32 Budget-Friendly Ground Beef Recipes for Global Taste Buds
Planning meals on a budget? Ground beef to the rescue! Not only is a pound of ground beef affordable; it’s versatile and satisfying.
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Here’s something I learned from my mother: Time and time again, a pound of ground beef will save dinner. Not only is ground beef endlessly versatile, but it's also affordable — an unofficial survey of my fancy local grocery store has USDA Choice 80/20 ground beef for $6.99 per pound, while the most affordable steak is nearly three times the cost. So, whether your tastes lean all-American, Cuban, Mexican, Greek, Italian, or Asian, you’re in luck. Got a thing for casseroles, meatloaf, chili, or burgers? Check, check, check, and check! Start with thrifty ground beef (similarly budget-friendly ground turkey can substitute in a pinch!), throw in a few pantry staples, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, low cost meal. And no, it doesn’t have to be boring.
If you keep a busy schedule, ground beef has your back in another awesome way: Unlike other types of meat that can get dry and tough when reheated, ground beef makes great leftovers so you’re covered for another night or two!
Check out the recipes below, organized either by appliance (Slow cookers and Instant Pot lovers, assemble!) or by type of dish. Then get cooking! You’ll find easy, weeknight dinner recipes that don’t stretch your wallet, inspired by cuisines from around the world.
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Crock-Pot ground beef recipes
Pull out your slow cooker if you want dinner to be ready at, well, dinner time! Is that really so much to ask? The beauty of a Crock-Pot is that you set it in the morning, and then you leave it alone for hours to work its magic. Ground beef is a particularly resilient type of meat to work with, making it a great candidate for Crock-Pot recipes. It’s hard to overcook it, so you can feel at ease leaving it in your slow cooker for hours. Check your perfectionism at the kitchen door.
The budget-friendly Crock Pot Corn and Ground Beef Chowder pictured above is easy to assemble. Just brown the ground beef and onion, and then add them to the Crock-Pot along with potatoes, creamed corn, beef broth, water, and seasonings. Your meal is magically ready 3 to 4 hours later.
The Crock-Pot recipes below all serve as total comfort food. Slow Cooker Ground Beef Lasagna Soup is hearty enough that soup can be the main course. Easy Slow Cooker Ground Beef Spaghetti is an obvious crowd pleaser; you can skip shaping meatballs for this shortcut spaghetti dinner, and instead allow the meaty tomato sauce to provide plenty of meatball-esque bites. Slow Cooker Ground Beef Stroganoff uses the Crock-Pot for the stroganoff sauce, and then, in an act of Crock-Pot rebellion, recommends boiling egg noodles in a separate pot to serve with the sauce. Add extra veggies to the Crock-Pot if you’re feeling adventurous or seeking a little more nutrition.
Instant Pot ground beef recipes
The Instant Pot is an ideal tool for ground beef dishes not only because the pressure cooking extracts bold beef flavors, but also because the meat can be cooked right in the pot on saute mode before adding additional ingredients and locking the lid. Using one multi-function appliance that can handle all of the cooking steps in a single pot means fewer dishes piling up in the sink, and I think we can all agree that’s a delicious side benefit.
Instant Pot Ground Beef Bulgogi, as pictured above, is a simpler and more affordable take on the classic sweet and savory Korean dish that is usually prepared with marinated slices of high quality beef. Ground beef subs in for the more expensive cuts of meat typically seen in bulgogi, such as Sirloin or rib eye. But saving money on meat doesn’t equate to any less flavor. In fact, the Instant Pot is particularly adept at bringing out the garlic and ginger seasonings in the recipe.
For your next Taco Tuesday, try Instant Pot Ground Beef Tacos. Best part about it is that you can use frozen ground beef without thawing it first! So next time you’re grocery shopping, buy extra ground beef, freeze it in 1-pound packages, and use it in your Instant Pot anytime you need dinner in a hurry. Cooking the ground beef with beef broth and homemade taco seasoning take it from boring to fiesta time.
As we continue our ground beef culinary tour around the world, check out Instant Pot Madras Lentils with Ground Beef. This spice-filled Indian dish features brown lentils, red kidney beans, and warm, earthy spices in a creamy tomato sauce. The ground beef is sauteed right in the Instant Pot, and then you pressure cook it with the lentils and spices.
Pasta is famously budget-friendly. Add some budget-friendly ground beef, marinara sauce, and a few other things, and you’ve got a hearty dish of Instant Pot Ground Beef and Pasta.
