Taco Pasta

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Look at this cheesy Taco Pasta with taco-seasoned ground beef, taco sauce, pasta, corn, and of course, lots of cheese. This meal comes together in one pan – even the pasta gets cooked in the same pot.

Pair Taco Pasta with a big salad like this Italian salad, this Caprese salad, or this panzanella salad.

Up close photo of finished cheesy taco pasta. Spoon is scooping up some of the pasta.

A couple days ago I shared my obsession with oatmeal cookies, and today I’m sharing an equal obsession with one pan/one pot meals. When a dinner comes together super quick and dirties minimal dishes, it’s a beautiful thing :).

Cheesy, delicious Taco Pasta is inspired by Hamburger Helper (a staple from my childhood), but made with real food. As a result, you’ll find no fake ingredients in this meal and trust me, there’s a huge difference in taste — for the better of course!

Process shots-- images of the meat being prepped for this dish

How to make Taco Pasta

Below is a quick overview of the steps for making this easy pasta dish. The numbers on the photo collages (above and below this text) correlate with the steps listed below. 

  1. Brown the ground beef.
  2. SautΓ© the onion and garlic.
  3. Taco seasoning: either homemade or store-bought will work with this recipe
  4. SautΓ© the spices to intensify the flavors.
  5. Add in the salsa and corn and water.
  6. Next add the UNCOOKED pasta and taco sauce.
  7. Here’s a great place to add back in that ground beef πŸ™‚ Stir everything together and simmer.
  8. After it’s simmered, add in some more water and continue to simmer it until pasta is al dente.
  9. Stir in the cheese (add as much as you’d like!) and stir until nice and melted.
  10. And that’s it — perfectly cheesy, zesty Taco Pasta. All that’s left is adding the toppings.

Our favorite Taco Pasta toppings

While Taco Pasta is delicious as is, it’s even tastier with some toppings. Whatever you like on regular tacos will probably go great with this dish. Below are our favorites:

  • freshly squeezed lime juice
  • fresh cherry tomatoes
  • ripe, thinly sliced avocado (or guacamole)
  • fresh diced cilantro or green onions
  • sour cream (low fat or fat free is great)

Process shots--images of the taco pasta recipe being made. Tomatos, corn, pasta, and cheese being added

Quick notes

  • Be mindful when substituting different kinds of pasta. Elbow macaroni cooks quickly so it works well in this taco pasta. However, if you use larger noodles, it may take a bit longer and may require more water/liquid to cook through.
  • Make sure to use a LARGE nonstick skillet. There are a lot of ingredients in this amazing dish and therefore it won’t cook properly in a small pan. Also, the pasta may stick and burn to the bottom if you don’t use a nonstick skillet.
  • Add additional water if needed: Every stove top is different and so the skillet you’re using is likely different than mine. Because of this, check the pasta at the times I’ve indicated, and don’t be afraid to add a little extra water or give the pasta a little extra time to cook through. Just taste a few noodles to see if  they need a little more time (and if the water has evaporated, add in a bit more).
  • Taste and adjust seasoning: Depending on the taco seasoning you use, you may need to add additional salt or pepper at the end, so just give the dish a taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Homemade taco seasoning

Here’s my favorite homemade taco seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon roasted garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

Simply whisk these seasonings together in a small bowl and use in place of the taco seasoning packet in this Taco Pasta.

Finished taco pasta with garnishes and spoon scooping up some

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One Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta

4.97 from 28 votes
A cheesy taco pasta dish with taco seasoned ground beef, taco sauce, pasta, corn, and lots of cheese! This meal comes together all in one pot - even the pasta gets cooked in the same pan.
Print Recipe

One Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta

4.97 from 28 votes
A cheesy taco pasta dish with taco seasoned ground beef, taco sauce, pasta, corn, and lots of cheese! This meal comes together all in one pot - even the pasta gets cooked in the same pan.
Course Dinner
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword taco pasta
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 344kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 packet taco seasoning Note 1
  • 2 cups water, separated
  • 1 cup mild salsa Note 2
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup mild taco sauce
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups Mexican shredded cheese or sharp cheddar cheese
  • Optional toppings: green onions or cilantro, sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced avocado

Instructions

  • BEEF: Brown the ground beef in a large nonstick skillet. Transfer the beef to a plate and drain the fat. Add in the onion and garlic in the skillet. Stir until fragrant - about 30 seconds to a minute on medium-high heat. Add in the taco seasoning and stir for 30 more seconds.
  • OTHER INGREDIENTS: Add in one cup of water, salsa, and corn. Stir well and add in the uncooked pasta, taco sauce, and reserved cooked beef.
  • BOIL & SIMMER: Bring mixture to a boil and then lower to low-medium heat and cover the skillet with a lid. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes and then add in the last cup of water and stir everything together again. Return lid and let simmer until pasta is tender, about another 5-7 minutes.
  • ADD TOPPINGS: Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Stir into the pasta until melted. Top taco pasta with optional toppings of choice. We love avocado, sour cream, cherry tomatoes, and fresh cilantro or green onions. Serve immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: if you'd rather use a homemade taco seasoning mix, stir together the below seasonings and use in place of the packet:
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika and 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoonΒ roasted garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
Note 2: If you don’t use a non-stick skillet, you’ll need to stir the pasta ever 3-4 minutes to keep from sticking. During the simmering stage, keep an eye on the liquid level and add up to ΒΌ cup water if the water has evaporated before the pasta is tender.
Note 3: This dish can end up fairly spicy depending on the salsa and taco sauce used. If you're worried about heat, be sure to taste both before adding into this recipe.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 344kcal | Carbohydrates: 34.3g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 10.8g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 542mg | Fiber: 2.6g | Sugar: 3.9g

