Cheesy Taco Pasta

This Taco Pasta is OH MY YUM delicious and destined to become a family favorite!   

I am addicted to this Cheesy Taco Pasta Bake!  It is loaded with tender beef, beans, pasta,  etc. smothered in an incredible creamy enchilada-esque sauce that your whole family will LOVE!  It is reminiscent of hamburger helper with its juicy, cheesy beefiness but 1000X better!  And its super easy!

a serving of taco pasta casserole being lifted from a baking dish.

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Cheesy Taco Pasta Recipe

I love tacos — from my Cilantro Lime Shrimp Tacos to Korean Tacos to Tacos Al Pastor to my Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad — but when you take all that taco goodness and turn into a cheesy taco pasta bake, you get something otherworldly delicious.  This Taco Pasta should come with a warning:

CAUTION:  If you eat one bite you will not be able to control your desires to eat more and more and more and so you will eat more and more and more and ooh and aah at its creamy, cheesy, TexMex glory every bite of the way until the whole pan of pasta disappears and you have no idea how it happened.  But you want it to happen again.

Or something like that.  But in all seriousness, this Taco Pasta is seriously addicting.   It is Patrick’s and my ultimate go-to comfort food, even before my One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese and Taco Spaghetti – comfort food without butter or cream I might add – just ooey, gooey melty cheese – mmmm!  It also gets an extra creamy kick from my secret ingredient, Creamed Corn, which I like to use to thicken pastas (like my Ligher Buffalo Macaroni and Cheese – drool…), its magic.  And so is this pasta!  You will be giddy when you see how easy it is…

top view of taco pasta bake garnished with tortilla strips, tomatoes, and avocado.

Taco Pasta Ingredients

The ingredients list for this taco pasta casserole looks lengthy, but that’s because I threw so many spices into it!

  • Pasta: you can use any short, sturdy pasta you’d like.
  • Ground beef: use lean ground beef and be sure to drain off any excess fat.
  • Onion: you can substitute the onion with 1 teaspoon onion powder.
  • Garlic:  you can substitute the garlic with 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Creamed corn: sounds odd, but it adds so much flavor and balances out the smoky-spicy heat of the spices, chiles, and enchilada sauce.
  • Tomato sauce: use plain tomato sauce, not the kind with added herbs.
  • Enchilada sauce: I used mild enchilada sauce, but use hot if desired.
  • Diced tomatoes: canned petite diced tomatoes round out the base of this pasta bake.
  • Kidney beans: you can substitute with pinto beans, black beans, cannellini bean or your favorite beans. 
  • Diced green chiles: make sure you purchase mild green chiles – I have accidentally used the hot chilies before and they are HOT!  Mild green chiles, however are more tangy than hot so you don’t have to worry about them making your soup spicy. 
  • Herbs and spices: this taco noodle casserole is packed with flavor from the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
  • Cheese: I used a blend of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and Pepper Jack cheese.

How to Make Cheesy Taco Pasta Bake

To make this EASY Taco Pasta:

  • Brown your beef and onions.
  • Dump in your remaining taco-esque ingredients including kidney beans, green chilies, creamed corn, tomatoes, enchilada sauce and homemade taco seasoning and simmer away for 10 minutes…
showing how to make taco pasta by adding hamburger, beans, enchilada sauce and corn to a skillet
  • Stir in your light cream cheese and your cheeses.
showing how to make cheesy taco pasta with cream cheese by melting cream cheese and cheese in a skillet
  • Stir pasta in the cheesy dynamic sauce until its evenly coated.
  • Eat the taco pasta straight from the skillet or pour into a casserole dish and smother with extra cheese.  Bake to golden, bubbly cheesy deliciousness.
  • EAT!
showing how to make taco pasta casserole by stirring pasta into sauce

Tips and Tricks for Taco Pasta 

  • Drain excess fat. No greasy Taco Pasta here!  After you brown the ground beef and onions you will wan to drain excess fat so your pasta doesn’t taste greasy.
  • Don’t overcook pasta!  Cook your pasta just a minute short of al dente so it doesn’t get mushy when baked in the oven.
  • Cream cheese.  You are welcome to use ⅓ less fat cream cheese just take not it will not melt quite as well.
  • Freshly grated cheese.  Only use freshly grated cheese in your because packaged cheeses contain chemicals which keep them from easily melting.
  • How cheesy?  Feel free to use more or less cheese –  it is entirely up to you how cheesy you make your Taco Pasta!
  • Customize heat.  Take care to use mild enchilada sauce and mild green chiles or your taco pasta will be quite spicy.  Individuals can customize their own servings with hot sauce to taste.

