Beef Taco Pasta is comfort food at its finest! This simple, but unique Taco Tuesday dish is bursting with Mexican flavors.
When you need a delicious but quick meal on a busy weeknight, this easy taco pasta recipe is where it’s at. Ready in just 50 minutes, it makes a lot of food, so it’s perfect for feeding your super hungry family. Every bite is full of Mexican flavors, because it’s only mildly spicy, it’s great for kids, too.
If you loved Hamburger Helper as a kid, this is like a grown-up, more sophisticated version. And it’s way better. What could be tastier than macaroni, ground beef, peppers, onions, and tomatoes cooked in salsa and loaded with cheese? Oh, and don’t forget the taco seasoning. That’s what brings it all together!
Serve this pasta dish instead of regular tacos on your next taco night.
Why You’ll Love Beef Taco Pasta
- It’s a kid-friendly hearty meal the whole family will love (and devour)
- You’ll have dinner ready in under an hour—perfect for busy weeknights
- It makes a big batch of pasta which you can spread even further if you’re serving along with some sides
- Easy recipe to double and freeze for later
- Delicious pasta dish with leftovers that taste even better the next day
This cheesy beef taco pasta recipe is an easy weeknight dinner made with simple ingredients you probably have in your pantry and fridge right now. No fancy foods here!
- Cooking Oil: A little oil is needed since the recipe calls for lean ground beef. It also helps with sauteing the veggies.
- Lean Ground Beef: Use lean ground beef if possible to cut down on fat and calories. Ground turkey may be substituted.
- Bell Peppers: I used both green pepper and red pepper in this recipe for color and variety, but you can use two of the same color. Orange and yellow bell peppers work, too.
- Onion: A yellow or white onion works fine.
- Taco Seasoning Mix: Grab a packet of your favorite taco seasoning mix. If you’re using homemade taco seasoning, you’ll need about two tablespoons.
- Diced Tomatoes: You’ll need a large 28 oz can of diced tomatoes. Don’t drain them! The juice on the tomatoes will become part of the yummy sauce.
- Salsa: A good jarred salsa works great, but feel free to use homemade salsa if you want to make yours from scratch.
- Green Chilies: Use a can of mild green chilies if you only like a hint of spice, but feel free to use medium or hot if you love a good kick of heat.
- Macaroni: I used regular elbow macaroni, but whole grain or grain-free varieties are okay to use as well. Don’t have elbow macaroni? Substitute shells or cavatappi instead.
- Cheddar Cheese: You’ll need a cup of shredded cheddar cheese for this recipe. A Mexican blend of cheeses or pepper jack cheese also work well for this dish.
- Green Onions: Green onions are added for color and garnish, but you can omit them if you’d like.
How to Make Beef Taco Pasta
This easy meal comes together in no time. For complete instructions and ingredient measurements, please refer to the recipe card below.
- Step One: Heat cooking oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add in the ground beef, onions, red pepper, green pepper, and taco seasoning. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the ground beef is browned.
- Step Two: Stir in the undrained tomatoes, salsa, and green chilies, and bring the taco mixture to a boil. Then, cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Step Three: While the taco meat and sauce is simmering, cook the elbow macaroni in a large pot, according to the package directions. Drain the water and put it back into the pot.
- Step Four: Add the sauce mixture to the macaroni and stir to combine. Mix in the cheese. Top with green onions for garnish.
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What to Serve with Beef Taco Pasta
One fun option is to bring out some of your favorite taco toppings to add to this pasta. A dollop of sour cream, some diced tomatoes or pico de gallo, or extra shredded cheese are all great options. You could even sprinkle some crushed tortilla chips or Doritos on top for a bit of crunch if you’d like.
Fresh veggies and creamy salsa dip are a great way to start off this meal if you’re serving multiple courses.
Looking for sides to serve with this delicious taco pasta? Try a green side salad or this crunchy corn salad!