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

I love hearing from you when you've made one of my recipes! Tag me on Instagram at @ChelseasMessyApron or leave me a comment below.

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107 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, this looks so cheesy and gooey and yummy! I love that it’s one pot, too! Mmm. Pinning and making ASAP. Also. It’s still the 28th here in Seattle but your post says March 1st. So you’re posting from the future. Wow. πŸ˜‰ Have a great weekend!

    1. Thank you Erin! And thanks for the pin πŸ™‚ Okay that’s so cool haha it must be from time differences or something? But I’ll take the ability to post from the future since that sounds cooler πŸ™‚ Thanks lady! You have a great weekend too and good luck with you running and shin splints!

  2. Sounds like a winner – tasty, easy clean-up, and uses things we normally have on hand? Thanks for figuring out dinner at chez CakePants later this week!

  3. This looks incredible Chelsea – love all these one skillet/pot meals – less mess is always a good thing πŸ™‚ This cheesy taco pasta sounds like the perfect weeknight meal that my family would love!

  4. Looks scrumptious! I made something very similar for my family and some friends and it was a real hit! Thanks for sharing on Recipe Sharing Mondays! HUGS

  5. 5 stars
    I rely a lot on peoples comments on recipes. To many times I thought it looked awesome only to be really disappointed. So many people said this recipe looked good and they couldn’t wait to try it but no positive on actually eating it. I am so glad I made this, it is AWESOME( quote from my 8 yr picky eater). Rave reviews from this family of 4. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe Chelsea, definitely a keeper:)

    1. Heather, thank you so much for your sweet comment and for trying out the recipe! This made my day! I hope you and your family are having a wonderful weekend πŸ™‚

  6. 5 stars
    I LOVE this recipe! I added about a half of a can of black beans, just to up the fiber content and my family LOVED it! And we have a ton of leftovers. YUM YUM YUM!

  7. 5 stars
    I saw this last night for the first time on FoodGawker…instantly went home 20 mins later and made this, considering I had all the ingredients already at home…my oh my was this fantastic!!

    Served it to my brother, his gf, my bf and me, and it did not last! haha!

    I did substitute meat for Saitan meat considering im vegetarian, but wow, was it good! Not too hot, but just enough spice.

    Will def make again!!

  8. 5 stars
    This is absolutely delish. I made it tonite for the first time. It is a make again for sure! Thanks for sharing and great job creating it!!!

  9. 5 stars
    Made this tonight, and it was a huge hit with the entire family! Everyone asked for seconds! πŸ™‚
    Sure to become a staple dinner in our house.
    Thank you!

    1. Oh yay! That is so great to hear πŸ™‚ Thank you so much for taking the time to come and comment! Have a wonderful week Kaley!

  10. 5 stars
    I made this for myself for dinner tonight.
    1. It was delicious!
    2. I have enough left over to feed myself for the next few days!
    This is a great recipe. Thanks.

  11. Looks delicious! Cant wait to try but can i ask what kind of salsa you used? Sorry, not ready to go pro making my own salsa lol, Thanks!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I just used a store-bought salsa πŸ™‚ You can choose your own heat preference – I use medium when I make this dish!

  12. 5 stars
    I just made this for dinner, found it on pinterest .. The best thing I have ate in such a long time! I was looking and tons of other foods on here as well, I am so excited to starting cooking these recipes thank you so much!!

    1. This comment made my day!! Thanks so much for taking the time – I’m so glad you really enjoyed it πŸ™‚

    1. Hi Beth! I find taco sauce in the Mexican food section of the grocery store – near enchilada sauces, refried beans, hard-shell taco shells, canned green chiles, etc. The best way I know how to describe it is a sauce kind of like enchilada sauce – you get it in the small packets at places like Taco Bell. Here’s a link to a picture of taco sauce: http://www.ortega.com/products/ortega-taco-sauce-mild-8-oz_15360 Hope that helps!

  13. Is there something else you can sub the taco sauce for or even just leave it out? I hate taco sauce, ever since I was a kid and got some on my sleeve and had to smell it all day and just made me sick.

    1. I haven’t tried this recipe substituting the taco sauce for anything else, so I can’t say for sure, but perhaps some salsa would work in its place? Sorry to not be of more help!

  14. 5 stars
    Sometimes there is no better feeling than making something new for dinner and your kid actually likes it!!! It was so easy and yummy, thank you!!

