A pasta salad loaded with all your favorite taco ingredients?? Sign me up!
I love pasta salad. And I also love taco salad. Sooo why not combine the two to make the best taco pasta salad, right?! Ever since I was a little kid taco salads have always been my favorite. Espeically my mom’s taco salad. Ohhh myyyy gawd – to this day it’s still the best one I’ve ever had! Which I’m pretty sure has something to do with the amount of cheese and chips she’d always put in it soo…. Mom if you’re reading this, THANK YOU for never depriving me of all the goods!😉 Oh and for teaching me your tasty taco salad dressing because that’s exactly what I used for this pasta salad! It’s a quick & easy meal that’s full of all your favorite taco ingredients and perfect for a weeknight dinner too!
Ingredients for taco pasta salad
- Rotini pasta: Feel free to use your favorite short-medium pasta for this recipe. (Bowtie or even elbow pasta are both great options!)
- Ground beef: I’d suggest using a leaner ground beef for this recipe if possible. (90/10 is my favorite but 80/20 would work too!)
- Tomatoes: Grape or cherry tomatoes usually work the best becasue they’re so flavorful and easy to slice.
- Black beans: Canned black beans are easy to wash and drain which makes pulling this salad together a breeze! (No a fan of black beans? Try using kideny beans instead!)
- Cheese: I LOVE using sharp cheddar cheese in any taco type salad but mild cheddar or even monterray jack would work too. (You can grate your own or use pre-shredded store bought cheese.)
- Lettuce: Totally optional! We love spooning our pasta salad over a bed of lettuce to help get those greens in!
- Blue cheese dressing: Make sure to use a good quality blue cheese dressing or at least one you really like!
- Taco seasoning: Same with the seasoning! Make sure to find one you love because it’s used to flavor your dressing.
How to make taco pasta salad
- Cook & cool your pasta. Boil your pasta according to the package’s directions and set it aside to cool completely.
- Cook your ground beef. While the pasta cools, season your ground beef with salt and pepper and cook it in a skillet until it’s no longer pink. (About 5-7 minutes.) Then set it aside to cool. (If you don’t want your meat super hot, then you might want to put it in the fridge or freezer to chill faster. Just keep checking it every few minutes or so.)
- Make your dressing. Stir your salad dressing ingredients together and keep it chilled in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.
- Prepare the rest of your ingredients. Drain and rinse the beans, slice your tomatoes, cut your lettuce and grate the cheese (if using block cheese instead of pre-shredded).
- Toss your salad and serve. Add all the pasta salad ingredients to a large bowl and pour your desired amount of dressing over the top. Toss the salad until everything is coated to your liking and serve it over a bed of lettuce. (Or let it chill in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before serving.)
What taco seasoning do I use?
This is important! From experience, whichever taco seasoning you use can really make or break this pasta salad. I always use store bought seasoning for this recipe and always ALWAYS use Lawry’s. It makes the best taco salad dressing in my opinoin. That being said, if you make your own taco seasoning you can absolutely use it in place of store bought too. The key here is to use whichever seasoning you really really love!
- Replace the beef! Not a fan of ground beef? Try using ground turkey or chicken instead!
- Go meatless! Take the meat out completely or even double up on the beans! (Sometimes we’ll use a mixture of kidney and black beans to add variety.)
- Add crushed tortilla chips! Taco salads and tortilla chips just go together! Plus they add texture to amp up that Mexican flare too!
What can I make ahead of time?
All ingredients for this taco pasta salad can easily be prepped ahead of time! Just keep them in separate containers in the fridge until you’re ready eat, then toss them together and serve!
Have leftovers? This pasta salad should stay good for 3-4 days after making it. However, if you’re using tortilla chips already mixed them in, I wouldn’t suggest keeping it. (They’ll be soggy the next day.) If you think you might have any leftovers, I’d suggest topping each individual bowl with chips instead.
Why you’ll love this easy taco pasta salad recipe
- Not your typical pasta salad! There’s no Italian vinaigrettes or cured meats in this one! Just creamy, zesty deliciousness with all your favorite taco ingredients!
- Easy to prep & make ahead! Boil, cut, mix, done! Simple as that!
- Loaded with different flavors & textures! Tender pasta, juicy tomatoes, sharp cheese and a creamy zesty dressing! There’s so much going on in this salad, your tastebuds won’t know what hit them!
Need it gluten free? Great news, it already is!
Need it dairy free? Use your favorite dairy free/vegan blue cheese dressing and omit the cheese.
More pasta salad recipes you might like:
[Made one of my recipes? Make sure to tag my social media @kalefornia_kravings – I love seeing what you create!]
The Best Taco Pasta Salad
For the pasta salad:
- 16 oz. dry rotini pasta (or a different medium sized noodle)
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained & rinsed
- 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3-4 cups lettuce, chopped (optional)
- Optional: crushed tortilla chips
For the taco dressing:
- 1 cup blue cheese dressing
- 2 Tbsp taco seasoning (~1 packet)
- 2 Tbsp water (or more for a thinner consistency)
To make the dressing:
- Stir your dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set it aside. (You might want to add more water if you want a thinner consistency)
To make the pasta salad:
- Cook your pasta according to the package's directions then drain it and set it aside to cool completely.
- While the pasta cools, season your beef with salt and pepper and saute it in a large skillet until it's no longer pink. (About 5-7 minutes) Set it aside to cool. (You might want to place it in the fridge so it can cool faster.)
- Once the pasta and ground beef are completely cool, add them to a large bowl along with your black beans, tomatoes and cheese and give it a good toss. Pour your desired amount of dressing over the top and and mix it again until everything is completely coated.
- Serve immediately over a bed of lettuce with crushed tortilla chips on top (if using). You can also let your salad chill in the fridge for 5-10 minutes before serving.