This Easy Taco Pasta Salad recipe is loaded with Mexican-inspired flavors. Quick to make, it’s perfect for the next potluck or BBQ. It also makes an excellent side dish or standalone meal for a family dinner.
Everyone loves tacos, which is why this cold pasta salad is a sure hit for your next gathering. Hearty and filling, it’s loaded with meaty and cheesy goodness and tender pasta.
This delicious pasta salad is a great idea for a main dish and complete meal, for a family dinner. As well, it’s perfect for feeding large crowds like a backyard gathering.
This easy pasta salad is sure to become one of your favourite recipes ever.
While I love our Doritos Taco Salad Recipe, this is a taco pasta salad without lettuce that isn’t time sensitive on serving.
This easy salad recipe won’t wilt and become soggy, making it ideal to enjoy for leftovers. In fact, it’s even better the next day when the seasonings have fully set in.
This recipe has a homemade taco seasoning made with simple ingredients. You’ll be asked to make this over and over again, as it’s a summer pasta salad with all the flavour.
No one can resist, since it’s like your favorite pasta salad combined with the beloved taco. Plus it’s ready in 30 minutes!
Ingredients for Taco Pasta Salad:
- rotini pasta
- olive oil,
- lean ground beef
- garlic powder
- chili powder
- cherry tomatoes
- red bell pepper
- green onions
- cheddar cheese
- fresh cilantro
- salt and pepper
How to Make Taco Pasta Salad
The first step is to cook the pasta as per the package directions. Yet only cook until al dente, or you’ll have soggy pasta. Plus, it’s a key to the best pasta salad leftovers.
Using a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add some olive oil. Once hot, add the ground beef, garlic powder, some of the salsa.
Cook until the meat is completely cooked. This takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Then place the beef in a bowl and allow it to cool.
While the meat is cooling, wash and chop the ingredients for the salad if you haven’t already done so.
Do I Rinse the Pasta with Cold Water Before Using it in the Salad?
- Yes! When you are making a cold pasta salad, rinse the pasta with cool water for best results. This will stop the cooking process, and speed up the cooling. It also removes the excess starch, which could risk sticking the pasta to the other ingredients of the salad.
Add the cooked, rinsed and drained pasta to a large bowl. Then add the cooked and cooled beef, grape tomatoes, bell pepper, green onion, cheese, and green onion. Mix to combine everything.
Add the rest of the olive oil and salsa. Then add the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is combined once again.
How to Serve:
Once the salad is made, serve cold end enjoy! It can be served right away or made ahead and served later. Just make sure to refrigerate in between.
You can make this a main meal, a side dish, or as an addition to a potluck. Make a meal of it, and serve with our Air Fryer Churro Bites!
Since this cold salad recipe doesn’t have perishable ingredients like lettuce and chips, it really is the best salad to store. As long as it’s in an airtight container, this taco salad can be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. Yet do not freeze.
Substitutions and Additions:
Pasta: You don’t have to use rotini pasta for this recipe. I like spiral pasta because it ‘grabs’ the flavours well in its grooves. If you’d like to use another, any short pasta will do. I would suggest penne, farfalle, bowtie pasta or macaroni.
Meat or Meatless: You can also use ground chicken or ground turkey as taco meat for this recipe. Or, you could make vegetarian taco salad and not have meat at all.
Try using beyond meat (1 can or 15 oz lentil ben or red bean). It will still have that robust taco flavors thanks to the other ingredients.
Cheese: Cheddar is just a classic option for the cheese, and most people have it on hand wihtout a trip to the grocery store.
You could use a Tex-Mex blend or Monterey Jack cheese. You can even kick it up a notch with a jalapeno Monterey jack for a little added spice.
Toppings: Customize this recipe with some optional side items as a great addition. Choices are whatever your favorite taco toppings usually are.
My suggestions: Yellow bell peppers, green pepper, black beans, hot peppers, black olives, sour cream, fresh lime juice from lime slices, or guacamole would work well.
You could offer crunchy Doritos, plain tortilla chips, corn chips or tortilla strips as a side to be enjoyed immediately.
I know some aren’t fans of cilantro, so this is optional as well. And you can also use red onions in place of the green onions.
For another summer pasta salad recipe that is always a crowd pleaser, try this BLT Pasta Salad recipe. Of all our pasta salad recipes and summer favorites, this delicious dish is one I make as often as one with mexican flavors.
More Recipes You’ll Love:
- Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup
- Taco Chili (Slow Cooker or Stovetop)
- Taco Lettuce Wraps
- Bell Pepper Stuffed Tacos
- Mexican Macaroni Salad
- Grape Salad
- 6 cups cooked rotini pasta
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup salsa, divided
- 1 /2 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 3 green onions, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the pasta as directed on the packaging, only to el dente.
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp of the olive oil; once hot, add the ground beef, garlic powder, and 3 tablespoons of salsa cook until the meat is completely cooked ( about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Place the beef in a bowl and let it cool.
- While the meat is cooling, wash and chop the ingredients for the salad.
- Add the cooked, rinsed and drained pasta to a large salad bowl. Then add the cooked and cooled beef, tomatoes, bell pepper, green onion, cheese, and green onion. Mix to combine everything.
- Add the rest of the olive oil and salsa followed by the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is combined.
- Serve cold.
- If the beef is not cooled before adding it to the salad, the cheese will melt when it is added.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 397Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 379mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 22g
Created by Tammi Roy
Tammi Roy is the founder of My Organized Chaos, a Canadian food and lifestyle blog. She lives in Alberta, Canada and is the mom of three beautiful teenage girls. Tammi’s passions are her family, creating and sharing delicious recipes, travelling and photography. Learn more about Tammi.