It was in response to a lawsuit filed against Taco Bell in January 2011 regarding the exact ingredients in its seasoned ground beef that the company revealed that the taco meat filling was in fact 88 percent beef and 12 percent other ingredients to add texture and flavor.

Examining the ingredients list reveals that among the spices added to the meat is a significant amount of oats to help bind the meat together. This helps the taco meat filling stay inside of tacos where it belongs when customers take a bite. You can use oat flour you find in a store or make your own with rolled oats in a small food processor or coffee grinder (see Tidbits). If I had to name a “secret ingredient” for my clone, it would be Knorr tomato bouillon. This flavorful substance contains tomato powder, autolyzed yeast extract, cornstarch, and citric acid—many of the exact ingredients found in Taco Bell’s taco meat filling—and it will help give your meat that distinct “Taco Bell flavor.”

Once you’ve made the taco meat filling, it’s just a matter of building your Mexican Pizzas on crispy flour tortillas, broiling them until the cheese melts, and sprinkling them with a little diced tomato. You can also add a garnish of green onion if you like. I list this here because it’s how the chain used to make the Mexican Pizzas, although these days the green onion has been eliminated. Either way, you’ll have a great, much-improved clone of one of the chain’s top-selling items.

1 ounce (¼ cup) oat flour (see Tidbits to make your own from rolled oats)
½ pound ground beef (20 percent fat)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1¼ teaspoons Knorr tomato bouillon
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cocoa powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup water
1 cup vegetable oil
8 small (6½-inch) flour tortillas
1 16-ounce can traditional refried beans
½ cup mild chunky Pace picante salsa
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup shredded medium cheddar cheese
½ cup diced tomato

¼ cup chopped green onion (green and light green parts only)

Cooking method

1-Combine all of the seasoned beef ingredients in a medium bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly incorporate everything into the ground beef until you have a pasty mixture.

2-Preheat a skillet over medium heat and add the ground beef mixture to the pan. Brown the beef mixture for 5 to 6 minutes or until cooked. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the ground beef as it cooks to give a smooth texture without any big chunks.

3-Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a medium frying pan or skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, fry a tortilla in the oil for 30 to 45 seconds per side, or until crispy, and set it aside on paper towels. Repeat the process with each of the tortillas, adding 1 teaspoon of fresh oil to the pan before cooking each one. Use cooking tongs to pop any bubbles that form on the tortillas as they fry. Keep the tortillas flat.

4-Heat up the refried beans in a small saucepan over medium heat or in your microwave oven. Preheat the oven to high broil.

5-When the beef and tortillas are done, build each pizza by spreading about ⅓ cup of refried beans on one of the crispy tortillas. Spread ⅓ cup of beef on the beans, then place another crispy tortilla on top. Spread 2 tablespoons of salsa on the top tortilla, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of Monterey Jack cheese on top of the salsa, followed by 2 tablespoons of the cheddar cheese.

6-Place the pizzas on an aluminum foil–lined baking sheet and broil for 30 to 60 seconds or just until the cheese is melted.

7-Remove the pizzas from the oven and sprinkle each with 2 tablespoons of diced tomato. Slice each pizza through the middle twice to make four slices. Add a tablespoon of green onion on top—if you want to make it the old way.

8-(OPTIONAL) You can easily make oat flour from rolled oats using a small food processor or coffee grinder. Measure a heaping ¼ cup of oats—such as Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats (not instant)—and grind for about 30 seconds to make a fine flour.

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