Dinner in Less Than 30 Minutes: The Best One-Pan Tex-Mex Skillet

You know what one of my favorite cuisines to turn to is when I’m craving something delicious?

Tex-Mex.

Vertical overhead image of two white plates with taco shell cups filled with a beef and black bean mixture on top, with a large frying pan of more of the meal on a striped white cloth to the right and a robin's egg blue cloth napkin and a fork to the left, printed with orange and white text.

For those of you may not be familiar with Tex-Mex, it’s a fusion of Mexican and American cuisines that originated from Texas.

It’s a big contributor to the cuisine that you’ll find in the southwestern area of the United States, and it’s spread like wildfire across the rest of the country.

It’s no wonder why, when you are taking some of the best ingredients and blending them together in a variety of delicious dishes.

Slightly oblique head-on vertical image of two white plates with taco shell bowls filled with lettuce and a mixture of beef, beans, corn, and cheese on top, with a small square glass dish of minced fresh cilantro and a large frying pan in the background filled with the cooked dish, on a white and blue cloth surface with a fork.

As someone who grew up in Colorado, I spent a lot of time going down to New Mexico for vacation, and it was there that I truly fell in love with the Tex-Mex mashup.

Honestly, Tex-Mex can be found more and more around the country, often in what some people actually refer to as “authentic” Mexican food. But there are more than a few major differences between this relatively new US cuisine, and the time-honored traditional foods enjoyed south of the border, unique to their respective regions.

Vertical image of two taco shell bowls filled with homemade Tex-Mex beef skillet on white plates, with a large frying pan of more of the dish in soft focus in the background, on a dark brown wood table topped with a white table runner with pink and purple stripes and fringe, with a folded blue cloth napkin and a fork.

To boil it down quickly, Tex-Mex cuisine usually uses a good amount of shredded cheese, meat such as beef or chicken, beans, peppers, and a variety of spices.

Think nachos, crispy tacos, and the fajitas that you know and love. Usually, the type of cheese is the defining factor in the difference between Tex-Mex and Mexican food.

Ovehead slightly oblique vertical shot of two Tex-Mex taco salads on white plates, with a large frying pan with a black plastic spoon filled with a beef and bean dish topped with melted cheese to the right, alongside a small square glass dish of minced fresh green herbs, on a white table runner with frings and orange and purple stripes, and a folded blue cloth napkin topped with a fork, on a dark brown wood table.

Other differences include ground beef, black beans, canned veggies, and wheat flour that are not typical of traditional Mexican cuisine. This is primarily because these ingredients are common on the farms and ranch lands of Texas.

There’s a lot more yellow cheese (think cheddar) used in Tex-Mex, and that’s probably why I am so obsessed with it. I mean, that’s a huge reason why I am all about this particular dish right now.

Vertical overhead shot of a fluted taco shell bowl filled with lettuce and a mixture of beans, ground beef, corn, and cheese, on a white striped cloth with a folded robin's egg blue cloth napkin, another plate at the top left of the frame, and a small square glass dish of minced fresh herbs at the top right, on a dark brown wood surface.

And speaking of that cheese, the combination of classic ingredients to the cuisine like beef, beans, rice, spices, cheese, and salsa are a clear winner, solely because of the flavors. However, the textures also play a big role in making every bite delightfully different.

Next, you have the fact that this skillet comes together in less than 30 minutes. That’s right, you can have dinner on the table in 25 minutes total.

Vertical overhead shot of two taco shell bowls with baby leaf lettuce at the bottom on two white plates, with a black plastic utensil and a frying pan filled with a cheese Tex-Mex skillet to the right, on a white striped cloth with fringe, with a blue cloth napkin that is folded and topped with a fork, and a small square glass dish of minced fresh herbs, on a dark brown wood table.

I know that we are all looking for something hearty and delicious at the end of a long day, without spending a lot of time pulling it all together. In my house, 30-minutes meals are the solution.

If you are looking for a skillet dish that can be the base for a variety of dishes and served as a simple casserole that holds up as a full meal on its own as well, then this is the recipe for you.

Vertical closeup image of a homemade beef Tex-Mex skillet in a taco shell bowl on a white plate, with another plate in the background on a striped white cloth, with a robin's egg blue folded cloth napkin.

There are so many different ways to serve up this dish in new and creative ways. I’ll go into that more at the end of this article, but as you can see here, serving a few big spoonfuls over salad-filled taco bowls is one that I prefer above all others.

Plus, when there are greens involved, you can justify a second helping! Right?

