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How do you make lean ground beef taste better?

Lean ground beef can sometimes lack flavor and moisture compared to fattier options. The leanness makes the meat a bit drier and less juicy. However, there are plenty of ways to make lean ground beef more delicious. With a few simple preparation methods and ingredients, you can give lean ground beef more taste and make it more tender.

Quick Answers

Here are some quick answers to common questions about making lean ground beef taste better:

  • Add extra virgin olive oil or butter when cooking to add moisture and flavor.
  • Season well with spices like garlic, onion, pepper, or flavors like Worcestershire sauce.
  • Mix in breadcrumbs, oats, or panko to help retain moisture.
  • Sear lean ground beef over high heat to develop browned, caramelized flavors.
  • Combine it with sauces, salsas, chutneys, etc. to infuse more taste.
  • Grind meats like bacon or chorizo with the beef to boost the fat content and flavors.
  • Use lean beef in strongly flavored dishes like tacos, chili, meatballs, or burgers.

Enhance Flavor with Spices, Herbs, and Other Ingredients

One of the best ways to make lean ground beef more flavorful is to season it boldly with spices, herbs, sauces, and other ingredients. Using ingredients with lots of taste can help make up for the lack of flavor fat provides. Here are some great options to mix in with lean beef:

  • Onion and garlic: Sauteeing onion and garlic in oil before adding the beef builds a flavorful base.
  • Worcestershire sauce: The umami flavor boosts savoriness.
  • Soy sauce: Another umami-rich ingredient that enhances taste.
  • Tomato paste: Concentrated tomato flavor with a hint of sweetness.
  • Chili powder: Brings smoky, spicy flavor.
  • Cumin: Earthy, aromatic flavor perfect for Tex-Mex dishes.
  • Curry powder: Blends spices like coriander, cumin, ginger.
  • Paprika: Adds a subtle heat.

Mixing any of these ingredients into lean ground beef before cooking will help the flavors get infused throughout. You can also cook lean beef plain, then add sauce mixtures like barbecue sauce, enchilada sauce, or Teriyaki sauce to coated flavors on the finished dish.

Retain Moisture with Binders

Since fat helps keep ground meat moist and juicy, removing it can make lean beef dry. Adding binders helps introduce back some of that moisture and gives lean ground beef a better texture. These ingredients bind the lean beef together and hold in moisture as it cooks. Great options include:

  • Breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs – Use about 1/4 cup per pound of meat. Soak breadcrumbs in milk first for extra moisture.
  • Rolled oats – Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per pound of beef. Quick oats work best.
  • Eggs – Eggs act as a binder. Add 1 egg per pound of lean beef.
  • Mashed potatoes – Potatoes add moisture. Use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per pound of meat.

Mixing any of these binders into the lean beef prior to cooking helps retain moisture and improves the texture. The beef will be less dry and crumbly.

Cook Properly

The right cooking methods also help keep lean ground beef tender and flavorful. Here are some tips:

  • Sear over high heat – This caramelizes the exterior creating rich, browned flavors. Do this before simmering or braising.
  • Simmer in sauce – Letting lean beef simmer in tomato sauce, gravy, etc. keeps it tender.
  • Keep patties thin – Patties should be no more than 1/2 inch thick to prevent drying out.
  • Avoid overcooking – Cook lean beef just until no longer pink to prevent becoming tough.

Combining high-heat searing to develop flavor, followed by gentler simmering or braising gives the best results with lean ground beef. And be careful not to overcook it!

Combine with Fattier Meats

An easy way to boost the juiciness and flavor of lean beef is by mixing it with fattier ground meats. Here are some options:

Meat Fat Content
Ground Pork 35-45%
Ground Veal 35-45%
Ground Lamb 45-55%
Ground Bison 10-15%
Italian Sausage Around 30%
Ground Bacon 40-50%

Mixing lean beef 50/50 with higher fat meats like ground pork, lamb, or bacon can give a perfect fat content around 20%. This adds lots of flavorful fat while still being lean. The higher fat content makes the blended meat much more moist and tasty.

Use in Flavorful Dishes

Using lean ground beef in strongly flavored dishes can also help make it taste better. When mixed into flavorful sauces, salsas, and spices, the beef takes on those flavors. Dishes to use lean beef in include:

  • Tacos – Seasoned with onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, etc.
  • Spaghetti sauce – Long simmering in a tomato-based sauce.
  • Chili – Infused with chili peppers, beans, tomatoes, etc.
  • Burgers – Topped with cheese, bacon, salsa, guacamole, etc.
  • Meatballs – Mixed with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, simmered in sauce.
  • Meatloaf – Combined with eggs, onion, and ketchup glaze.

When you surround lean beef with other strong flavors, it tends to take on those flavors in the finished dish. The lack of fat becomes less noticeable.


While lean ground beef may lack some moisture and flavor on its own, there are many ways to make it taste delicious. Seasoning it boldly, adding binders, mixing with fattier meats, and using proper cooking methods can help make lean beef much more tender and flavorful. With the right preparation, lean beef can be just as tasty and satisfying as fattier options. Follow these tips next time you cook with lean ground beef.