Beef is a rich red meat that has deep connections to many cultures, especially in the Americas. A burger on a holiday weekend is a time-honored tradition, and there are dozens of other ways to prepare and utilize beef.
Here we’ll round up a list of recipes for ground beef, the most accessible and arguably most tasty preparation of the meat. As you look through the roundup, you should notice two main categories of ground beef dishes: ones where the meat is cooked so that it falls apart, and versions that press the meat into a new shape.
1. Sloppy Joes
Sloppy Joes are one of the easiest meals to make with ground beef. Unlike a hamburger that needs to be properly formed, cooked, and topped, you just toss stuff into the pan then toss it onto a bun.
There’s a bit more to it than that, and adding in the zesty veggies and seasonings that this recipe recommends will really take the Sloppy Joes from filling to satisfying.
The leftovers keep well and taste just as good if you reheat them later. For road trips and other expeditions, you can transport the mixture as you would soup by storing it in a thermos and pouring it over the bread at meal time.
2. Simple Homemade Chili
Depending on where you are in the world, chili will have differing requirements. This hearty version of chili is loaded with ground beef, red beans, and tomatoes. You might find similar recipes with no beans, others with no meat, and some that are entirely different.
If you encounter someone with strong opinions on what should and shouldn’t go into chili, don’t be surprised. There’s no true wrong or right way to make chili, but most will feature a thick tomato-based sauce with either beans or meat.
When working with chili recipes, it’s a good idea to try a recipe as presented the first time, then start experimenting when you try it again.
3. Cowboy Casserole
A cowboy casserole is a nacho-adjacent dish that blends a variety of textures and flavors into a quick meal that’s filling while also being snacky. Each bite can range between meaty, cheesy, creamy, tangy, spicy, and more.
The best part is, you can make the most out of half-empty bags of stale tortilla chips. The baking process will revitalize the texture of exposed chips, while the stale chips at the bottom can absorb the fats running from the meat and cheese as it cooks.
It’s possible to scale the meal up and down in size without much effort or too many extra ingredients, making it perfect for both large gatherings and personal snacks.
4. Creamy Beef and Shells
Mixing pasta and beef is the entire premise behind certain box meal brands, but it’s not hard to do much better versions of the same idea with your own mix of ingredients and seasonings. These shells are coated in a creamy beef sauce that’s leagues better than a freeze-dried cheese powder mix and soulless seasonings.
The shell noodles form pockets that trap bits of meat and creamy sauce inside of them for extra pops of flavor while eating.
5. Shepherd’s Pie
“Meat and potatoes” is a figure of speech for the essential basics, and shepherd’s pie is loaded with both. As the name implies, it’s a simple dish with three layers: ground beef at the bottom, a covering of mashed potatoes, and a coating of gravy on top.
You don’t necessarily need a side dish with shepherd’s pie, but extra veggies and other options listed here can round out the heartiness of the main course. One common addition is to grate cheese over the top before baking to create a top layer of crusted deliciousness.
6. Homemade Beef Lasagna
Lasagna is more or less an Italian shepherd’s pie, swapping out the coating of mashed potatoes for the layers of flat pasta. The layers of beef and cheese melt together to bind the lasagna into a savory cake. Although Garfield definitely had a problem, most of us at least understood why he had such an obsession with lasagna.
If you decide to try alterations like tucking more veggies into the layers, cut them small or flat so they work with the rest of the meal. A big, chunky mushroom baked in cheese and tomato sauce can be tasty, but it will also be lumpy inside of the lasagna.
7. Taco-Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Versatile food options keep a meal plan from becoming boring and repetitive without needing a large number of extra ingredients with special preparation. These taco-stuffed baked potatoes use many of the same ingredients as the cowboy casserole listed earlier.
All you have to do is bake the potatoes, then you can swap them in for a meal that’s bulkier than the tortilla chip casserole. If you toss a couple potatoes into the oven ahead of time, you can offer multiple base options like tortillas, chips, or potatoes in one meal.
While hamburgers are a bit lower on this list, it’s only because there are other uses of ground beef that can be overshadowed by it. Burgers are both simple and complex, needing just a few ingredients alongside a soft touch and a more hands-off cooking method than other dishes.
Once you get the basic form in the recipe settled, you can play with the ingredients, toppings, and buns to create unique variations. The recipe mentions this, but it’s worth repeating: do not press the burgers, and do not fuss with the burgers while they’re cooking.
The burger will still be edible if you do, but it can cause it to fall apart and reduce its juiciness.
9. Cheeseburger Soup
Some soups are thin and just as refreshing as they are filling. This cheeseburger soup, though, is overflowing with creamy goodness that’ll weigh the kids down enough to get a moment or two of peace.
Meat, cream, cheese, and potatoes all blend together into a thick bowl of slop that’s like pouring the best burger shop’s creation directly onto your tongue.
The bacon bits are a key element here, adding both saltiness and crunch that keep the soup interesting while you eat it. If you’re planning a meal on the go, the cheeseburger soup takes up much less space than burgers and fries for the entire gang.
10. Cheesy Beef and Macaroni
Hamburger mac makes the cut for many meal rotations because of how well-liked both the individual elements and the combination are, satisfying both the picky eaters and our household carnivores.
This particular recipe works with just a single skillet, keeping the amount of effort to a minimum while still serving a heartwarming meal. In addition to the saved dishes, cooking the noodles with the rest of the meal lets them absorb the flavor more instead of just serving as a vessel for toppings and carbs.
