Skip to Content

Taco Pasta Salad (Flavorful Side Dish)

This delicious twist on a taco salad is one of my favorite recipes. Featuring seasoned ground beef, green peppers, and tangy Catalina dressing (or French dressing if you prefer), this taco pasta salad recipe is ready to serve in no time!

bowl of taco pasta salad with bell peppers in the background

Taco Pasta Salad Recipe

Whether you’re looking for a quick weeknight dinner or a dish to take to your next get together, taco pasta salad is sure to be a hit. Just make sure to budget in a bit of chill time before this taco salad is ready to serve, as it’s best eaten cold.

Pasta salad is a staple in my kitchen because it’s so customizable. Whether you have dietary restrictions, picky eaters, or a smattering of leftovers to use up, a solid pasta salad recipe will leave you feeling satisfied.

This taco salad recipe is one of my favorites because it’s packed with protein and nutrients, thanks to the seasoned ground beef, black beans, and peppers. These ingredients make it a taco salad I can feel good about serving any day of the week. I hope you love it, too!

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy here.
labeled picture of salad ingredients

Ingredients Needed

Rotini pasta – Rotini works best in a pasta salad recipe, but any shape is fine. I like bowties for this too!

Lean ground beef – I usually use 93/7 ground beef, but your favorite is perfect. You can substitute ground turkey for a lower fat alternative.

Taco seasoning I prefer a homemade version but you can also use any packet (1 oz) of your favorite brand.

Cherry tomatoes – You can use grape tomatoes too. If you can only find the larger ones, be sure to dice or chop into bite-sized pieces.

Bell peppers – I like green and red in this recipe but you can substitute a different color bell pepper or any other mild pepper.

Corn – A white sweet corn adds a variety of flavor profiles but use your favorite. If you use canned, drain and rinse before using.

Kidney Beans – I like to use dark red kidney beans, but you can use light red. Substitute black beans or even white Cannellini beans. Chickpeas work well too!

Green Onions – These add a pop of color and flavor. Slice thin before adding.

Catalina dressing – You may substitute French dressing or a Southwest dressing if you prefer.

Tortilla strips – If you don’t have tortilla strips, crushed Doritos taste great too.

Looking for more comfort food? Follow LTB on Pinterest!

How to make Taco Pasta Salad

ONE: Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package instructions. Be sure not to overcook. Set aside.

TWO: Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook beef until browned. If using ground turkey, ensure ground turkey is cooked thoroughly. Drain and set aside.

THREE: Add taco seasoning and water (according to packet instructions) to the pan with the cooked ground beef or ground turkey. Cook while stirring for an additional 3-5 minutes until sauce is thickened and meat is thoroughly cooked. Set aside and cool.

FOUR: Once seasoned ground beef is cool, place cooked pasta into a large bowl and add beef, corn, tomatoes, kidney or black beans, bell pepper, and scallions. Toss gently to combine.

FIVE: Add Catalina or French dressing, then toss gently again. Chill before serving.

SIX: When ready to serve, stir once more and top with tortilla chip strips or crushed Dorito. Sour cream and nacho cheese make great toppings, too!

For the full recipe and detailed baking instructions, please see the recipe card at the end of this post.

bowl of taco pasta salad

Do You Eat Pasta Salad Hot or Cold?

While you might be used to your pasta served hot, pasta salad is typically eaten chilled or at room temperature. 

How Long Does Taco Salad Last in the Fridge?

Leftovers should be stored tightly sealed in the fridge and eaten within 3-5 days. Be sure to leave the tortilla chips off until just before serving, as they will get soggy in the fridge. 

Can You Freeze Taco Salad?

For best results, taco pasta salad should not be frozen.

fork with bite of rotini pasta and beans

Taco Pasta Salad Variations

One of the best things about this taco salad recipe is that it’s so completely customizable. Pasta salads in general are pretty customizable, making them great for an array of dietary preferences. Here are some of the most popular variations from my readers: 

  • For vegetarian taco pasta salad – substitute ground beef or ground turkey with chickpeas or garbanzo beans. You can also add extra black beans for a protein kick. 
  • For picky eaters – try topping this taco salad with sour cream, nacho cheese, or even shredded cheddar cheese. Sliced black olives or avocado are great, too. 
  • For extra fresh flavor – Add a squeeze of lime juice or freshly chopped cilantro just before serving.
  • For those who don’t like Catalina dressing or French dressing – Substitute with mild salsa. Chunky salsa also adds a great texture!

Tips for No Leftovers

  • This is a great make-ahead recipe, as the taco salad only becomes more flavorful as it sits.
  • It’s best to cook pasta to al-dente, or the minimum amount of time recommended on the package.
  • Leave tortilla strips off until ready to serve, so they don’t get soggy.
  • Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Give a quick stir before serving leftovers.
  • Serve chilled or room-temperature.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

side view of bowl of pasta salad with text "super easy taco pasta salad"

I hope you’ll enjoy this taco pasta salad as much as I do. It’s an excellent dish to serve at barbecues, potlucks, and picnics alike. Give it a try today!

Taco Pasta Salad

Taco Pasta Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

I hope you’ll enjoy this taco pasta salad as much as I do. It’s an excellent dish to serve at barbecues, potlucks, and picnics alike. Give it a try today!

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces rotini pasta
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Half of 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • Half of 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 (15 ounce) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups (12 ounces) Catalina dressing
  • 1/2 cup Tortilla strips or crushed Dorito for garnishing

Instructions

    1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta, al dente, according to package instructions. Do not overcook.
    2. Drain and rinse pasta with cool water. Allow pasta to continue draining in strainer while you prepare remaining ingredients.
    3. Preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown ground beef until no longer pink. Drain if desired.
    4. Add taco seasoning and water (according to packet instructions) to the ground beef.
    5. Cook for 3-5 minutes, while stirring, until sauce is thick and the meat is seasoned. Set aside and let cool.
    6. Once the meat is cool, add to a large bowl. Combine with cooked pasta, corn, tomatoes, beans, peppers and onions. Toss gently to mix.
    7. Slowly pour the Catalina or French dressing over the mixture. Toss again to coat the ingredients. Chill before serving.
    8. When ready to serve, top with colorful tortilla strips, chips, sour cream, or shredded cheese.

Notes

  • This is a great make-ahead recipe, as the taco salad only becomes more flavorful as it sits.
  • Cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Give a quick stir before serving leftovers. Leave tortilla strips off until ready to serve, so they don’t get soggy.
  • Add any of your favorite taco toppings.
  • It’s best to cook pasta to al-dente, or the minimum amount of time recommended on the package. 
  • Serve chilled or room-temperature.
  • Skip the dressing and add salsa instead.

Recommended Products

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Read my disclosure policy here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 437Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 68mgSodium: 316mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 6gSugar: 6gProtein: 31g

This nutrition information was generated via a third party, Nutritionix, and we can not be held liable for any discrepancies in the information provided.

Did you love this recipe?

Follow me on Pinterest for more comfort food recipes that you will love to eat as leftovers! Click here!

More Easy Recipes

LeftoversThenBreakfast.com. Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing of this recipe is both encourages and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to Recipe
Street Corn Pasta Salad Recipe Story Mini Chicken Pot Pies (Crescent Dough) Story