You can never go wrong with pairing garlic bread and pasta. Melt some fiesta cheese blend on top before serving.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Shred your own cheese. It’s best to shred cheese yourself because it tastes better, melts more easily, and doesn’t contain unwanted preservatives. However, you can use the pre-shredded stuff if that’s what you have on hand or if you just want to save some time.
- Omit the oil if you’re using ground beef with a higher fat content. You’ll need to drain the excess grease, too, before adding the sauce ingredients.
- If your kids are spice-averse, minimize the heat by using mild salsa, mild taco seasoning, and mild green chiles.
- Shred the cheese and set aside before you brown the ground beef. Room temperature cheese will melt more easily into the sauce.
Variations and Substitutions
- Switch up your add-ins for this cheesy taco pasta recipe. Jalapenos are great for a spicier pasta. You could also sprinkle in some red pepper flakes for additional heat. Black olives, black beans, or corn can be added for more flavor and to fill the dish out a little more.
- Substitute grain free pasta and gluten-free taco seasoning to make this easy pasta dish gluten-free.
- Use a different meat. If you’re all out of ground beef or just want to use something different, try ground turkey or ground chicken.
- Make it vegetarian. Ditch the meat altogether! Use a vegetarian ground beef crumble or black beans in place of the meat.
Best Way to Store Beef Taco Pasta
You can store beef taco pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3-5 days.
Can I Freeze Beef Taco Pasta?
Yes, you can freeze this taco pasta casserole in a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Leave off the garnish if you plan on freezing.
Alternatively, you can freeze only the meat sauce, and it will be good for 4-6 months in the freezer. When you’re ready to serve it, thaw it in the fridge, heat it up, and add it to freshly cooked pasta. Stir in the cheese, and you’ve got a super quick weeknight meal.
Beef Taco Pasta FAQs
Can I Use Grain-Free Pasta?
Yes, use your favorite brand of gluten-free pasta and make sure that your taco seasoning is gluten-free as well.
Can I Use a Different Shape of Pasta?
Sure! Any type of pasta that’s about the same size as elbow macaroni works fine. Penne, bowtie, rotini, cavatappi, and pasta shells are all great choices.
Can I Make This Vegan?
Yes, you can make vegan taco pasta. Swap out the meat with black beans or vegan “meat” crumbles. You’ll also need to sub the cheese for vegan cheese.
Taco Inspired Recipes
- Taco Pizza: Combine your two favorite foods—taco and pasta—in one amazing dish! Topped with taco meat, fresh tomatoes, loads of cheese, and spiced jalapenos, it’s a treat for your taste buds in every bite.
- Taco Chili: Hot and hearty, this is the perfect meal to warm you up on a cold day. Serve it with tortilla chips and lots of cheese! Don’t forget the sour cream!
- Taco Casserole: Nothing says comfort food like a filling casserole. Layers of taco deliciousness are baked until hot and bubbly.
- Taco Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Grilled cheese doesn’t have to be bland. This one is stuffed full of seasoned ground beef, lots of cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce, and any other taco toppings you’d like on your sammie.
- Taco Soup: Warm up with a steaming bowl of taco soup this fall or winter. Swirl in some sour cream, additional cheese, and top with avocado slices for a filling meal.
- Mexican Tater Tot Casserole: The kids will LOVE this one! Tater tots, seasoned taco meat, and queso are a dream come true when combined.
When the pasta craving hits but you want something different than the usual pasta and red sauce, this beef taco pasta skillet hits the spot every time.
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- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 cup salsa
- 1 (10 oz) can green chilies, undrained
- 4 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup green onions, chopped (for garnish) optional
- Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan. Add in ground beef, onions, red pepper, green pepper and taco seasoning. Cook for about 10 minutes or until ground beef is browned.
- Stir in tomatoes, salsa and green chilies and bring to a boil. Then cover and reduce heat to minimum and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- While your sauce is simmering, cook the elbow macaroni in a large pot according to package directions. Drain the water and put back into the pot.
- Add the sauce mixture to the macaroni and stir to combine. Mix in the cheese. Add green onions for garnish.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 443Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 605mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 32g