No one should give you any shade if you do a quick version with boxed macaroni when you have just got home from work and picking up the kids from school, but a side-by-side comparison will show how much can be accomplished with a bit more work when you can spare the time.
11. Beef-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
These fully-contained entrees are packed with a satisfying flavor and a rich supply of energizing proteins and carbohydrates. After you prep the ingredients, the cabbage roll binds them together so their juices mingle into a tasty mixture.
If you’ve never cooked cabbage before, you’ll be surprised to see just how much moisture it can absorb before it starts to fall apart.
Despite being wrapped in cabbage, there are minimal veggies, so you can still pair the rolls with a side dish like roasted carrots or add more veggies to the filling. If you do add the veggies to the filling, give them a pan fry or a light roasting first to get them properly soft.
12. Ground Beef Stuffed Peppers
Like the cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers let the deliciousness of one part of the meal soak into the surrounding veggie. The nearly whole peppers have much more texture to them than cabbage, though, so each one has a firm and satisfying crunch when properly cooked.
The extra sweetness pairs well with the savory bits inside the pepper, and they’re easy to personalize by varying the type of cheese or switching from rice to cooked potatoes. For example, swapping out the cheddar for pepper jack adds an extra kick with a mellower cheese flavor.
Each pepper also brings more nutrients to the table, so a side dish is not needed unless you particularly want one.
13. Soboro Donburi
Most of the recipes so far have had a very Western set of flavors, occasionally dipping into TexMex. We’re taking a sharp turn to the East with this incredibly simple and solid staple. The entire ingredient list is just five items: ground beef, soy sauce, brown sugar, fresh ginger, and peas.
Fresh ginger root might also be unusual for the ordinary kitchen, but it goes a long way and can be chilled after grating or slicing it to preserve the freshness for months if you don’t use it quickly enough. Like ground beef prepared in a Western or TexMex style, soboro donburi is typically served over a starch, like rice.
The peas do a lot to add texture and nutrition to the moist meat and soft rice, and the explosion of ginger, soy, and sugar is potent in its simplicity.
14. Mongolian Ground Beef
This recipe sizzles with potent flavors that will lead noses to the kitchen well before bowls are served. The meal is in the same vein as soboro donburi, but it takes the spice mixing to 11. Cooking the beef itself is about the same difficulty as cooking a skillet of Sloppy Joe mix.
Ingredients like sesame oil, sambal oelek, and Hoisin sauce might up the price of the first batch if you don’t have them, but they will last for several meals. They aren’t too expensive if you want to try them out, and it’s easy to become reliant on their intense and unique flavors if you start working them into your cooking.
15. Cling Peach Bourbon Glazed Burgers
This recipe uses two tricks that really amp the flavor inside of the burger. First, the rich sweetness of the peaches melts together with the umami as you bite into the burger to create an indulgent flavor. The sharp tang of the reduced bourbon tampers down the sweetness, creating a balance that encourages you to keep on eating and eating.
While you can start with this recipe as your first burger, it helps if you spend some time practicing simple burgers like the one listed above before branching out into gourmet varieties like this one.
Carbohydrates are a part of a healthy diet, but finding meals that are satisfying without them can help cut down the amount to a healthy level when our snacks and other meals use carbs as a way to increase the amount of energy we get.
Moussaka is a Greek dish that features a base of eggplants with a topping of ground beef and a rich white sauce. Some versions will use layers of eggplant, meat, and cream to create something close to a vegetable lasagna. The amount of actual prep and cooking time is longer than most of the other recipes in the roundup since you cook the meat before baking it.
17. Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and meatballs are not so much different than lasagna in terms of content, but the construction of the ingredients makes a difference. Instead of a spread of meat sauce, the meat is concentrated into balls that hold more of the juiciness inside of them. Spaghetti noodles are also longer, tend to have a nostalgic value, and can be more fun to eat than the flat lasagna pasta.
In many ways, making the meatballs is like making a hamburger, but you simply roll them into balls and toss them into the oven for a more foolproof process. Spaghetti and meatballs are also less reliant on cheese as a binder, so you can cut down on the dairy for any lactose-intolerant eaters in the house.
18. Taco Lasagna
Every time you cook, you can learn something new to mix and match with your other recipes. This lasagna trades out the tomatoes and Italian seasonings for a zesty taco mix. The lasagna itself is like a thick, soft tortilla that collects the meat, beans, and veggies as an offering to the palate.
The most convenient part is how it combines ingredients that you likely already have if you’ve been following this roundup, so you cut down on the shopping list when you head to the store.
Meatloaf might be the quintessential ground beef dish. Most of it is ground beef, after all. It’s relatively easy to make, taking less work to mix and form than meatballs or hamburgers.
The time can be a bit deceptive, though, since you’ll probably want to make a side of mashed potatoes and veggies to go along with it.
One personal note is that this recipe puts raw onions into the meatloaf. While not necessarily bad, the onions only cook down slightly this way. If you are looking to cut out the tang of the onion and have the smoky caramelized flavor, give the onions a saute before adding them.
20. Philly Cheesesteak Casserole
Traditional Phillys use thin-sliced beefsteak, but you can get the core flavors without spending quite as much using this casserole recipe. The ground beef supplies the meaty flavors and textures, while the peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cheese complete the iconic flavor mixture.
Unlike most of the casseroles, this one requires a bit more prep work since the meat and veggies should all be cooked before going into the oven. Like the onions in the meatloaf, the veggies will cook inside the oven, but it’s just not the same level of flavor scalded into them.