Tacos and pasta are my go-to quick and easy dinners. Why it took me so long to arrive at easy 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.
If you didn’t previously believe that tacos and pasta were meant to be together (like tacos and salad in Taco Salad), I’m going to implore you to leave your skepticism aside.
A cheesy blend of whole grain 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 fast. 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 Mexican pasta is the recipe for you!
5 Star Review
“We made this tonight and it was a huge hit! Seriously one of the best meals we’ve ever made, and it was so easy!!”— Kayla —
How to Make Taco Pasta
Despite being a quick and healthy taco pasta, this recipe is anything but boring.
- The protein-rich black beans and chicken will leave you full and happy.
- The fresh vegetables and whole grains will leave you feeling good for treating yourself to a wholesome meal.
- The addition of Mexican spices, tomatoes, and salsa makes this 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).
- Ground Chicken. Ground chicken is a tasty, lean way to pack this dish full of protein. It helps make the pasta more hearty and satisfying.
- Veggies. I incorporated onion and bell peppers to boost the pasta’s nutrition and add flavor.
- Spices. A mix of chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, salt, and pepper give this pasta its taco-like flare.
- Salsa. Use any prepared salsa you enjoy. As written, this recipe is not particularly spicy, but if you are nervous, be sure to make taco pasta with salsa that’s mild.
- Tomato Sauce. Acts as a liquid to help the pasta cook and becomes part of the sauce.
- Pasta. I used twirly pasta (rotini) for the recipe, but any “short” pasta will work well. Try this as a taco pasta penne, shells, or rigatoni. To make the recipe more healthy, I recommend whole wheat pasta, as it is higher in protein and nutrients than regular white pasta.
- Black Beans. Creamy black beans help make the pasta more satisfying and delicious.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese. Forget taco pasta with Velveeta! Real-deal sharp cheddar cheese ensures we have a cheesy, creamy taco pasta that’s less processed.
Taco Pasta Toppings
This Mexican pasta is delicious as it is, but we like to doctor ours up with a variety of tasty toppings.
- Sliced avocado
- Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- Fresh cilantro
- Jalapeño slices
- Extra salsa
- Queso (try my Vegan Queso for a healthy version)
- Brown the chicken with the onion and bell peppers.
- Stir in the garlic and spices. Add the water, salsa, tomato sauce, pasta, and beans. Cover the pan and let simmer.
- Remove from the heat, then stir in half of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm pasta in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, chop the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Refrigerate each ingredient in a separate airtight storage container until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Perfect for making this easy taco pasta recipe.
- Measuring Spoons. These measuring spoons are magnetic, so they’ll stay together during storage.
- Wooden Spoon. A versatile cooking utensil. It’s great for breaking up ground meat.
What is your go-to meal on busy nights? Might it be this healthy Mexican pasta next time (or maybe this Chipotle Bowl)?
If you try the recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can make this pasta recipe dairy free. 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.
If you’d like to turn up the heat, use a hot salsa. Also, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne with the other spices.
If you’d like to bulk up this recipe’s vegetable content, feel free to add more onion, bell peppers, corn (Grilled Corn would be delish!), zucchini, or any others you enjoy.
- 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!)
- Sliced avocado
- Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Any taco topping you love
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover pasta in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm pasta in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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