How to Make the Best Cheesy Taco Pasta

Put a flavorful spin on Taco Tuesday with this cheesy taco pasta. It's made in one pot and ready in under 30 minutes!

Reminiscent of the Hamburger Helper-inspired meals we all grew up with, this simple cheesy taco pasta uses cumin and chili powder for south-of-the-border flavor. You can top the finished dish with whatever’s on hand—black olives, avocado, shredded cheese and more.

The best part? This dish cooks up in a single pot for easy cleanup. You don’t even have to drain the pasta. It’s a true 30-minute meal, and can be adapted to suit the taste preferences of picky eaters.

Our Cheesy Taco Pasta Recipe

ingredients for cheesy taco pasta on a kitchen counterLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

This pasta dish yields 4 to 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound short-cut pasta (such as rotini, radiatori or cavatappi)
  • 2-3 cups low-sodium beef stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup salsa (store-bought salsa or homemade salsa)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or pepper jack cheese
  • Taco toppings of your choice, for serving

Editor’s Tip: You can make this recipe even easier by replacing the spices listed (including the salt) with 2-3 tablespoons of store-bought taco seasoning.

Directions

Step 1: Cook beef and onions

raw beef and onions in a pan before cookingLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

In a large pot set over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, onion and ground beef. Cook until brown all over, breaking up the meat as you go, about 10 minutes.

Step 2: Add spices

adding apices to browned beef and sautéed onions in a panLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Toss in the salt, pepper and spices, and cook for another minute.

Step 3: Add pasta and liquids

adding cooked pasta to the pan with browned beef and other ingredientsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Stir in the uncooked pasta, beef stock, milk and salsa. Bring to a gentle boil, and cook until the pasta is al dente, usually 6-10 minutes, depending on the shape. Stir often, adding up to 1 additional cup of beef stock if the mixture starts to appear dry.

Step 4: Make it cheesy

adding cheese to the taco pasta in a panLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Gently fold in the cheese and cook another few minutes until melted and creamy.

Step 5: Serve with toppings

Divide the pasta among bowls and serve with taco toppings of your choice.

Tips for Making Cheesy Taco Pasta

Cheesy Taco Pasta on a plate, top viewLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Make this recipe in a Crock-Pot

Transform this stovetop one-pot wonder into an easy slow cooker recipe. To adapt for a slow cooker, add the beef, onions, spices and 1/2 cup of salsa to a slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.

Next, add the pasta (make sure to use dry pasta vs. fresh), broth and milk. Cook on high for 15-30 minutes until the pasta is al dente. We suggest checking the pasta for doneness after 15 minutes and increasing the cooking time from there as needed.

When the pasta is tender, stir in the cheese until melted, and then serve in bowls with desired toppings.

Pile on unexpected toppings

While this pasta is delicious with classic taco fixin’s like diced tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and minced onion, it also lends itself well to creative combinations like pickled red onions, queso fresco, fresh corn off the cob or sliced roasted poblano peppers. The possibilities are endless!

Use ground turkey or chicken

If you don’t enjoy ground beef, swap in lean ground turkey or chicken. If you have leftovers of this copycat Chipotle chicken on hand, omit the ground beef from Step 1 and, instead, stir the chicken into the pasta with the cheese in Step 3.

For a vegetarian cheesy taco pasta, use vegetable broth instead of beef broth and omit the ground beef. Add a can of rinsed and drained black beans and one grated medium zucchini to the onions in Step 1.

Store in an airtight container

Cheesy taco pasta may be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. To reheat the pasta, warm it on the stovetop with a splash of milk or beef stock over medium-low heat until steaming. You may also warm it in the microwave.

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Lauren Habermehl
Lauren Habermehl is a recipe developer, food photographer and creator of the blog, Frydae. She is a prolific quoter of FRIENDS, lover of weekend DIY projects and procrastinating fitness enthusiast who enjoys exploring the Milwaukee-area with her husband, daughter and ugly mutt named Tyson Doodles.