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Head-on shot of a taco shell bowl with fluted edges, filled with a mixture of beef, corn, rice, beans, and cheese, with a few pieces of baby lettuce, on a white plate with a folded blue cloth napkin and a fork.

One-Pan Tex-Mex Skillet (Gluten-Free)


  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 Servings 1x

Description

If you’re in a hurry for dinner, the best one-pan Tex-Mex skillet recipe is here. The textures and flavors will make it your new favorite meal.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground Ancho chili pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 can (15 oz) black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add ground beef and onion. Cook until the beef is browned and the onion is softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for about 30-60 seconds more, until fragrant. Drain fat and return beef mixture to pan.
  2. Add water, cumin, chili pepper, paprika, and salt to skillet. Stir well to coat the beef. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated.
  3. Stir in beans, corn, and rice. Continue cooking about 5 minutes or until everything is warmed through.
  4. Top mixture with salsa and sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook another minute or two until the cheese is melted. Serve warm – over tortilla chips, or in a taco shell, or in a soft tortilla, or over a bed of greens — take your pick! Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro.
  • Category: One-Pot Meals
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Keywords: Tex-Mex, beef, skillet, cheese, one-pot meals

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Prep Produce and Measure Remaining Ingredients

Peel and finely chop the onion. Not a fan of this task? Check out our tips!

Peel the garlic cloves and mince finely, or push them through your garlic press.

Overhead shot of round and square glass and ceramic bowls of various sizes, filled with a variety of ingredients required to make a Tex-Mex skillet dish including chopped fresh herb, minced garlic, spices, shredded cheese, salsa, corn, rice, onion, black beans, and ground beef, on a dark brown wood table.

Drain and rinse the black or pinto beans in a colander.

Remove leaves from cilantro stems and finely chop until you have about 2 tablespoons total.

Step 2 – Cook

Place a large skillet over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the ground beef and onion.

Overhead horizontal shot of chopped onion and raw ground beef in a large frying pan with a red silicone and silver metal slotted spoon, on a dark brown wood surface.

Cook until the beef is browned and the onion is softened. This will take about 4-5 minutes.

Add the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, being careful not to let it burn.

Horizontal image of a large frying pan of browned ground beef, sauteed onion, and raw minced garlic, on a dark brown wood background.

Transfer the mixture to a plate and drain the fat. Return the beef mixture to the pan.

Step 3 – Finish and Serve

Overhead closely cropped shot of a large nonstick frying pan of cooked ground beef and chopped onions, with a small pile of ground cumin, chili, and other spices on top, on a dark brown wood surface.

Stir in the water, cumin, chili pepper, paprika, and salt, making sure to coat the beef well.

Overhead shot of browned grown beef and onions in a large frying pan, on a dark brown wood background.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the water has evaporated. This will take about 3-5 minutes.

Overhead shot of a large frying pan with high walls, filled with black beans, corn, and rice, on a dark brown wooden table.

Stir in the beans, corn, and rice. Continue cooking until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes.

Overhead shot of a large fying pan of ground beef, beans, corn, and other ingredients, on a dark brown wood table.

Top with salsa and sprinkle cheese over the top. Cover and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Overhead horizontal shot of a Tex-Mex skillet dish in a large frying pan with shredded yellow cheese on top, on a dark brown wood table.

If you like, a heat-safe pan can be placed under the broiler for a slightly browned melty topping.

Overhead shot of a skillet dish topped with melted yellow cheddar cheese in a large frying pan, on a dark brown wood surface.

Serve with a sprinkling of cilantro for garnish.

So Many Ways to Serve This Skillet

As you can see, you can easily serve this dish over salad in tortilla bowls. Some other ideas are to serve this skillet over tortilla chips or you can scale it up and serve it to a crowd.

A black plastic serving utensil holds a scoop of a beef-based Tex-Mex skillet dish up towards the camera with more of the same in the cooking pot below, on a dark brown wood surface.

You can also simply serve it over a salad, without the tortilla bowl. Making tacos out of it with taco shells or soft tortillas are other options that are ideal for Taco Tuesday.

Have another idea? Try it out, because anything goes.

Vertical image of two taco bowl shells filled with a mixture of ground beef, beans, cheese, and vegetables, on two white plates on top of a white striped cloth with a blue cloth napkin and a fork, with a large frying pan of more of the skillet dish in the background, on a dark brown wood surface.

Looking for some more one-pan dinner options? Check out these recipes:

How will you serve this Tex Mex skillet dinner? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe to let us know how much you liked it!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 5, 2012. Last updated: March 8, 2019 at 14:11 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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