When it comes to meat, it’s hard to think of a more versatile ingredient than ground beef. This kitchen all-star is the centerpiece of so many of our favorite meat-based dishes, from classics such as burgers and meatballs to tasty options from foreign cuisines, such as steamed dumplings and Cuban picadillo. Available at any supermarket you’re likely to step into, ground beef is a staple in many homes, where, stashed in the fridge or tucked away in the freezer, it makes a quick and convenient way to add protein and beefy flavor to almost any meal.
As with other proteins, it can be easy to relegate ground beef to those dishes that we already have in our repertoire. But we think this old standby deserves to be showcased beyond just meat sauce and meatloaf. Looking to break out of your ground beef rut? Try any one of these 16 recipes, which are sure to be a hit at dinner tonight.
Hamburgers? Delicious. Quesadillas? Delicious. It stands to reason, then, that combining these two classics would result in something extra-tasty. That’s exactly what recipe developer Kate Shungu does in this recipe, which is actually a recreation of a plate once available at Applebee’s. In it, four thin beef burgers are griddled, then set aside. Four flour tortillas then take their place on the griddle, where they’re heaped with shredded Colby jack cheese. The burgers are placed on the quesadillas, spread with chipotle mayo, and topped with a quick pico de gallo and shredded lettuce. Finally, four more cheesy tortillas are prepared and used to top each burger, sandwiching it in melty cheese on both sides.
Recipe: Quesadilla Burger
If you haven’t crunched into a chili dog since you were a kid, it’s high time to bring this comfort food classic back to your table. While the chili dogs of your youth likely featured a hot dog with canned chili spooned on top, this from-scratch version is much better suited to an adult palate, featuring ground beef that’s sautéed with garlic and onion, then simmered with crushed tomatoes, beef broth, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, cumin, and garlic salt. After a quick 15-minute cook time, the flavorful chili is ready to be heaped onto your favorite type of prepared frank, and showered with optional toppings such as shredded cheddar and chopped red onions.
Recipe: The Best Hot Dog Chili
Burgers are undoubtedly the first food we think of when there’s some ground beef to be used up, but a plain patty can get old pretty fast. That’s why we love this ranch burger that’s seasoned with a packet of ranch powder, typically a combination of dried buttermilk, onion and garlic powders, and other flavorings including dried dill, parsley, and chives. Once mixed with the tasty ranch, formed into patties, and grilled, the burgers are topped with provolone cheese, transferred to toasted brioche buns, and piled high with lettuce, plus sliced tomatoes and red onions.
Recipe: Ranch Burger
Another ground beef classic, meatballs are typically prepared in the Italian manner in tomato sauce, and accompanied by some type of pasta. But the world of meatballs is actually a wide one, and this variation flavored with punchy BBQ sauce, sweet ketchup, umami-rich Worcestershire, and tangy apple cider vinegar is a winner in our book. With those flavorings mixed into the beef, meatballs are rolled and baked for half an hour, brushed with additional BBQ sauce, sprinkled with grated Parmesan, and served on a bed of rice or mashed potatoes.
Recipe: BBQ Meatballs
Meatloaf is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and one that many of us have enjoyed since we were kids. This Southern-style version is a straightforward crowd-pleaser: Classically flavored with chopped onions, dried herbs, and ketchup, the ground meat is baked in a loaf pan, brushed with BBQ sauce, and then cooled slightly before being served with your choice of sides, with mac and cheese, green beans, and mashed potatoes all being great options.
Recipe: Southern Meatloaf
Shepherd’s pie is a classic dish for a crowd, combining a rich meat filling studded with hearty vegetables with a fluffy mashed potato topping. In this case, that filling is comprised of ground beef, onions, carrots, peas, and corn kernels, all seasoned with dried thyme and rosemary, tomato paste, broth, and Worcestershire sauce. The meat filling is piled into a baking dish, topped with the mashed potatoes, and baked in a hot oven until the edges of the potatoes go brown. A complete meal in itself, the pie is wonderful accompanied by a green salad or braised cabbage, too.
Recipe: Simple Shepherd’s Pie
If you love the fragrant spices of Moroccan food — think cumin, paprika, and turmeric — then you’ll love these moist, tender meatballs that are generously seasoned and then simmered in a thick tomato sauce sweetened with brown sugar. In addition to the aforementioned spices, the meatballs feature onion, garlic, chili flakes, and chopped fresh cilantro, and quinoa, rice, and green salad are all great options for serving alongside them.
Recipe: Moroccan Meatballs
If you’ve never made pasta in your Instant Pot, you’ve simply got to try it: Quick, easy, and involving zero pots of boiling water, it requires very little hands-on attention and yes, it does come out al dente, too. This simple spaghetti dish starts with ground beef and shallot briefly cooked in some olive oil on the pot’s sauté setting; then, canned puréed tomatoes are added along with dry spaghetti, chicken stock, and diced tomatoes. After pressure cooking on high for just seven minutes, the steam is released and the hot, meaty pasta garnished with some chopped fresh basil.