Recipe Variations to Try

  • Pepper Jack.   You can also substitute the pepper Jack with cheddar or Monterrey  if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Skillet Taco Pasta.  You can eat your pasta straight out of the skillet.  Top with cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes so the cheese melts.
  • Toppings bar! Half the fun of this taco pasta casserole is the toppings!  You can create a taco pasta bar so everyone can customize their own taco pasta.  Some of my favorites include sour cream, avocados, pico de gallo, and of course crushed tortilla chips or strips!
  • Pasta substitute. My favorite pasta for this cheesy taco casserole is celllentani pasta.   You can use a different pasta but I suggest something with ridges like rigatoni.
  • Ground turkey.  I love substituting lean ground turkey for lean ground beef.   This works great in this cheesy taco pasta bake because it is smothered in sauce.  If you choose to use ground turkey, I suggesting adding 2 teaspoons beef bouillon and OMITTING the salt.
serving of taco noodle casserole being lifted from a baking dish.

What Can I Prep Ahead of Time?

You can make the taco pasta recipe 100% ahead of time and gently warm (see instructions) or prepare elements in advance so it can come together super quickly at dinner time.  That being said, it already is a super quick meal! 

  • Pasta: cook the pasta al dente, drain with cool water and toss with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking together.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Ground beef: Brown the ground beef, then drain off any excess fat. Store in an airtight container.
  • Vegetables:  chop and store the onions and garlic together.
  • Spices: Measure out the spices and store in a small container.
  • Cheese: grate the cheddar and Pepper Jack.

How to Store Taco Pasta Casserole

Transfer leftover taco pasta bake to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to five days.

How to Reheat Taco Pasta

  • Microwave:  Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through.
  • Oven: Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F until warm, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Can I Freeze Taco Noodle Casserole?

This taco pasta casserole is likely fine to freeze, either in individual servings or the entire pan. Let the casserole cool completely before freezing.

If you eat one bite of this taco pasta bake, you will not be able to control your desires to eat more and more and more…

And love every second.

Looking for more cheesy pasta recipes?

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

LIGHTER Cheesy Taco Pasta is my husband's absolute favorite pasta! Juicy beef, beans, pasta etc., smothered in an incredible Mexican spiced sauce is out of this world delicious! Your whole family will LOVE this and its super easy!

Taco Pasta Bake

This Taco Pasta is OH MY YUM delicious and my husband's favorite pasta! It is loaded with tender beef, beans, pasta,  etc. smothered in an incredible creamy enchilada-esque sauce that your whole family will LOVE!  It is reminiscent of hamburger helper with its juicy, cheesy beefiness but 1000X better! 
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 50 mins
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins

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Ingredients

  • 12 oz. celllentani pasta (may sub rigatoni penne, etc.)
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14.75 oz. can sweet creamed corn
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 10 oz. can mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 1 tsp EACH chili pwdr, cumin, salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 oz ⅓ less fat cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 cups Pepper Jack cheese, divided

Garnish

  • tortilla strips
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • extra cheese
  • hot sauce

Instructions

  • Cook pasta al dente in generously salted water (don't overcook). Drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook ground beef and onion in a large skillet over medium high heat until no longer pink. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds. Drain off any excess grease.
  • Turn heat down to medium and stir in creamed corn, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, green chilies, and all seasonings/spices. Turn heat to low, and simmer gently uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Stir in cream cheese until melted, then stir in ¾ cup cheddar cheese and ½ cup pepper jack cheese until melted. Add pasta and stir until evenly coated. You can serve as is or proceed to bake:
  • Lightly spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and add pasta. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheeses and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes then broil until cheese is golden.
  • Garnish with tortilla strips and other desired toppings.

