Taco Pasta

5 from 3 votes

Taco pasta combines two of my favorite dishes! Get the yummy Mexican flavors you love in a taco in a cheesy, creamy pasta dish.

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When I’m looking for an easy family dinner, this Taco Pasta is one I go to often! Made in one pot with elbow macaroni and ground beef in a cheesy, taco-seasoned tomato sauce, this Beef Taco Pasta recipe is a terrific weeknight dinner. It’s so simple to make, comfort food at its best, and a favorite in our house!

Dutch oven of taco pasta with a wooden spoon with fresh cilantro and shredded cheese nearby.
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My family and I love ground beef tacos, and we love pasta, so why not combine the two? This Taco Pasta might not be handheld like traditional tacos are, but with tomatoes, cheese, and taco seasoning, it brings all the taco flavors to the table. It’s almost like a beefy taco-flavored mac and cheese, and it is so good! 

This taco pasta recipe feeds four, but it’s easily doubled for a crowd (just make sure you use a large pot or Dutch oven!) Leftovers for lunch the next day are always a perk, too. 

We like to top ours up with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, jalapeno slices, and cilantro for freshness and flavor. This tasty taco pasta deserves the full taco treatment, after all!

Recipe at a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Gluten-Free Option
Key Flavor: Tacoy, beefy, and cheesy
Skill Level: Easy

Summary

  • One-pot prep: Beef taco pasta comes together in a single pan or pot for easy preparation and fewer dishes.
  • Family-friendly dinner: This cheesy taco pasta is a kid-friendly dish that the grown-ups love too!
  • Perfect for busy weeknights: It’s made in a single pot for easy clean-up, and is easy to prepare. Just add a simple veggie side such as garden salad and you’re good to go.

Ingredients to Make Taco Pasta

Ingredients for recipe: Ground beef, pasta, sharp cheddar cheese, olive oil, onion, garlic, taco seasoning, tomato paste, fire-roasted tomatoes, and chicken stock.
  • Olive oil: To sauté the veggies and cook the ground beef. Use your favorite olive oil.
  • Onion & garlic: Aromatic fresh onion and garlic add flavor to taco pasta. Use any kind of onion you like.
  • Ground beef: I suggest a lean ground beef such as 90/10 or up to 96% lean for this taco pasta recipe, because there is no opportunity to skim off the oil and juices put off by fattier ground beef blends.
  • Taco seasoning: If you don’t have taco seasoning, you can substitute with the following: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons paprika, 2 teaspoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 teaspoon oregano.
  • Tomato paste: Adds savory “umami” flavor.
  • Tomatoes: Canned fire-roasted diced tomatoes are what I suggest for this recipe, but if you can only find diced tomatoes that aren’t fire-roasted, that will work too. Whole canned tomatoes will also be fine; just break them up with your spoon when you add them to the taco pasta recipe.
  • Stock: I suggest using chicken stock or beef stock, but vegetable stock will work as well.
  • Pasta: Use whichever pasta shape you like! I’ve used elbow macaroni here, but any medium pasta will work.
  • Cheese: I love to use sharp cheddar in this taco pasta for a hint of cheesy flavor, but feel free to swap in mild or medium cheddar if you prefer.

Optional toppings:

  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt: For a creamy, tangy counterpoint. Choose unsweetened plain Greek yogurt. 
  • Jalapeños: Fresh or pickled sliced jalapenos add a spicy note and a fresh touch of green. 
  • Cilantro: A few bits of fresh minced cilantro adds Tex-Mex flavor and brightens up your taco pasta recipe.
  • Substitute the ground beef: Feel free to swap in ground chicken or ground turkey in this taco pasta. Both work well!
  • Add beans: To bulk up this taco pasta recipe, add a drained and rinsed can of kidney beans, black beans, or pinto beans. They’ll taste great and add a bonus boost of protein and fiber, too!
  • Use a different pasta: I love elbow macaroni in my taco pasta, but you can choose a different shape, such as bowties, penne, or rotini. Feel free to use whole grain pasta or to substitute gluten-free pasta for a GF beef taco pasta.
  • Add spinach: For a boost of leafy greens, toss in a handful or two of baby spinach along with the cheese. It will wilt into the taco pasta and add a few extra nutrients.

How to Make Taco Pasta

  1. Add olive oil to a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot, add the onion. Cook until tender and fragrant, stirring often.
  2. Add the ground beef, garlic, and taco seasoning. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, coating the meat and onions.
  4. Add the diced tomatoes and stock. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender and the liquid has cooked off.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until melted.
6-image collage making recipe: 1 - Onions after cooking in a Dutch oven; 2 - Ground beef, garlic, and seasoning added before combining; 3 - After the meat is cooked through and broken into pieces with tomato paste added on top; 4 - Tomatoes and stock added before combining; 5 - Pasta added before combining; 6 - Pasta after cooking with cheese added and partially mixed in.

