Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

~ Ground beef recipes are quick, easy options on busy nights – a staple at family dinners. But sometimes they get a bad rap for being unhealthy. Not to worry! We’ve got tips, tricks, and loads of ideas for easy … and HEALTHY ground beef recipes your whole family will love! ~

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Ground beef (sometimes called hamburger meat) is absolutely one of America’s go-to ingredients for creating quick, easy dinners. It cooks up fast and is super versatile, adapting to all sorts of flavor profiles and cooking methods.

Basically, simple ground beef recipes are a busy cook’s dream.

But what isn’t quite so dreamy is the nutrition profile of lots of those easy-peasy ground beef meals. That’s mainly because ground beef can be pretty high in fat (especially heart-unhealthy saturated fat).

But, the good news is that this doesn’t have to be the case!

We’ve got lots of tips and tricks up our sleeves, plus tried-and-true, family-favorite, healthy ground beef recipes your family will love, too!

Tips for Making Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

1) Use Extra-Lean Ground Beef

Ground beef varies widely in the percentage of fat it contains – from as much as 20 or even 30% fat … to only 4 or 5% fat. That’s a big difference!

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

So, we always recommend choosing extra-lean beef, preferably a blend labeled 95% or 96% lean. You’ll still snag some great nutrition and that beefy flavor you’re craving, but with a whole lot less artery-clogging, naughty fats coming along for the ride.

And if you want to delve further into how those fat ratios are calculated, you can read up about how that’s figured out, and what is lean ground beef HERE.

2) Remember That Ground Turkey Isn’t Necessarily a Lower-Fat Choice

A lot of people assume that a no-brainer, easy way to eat healthier is to cook with ground turkey, instead of ground beef. But, it’s just not quite that simple. Substituting ground turkey into a recipe that calls for ground beef doesn’t automatically wave a magic nutrition wand and make that recipe leaner or lower in fat. 

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

That’s because ground turkey – just like ground beef – also varies in the amount of fat it contains. So, using a ground turkey blend that’s, say … 85% lean … is definitely NOT leaner that using a ground beef blend that’s 95% lean. 

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not dissing turkey! I like cooking with both ground beef and ground turkey – depending on the specific recipe and the flavors I’m trying to create. (Mmmmm … I’m looking at you, Indian-Spiced Turkey Chili!)

I just want to be clear on the fact that swapping the two isn’t an automatic health win.

Read the labels carefully, so you’re certain about the amount of fat in the meat you’re selecting. (You can dive deeper into ground beef vs. ground turkey nutrition HERE). And, if you really want beefy flavor in a recipe, simply choose a lower-fat ground beef blend – rather than sacrificing beefy taste by using turkey.

3) To Wash … Or NOT To Wash …

Some people suggest rinsing and blotting cooked ground beef, to wash away excess fat. But that’s honestly just a couple steps too many, as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather start with lean beef, rather than washing away beefy flavor and adding more work to my dinnertime rush.  

But, if you happen to find yourself with a really fatty blend of ground beef, rinsing and blotting can, in fact, help to reduce the fat. If you want to go that route, I found a handy article for you on exactly how the whole rinsing and blotting technique works and how much fat you can cut from those fattier blends.

4) Adjust for Lean Beef’s Tendency to Dry Out … and Treat It Nicely!

Because extra-lean ground beef has so much less fat, it’s also more likely to dry out during cooking than other fattier blends of hamburger meat. There are a few things you can do to compensate:

• Watch recipes like grilled burgers carefully, to make sure you don’t overcook them.

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

• Add (nutritious!) veggies and cheeses directly into your mixture for burgers, meatloaves, and meatballs. And, dress up those types of recipes with flavorful sauces and moist toppings (like we do with our Pizza Burgers and Fajita Burgers) that will save the day by adding moisture to the overall final recipe, in case you do happen to overcook the meat itself.

• And don’t overwork the ground beef when you’re mixing together ingredients for hamburger patties, meatballs and meatloaves. Don’t compress it too forcefully when shaping it, either. Overworking it can make it tough, and pressing too hard can make it less fall-apart tender. Basically, handle the ground beef as little as possible, and you’ll be rewarded with better texture after cooking!

5) Make Beef a Co-Star (or Supporting Actor) Instead of a Scene-Stealer

Another great tactic in making your ground beef dinner recipes healthier can help you save money, too! 

Beef doesn’t have to be the runaway superstar – the entire focus – of your dish. Stretch that beef further by including lots of healthier ingredients like brown rice and veggies (as we do in our Un-Stuffed Pepper Skillet and Mexican Rice Skillet). Or, simply downsize the beefy component of the recipe, like we did in our Hoisin-Glazed Mini Meatloaves with Asian Noodles (pictured below).

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Not only will this strategy leave more room on your plate for veggies, whole grains, and even some refreshing fresh fruit … it can also help you save a little money at the grocery store, since meat tends to be one of the most expensive ingredients in typical meals.

Double win!

6) Choose Your Recipe’s Other Ingredients Carefully

And while we’re talking about all those other ingredients …

You can also up the nutrition game in the final recipe by carefully selecting the rest of your ingredients with healthfulness in mind.