  15. 5 stars
    Was looking for something easy to make for dinner tonight that wasn’t just the usual tacos. This was a hit!! Easy recipe and tastes delicious! πŸ™‚ I didn’t have taco sauce so I just added more salsa and it seems to have worked well! πŸ™‚
    Thanks so much for sharing, Chelsea!

    1. Awesome!!! So happy to hear it πŸ™‚ And yes, salsa sounds like a great substitute! Thank you so much for the comment and review Jenni! πŸ™‚

  16. 5 stars
    Hi Chelsea and everyone. I was so busy today that I didn’t give a thought to supper…when it dawned on me I kinda panicked but this recipe saved the day. I had to make some tweaks out of necessity but it still was so wonderful. I didn’t have taco sauce so I subbed in chili sauce, only had a half packet of taco seasoning, half the corn…added siracha. Oh boy this is going to go into the winter comfort food rotation. Very delicious…thank you for sharing this.

    1. YAY!! So happy to hear it makes the dinner rotations πŸ™‚ I’m so glad you were able to make it work with what you had and get dinner ready even with a super busy day — that’s awesome!

  17. 4 stars
    I made this last night on a whim, we were not disappointed! Yummm! Will make this again. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  18. 5 stars
    I was looking for something quick and different for dinner tonight, and this recipe did not disappoint! I added some diced red bell pepper to up the veggie factor, but that was the only change. The family loved it!

    1. Thanks so much for trying them out and leaving a comment, I appreciate it! πŸ™‚ So glad you enjoyed this! πŸ™‚

  19. Made this for dinner tonight and loved it!! Really easy to make and super delicious!!! Only note- it takes longer than 15 minutes… I’d say a little over 1/2 an hour start to finish. E

  20. 5 stars
    Holy yummy! Used ground turkey because it’s what I had in the fridge. I’m not a huge fan of taco sauce so that scared me a bit but it was awesome. Totally. Will be making Again. and again! My toddler ate two helpings!! This is better than spaghetti. Used rotini noodles. May add black beans next time. Love!!

    1. Yay! That is so great to hear this dish was so well enjoyed in your home! Thank you so much for the comment Lisa!

  21. Made this tonight. My 7 year old and 2 year old who are picky eaters downed it all! Loved it too with a beer on the side πŸ˜‰ Thanks you so much for this quick, easy, yummy recipe, and especially the easy clean up!!

  22. 5 stars
    I found this recipe on Pinterest, and usually I don’t have luck with Pinterest recipes, but this came out pretty damn good. Boyfriend loved it and he’s a picky eater, we both had seconds. I followed the recipe exactly as written and have enough left-overs for another meal for the two of us. Can this be frozen for another day?

    1. I’m so happy you enjoyed this dish! I’ve never tried freezing it, so I can’t say for sure, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Wish I could be of more help!

  23. 5 stars
    Oh. My. Gosh!!! This was the first meal in a very long time I went back for seconds! Thank you for a delicious, quick dinner! Side note: vegetarian Boca meat and water instead of taco sauce is still unbelievably delicious. ?

  24. 5 stars
    Been making this for about a year. I have this page bookmarked on my phone for every time I make it. My fiancΓ© loves it. We call it taco mac. Thanks for the recipe πŸ™‚

  25. 5 stars
    I make this all the time. Found it last year and it’s been a favourite in our house. Tonight I’m trying it with chicken as I had some leftover. Can’t wait for dinner.

  26. 5 stars
    I have made this several times, this last time with venison. It is absolutely delicious and the fewer pots I have to dirty the better! Thank you!!!

  27. 5 stars
    Hey! I would love to thank you for this wonderful recipe. Thank you so much , I will try it with my daughter. My daughter loves you and we always follow you thanks

  28. 5 stars
    I’ve made this over and over and over again! It’s my go to easy meal for when I just do not feel like cooking or doing dishes. Freezes well to reheat for lunches later on and I always 1.5x the recipe so I have lots of it – and because normally when I freeze my ground beef I freeze more than a pound together, so I don’t have to figure out what to do with the ground beef. I do find I have to add a little more water to the pan to cook the noodles but otherwise the recipe is perfect. One of the best skillets!

    1. Ahhh I am seriously sooo happy to hear this!! Thanks for the tips on freezing and recommendations! And thanks for your kind comment! πŸ™‚

  29. At first glance, I did think it was hamburger helper. But then I thought, no it looks too good to be that! I love one pan meals, they are a close second to slow cooker recipes.

  30. 5 stars
    This was super easy to make and my whole family loved it! It’s full of flavor and very satisfying. So many online recipes are either too complicated or too bland. This is definitely going to be a weeknight meal staple in my house. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes!

    1. Yay! So thrilled to hear that! Thanks so much for leaving a comment and review πŸ™‚ Hope you love whatever you try next!

  31. I’m sure this is super tasty, but please please please don’t call it taco, this has nothing to do with tacos. The whole taco idea is around a tortilla with food inside

  32. 5 stars
    This was pretty tasty and very filling. Your photos are gorgeous. I’ve pinned many to my fav folder. Made the honey mustard chicken salad last night, and that too was great, even though I had no bacon or softened avocado. I don’t think it was needed . It was good as is.

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