When I was growing up, so many of the family dinners we shared started with a pound of ground beef. And there were very few I didn’t love. It’s convenient, crowd-pleasing, quick to prepare, freezes well, and far easier on your wallet than nearly any proper cut of beef I can think of.
While beef prices have skyrocketed in recent months, ground beef is still a comparatively affordable meat—especially when you bulk it up with staples like pasta, potatoes, and rice.
Could you make the following recipes with ground turkey or meatless grounds? Sure! That’s the great thing. Ground beef is so flexible, it doesn’t even have to be beef.
Hamburger and Macaroni
Comfort food supreme, this recipe has many variations and aliases: slumgullion, American chop suey, goulash. It’s not chop suey and it’s not real goulash, but it’s on the table in half an hour and makes divine leftovers…if there are any.
Easy Hamburger Soup
When I was a kid, this was a staple of church basement potlucks and likely still is. Though hamburger is the star, in some parts of the country, when you say “vegetable soup,” this is what people mean. Regardless, it’s both brothy and hearty and pairs excellently with rolls or saltines.
Stovetop Taco Soup
Did one single person invent taco soup? If so, wherever you are and whoever you are, I want to give you a hug. Many nights when opening cans and browining beef was all I could muster, your genius concoction brought smiles to my family at the dinner table and relief to my harried post-workday soul. I will take taco soup over actual tacos every single time.
Ground Beef Bulgogi
Move over, bulgogi. Or at least get set to share the stage with your timesaving younger cousin. The brainchild of Korean-American chef Peter Serpico, ground beef bulgogi makes a fun meal where you can tuck the beef into lettuce wrap ssam, or use it for Korean taco filling. Honestly, I’ve eaten it straight from the skillet. It’s salty and intense, so serve fresh, crisp raw veggies on the side.
Dad’s Stuffed Bell Peppers
My mom made stuffed bell peppers regularly, as did the parents of Elise Bauer, the founder of Simply Recipes. In fact, her parents each have their own version of stuffed peppers. One notable difference? Dad’s have a ketchup topping; mom’s do not. Which would you choose? Nowadays I eat the pepper regardless, but when I was younger, I treated the filling like a personal meatloaf and left the pepper for mom. Everyone wins!
Easy Shepherd’s Pie
Here it is, one of the all-time top viewed recipes on Simply Recipes. People all over the world make this, often sharing their variations. What would yours be?
Chili Mac and Cheese
This creamy and spicy pasta bake goes into the oven right in the skillet you used for cooking the simple chili. Chili-spiced buttered breadcrumbs give it a crunch factor that’s worth the extra few minutes.
Sheet Pan BBQ Mini Meatloaves
This recipe exploits the glory of a sheet pan dinner to full effect. As your BBQ-painted mini meatloaves bake, you sidle up mustard potatoes and broccoli florets on the sheet to cook alongside in the oven.
Penne Pasta With Meat Sauce
Gussy up a jar of pasta sauce with plenty of beef, plus fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and Italian seasoning. This sort of recipe becomes a template for all sorts of variations, and it’s great for new cooks.
Chili Beans With Rice
Our founder, Elise, was one of six kids, and her resourceful mother knew how to stretch a meal to feed a crowd. Here, canned pinto beans become a canvas for chili spices and some ground beef to, well, beef it up. The result is sheet comfort.
There was/is a Hamburger Helper version of this, but with a recipe so easy, what’s the point in a convenience product? Cook savory mushrooms with the beef, add sherry or white wine (or just plain water) and stir in the requisite blop of sour cream to finish.
Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
A theme is emerging here for sure: take a beloved dish and make it fast and fun with a ground beef variation. Philly cheesesteak purists may sneer, but meanwhile, you’ll be digging into a melty pile of oozy cheesiness. Which just goes to show you that snobbism doesn’t pay.
Cheesy Taco Pasta Skillet
In my life as a mom, I’ve noticed the meals I put the least effort into are the most universally embraced. Using that formula, this one’s a winner! The twirly pasta cooks right in the skillet for those nights when washing an extra pot is a dealbreaker.
If cheeseburgers were transformed into chowder, they’d be this. Cheeseburger soup is creamy and rich, with bacon, milk, cream cheese, and plenty of cheddar. Russet potatoes give it body.
This Mexican meatball soup marries meatballs with a tomato-y, veggie-laden broth. Elise adds minced fresh mint to her meatballs, an ingredient that nearly every commenter seems to weight in on with conviction. Where do you sit?
Instant Pot Porcupine Meatballs
A midcentury classic recipe, retooled for the convenience of an Instant Pot (or stovetop pressure cooker). The porcupine alluded to in the name comes from how the bits of rice in the meatballs poke out after cooking in the fashion of porcupine quills.