Soups, chilis, and stews with ground beef
Adding ground beef to soup not only thickens it, but turns a first course into the main meal. Chili is an obvious vehicle for ground beef, and there’s a great chili recipe below, but go ahead and try something new, too! Have you tasted the Cuban stew Picadillo before?
You’ve simply got to trust a blog called My Big Fat Cuban Family. And this picadillo recipe of theirs, pictured above, does not disappoint. Like any classic picadillo, this traditional Cuban stew dresses up ground beef in a rich tomato sauce with a sweet-savory mix of pimiento-stuffed green olives and raisins. It's served, of course, with black beans and rice — and tostones, if you’re lucky.
Another budget classic: chili. Red Bean Chili, shown below, from Smitten Kitchen, is among the tastier I’ve had. I credit the unsweetened cocoa and a touch of chipotle in adobo purée for its sweet-spicy kick. While this version calls for cooking in a dutch oven, it could easily be adapted for a slow cooker the next time you're facing a late evening at work. And naturally, you’ll want a side of homemade cornbread to go with it.
Low Carb Chinese Cabbage Beef Soup is filling enough to be your entree, but the light broth and chopped Savoy cabbage won’t weigh you down. A soup for all seasons! And then, when you just have to have carbs again, prepare a pot of Rustic Thai Beef Soup and serve it with jasmine rice. Saute curry paste with garlic, add the mushrooms and ground beef, and finish with beef broth and veggies. 30 minutes later, your soup is ready for the bowl.
Ground beef salads
Top any salad greens with ground beef, and suddenly you have a protein-rich, inexpensive, easy-to-throw-together dinner. If you want to put a little more effort in (but I promise, not too much effort!), you can have a ground beef salad that’s a real crowd pleaser.
Ground beef tacos are classic rent-week fare. The Ground Beef Taco Salad recipe pictured above from Primavera Kitchen just gives it a healthier spin. In fact, it ticks all the boxes: gluten free, low-carb, dairy free, Whole30, cheap, fast and easy! Chances are, you’ll spend more on the avocados than anything else.
Asian Crispy Ground Beef Noodle Salad, shown below, gives ground beef slightly charred edges that perfectly contrast with chewy noodles, crunchy peanuts, and lettuce. Stock your pantry with some traditional Asian ingredients, such as fish sauce, Chinese Five Spice powder, and sesame oil, so you can throw this weeknight salad dinner together anytime.
Craving a cheeseburger, but can’t do the bun? Try the Keto Big Mac Salad - basically a cheeseburger on a bed of lettuce instead of a bun. The ground beef is even sauteed in a sauce comprised of mustard, chopped pickles, and a few other cheeseburger-esque ingredients! If you’re looking for a unique, colorful salad, Sweet Cinnamon Red Cabbage Salad with Avocado and Grass-Fed Ground Beef is memorable to look at and to eat! Featuring the warm spices of cinnamon and ginger, and beautiful purple chopped cabbage juxtaposed with the green from kale and an avocado, this ground beef salad is a work of art.
Ground beef entree bowls
Bowls. Not just a serving vessel. Bowls also describe a type of meal. You’ll often see bowls that put protein and veggies on a bed of lettuce or rice. Bowls are also often the healthier version of a typically carb-heavy dish. Take the contents of a burrito, for example, and serve them in a bowl without the tortilla (and rice, optional). Hello, burrito bowl!
If you’re lucky enough to have an international pantry, the 20 Minute Thai Basil Beef and Lemongrass Rice Bowls recipe from Half Baked Harvest shown above comes together with very little effort. Stir fry the ground beef and vegetables while the rice cooks. (Tip: If you want to skip the lemongrass and coconut milk in the rice, go ahead! It will still be delicious.)
Typically, Korean rice bowls are topped with bulkogi or kalbi. But in this Korean Ground Beef Bowl from Damn Delicious pictured below, ground beef takes center stage — and it only takes about 15 minutes over high heat to come together, especially if you have leftover rice on hand.
Then there’s 30-Minute Asian Beef Bowls, which call for a secret ingredient to keep the ground beef moist: baking soda! The meat is flavored with a marinade made from Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, sesame oil, sugar, and red pepper flakes.
Ground Beef Fajita Bowls, much like burrito bowls, layer the fajita filling ingredients over rice. It’s an especially forgiving recipe, so if you have onions but no bell peppers, or lettuce but no rice, you can easily modify the ingredients.
