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How Much Taco Meat Should I Make Per Person?

Planning a taco party? Here’s how much taco meat to serve per person, ideas for side dishes, what to do with leftovers, and more!

If you’re planning a taco party for a large group, we’re here to help!

There’s so much that goes into party planning for any size event, especially when serving a large crowd.

The last thing you want after setting up your big party is to find out that you didn’t plan enough food!

We’re sharing how many servings of taco meat you’ll need per person, ideas for side dishes, how to make your meat stretch, what to do with leftovers and more.

Use this guide to plan the perfect taco night for taco Tuesday or a fun tailgate event.

How Much Taco Meat to Serve

Cooked ground beef in dutch oven with wooden spoon.

The average person will need 4 ounces of protein for a meal with sides. And the typical taco holds about 2 ounces of meat with toppings.

So you’ll need about 2 tacos per person for a taco bar with side dishes like rice and beans.

However, if you know you’ll be serving people with bigger appetites like hungry teenage boys, you may want to increase the amount to 5-6 ounces per person to be on the safe side.

You should also note that meat loses about 25% of its weight during the cooking process. So, to end up with 4 ounces of cooked meat, you’ll need to start with about 5.33 ounces of raw meat.

To figure out how much taco meat to serve, simply multiply the number of guests by 5.33 (the amount of raw protein in ounces), then divide by 16 to get the amount of protein in pounds.

So if the number of people you plan to serve is 20, you would multiply 20 by 5.33, then divide by 16 which equals 6.7 pounds of meat.

You would follow this same formula to find out the pounds of ground beef for ground beef tacos, the pounds of chicken for shredded chicken tacos, or for any other meat you choose.

Here are some standard serving amounts to get you started!

Standard Serving Amounts

  • 10 People = 3.4 pounds
  • 20 People = 6.7 pounds
  • 25 People = 8.3 pounds
  • 30 People = 10 pounds
  • 40 People = 13.4 pounds
  • 200 People = 66.6 pounds

If you don’t feel like doing the math yourself, you can use this handy taco bar calculator. Just plug in the number of people you need to serve and it will tell you how many pounds of meat you’ll need.

And this one has an expansive list of additional ingredients to help you calculate the number of toppings.

Ways To Make The Meat Stretch

Corn tortilla tacos with chicken, beans, rice, and cilantro filling on a serving platter.

Meat can be pretty expensive, especially for a big crowd. So here are some ideas for stretching the meat to save a little bit of money.

Or, if you accidentally did your calculations wrong, you can use these add-ins to make your meat go further!

Try adding:

  • Black beans
  • Pinto beans
  • Corn (canned, fresh, or frozen)
  • Tomatoes with green chilis

You may also need to adjust your seasonings to make sure your meat mixture keeps its flavor.

How To Keep It Warm

It’s important to keep your taco meat properly warm throughout your party. The danger zone for cooked foods is between 40°F and 140°F.

At these temperatures, harmful bacteria can rapidly grow and may even cause food poisoning.

So you should never leave food out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. If you do, it’s a good idea to throw it out so none of your guests get sick.

Here are some easy ways to keep your taco meat warm so you don’t have to worry:

  • A slow cooker, Crock Pot, or Instant Pot on the warming setting
  • Buffet chaffing dishes
  • Food warming trays
  • A saucepan with a lid on low heat or simmer

And you can keep cheese, sour cream, and other dairy products cold by placing the container in a bowl of ice.

NOTE: If you do happen to eat spoiled meat, look out for symptoms of food poisoning like nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, and fever. If you experience any of these, seek medical attention right away!

What To Do With Leftovers

Bowl of creamy taco soup with spoon and cilantro, avocado, and lime garnish.

Here are some delicious ideas for what to do with leftover taco meat. These recipes are ideal for ground beef. But, you could easily use other ground or shredded meats, too!

  • Walking tacos
  • Taco salad
  • Taco bowls
  • Nachos
  • Taco pizza
  • Avocado taco boats
  • Tex Mex Hash
  • Creamy Taco Soup

And you can find even more leftover taco recipes here.

How To Store Leftovers

It’s important to properly store your leftover taco meat to get the most use out of it.

Make sure you use an airtight container and place it towards the back of the refrigerator where it’s coldest.

You can also use heavy-duty Zip Loc bags with as much air removed as possible.

If you plan to freeze your leftovers, portion them into containers in the amount of one serving.

That way, you can thaw only what you need at a time.

How long do leftovers last?

Assortment of frozen foods in freezer bags and airtight containers on wooden table.

Any leftover taco meat including ground beef, chicken steak, and shrimp will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator when properly stored.

However, you should always check your meat for signs of spoilage before you eat, just to be safe.

  • This may be an off smell or taste
  • Changes in texture
  • Mold or changes in color

Depending on the meat, frozen leftovers will last around 2-4 months. You can check safety guidelines and best practices on the USDA website.

Taco Party Basics

Several people eating and making tacos at a taco party with drinks and sides.

The typical taco includes about 2 ounces of meat along with taco fillings like lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.

You’ll need to make sure you have plenty of taco shells and flour or corn tortillas. Plan on about 2 tacos per person.

And it never hurts to have a little extra just in case.

The Best Meats

There are several different types of meat that you can use for your taco party. But, the most popular taco meat is ground beef.

It’s also one of the easiest and quickest to cook.

