantro, then cover and let it melt. Afterward, serve topped with sour cream, avocado, or any of your favorite taco toppings! See below for more ideas and serving suggestions.
Tips for Success
This taco rice is so easy, you really can’t go wrong. Here are some final tips:
- Use lean ground meat. I recommend using lean ground beef so that the dish doesn’t come out too oily. If you notice that there’s a lot of grease in the skillet after your beef has browned, consider draining it before going ahead with the recipe.
- Make your own taco seasoning. I love the convenience of packet seasoning, but if you’d prefer to make your own, it’s easy enough to do! To make homemade taco seasoning, combine 1 teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and dried oregano with 1 tablespoon each of ground cumin and smoked paprika.
Add-Ins and Variation Ideas
This taco rice skillet is delicious as it is, but you can always change up the ingredients to suit your family’s individual tastes. There are so many ways to make this Tex-Mex-style recipe, and it’s really up to you! Below are some simple variation ideas to try.
- Different Protein: Try making this rice with ground turkey, ground chicken, shredded chicken, or even ground or pulled pork.
- Vegetarian: To make vegetarian taco rice, swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth and replace the ground beef with chickpeas, brown lentils, crumbled tofu, or your choice of plant-based mince.
- Beans: Stir in canned black beans or pinto beans (remember to drain them first).
- Veggies: Add in sweet corn, diced bell peppers, shredded or diced carrots, or sliced jalapeños.
- Herbs and Spices: Feel free to add in additional herbs, like basil or oregano. If you’re after a bit of kick, stir in chipotle powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes along with the taco seasoning.
I often serve this taco rice DIY-style, the same as you would an actual taco! I fill the table with easy taco toppings like diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, avocado, sour cream, green onion, and tortilla strips, and let everyone have at it. And as a side, no taco night is complete without crispy corn chips dipped in Avocado Salsa or Cowboy Caviar.
This satisfying rice recipe is also great to serve with Fluffy Sour Cream Cornbread and a Southwestern Cobb Salad. Or, we’ll pair it with Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas and a side of Instant Pot Corn on the Cob for a hearty Mexican-inspired meal.
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Store any leftover taco rice airtight in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat portions in the microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop until warmed through.
Can I Freeze Taco Rice?
Yes! I recommend freezing the rice before adding the cheese. Store the cooled rice in an airtight container and freeze it for up to 1 month. Defrost the taco rice in the fridge before reheating, topping it with melted cheese, and serving.
This Taco Rice recipe is an easy one-pan dinner that combines all your favorite Tex-Mex ingredients, including ground beef, taco seasoning, salsa, and plenty of cheese.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (1-ounce) package taco seasoning
- 1 cup long grain white rice, uncooked
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cups salsa
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- Optional toppings: diced tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, green onion, tortilla strips
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet (*see note) over medium heat. Add in the diced onion and cook until softened.
- Add in the ground beef and continue cooking until browned. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Stir in the taco seasoning, rice, broth, and salsa. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, stirring occasionally so rice doesn’t stick.
- Sprinkle in the cheese and cilantro and stir to combine. Remove the skillet from the heat, cover and let sit for 2 minutes for the cheese to melt. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve immediately with desired toppings.
- *I like to use a 9- inch nonstick skillet for this recipe, but make sure your skillet has a lid.
- Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Keywords: skillet meals, easy ground beef recipes, tex-mex recipes
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