Ground beef pasta and noodle dishes
Pasta is the ultimate budget meal. A box of dry spaghetti noodles can easily be purchased for under $5. Combine that with another budget ingredient - ground beef - and you have yourself a great dinner without splurging.
Weeknight Bolognese with Fettuccine is that classic Italian pasta dish of long noodles with a tomato-based meat pasta sauce. While bolognese often simmers on the stove for hours to build flavor, you can still pull off a satisfying, hearty dish in under 30 minutes by using a few shortcut ingredients like canned tomatoes and dried herbs.
Beef Satay Noodles, pictured below, takes chewy rice noodles and slathers them with a spicy peanut butter sauce. But if your spice tolerance is low, feel free to pull back on the sriracha. There are plenty of other flavors from the crunchy peanut butter, soy sauce, and ginger.
What could be more affordable than instant ramen noodles? Not to mention, boiling noodles that famously only need 2 minutes in water makes this one of those easy recipes you almost feel guilty about. Use two packages of ramen, but discard the accompanying (and very unhealthy) flavor packets and instead make your own sauce. Saute ground beef and vegetables, add the noodles and sauce, and you’ve got Healthy Ramen Noodles Stir Fry.
Homemade Hamburger Helper is a dish that will remind you of childhood. It’s so simple and so loved. Macaroni noodles, tomato sauce, cheddar cheese, and ground beef just have a way of luring people to the dinner table. Your whole family will be there in an instant, napkin on lap, fork in hand.
Meatballs, Meatloaf, and Patties
What do meatballs, meatloaf, and meat patties have in common? They are all hand-shaped! To keep the meat tender, handle the meat only as much as necessary to combine ingredients and acquire the desired shape. Over-handling will result in a tough, dense bite of meat.
There are versions of ground beef croquettes in so many different cultures, but these Lebanese croquettes, shown above, known as Kibbeh are a favorite. Maybe it’s the combo of allspice, cinnamon, and mint. Maybe it’s the meaty shell, made with lamb and fried in vegetable oil until golden brown. Serve kibbeh as a snack on its own, or as part of a lush mezze platter, perfect for a summer’s night. Pro tip: Use a food processor to blend the beef mixture, as Olivia does in this recipe. It's not a "must have," but it will make your life easier! In a pinch, you can replace the pricey pine nuts with sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts to cut costs.
When it comes to meat croquettes, another sleeper hit comes via Japan — it’s just spelled a little different (so take note when Googling). Japanese Cooking 101 has a solid, straightforward korokke recipe: A ground beef and mashed potato mixture is coated in all-purpose flour, eggs, and panko breadcrumbs, then deliciously deep fried and served with Tonkatsu sauce.
This insanely popular Italian Meatballs recipe, from Simply Recipes, uses a typical meat mixture of beef and pork, plus ricotta, parmesan cheese, and milk-soaked white bread for the meatballs, which are topped with a classic Italian tomato sauce. Serve with crusty bread, and everyone — adult and child — will be satisfied.
Meatloaf is kind of like a giant meatball, but family style. Everyone gets a slice. In Best Ever Meatloaf, quick oats are added to the meat mixture to create a fluffy texture.
Ground beef casseroles
The term casserole covers a wide range of dishes, but what they all tend to have in common is that they're cooked in a baking dish in an oven. Casseroles also often evoke comfort food.
If you have more time than money, moussaka is a big, hearty, layered Greek casserole — lasagna-esque, really — that stretches a pound of ground beef to the limit. This moussaka recipe, from Jo Cooks, takes more than an hour, as you layer potatoes, eggplant, zucchini, ground beef, and bechamel. “This may be a labor of love,” writes Jo, “but trust me when I tell you it is so worth it.” And the leftovers are to die for.
Best Classic Shepherd’s Pie, pictured below, is a meat and potatoes kind of dish, in casserole form. Layer mashed potatoes over a ground beef and veggie mixture, and bake it in the oven.
To make Sloppy Joe’s, cook ground beef in a rich ketchup, brown sugar, and chili powder sauce. The Pioneer Woman’s version is done in a big pot over the stove. I’ve also seen Sloppy Joe’s baked in a casserole dish in the oven. Either way, put a heaping scoopful of this meaty filling onto rolls for an incredible, messy-but-worth-it sandwich dinner.
Stuffed Bell Peppers are another really fun way to serve ground beef; each person gets their own bell pepper. Make a filling of ground beef, rice, and veggies and stuff it into hollowed out bell peppers. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to call this a casserole, but hey, you do bake these stuffed peppers in a casserole dish in the oven.
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