Mexican ground beef

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I primarily use this for tacos, but it can be used as the base for pretty much any Mexican dish. It is different from Chili con Carne as it ends up dryer which is definitely what you want if you are picking your food up.

This is a prepare in advance dish as it needs a few hours to sit.

Quantities here serve about 4, but it is easy to scale up.


  • 1 lb ground beef (mince to us Brits)
  • ½ large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smacked and roughly chopped
  • dried chili flakes or chopped dried chili to taste
  • pinch of salt
  • sprinkle of sugar
  • sunflower or canola oil

The spice

  • 1 Ancho chili, soaked for 2 hours, seeds removed, then finely chopped — don’t skip this! Sure you can make a great dish without it, but it won’t be this dish
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, toasted then freshly ground
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp Spanish paprika
  • a pinch of dried oregano

The liquid

  • a glass of robust red wine, preferably South American.
  • ½ pint beef broth


  • deep, heavy pan with a lid. I use a cast iron soup cauldron — it was made for it
  • strainer
  • bowl


  1. Fry over the beef in a little oil making sure you break it up well, then remove and strain over a bowl.
  2. Return a couple of tablespoons of the oil drained from the meat to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Drop in the chili and the garlic and soften the onion and pepper with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of sugar.
  3. Add the spices and sweat for a couple of minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up and deglaise the pan with the glass of red wine.
  5. Return the meat, add the broth and bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to minimum, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours stirring occasionally.
  7. Remove from the heat and leave to rest for a few hours, overnight if possible. This allows the meat to relax and soak up some juice.
  8. To complete, reduce the liquid right down over a high heat ‘till the meat is just coated.

What you should know

Good quality spices — that’s what you need to know. The Ancho chili makes all the difference between a good and a great dish. It just makes the flavor deep and lasting. I can still taste it as I write this now. The freshness of the paprika is also important. Use a good spice seller. In the UK, I’ve just found Fox’s Spices who really seem to know what they are doing.

Re: Mexican ground beef