Recipe: Instant Pot Spaghetti
If you’re having trouble choosing between tacos and pizza — and who hasn’t been there, really? — then let us humbly suggest splitting the difference with this hybrid delight, the Mexican pizza. Created by recipe developer Kate Shungu, the tasty dish is composed of two flour tortillas fried lightly in oil and layered with shredded Colby Jack, refried beans, enchilada sauce, and ground beef cooked with a packet of handy taco seasoning. Once stacked, the pizzas are baked in a hot oven until the tortillas go crisp and the cheese goes melty, then topped with cool sour cream and zesty pico de gallo before serving.
Recipe: Mexican Pizza
Speaking of delicious hybrid foods, if you love cheeseburgers and dip, why not take the best of both dishes and combine them into one glorious Frankenfood that’s perfect for game day, a potluck, or any other lighthearted occasion?
This irresistible dip features sautéed ground beef and onions stirred together with cream cheese and shredded cheddar and baked in the oven until piping hot. The whole thing is then garnished with a drizzle of Thousand Island dressing and slices of dill pickle. True to its name, it tastes like a cheeseburger on a chip — we suggest tortilla, potato, pita, or any other variety you prefer.
Recipe: Cheeseburger Dip
A stuffed pepper is a classic comfort food, with soft, sweet bell peppers boasting a flavorful, meaty filling — and usually a cap of melty cheese to top everything off. This simple weeknight version from recipe developer Kristen Carli makes the sometimes-complex dish accessible, coming together in one pan on the stovetop and taking just an hour to prepare from start to finish. How? Carli’s version approximates all the flavors and textures of stuffed peppers but serves them up in a sautéed skillet version, combining chopped bell peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and pinto beans with ground beef, then stirring in jasmine rice and chicken broth and steaming the dish until the rice is cooked through. Then, the hot, beefy rice is topped with shredded cheese, cooked briefly until it’s melted, and served.
Recipe: Stuffed Pepper Skillet
Have you ever tried picadillo? A Cuban comfort food dish of ground beef stewed with potatoes that’s imbued with deep flavor via the use of plenty of dried herbs and spices, picadillo is a one-pot meal that’s great served alongside a green salad or some grilled vegetables. This quick version comes together in just over a half hour, featuring the beef and potatoes cooked in a rich tomato sauce spiced with cumin, paprika, and oregano. The tasty dish is finished with chopped fresh cilantro and briny chopped olives.
Recipe: Easy Cuban Picadillo
Chop suey likely makes most of us think of a Chinese-American dish of chopped meat and vegetables stir-fried with rice and coated with a glossy soy-based sauce (via Allrecipes). But as recipe developer Kristen Carli notes, there’s also a tomato-based “American” version of the dish. In it, a basic sauce of ground beef, onions, and canned tomatoes is simmered until thickened, then folded with freshly boiled elbow macaroni before being served with a dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.
Recipe: American Chop Suey
The next time you’re craving juicy dumplings, skip the takeout and go for this easy from-scratch version instead. To make the dumplings, an easy flour-and-water dough is pulsed together in the food processor, briefly kneaded, then side aside to rest. Meanwhile, the filling is stirred together: Ground beef, soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, grated ginger, and Szechuan peppercorns, plus green peas, scallions, and carrots that are ground to a paste in the food processor. The rested dough is rolled into a log, cut into sections, and then rolled into little discs, which are filled with the beef, sealed, and briefly fried in oil. Finally, water is added to the hot pan and the dumplings steam under a lid until tender before being served with an easy soy-and-vinegar dipping sauce.
Recipe: Steamed Beef Dumplings
If you’ve never sunk your teeth into a burger from the wildly successful Danny Meyer chain Shake Shack, you’ve been missing out. But never fear: You can easily recreate the chain’s eponymous ShackBurger right at home with this recipe straight from the restaurant’s official cookbook. A smashed burger cooked in a cast iron skillet until crisp on the outside and then draped with American cheese, the beef patty is served on a buttered griddled potato bun that’s spread with ShackSauce: That’s a mixture of mayo, mustard, ketchup, and pickle brine. Finally, the loaded burger is stacked with leaf lettuce and sliced tomatoes, and it is ready to be devoured.
Recipe: Shake Shack’s Classic Cheeseburger
Stuffed peppers are a classic comfort food dish, whether you’re tucking into the Greek version known as gemista or the Hungarian type called toltott paprika. Typically a mix of ground meat and rice that’s piled into a sweet pepper and then baked, stuffed peppers are approximated in this comforting soup — without having to actually stuff any peppers. Instead, bell peppers, onions, spiced ground beef, and long-grain rice are simmered together until thick and savory, then served with toppings such as salsa, grated cheddar, fresh cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips.
Recipe: Stuffed Pepper Soup