How Long Is Taco Meat Good For? (3 Best Ways to Store It)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

Taco night is one of my favorite nights of the week. I love inviting friends over for a simple tacos-inspired dinner.

Although taco is a delicious meat, I learned the hard way that it could spoil quickly if not stored properly.

Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of research and learned all the ins and outs of safe storage according to taco meat’s delicate nature.

In my research, I also consulted food security experts and reputable online resources.

In this article, I will share how long you should store taco meat and the best storage practices.

Quick Summary

  • Taco meat can last 3-4 days in the fridge compared to 3-4 months of frozen taco meat.
  • A canned taco is safe to eat anytime before its expiration.
  • A foul smell is a crucial indicator of spoiled taco meat.

How Long Does Taco Meat Stay Good In the Fridge?

Taco meat with different ingredients on the side

Taco meat can stay good in the fridge for about 3-4 days. Beyond this timeframe, the risk of bacterial growth increases significantly, potentially leading to foodborne illnesses.

Taco meat is a spicy, delicious dish usually common in Mexican dishes. Traditionally, ground beef is the main ingredient with a chili powder seasoning.

However, other meats like ground turkey and chicken can be used, too.

Here's a breakdown of how long taco meat last: 

  • Cooked: According to the USDA, once taco meat has been cooked, it will last about 3-4 days in the refrigerator [1].
  • Frozen: Frozen taco meat can last for 4-6 months. The quality will dwindle, but it'll remain safe. Thaw it and add it to your recipe when you're ready to eat.
  • Canned: Canned taco can last until its expiration date printed on the can. Otherwise, an open can of tacos will require refrigeration since the decaying process starts when air comes in contact with the meat.

How To Properly Store Taco Meat?

Taco meat, like any perishable food, has a limited shelf life. To ensure safety and quality, it's crucial to store it properly.

You can store taco meat properly by:

1. Refrigeration

Leftover taco meat is vacuum sealed in a plastic bag that lasts for a long time.

Refrigeration is the simplest and most convenient method of storing taco meat. Leftovers must be stored in an airtight container in the back of the fridge at 40°F within 2 hours of cooking [2].

The back of the fridge is suitable since it is far from the door, which can cause temperature differences as you open and close its door throughout the day.

The difference is minor, but on a hot day, it can be enough to speed up spoilage.

Below is an easy guide on how to store taco meat in the fridge:

  • Properly clean the airtight container with warm water and dishwashing soap.
  • Please ensure the inside of the container is clean and dry by wiping it with a clean cloth.
  • Spread the meat inside the container to cover the entire surface evenly.
  • Store leftovers in the back of your refrigerator at 40°F and eat within 2-3 days.

Also Read: Can You Refreeze Meat?

2. Freezing

Freezing taco meat is an excellent way to extend its shelf life. The right way to store your raw taco meat is in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag or an airtight container.

Make sure you let the air out of the bag before sealing it.

3. Canning

A close up image of canned taco meats

Canning is one of the most effective ways to keep taco meat fresh while on the go. It forms a pressure seal that keeps bacteria and oxidation at bay, keeping you safe from food poisoning [3].

If correctly done, canned taco meat can be shelf-stable for up to a week without refrigeration.

Canned meat should also be kept cool and dry, and an opened jar should be refrigerated.

"Please be aware that canning requires much attention and practice before attempting this method. Even a minor mistake during the canning process can cause the meat to spoil."
- John Politte, Chef

Also Read: How to Preserve Meat?

Ideas for Leftover Taco Meat

Quesadillas perfect for leftover taco meat

You can use your leftover cooked taco meat to make these healthy meals: 

  • Chicken burrito: Add your leftover chicken taco meat, cheese, or any other item and roll them up. You can add eggs and make breakfast burritos. 
  • Quesadillas and Enchiladas: Throw in your cooked meat and toppings, and you're good to go. I love shredded cheese, salsa, and sour cream on my quesadillas.
  • Leftover taco meat pasta: Add cheddar cheese to your cooked taco meat and pasta mix. 
  • Leftover taco meat casserole: This meal quickly comes together since ground beef is already prepared. 
  • Creamy taco dip: It's the perfect snack or dinner with seasoned cream cheese to dip your tortilla chips. 

HOW DO YOU TELL IF TACO MEAT HAS GONE BAD?

You can tell that taco meat has gone bad by detecting a foul smell, discoloration, or a change in taste.

1. Foul Smell

A woman holding her nose because of a foul smell coming from the fridge

Even if your cooked taco meat is stored correctly, always check the smell before reheating.

A distinct foul odor is a vital sign of spoilage. When raw meat spoils, bacteria release toxins that change the scent of the food [4].

Because this odor is easily detectable, any change from the original smell indicates that the meat has spoiled.

2. Discoloration

Because taco meat constitutes somewhat acidic ingredients such as tomatoes and salsa, it may affect the color of other delicate ingredients such as onions and vegetables.

Although a slight color change is expected, deep discoloration in the meat indicates it has gone bad.

3. Change In Taste

Unhappy woman in a kitchen who tasted disgusting food

I recommend tasting as a last resort when noticing the first two signs is difficult. If the meat tastes the same as it did the day you made it, it is safe to reheat.

However, if you notice a change in flavor, it could mean that the cooked ground beef has been contaminated.

Remember that you don't have to taste a spoonful but just a few countable pieces.

Related Articles: 

FAQs

Can You Freeze Taco Meat?

You can freeze taco meat. Frozen meat can last up to 6 months as long as it's in an airtight bag.

Does Moldy Taco Meat Smell Bad?

Moldy taco meat smells bad since bacterial contamination produces a foul smell.

Can You Cook Taco Meat and Freeze It?

You can cook taco meat and freeze it. Once you cook ground beef, store it in a container, and don’t keep it in the refrigerator for longer than six months.


References:

  1. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-long-can-you-keep-cooked-beef
  2. https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/
  3. https://food.unl.edu/how-food-spoils
  4. https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/
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