Taco Pasta Salad

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This taco pasta salad features a classic taco flavor combined with pasta, taco beef, beans, tomatoes and more. It can be served as a picnic side or a main dish.

Years ago I shared a recipe for a Mexican layered salad. It had a simple 3 ingredient sauce that I loved and thought would be excellent as the sauce for a taco pasta salad. It took me entirely too long to develop this recipe (where does time go?!) but I promise this is worth the wait.

This easy pasta salad tastes great served warm or chilled and is a delicious side dish for a summer barbecue.

an overhead view of a big bowl of taco pasta salad

About this Taco Pasta Salad Recipe:

  • Flavor: Taco pasta salad has a familiar flavor of tacos served in a unique way. There’s taco seasoning in the ground beef, but also in the 3 ingredient sauce. The taco seasoning really adds a boost of Mexican flavors, so use one you love.
  • Texture: This pasta salad recipe is loaded with texture, but there’s not a lot of “crunch” which is what my family prefers. There is a small amount red onion and tomatoes that pair well with the cool, creamy sauce.

Ingredients

The base of this recipe is just 7 ingredients:

  • Cellentani pasta. Any pasta will work, but we love these fun spiral pasta noodles. Use a smaller pasta such as rotini, penne or farfalle if you’d like.
  • Ground beef. Use a lean ground beef for the best results. You can also use ground turkey or ground chicken.
  • Taco seasoning. I’m a fan of our homemade taco seasoning, but you can purchase your own favorite brand if you’d like. There are generally 3 tablespoons per packet, but I use 4 tablespoons in this recipe, so buy 2 packets. Our taco seasoning has a mix of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder and a handful of other pantry staples.
  • Black beans. Rinse and drain the beans before adding them.
  • Red onion.
  • Grape tomatoes. I buy these because they are easy to slice in half, but you can use any tomato you’d like.
  • Colby Jack cheese. Or cheddar cheese works as well.

Sauce Ingredients

The pasta salad sauce is just 3 ingredients: thousand island dressing, taco sauce and taco seasoning. It’s easy to mix together ahead of time if needed and perfectly creamy.

don’t like thousand island dressing?

Our frito salad has a mixture of French dressing and catalina dressing. You can use that dressing for this recipe as an alternative to the thousand island dressing.

Taco Pasta Salad Toppings

There are several topping ideas that will make this salad extra special. Snipped fresh cilantro, lettuce, sour cream and Fritos are a few we love. A squirt of fresh lime juice never hurts a Mexican side dish either!

How to Make Taco Pasta Salad

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
cooked pasta in a saucepan
  • In a medium skillet, brown and crumble the ground beef. Drain off any fat.
browned ground beef with taco seasoning in a frying pan
  • Add 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning to the cooked beef. Stir to mix well.
  • Allow the beef to cool.
  • To a large bowl, add the cooled, cooled pasta, cooked beef, beans, onions, tomato and cheese. Mix well.
cheese, tomatoes, ground beef, beans and onions in a bowl
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce. Pour over the pasta mixture and mix well.
taco salad sauce in a mixing cup
pasta salad in a bowl with a spoon
  • Cover and refrigerate until serving. Before serving, top with fresh lettuce, snipped cilantro, Fritos and sour cream if desired.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you eat taco salad hot or cold?

We serve this as a cold pasta salad, but if you prefer it warm, that’s fine too.

How long does taco salad last in the fridge?

This pasta salad is best when eaten within 3 days.

Can you use leftover taco meat in this recipe?

Yes! This is the perfect recipe for leftover taco meat. Use about 2 cups of cooked ground beef.

Can you make this gluten free?

If you use gluten free pasta, this can be made gluten free. Be sure to check the dressing and seasoning ingredients too, just to be sure.

What can I use instead of Fritos?

If you want to add a crunch to the salad but don’t have Fritos, try nacho cheese Doritos or corn tortilla chips instead.

What are some other ingredients I can add to this salad?

Try adding bell pepper, green onion, black olives and/or salsa.

a bowl of taco pasta salad with fresh cilantro on top
a bowl of taco pasta salad with fresh cilantro on top

Taco Pasta Salad

4.68 from 59 votes
This taco pasta salad features a classic taco flavor combined with pasta, taco beef, beans, tomatoes and more. It can be served as a picnic side or a main dish.
Servings 12
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients
 

For the salad:

  • 1 pound Cellentani pasta
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 15 ounces black beans rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup diced red onion
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces Colby Jack cheese cubed

For the sauce:

  • 2 cups thousand island dressing
  • 2 tablespoons taco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning

Optional toppings:

  • cilantro
  • lettuce
  • sour cream
  • fritos

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  • In a medium skillet, brown and crumble the ground beef. Drain off any fat.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning to the cooked beef. Stir to mix well.
  • Allow the beef to cool.
  • To a large bowl, add the cooled, cooled pasta, cooked beef, beans, onions, tomato and cheese. Mix well.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce. Pour over the pasta mixture and mix well.
  • Cover and refrigerate until serving.
  • Before serving, top with fresh lettuce, snipped cilantro, Fritos and sour cream if desired.
  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Notes

Refer to the article above for more tips and tricks.
The calories shown are based on the recipe serving 12, with 1 serving being 1/12 of the pasta salad. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the calories shown are just an estimate. **We are not dietitians and recommend you seek a nutritionist for exact nutritional information. The information in the nutrition box are calculated through a program and there is room for error. If you need an accurate count, I recommend running the ingredients through your favorite nutrition calculator.**

Nutrition

Calories: 330kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 43mg | Sodium: 737mg | Potassium: 469mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 868IU | Vitamin C: 7mg | Calcium: 164mg | Iron: 3mg
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Calories 330
Keyword easy pasta salad, easy summer dinner recipe, taco salad

Other Favorite Salad Recipes

Salads are some of our favorite recipes to make! Whether they are loaded with meat, potatoes, veggies or a combination of all three, you’re sure to find a new one to love.

About Julie Clark

I'm Julie Clark, CEO and recipe developer of Tastes of Lizzy T. With my B.A. in Education and over 30 years of cooking and baking, I want to teach YOU the best of our family recipes.

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