Notes

Tips and Tricks for Taco Pasta 

  • Drain excess fat. After you brown the ground beef and onions you will wan to drain excess fat so your pasta doesn't taste greasy.
  • Ground turkey.  I love substituting lean ground turkey for lean ground beef.  If you choose to do this, I suggesting adding 2 teaspoons beef bouillon and OMITTING the salt.
  • Pasta substitute. My favorite pasta for this cheesy taco casserole is celllentani pasta.   You can use a different pasta but I suggest something with ridges like rigatoni.
  • Don't overcook pasta!  Cook your pasta just a minute short of al dente so it doesn't get mushy when baked in the oven.
  • Cream cheese.  You are welcome to use ⅓ less fat cream cheese just take not it will not melt quite as well.
  • Freshly grated cheese.  Only use freshly grated cheese because packaged cheeses contain chemicals which keep them from easily melting.
  • How cheesy?  Feel free to use more or less cheese -  it is entirely up to you!
  • Pepper Jack.   You can also substitute the pepper Jack with cheddar or Monterrey  if that's all you have on hand.
  • Skillet Taco Pasta.  You can eat your pasta straight out of the skillet.  Top with cheese and cover for 1-2 minutes so the cheese melts.
  • Customize heat.  Take care to use mild enchilada sauce and mild green chiles or your pasta will be quite spicy.  Individuals can customize their own servings with hot sauce to taste.
  • Toppings bar! Half the fun of this taco pasta casserole is the toppings!  You can create a taco pasta bar so everyone can customize their own taco pasta.  Some of my favorites include sour cream, avocados, pico de gallo, and of course crushed tortilla chips or strips!

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47 Comments

  1. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says

    I can see why this pasta would be simply irresistible — isn’t there a song with that title? “Simply Irresistible” Perhaps you could play that song before serving it. YUM!! I’m pinning — can’t wait to make it. Thank you and have a fantastic Sunday.

    • Jen says

      Hi Marisa, you crack me up! Now I have the song “simply irresistible” running through my had – LOL! I hope you had a wonderful Sunday and have a wonderful week as well! Thank you!

  2. Pam A says

    Can salsa be substituted for the enchilada saucesa? I have everything in the house to make this, except the enchilada sauce and won’t have a chance to get to the store for a few days. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Pam, that should be just fine! Otherwise I would suggest splitting the volume of the enchilada sauce with 1/2 salsa and and 1/2 tomato sauce. Hope you love it!

      • Pam A says

        I made this tonight, using salsa in place of the enchilada sauce & it was perfect! Delicious comfort food! As I scooped it into the casserole dish to bake, I was calling friends to join us for dinner because there was so much! We loved it…..a perfect combination of chili & Mac & cheese. I had these wonderful chili beans from Bush’s that I didn’t drain because the sauce they were in was scrumptious and added to the dish. THANK YOU for a wonderful recipe. This is going into my “Favorites” folder “)

        • Jen says

          Hi Pam, I am thrilled this made it into your “favorites” file – wahoo! Using Busch’s chili beans and extra salsa sounds delish! Thanks for letting me know how much you enjoyed it!

        • Rachna says

          Hi, I tried your taco pasta and turned out delicious. My family loved it. Thanks for the recipe.

          • Jen says

            You are so welcome Rachna! I am so happy your family loved it! Thanks for commenting!

    • Tami says

      That’s what I used .salsa…delish

  3. Archana says

    Wonderful recipe. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I will certainly try it and post the feedback here.

    Regards
    Archana

    • Jen says

      Thank you Archana, I hope you love it!

  4. Dawn says

    Holy cow! this is the BEST macaroni and cheese/chili recipe I have ever made! My whole family went crazy for it! Thank you for another family favorite!

    • Jen says

      YAY! You are so welcome Dawn, I am thrilled your whole family loved it as much as me 🙂 Thank you for trying my recipes and I always love your comments!

  5. Marcia Lane says

    Really good- do you think you can freeze? It does take a lot of cheeses so not a budget meal but when you have leftover cream cheese and a couple of cups of mixed cheeses this works out great. It’s like a fancier chili mac! Since there is only two of us I think I can divide into generous helpings with leftovers- perhaps two dinners and a frozen two helping dinner for later— I’m going to assume it freezes like lasagna…. This will be lively to unthaw and bake on one on my down fibromyalgia days. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    • Jen says

      Hi Marcia, I am so happy you enjoyed this recipe! If you don’t want to use a few different cheeses, you can always substitute the pepper jack with cheddar – that way you can make it more often 🙂 I have never tried freezing this but I think it should freeze well. Thanks for trying my recipe and commenting!

  6. Tammy says

    can you use just regular corn instead of creamed? Looks awesome!

    • Jen says

      Hi Tammy! the creamed corn adds a lot of the creaminess to this recipe, so if you use regular corn – I would add in additional sour cream to make up for it. Enjoy!

  7. Susanne says

    This was A-MAZ-ING! I totally agree with your comment on eating more and more. I didn’t eat the whole pan but I went back for more WAY too often. Thanks for a great recipe!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you, thank you Susanne, I am thrilled you loved as much as me 🙂 I hope you find more recipes to love here that have you going back for more WAY too often 🙂

  8. Akki says

    Thank you for sharing this. It’s quite unique and looks very delicious.

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Akki, I hope you love it!

