Taco Pasta Salad

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.

taco pasta salad in a white bowl

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.

taco pasta salad

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!

a bowl of taco pasta salad
  • Simple Ingredients – Combining taco flavour to a pasta salad, this recipe uses few simple ingredients right down to the homemade easy taco seasoning.
  • Quickly Made – This pasta salad is ready in 30 minutes including time to cool the pasta to al dente!
  • Versatile – For family dinner (side dish or main dish), to a crown pleasing addition to a potluck gathering. There’s plenty of room for additions and substitutions too.
  • Make Ahead to Leftovers – You can make this salad ahead of time without it wilting or going soggy. Refrigerate as is (and enjoy as is) for leftovers.

Ingredients for Taco Pasta Salad:

  • rotini pasta
  • olive oil,
  • lean ground beef
  • garlic powder
  • salsa
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • oregano
  • cherry tomatoes
  • red bell pepper
  • green onions
  • cheddar cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper
ingredients to make taco pasta salad

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.

how to make taco pasta salad

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.

taco pasta salad on a table

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!


Storage:

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. 

side view of taco pasta salad on a fork

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.

taco pasta salad on a spoon over a bowl full

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. 

taco pasta salad on a table

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.

taco pasta salad

More Recipes You’ll Love:

a bowl of taco pasta salad

Taco Pasta Salad

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes

This Easy Taco Pasta Salad recipe is loaded with Mexican-inspired flavours. 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta as directed on the packaging, only to el dente.
  2. 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. 
  3. Place the beef in a bowl and let it cool.
  4. While the meat is cooling, wash and chop the ingredients for the salad. 
  5. 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.
  6. Add the rest of the olive oil and salsa followed by the cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is combined.
  7. Serve cold.

    Notes

    • 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

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