Reach for whole-grain buns, tortillas, rice, and pasta – instead of white. Use reduced-fat (not nonfat) dairy products as another way of keeping the recipe’s overall fat in check. And pile on veggie-focused toppings or supplement with side dishes that are full of colorful produce.

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

By including plenty of other high-fiber veggies and whole grains throughout the entire meal, you’ll end up with a complete package that’s well balanced and nutritious in total. The overall nutrition of a meal isn’t ONLY about the beef!

One more tip, totally unrelated to nutrition:

My Favorite Tool for Breaking Up Ground Beef

For years and years, I used a plastic spatula or a rubber scraper for breaking up ground beef, turkey and sausage while cooking them in a nonstick skillet. It worked ok, and it never really occurred to me to try something different.

And then … EPIPHANY!

My mom loves to fill my Christmas stocking (which, yes, my parents still lovingly do for me every single year, even though I now have kids of my own!) with quirky and fun cooking gadgets. A couple of years ago, she gave my the mini version of this “masher” tool, and I’ve never looked back!

It makes breaking up ground beef sooooo much quicker and easier. Seems silly, but it truly does work much better, and now I just adore this little tool!

Alrighty, then! You’re now armed with lots of healthy ground beef know-how! Now all you need are some fantastic recipes. And boy-oh-boy have we got some great ones for ya! 

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Use our tips for creating simple but healthy ground beef recipes in these delicious, tried-and-true family favorites!

Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes

When it comes to easy ground beef recipes, this is about as easy as it gets! A delicious, fun twist on two favorite meals, these Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes are on the table in about 15 minutes! Even better? You can make them completely ahead for speedy dinners and meal prep throughout the week. Or, freeze the ground beef mixture to stockpile lightning-fast meals for months!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

DIY Ta-Cones: Fun, Healthy & Portable Taco Cones

A quick, portable, grab-and-go meal for busy nights! These can even be prepped ahead and rewarmed all week long. This unique spin on traditional tacos is terrific for make-your-own taco bar parties, too!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Hoisin-Glazed Mini Meatloaf “Muffins” Over Asian Noodles and Vegetables

This healthy ground beef recipe perfectly showcases our tip to use beef as more of a co-star than as the main attraction. Our fast-baking mini meatloaves are served over Asian veggies and whole-wheat noodles for a nourishing meal that’s ideal for hectic nights (especially with our easy, make-ahead tips!).

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Easy Grilled Fajita Burgers with Guacamole

Burgers definitely top the lists of everybody’s favorite, easy ground beef recipes – and this one’s a real doozy! It’s loaded with all the yumminess you love in fajitas … piled high on a deliciously satisfying hamburger! Plus, we’ve gotcha covered with make-ahead tips, so dinner’s a total breeze! 

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Cheeseburger Salad with Oven-Roasted Fries

Who says cheeseburgers have to be on buns?!? Here’s a great trick for creating a HEALTHY ground beef recipe: turn it into a salad! This lightened-up recipe is an easy meal-in-one. It’s a hearty, filling main-dish, loaded up with all the flavors of a big, juicy cheeseburger (and a side of fries, too)! It’s healthy, quick, and oh-so-yummy! Bonus: it can even be mostly made ahead, so it’s terrific for busy dinnertimes!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

One-Pot Mexican Rice Skillet Dinner

What could be easier than a one-pot meal? And what could be a healthier ground beef strategy than stretching that ground beef flavor with nutritious brown rice and lots of veggies? This ground beef dinner is so simple (with mostly hands-off cooking time), and it can even be made completely ahead!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Tex-Mex Taco Burgers with Creamy Salsa Dressing

These easy ground beef patties have black beans, cheese and salsa mixed right into the burgers, which adds great moisture, texture and flavor to lean ground beef. Plus, these burgers get big flavor from tex-mex spices and a creamy sauce … and fun crunch from a tortilla chip on top! A terrific make-ahead recipe that can even be frozen!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Best Ever Homemade Sloppy Joes

For simple ground beef recipes, lots of people turn to classic sloppy joes. But don’t open a can of sauce – not when our version is so easy, healthy and delicious! Our families declared this recipe the absolute best sloppy joe EVER! And what’s even better is that you can make it ahead for busy nights!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Cheesy Pepperoni Pizza Burgers

Mmmmmm … a juicy hamburger meets a pepperoni pizza in this quick, easy recipe! The tender burgers are full of cheese and pepperoni, and dripping with warm pizza sauce. So good! You can prep the burgers ahead and even freeze the uncooked patties to stock your freezer.

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Un-Stuffed Pepper Skillet

Love stuffed green peppers, but don’t have time to make them? No problem! Our “un-stuffed” version has all those beloved flavors, in a super-fast skillet meal that’s on the table in 30 minutes. Perfect!

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Easy, Healthy Ground Beef Recipes

Taco Burger Sliders on Polenta

Lean beef is accented with bold taco flavors, all in adorable little appetizer-sized sliders! They’re simple enough for family cook-outs, but impressive enough for a backyard party – secretly quick (with make-ahead and freezing tips) but they look really gourmet!

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All these tips and recipe ideas will make your dinnertime routine a little bit simpler, and a little bit more nutritious, too. Give one of our easy, healthy ground beef recipes a try this week, and see for yourself! Enjoy!

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