  9. anna says

    Hello,I’m french and interested in Mexican recipes but in my country it’s hard to find chili powder … What is chili powder exactly , it is a blend of spices or just one spice like red chili powder ? Please answer me , it would really help me 🙂

    • Jen says

      Hi Anna! Chili powder is a spice blend consisting of paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne etc. If you google “homemade chili powder” you will find all sorts of recipes for homemade chili powder which you could make and keep on hand. Hope this helps!

  10. BlueMist says

    This was delicious! I didn’t have tomato sauce so I used a second can of diced tomatoes. I also added a bit of chipotle chili powder. I did bake it in the oven as you suggested — good call! I think it will be just as yummy for leftovers.

    Also, for anyone reading this, be sure to cook the pasta al dente so it keeps its shape and doesn’t get mushy. For cellentani, my box (Barilla brand) said 9-11 minutes so I cooked it for 9:15 and it was perfect!

    • Jen says

      Sorry for the delay as I have been moving and things have been crazy but thank you so much for your comment! I am so happy you loved this pasta and I love the addition of chipotle chili powder- yum! Thank you so much for the al dente tip as well – we definitely don’t want mush pasty 🙂 I hope you have fun trying more of my recipes!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Kristen, it is one of my favorite pastas ever – must be all that cheese 🙂 Hope you can try it out!

  11. brenda says

    Made this for dinner tonight and will be making again! I used black beans instead of kidney beans since that’s what I had on hand. Thanks for posting!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Brenda, I am so happy you liked it!!

  12. norma says

    Wow! delicious recipe, all my friends loved it, thank you

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Norma, I am so happy everyone loved it so much!

  13. Daniel says

    Hi Aunt Jen! I made this for dinner today, and it turned out great! I really liked how you combined pasta with tacos- I think that’s a really creative idea. Love you!

    • Jen says

      Hi Daniel, that is awesome you made this for dinner, I am so happy you liked it! I am so impressed with your cooking skillzzzzzzz! I am sure your mom is loving having you cook :)! Can’t wait to hear what you try next! and WELCOME HOME!!! xo

  14. Lee says

    Making this for the third time tonight, it is so good. Every time I scan thru pinterest and see a recipe I want to try, it is one of yours and I love all that I have tried. Your recipes are what I go to for something new that I know I will love. Thanks for your blog and recipes.
    Lee

    • Jen says

      Awesome Lee, I’m so happy it is such a favorite at your house! And thank you so so much for your super kind words. I am so flattered you are enjoying my recipes!

  15. Kate says

    I’ve made this about a million times, and I just wanted to thank you for the recipe. We use ground turkey instead of beef, but otherwise follow it. It freezes nicely, too, which I appreciate as well. As always, you have consistent, great recipes.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Kate! I am thrilled you have made this SO many times and thanks for letting me know it freezes well too! I am so happy you are enjoying my recipes!

  16. Rebecca H says

    Made it for dinner and all of my toddler boys loved it and my husband and I enjoyed it too! I stopped at the last skillet step where it said you could because that was enough cheese for us, and topped it with avocado slices which were the perfect addition.

    • Jen says

      Awesome Rebecca, I’m so happy it was a hit with the whole family, thank yo so much!

  17. Whitney B says

    So delicious! After a string of bad recipes this week, my husband was thrilled to have something with flavor – haha!

    • Jen says

      LOL! You will definitely find flavor here! I’m so happy it was a hit, thank you Whitney!

  18. Farida Banu says

    Looks delicious. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I will certainly try it and post the feedback here.

    Regards,
    Farida Banu

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome, enjoy!

  19. Stephanie S. says

    Absolutely delicious, husband and kids gave a thumbs up! The spices and amount of sauciness made this the best chili-Mac/taco-pasta type dish I’ve ever made. Your recipes ALWAYS are a winner in this household….and we’ve made a ton of them. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Yesss! Yay for thumbs up all around! Thanks for making my recipes and making my day! xo

  20. Emily S says

    I made this for my husband and I… SO delish!! We couldn’t stop complementing the dish throughout the dinner. Such a wonderful blend of flavors that all paired great together. I have made so many recipes off of your site and have never been disappointed with any of them. I am always recommending your site to anyone who is needing recipe inspo ❤️ Thanks for sharing your creativity! Would you ever be able to share air fryer recipes?

    • Jen says

      Thank you Emily, I’m so pleased this Cheesy Taco Pasta was such a hit! Thank you especially for your kind words regarding my site and for sharing it with others! We recently purchase an air fryer so I will work on that!

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