Not Really Taco Bell’s Taco Meat
If you read the ingredients in Taco Bell’s taco meat, there’s cocoa powder (as here) and smoky flavorings (so the smoked paprika here). But there’s also an “oat isolate” which undoubtedly thickens the mixture to give it that characteristic, smooth consistency. We can match that with steel-cut oats, which absorb much of the excess liquid, especially during the natural release, to give the meat its much-beloved texture. Many copycat recipes are also soupy and require thickening afterwards (or worse yet, draining, which removes much of the aromatic flavor you worked to get into the dish in the first place). We solve the soupiness with low pressure which requires much less liquid.
Cook Time
Cook Time
  • 2tbsp vegetablecanola, or other neutral-flavored oil
  • 2lbs lean ground beefpreferably 90 percent lean or more
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (gluten-freeif necessary), crumbled
  • 2tbsp dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1 1/2tbsp standard chili powder
  • 2tsp unsweetened cocoa powderdo not use a powdered cocoa mix
  • 2tsp garlic powder
  • 2tsp mild smoked paprika
  • 2tsp granulated white sugar
  • 1tsp onion powder
  • 1/2tsp ground dried cayenne
  • 1/4cup raw steel-cut oats(certified gluten-free if necessary — do not use standard rolled or quick-cooking oats)
  • 3/4cup Water
  1. Press Sauté and set for Medium, Normal or Custom 300°F.
  2. As the pot heats, warm the oil in the insert set in a 5- or 6-quart Instant Pot. Crumble in the ground beef and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the crumbled bouillon cubes, onion flakes, chili powder, cocoa powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, sugar, onion powder, and cayenne until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the steel-cut oats and stir well. Pour in the water and scrape up any browned bits on the pot’s bottom. Turn off the heat and lock the lid on the pot.
  4. Set the Instant Pot for Pressure Cook/Manual and set to LOW pressure for 6 minutes.
  5. When the pot has finished cooking, turn it off and let the pressure return to normal naturally, about 15 minutes. Unlatch the lid and open the cooker. Stir well and set aside for a couple of minutes so the meat continues to absorb the sauce.
Recipe Notes

Other Pots
• For a 3-quart Instant Pot, you must
halve all of the ingredient amounts.
• For an 8-quart Instant Pot, you must increase all of the ingredient amounts by 50 percent.
• For a 10-quart Instant Pot, you must double all of the ingredient amounts.

• Serve the taco meat in taco shells with diced tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, and/or shredded Monterey Jack cheese.
• To make a copycat version of Taco Bell’s quesadilla sauce for tacos, whisk these ingredients in a medium bowl until uniform: 2/3 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (gluten- free, if necessary), 2/3 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (gluten-free, if necessary), 1/4 cup minced jarred (hot or “tamed”) pickled jalapeño rings, 1/4 cup brine from the jar of pickled jalapeños, 1 tablespoon mild paprika, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, and
1/2 teaspoon standard chili powder. Store any leftovers in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.