Here are some other meats to try:

  • Shredded pork shoulder (carnitas)
  • Flank steak (carne asada)
  • Chorizo
  • Shrimp (de camarones)
  • Shredded chicken (pollo asado)
  • Fish (de pescado)

You can season your meat with a premade taco seasoning mix. Or, you can experiment with your own seasonings.

Popular seasoning ingredients include:

  • Chili powder
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic salt
  • Regular salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Paprika or smoked paprika

Citrus fruits are a great tenderizer for meat. So, if you’d like to marinate your meat, you can combine your desired seasonings with citrus juice and a little bit of neutral oil.

You can use:

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Lime juice
  • Lemon juice

You should marinate your meat for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. Any longer, and the meat will start to change its texture.


Various taco toppings and fillings prepped on a wooden cutting board and on a white plate.

You’ll also need to have plenty of toppings to go with your meat and tortillas.

There are so many different choices for toppings. And these may vary depending on the type of tacos you’re making.

Here are some of the most common ingredients to have on hand:


  • Fresh cilantro
  • Lime
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced onion
  • Pico de gallo
  • Guacamole (avocados)
  • Jalapeno (fresh or pickled)
  • Lettuce
  • Cabbage


  • Sour cream
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Cotija cheese
  • Queso fresco


  • Mild or hot salsa
  • Salsa verde (green salsa)
  • Hot sauce
  • Cilantro lime dressing

Side Dishes

Man dips tortilla chip into garden salsa with tomatoes and cilantro.

A taco party wouldn’t be complete without some delicious side dishes to go with your main dish!

Sides are also a great way to ensure everyone gets enough food to eat. If there happen to be a few people who didn’t get as many tacos as they wanted, they’ll have other options to help them get their fill.

Here are some standard side dishes to serve at your party:


You’ll also need some drinks to quench your thirst.

Here are some great beverage options to try (and depending on your preference, you can make these with or without alcohol):

Naturally kid-friendly and non-alcoholic options:

Drinks that can be made with or without alcohol:

  • Mojitos
  • Pina Colada
  • Sangria
  • Margaritas
  • Paloma


Several churros on a white plate and whitewashed table with chocolate dipping sauce in a bowl.

And you can’t have a party without a delicious dessert!

Here are some of the most popular Mexican desserts to try:

  • Tres leches cake
  • Churros
  • Fried ice cream
  • Flan
  • Mexican corn cake
  • Sopapillas
  • Mexican wedding cookies
  • Rice pudding

And here are some other delicious desserts for large groups. These options are not as on theme as the ones above, but they’re always a crowd-pleaser!

And they may be easier to make!

Other Tex-Mex Recipes You’ll Love

Here are some other easy and delicious Tex-Mex recipes to try! You could serve these as a side dish for really large gatherings.

Or, you could use these as a secondary main dish for those who don’t like tacos.

Cheesy Chile Relleno Casserole

Baking dish of chile relleno casserole on white table surrounded by plates and spatula.

Chile Relleno Casserole is full of whole green chiles, a fluffy egg batter, and lots of cheesy goodness. It’s an easy breakfast with flavors the entire family will love!

Creamy Avocado Picante Chicken

Avocado picante chicken and rice on white platter next to wooden cutting board.

This Creamy Avocado Picante Chicken features tender chicken pieces covered in a creamy picante sauce, topped with sliced avocados, all served over hot rice. It’s an easy dinner idea that comes together in no time!

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream White Sauce

Pan of creamy chicken enchiladas with tomato and green onion garnish on table with bowls of toppings nearby.

These Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream White Sauce are filled with a creamy sauce, tender chicken, and lots of cheese. Your family will fall in love with this non-traditional recipe!

White Chicken Chili Recipe With Cream Cheese

Crock Pot white chicken chili on table with bowls of lime wedges and tortilla strips nearby.

This White Chicken Chili recipe with cream cheese is perfect for a chilly evening. Just dump the 7 ingredients in your Crock Pot and in a few hours you’ll have a deliciously creamy chili ready for dinner!

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line on how much taco meat to serve per person:

  • The average person needs 4 ounces of meat for a meal with sides. This equates to about 2 tacos per person.
  • 5.33 ounces of raw meat cooks down to about 4 ounces.
  • To find the amount of meat you need to purchase, multiply the number of party guests by 5.33, then divide by 16. This will provide you with the amount in pounds.
  • How much taco meat to serve:
    • 10 People = 3.4 pounds
    • 20 People = 6.7 pounds
    • 25 People = 8.3 pounds
    • 30 People = 10 pounds
    • 40 People = 13.4 pounds
    • 200 People = 66.6 pounds
  • Make sure to include plenty of sides like rice, beans, chips with salsa, or fruit salad to ensure each guest gets enough to eat.
  • If you’re worried about how much taco meat you have, you can make your meat stretch further by adding ingredients like beans, corn, and tomatoes with green chilis.
  • And don’t worry if you have leftovers! It’s always better to have a little more than you need rather than a little less. You can use your leftover taco meat to create other delicious meals like:
    • Walking tacos
    • Taco salad
    • Taco bowls
    • Nachos
    • Taco pizza
    • Avocado taco boats
    • Tex Mex Hash
    • Creamy taco soup

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Wednesday 6th of September 2023

Thank you so VERY MUCH for this calculation! Took out all the guesswork.

Jessica Ashcroft

Thursday 7th of September 2023

You're welcome Patricia!