Best Budget-Friendly Ground Beef Recipes
Planning meals on a budget? Ground beef to the rescue. Not only is a pound of ground beef affordable; it’s versatile and satisfying.
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, or Asian, you’re in luck. Start with thrifty ground beef, throw in a few pantry staples, and you’ve got yourself a delicious rent-week meal. And it doesn’t have to be boring.
Kibbeh (Lebanese Beef Croquettes)
There are versions of ground beef croquettes in so many different cultures, but these Lebanese croquettes 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.
Potato Korokke (croquette)
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.
You’ve simply got to trust a blog called My Big Fat Cuban Family. And this picadillo recipe of theirs does not disappoint. Like any classic picadillo, this one 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.
If you have more time than money, moussaka is a big, hearty, layered Greek dish — lasagna-esque, really — that stretches a pound of ground beef to the limit. This 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.
This insanely popular meatball 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.
20 Minute Thai Basil Beef and Lemongrass Rice Bowls
If you’re lucky enough to have an international pantry, this dish, from Half Baked Harvest, 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.)
Ground Beef Taco Salad
Ground beef tacos are classic rent-week fare. This recipe, 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.
Korean Ground Beef Bowl
Typically, Korean rice bowls are topped with bulkogi or kalbi. But here, in this recipe from Damn Delicious, 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.
The Best Homemade Chili
Another budget classic: chili. This version, 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 for the next time you're facing a late evening at work.
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