Whenever I’m suffering from that acute strain of tiredness that leads me to believe that anything short of giving up coffee is more attainable than marching myself into the kitchen and cooking dinner, I make tacos or pasta. Why it took me so long to arrive at Taco Pasta—a creamy, cheesy, and nutritious mashup that combines the best of the two—I can’t say for certain, but I’m happy to be making up for lost time, especially since this healthy pasta recipe cooks in ONE PAN.

Healthy Taco Pasta with Twirly Noodles, Cheese, and Chicken in a Skillet

What I can say: a future sleep-deprived (or time-crunched or just plain hangry) me is certainly glad I now have this Taco Pasta recipe page to reference.

A cheesy blend of twirly pasta noodles, ground chicken, fresh veggies, and other taco-centric ingredients like spices, salsa, and black beans, this entire dinner cooks in the same skillet, including the noodles.

  • Like pasta, it comes together quickly. Hustle and this recipe is ready in 30 minutes. It also reheats beautifully, meaning you can cook it tonight and enjoy the leftovers later in the week.
  • Like tacos, it’s enduringly appealing and tailor-made for dolling up with all of your favorite fixings, like avocados, cilantro, and sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt, our preferred healthy swap).
  • Like tacos AND pasta, it’s an easy meal that is met with 100% enthusiasm and 0% complaints.

Want to cook something easy, quick, and delicious that will earn the approval of every member of your household? This million dollar cheesy Taco Pasta is the recipe for you!

Closeup of cheesy Taco Pasta

Taco Pasta—A Healthy One Pan Recipe for the (5) Stars

If you didn’t previously believe that tacos and pasta were meant to be together, I’m going to implore you to leave your skepticism aside.

In making what must be one of the most lowbrow renditions of fusion food ever created, I landed on a five-star home-cooked meal.

A skillet of one-pan Taco Pasta

I would bet my last box of penne that this Taco Pasta won’t appear on an actual five-star menu anytime soon, but that doesn’t bother me a bit. It earned full marks from both the front and back of the house around here.

The front of the house diners (Ben and me) love this recipe. I’ve made it several times and appreciate how comforting, filling, and nutritious it is.

  • The noodles are al dente, and the protein-rich black beans and chicken (my choice for the recipe, though you can certainly make this a beef taco pasta if you like) will leave you full and happy.
  • The fresh vegetables and whole grains will leave you feeling good for treating yourself to a wholesome meal.
  • Last, the addition of Mexican spices, tomatoes, and salsa makes this Taco Pasta taste well-rounded and intentional, not like a dinner cooked in a moment of tired desperation (even though that’s what it’s here for if you need it to be).

The back of the house (meaning the cooks and dishwashers) approve of this recipe too. It’s light on prep and leaves little dishwashing in its wake.

A skillet of healthy Taco Pasta

Recipe Adaptations

We love the recipe as written, but if you’d like to change it up, here are a few tips.

  • Dairy Free Taco Pasta. Omit the cheese. To make sure the pasta is still creamy and satisfying without it, top the pasta with a generous serving of avocado or prepared guacamole.
  • Beef Taco Pasta. Swap the ground chicken (or ground turkey) for lean ground beef.
  • Vegetarian Taco Pasta. Omit the meat. Add one additional can of black beans, or try adding pinto beans for variety.
  • Taco Pasta Penna. I used twirly pasta (rotini) for the recipe, but any “short” pasta will work well. Shells or rigatoni would work well too. To make the recipe more healthy, I recommend whole wheat pasta, as it is higher in protein and nutrients than regular white pasta.
  • Extra Spicy Taco Pasta. Use a hot salsa. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne with the other spices.
  • More Mild Taco Pasta. As written, this recipe is not particularly spicy, but if you are nervous, be sure to use a mild salsa. You can also scale back on the cumin and chili powder.

What is your go-to meal on busy nights? Might it be this healthy Taco Pasta next time? If you try the recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Healthy Taco Pasta with Twirly Noodles, Cheese, and Chicken in a Skillet
4.92 from 12 votes
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Taco Pasta

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time:
10 mins
Cook Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
30 mins
Healthy Cheesy Taco Pasta. Easy recipe that cooks in ONE PAN. Made with chicken or ground beef and loaded with Mexican flavor, it's perfect for busy nights!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chicken or ground turkey
  • 1 yellow onion — diced
  • 1 green bell pepper — diced
  • 1 red bell pepper — diced
  • 2 cloves garlic — minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups water — plus more as needed
  • 1 cup prepared salsa — medium or mild
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta — such as rotini, fusilli, penne, or shells
  • 1 (15-ounce) can reduced-sodium black beans — rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese — divided (use pepper jack for a kick!)

For serving:

  • Sliced avocado
  • Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Jalapeño
  • Any taco topping you love

Instructions

  1. In large, deep skillet with a lid (or a dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot but not yet smoking, add the ground chicken, onion, and red and green bell peppers. Brown the meat, breaking it apart with a spoon, until it is fully cooked through and the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes.

  2. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the water, salsa, tomato sauce, pasta, and beans.

  3. Reduce the heat to medium low, then cover the pan. Let simmer gently, stirring occasionally, just until the pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed (more liquid will absorb as it cools), about 12 to 15 minutes. As you stir the pasta while it cooks, check to make sure it's not becoming dry. If it is, stir in water as needed to keep it moist and simmering.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in half of the cheese, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Serve hot with any of your favorite toppings.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cheesy, chicken, ground beef, healthy pasta recipes, taco pasta

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1 of 6) — Calories: 379, Fat: 10g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 65mg, Carbohydrates: 48g, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 7g, Protein: 23g

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