Skip to main content

Magically Delicious Low-Carb Ground Beef Recipes

By Catherine Newman

Deliciously low-carb family-friendly recipes to easily transform that pound of ground beef in your fridge into an amazing meal

I see a package of ground beef in my fridge, and I think, happily: that’s dinner. I can’t help it, even though I have a vegetarian in the house, which makes this line of thinking somewhat impractical. It’s an old habit. Depending on when and where you grew up, a pound of ground beef may have been your family’s go-to dinner base, too − a package of meat that was stretched, depending on how many mouths there were to feed, with macaroni (goulash) or mashed potatoes (shepherd’s pie) or classic brand-name products like “Hamburger Helper.” It wasn’t fancy, but it was good, and it filled us up. Plus, we got to throw the Styrofoam meat tray on the fire after dinner, and watch it go up in blue smoke while it shrinky-dinked into nothing. (Sorry about the ozone layer, everyone.) Ah, the seventies! It’s amazing we’re still alive.

Cut to now, when lots of us − and lots of people with diabetes, specifically − are keeping an eye on carbs, and the alchemy of magicking a pound of meat into dinner gets a little trickier. Buns are out. Traditional pasta is out. Potatoes are out. It doesn’t mean anything has to get less yummy, but it does mean we have to get more creative. Spiralized zucchini makes a wholesome pasta-style base for meat sauce or chili, as does cauliflower rice. And you can totally top your favorite shepherd’s pie filling with creamy mashed cauliflower. One nice thing about the veggie-based versions is that there’s not only an absence of carbs; there’s a surplus of nutrition − all that fiber and those vitamins and micronutrients that the carbier originals weren’t really offering, no offense.

So, for meat recipes, these are pretty vegetable-heavy. That’s meant to be part boast and part warning. There may be an adjustment period, yes, but these meals are so delicious in so many different ways − cheesy, zippy, luscious, saucy − that I’m thinking it will be brief. Just make sure to buy the best ground meat you can afford, grassfed preferred. I like using meat that’s at least 15% fat (this may be labeled 85/15), so that it cooks up nice and juicy. The beef is going to give you lots of great nutrition, especially if it is grass fed − it’s an excellent source of protein, iron, and B vitamins, among other things − but if you want to substitute ground turkey or chicken, go for it!

1. Perfect Burgers

As everyone who is avoiding carbs or gluten already knows: a burger wrapped in a single leaf of lettuce is a fine thing to eat, but it’s not like eating a burger on a bun. And this isn’t either, really, but oh, it is so much closer! Using thick slabs of iceberg lettuce not only gives you a convincing bun-like way to hold your burger and fixings − it also adds a satisfying crunch.

View the recipe.

2. Thai-Style Beef Salad with Mint

I copied this dish from a meat salad − nam tok − we ate in a Thai restaurant, but it seems actually to be more similar to a Lao salad called larb. Either way, it’s hard to stop eating: crunchy, tender, herby, spicy, sour, rich, and juicy, with everything scooped up in crisp cabbage leaves.

View the recipe.

3. Personal Pizza Meatloaves

I’ve been making this recipe since my kids were small: the combination of traditional pizza seasonings and a superfun size make it (almost) irresistible, especially to children who can feel a little strange about meatloaf. Please do note that the grated zucchini is a crucial ingredient here, as it adds moisture, but squash-shy kids (or adults) are unlikely to notice it.

View the recipe.

4. Enchilada Zucchini

This is a very vegetable-forward recipe, in that the zucchini are not even remotely disguised as something else. But they are luscious: rich with a saucy, spicy meat filling and cloaked in oozy cheese. And I, for one, love the festive little canoes of zucchini.

View the recipe.

Other Ground-Meat Recipes:

Herby Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps

Two-Bean Beef Chili

Dumpling-Style Meatballs

About Catherine Newman

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

Share this article