Taco Pasta Salad is a delicious and hearty dish that can be served as an entrée or side dish. The tastes of the taco seasoning, olives, corn, and onions combined with the ground beef, pasta, cheese, and crunchy tortilla chips make this a perfect meal for taco night.
If you enjoy this hearty salad, you may also like this creamy chicken Caesar salad or meaty southwest salad recipe. For a lighter meal, this Caprese pasta salad can be served any day of the week. And they are all fast and easy, prepared in less than 30 minutes.
Easy Pasta Salad Recipe
With this simple recipe, this dish is fun to make for backyard barbecues, summer picnics, or just for a nice family meal. The Mexican flavors burst through in every bite and it goes great with a glass of tangy homemade lemonade or a fresh mimosa.
Since it is full of protein, vitamins, and veggies, this savory meal is healthy as well as yummy. And the crisp tortilla chips give it a satisfying crunchiness. Since it is so quick and simple, you can make it often or make a large batch for the company picnic or party.
To get the exact measurements and directions, check out our recipe card below. But here are the basic ingredients you will need:
- Ground beef: It is best to use 90% to 95% lean ground beef that is low in saturated fat.
- Taco seasoning: This is what gives it the taco flavor so don’t skip it.
- Vegetables: We used diced purple onion, sliced black olives, cherry tomatoes, and corn but you can add others like bell pepper, avocado, and green beans.
- Lettuce: Shredded iceberg lettuce.
- Pasta: Any kind will do but we used rotini.
- Cheese: Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese.
- Chips: Crushed Doritos is what we used.
- Dressing: Catalina dressing, fresh or store-bought.
How to make taco pasta salad from scratch?
- Cook: To start, cook beef over medium-high heat until it is no longer pink.
- Add seasoning: Immediately, add the taco seasoning with ¼ cup of water until it is reduced. Then, drain and set aside to cool.
- Make the noodles: Then, cook pasta according to package directions and rinse it with cold water as it drains before putting it into a large serving bowl.
- Mix: Finally, mix in all the other ingredients except the tortilla chips and dressing.
- Serve: Last, do not add the dressing or crushed chips until ready to serve.
- Different meat: This dish would also be great with chicken, pork, lamb, or turkey.
- Make it vegetarian: Alternatively, add beans instead of meat for a vegetarian meal. Black beans or kidney beans work best.
- Add veggies: In addition, toss in some avocado, green peppers, green beans, or carrots for a different flavor.
- Spice it up: Also, if you sprinkle in some cayenne pepper or add sliced jalapenos you will have a nice spicy taco salad.
- Robust: Similarly, add scallions and green olives for a robust flavor.
- Switch: You can use any kind of noodles you want like farfalle, elbow macaroni, and shells.
How to serve:
This salad is best served right away with a drizzle of sour cream and chopped parsley. But here are some other tasty serving ideas:
- Add a dollop of sour cream or guacamole to the top before serving.
- Serve with dressing on the side and include ranch, Caesar, Italian, as well as French dressing.
- Use other toppings like sliced almonds, bacon, walnuts, parmesan cheese, or chilis on the side.
- Sprinkle lemon or lime juice on it just before serving.
Frequently asked questions
What can I serve with taco pasta salad?
This dish is a hearty meal on its own with meat, veggies, and pasta along with the lettuce. However, if you want to serve it as a side dish, consider serving it with crispy air fryer pork chops, these tender baked garlic lemon chicken breasts, this mouthwatering air fryer steak, or one of these other entrée ideas.
Do I have to put lettuce in my taco pasta salad?
There is nothing wrong with serving this dish with no lettuce. In fact, because some people like this salad warm, the lettuce is best served on the side, so it does not get soggy when it is reheated. Also, serve other toppings and add-ins on the side like shredded cheese, parmesan, peppers, sour cream, and even melted nacho cheese for a warm salad.
Should taco pasta salad be served hot or cold?
Although this recipe is made to be served cold, there is no reason why you could not serve it warm. Just leave out the lettuce and chips when serving so they do not get soggy. Warm lettuce is usually not appetizing so place some in a small bowl on top of a larger bowl filled with ice to keep it cool.
How to store leftovers:
- Store: Leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to four days.
- Freeze: We do not recommend freezing this dish because it will get soggy as it thaws from the moisture in the tomatoes and other vegetables.
- To make it easier, buy a bag of shredded lettuce so you do not have to chop it yourself.
- If you are not serving it right away, do not add the chips and dressing until you are ready to serve.
- In fact, this dish is even better if you chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes or overnight.
- Do not overcook the pasta. Make it al dente.
- For a healthy option, use whole grain pasta and light dressing.
Taco Pasta Salad
Taco Pasta Salad is a delicious dish that can be served as an entrée or side dish. Made with ground beef and lots of taco seasoning.
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1/2 purple onion sliced
- 16 oz package rotini macaroni or bow tie pasta - cooked al dente
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
- 1/2 cup black olives drained and sliced
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes sliced
- 1/2 cup sweet corn kernels
- 4 cups shredded lettuce
- 1 1/2 cups crushed Doritos
- 16 oz bottle Catalina dressing
Place a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat and brown the beef.
Discard the grease, add the taco seasoning, and about 1/4 cup water. Cook until reduced.
To a large bowl, add the cooked pasta, beef, and the rest of the ingredients, except the chips and dressing.
When ready to serve stir in the crushed Doritos and the dressing.
Serve topped with sour cream, avocado, and salsa.