Tips for Making the Best Beef Taco Pasta

  1. Don’t over-stir your ground beef. Don’t stir it too often; instead, allow it to develop deep brown bits for the most flavor. You’ll also want to cook it JUST until no longer pink. Read these tips for browning ground beef for more great ideas.
  2. Don’t go light on the seasoning. You might think that the 3 tablespoons of taco seasoning is an error, but that’s the correct amount! This is how much you’ll need to properly season one pound of pasta and one pound of beef.
  3. Cheese matters: Using a sharp cheddar cheese adds a bold flavor that complements the taco seasoning. For an extra creamy texture, consider a mix of cheddar and Monterey Jack.
  4. Let it rest: Giving the taco pasta a few minutes to rest off the heat before serving can help the flavors meld together and the sauce to reach the perfect consistency.
Bowl of taco pasta topped with a dollop of sour cream, jalapeños, and fresh cilantro with another bowl nearby.

What to Serve With This Taco Pasta Recipe

How to Store & Reheat Taco Pasta

Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of water until heated through.

How Long Will Taco Pasta Last in the Fridge?

This taco pasta recipe will last for up to 4 days in the fridge.

Can I Freeze Beef Taco Pasta?

Yes, you can freeze taco pasta, but the pasta might become somewhat soft and mushy, so keep in mind that the texture won’t be quite the same as it was before you froze it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to know when pasta is “al dente?”

The term “al dente” means “to the tooth.” When the cooked pasta is tender but has a tiny bit of the firm texture left in the middle, it’s cooked al dente. Recipes often call for pasta to be cooked al dente because when the dish is being finished, the pasta cooks the rest of the way. This helps prevent overcooked, mushy pasta that falls apart.

The sauce seems too thin. How can I thicken it?

If your sauce is too thin after the pasta has cooked, let it simmer for a few additional minutes uncovered, stirring frequently. The sauce will reduce and thicken upon standing.

Can I make this taco pasta dairy-free?

Yes, this can easily be a dairy-free taco pasta recipe. Just leave the cheese out or swap in a vegan shredded cheese. Top with dairy-free sour cream.

Is it possible to make this dish vegetarian?

For a vegetarian version, skip the meat and add more vegetables like bell peppers, corn, or black beans. You might also want to increase the spices a bit to compensate for the flavor the meat typically adds.

2 bowls of taco pasta with sour cream, jalapeños, and fresh cilantro on top.

Taco flavors, hearty ground beef, pasta, tangy cheddar … what’s not to love in this easy taco pasta? With its comfort food status, delicious flavors, and simple prep, this one has become a fast family favorite in our house, and I hope it’s destined for your keeper files, too!

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Taco Pasta

Taco pasta combines two of my favorite dishes! Get the yummy Mexican flavors you love in a taco in a cheesy, creamy pasta dish.
5 from 3 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree, Pastas
Calories 904
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
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Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5-ounce can) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef or chicken stock
  • 1 pound pasta of choice
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese grated

Optional toppings:

  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • Sliced jalapeños
  • Fresh cilantro

Instructions

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, add olive oil and set over medium heat. Once shimmering, add onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until it starts to soften.
  • Add ground beef, garlic, and taco seasoning and cook, stirring often, until the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and stir to coat all of the meat and vegetables. Add diced tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Add pasta and reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 to 18 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked al dente and almost all of the liquid has cooked off.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the cheese, mixing until melted. Serve with toppings of choice.

Notes

Storage: Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Taco pasta will keep for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop with a splash of water until heated through.
Notes:
Nutrition facts are for the taco pasta only and do not include optional toppings.
If you don’t have taco seasoning, you can use the following as a substitute:

Nutrition

Serving: 8ounces, Calories: 904kcal, Carbohydrates: 99g, Protein: 51g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 14g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 794mg, Potassium: 977mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 529IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 255mg, Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine Mexican, Tex Mex
Course: Entree, Pastas

5 from 3 votes

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Comments

  1. Saman Ataabadi says:

    So yummy and creamy!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, so happy it turned out great for you!!

  2. Andrea says:

    Fabulous and so comforting. Made it on Sunday and everybody loved it. Can’t wait to receive the new book in the mail!

    1. Yumna says:

      Thanks so much!

  3. Evia says:

    Forgot to stir the pasta while cooking but still a very easy and forgiving recipe! Came out a bit spicy but I did use Kashmiri chili powder for the homemade taco seasoning, might be that…

    1. Yumna says:

      Glad to hear it worked out well for you!