Cowboy Pasta Salad with the BEST Dressing!
This Cowboy Pasta Salad is purely addicting loaded with juicy ground beef, bacon, sweet corn, black beans, tomatoes and cheese smothered in tangy, creamy southwest barbecue sauce!  Perfect for potlucks or make ahead dinners!
Servings Prep Time
10`-12 15minutes
Cook Time
Servings Prep Time
10`-12 15minutes
Cook Time
best Cowboy Pasta Salad with ground beef, black beans, corn, tomatoes and barbecue sauce in a metal bowl
Pasta Salad
  • 1pound mini farfalle or other small pasta such as rigatoni or shells
  • 1pound lean ground beef or turkeysee note
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chiles
  • 1tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin
  • 3/4tsp EACH garlic powder, salt(omit salt if using ground turkey and bouillon)
  • 4-6tablespoons diced canned jalapeno peppers(from 4 oz. can)
  • 1 green bell pepperchopped
  • 1 15 oz. can black beansrinsed and drained
  • corn from 1 ear sweet corn
  • 1pint cherry tomatoeshalved
  • 1cup cubed sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 small red onionchopped
  • 2tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2pound thick center cut baconcooked and chopped
  • 1/3cup ketchup
  • 1/3cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3cup sour creammay sub plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4cup salsamedium if you like a kick
  • 1 1/2tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4tsp EACH smoked paprika, salt, pepper
  • Hot sauce to taste
  1. Whisk together all of the Dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta just until al dente according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain. Add to a large serving bowl and toss with half of the dressing.
  3. Brown meat with onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain off excess grease. Stir in green chiles and all spices. Set aside to cool while you chop your veggies.
  4. Add beef and all remaining salad ingredients to pasta except bacon.
  5. If serving immediately, add bacon and stir in desired amount of dressing. If not serving immediately, hold bacon and dressing and add when ready to serve. Add hot sauce for spicier, apple cider vinegar for tangier, brown sugar for less tangy if desired.
  6. Cowboy Pasta Salad can be served slightly chilled, at room temperature, or heated through. Leftovers are equally delicious heated in the microwave.
Recipe Notes


  • *Turkey Substitute.  You can substitute the lean ground beef with turkey in this Cowboy Pasta Salad.  If you do this, I like to brown my turkey with a little olive oil and 2 teaspoons beef bouillon.  If you add beef bouillon, omit the salt called for in the recipe.
  • Pasta Substitute.  I like to use mini farfalle in this Cowboy Pasta Salad recipe but any medium or small pasta will work great.  Rigatoni as well as macaroni would work great.
  • Don’t overcook pasta.  No one wants a mushy Cowboy Pasta Salad!  It is important to not overcook your pasta – you want it al dente so it still has a little bite otherwise the pasta salad will be soggy.
  • Stop Pasta from Cooking.  To stop your pasta from cooking after it’s removed from the heat, rinse and drain it in cold water then stir in some of the dressing to keep it from sticking together.
  • Thick-Cut Bacon.  It is essential to use thick-cut bacon in this Cowboy  Pasta Salad recipe so it retains its meaty texture when covered in the creamy dressing.
  • Cool Pasta.  Unlike vinaigrette dressings, you will want to make sure the pasta is completely cool before mixing in the creamy dressing to ensure the dressing doesn’t separate.
  • Customize Veggies.  Feel free to add/substitute any other veggies your heart desires like  avocado!
  • Canned Jalapenos.  I highly recommend canned jalapenos as opposed to fresh because they are pickled which adds a fabulous tang that compliments the richness of the dressing.
  • Customize Dressing.  You can also choose to make your dressing tangier by additional apple cider vinegar or sweeter by the addition of brown sugar.   Make it spicier by adding hot sauce to taste, keeping in mind the salad will also have chopped canned jalapeno peppers.
  • Prep Dressing Ahead.  You can make the dressing ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Make Salad Ahead.  This Cowboy Pasta Salad keeps fabulously with the exception of the bacon.  If you know you are going to have leftovers and want the bacon to stay crispy, then hold the bacon and add to individual servings or just part of the salad you’re serving.