One Pot Taco Mac and Cheese is the perfect blend of seasoned ground beef, pasta, cheese and your favorite taco toppings all rolled into one fantastic dish. It’s fast, easy and ready in under 30 minutes!
One pot meals are perfect for busy families. They cook in under 30 minutes and use just one pan for easy clean-up. This One Pot Taco Mac and Cheese recipe has the perfect blend of spices and cheesy pasta goodness. It’s a one dish wonder that your whole family is sure to love.
This taco inspired mac and cheese is made with ground beef, onion and garlic, seasoned generously with taco seasoning, as well as 2 cups of dry macaroni, beef broth, water, and diced cherry tomatoes. I considered using salsa, but really wanted the taco flavors to come through, rather than the tomato and spice.
Ground Beef – I prefer to use a ground beef that is at least 85-90% lean.
Onion – diced and cooked with the ground beef.
Garlic – for flavor.
Taco Seasoning – I use some to season the meat as it cooks, and some to add the the cooking liquid to flavor the whole dish.
Pasta – Choose any small cut pasta you like, but macaroni is the obvious choice. Shells, Farfalle or Rotini all work as well.
Beef Broth – the cooking liquid for the pasta.
Sharp Cheddar Cheese – You want to grate this yourself off the block. Avoid the pre-shredded cheese as it contains an anti-caking agent that prevents melting.
Cherry Tomatoes – I love adding fresh tomatoes to this dish. They add brightness and some acidity that pairs wonderfully with the creamy cheese. Add some to the pasta to cook, and save some for garnishing at the end.
Green Onions – Thinly sliced, for garnishing.
How to Make One Pot Taco Mac and Cheese
Be sure to check the recipe card below for full ingredients & instructions.
The first steps are to cook the ground beef with the onion and garlic i a large skillet over medium heat. I scooped the meat onto a paper towel covered plate to drain it, but you could also just mop up the grease with some paper towels. Leaving a little bit is ok and just adds to the flavor.
Next you’ll add the beef broth and water, pasta, tomatoes and more taco seasoning. I use taco seasoning a lot and sometimes will make my own. But I often just use a packet seasoning or the Ortega Taco Seasoning which comes in a larger container so you can use as much or as little as you need.
Simmer the pasta and meat mixture for about 15-20 minutes. If there is still a lot of liquid in the pan, just turn up the heat a bit and stir the pasta as the liquid evaporates. You want it to be a little saucy when you add the cheese so it will form a nice cheese sauce. You’re going to add a whole bunch of that shredded goodness to the pan and stir it until it’s nice and melted. Place the lid on the pan for a few minutes to let it melt completely.
Once the cheese is completely melted, garnish with diced tomatoes and green onion.
What is a One Pot Meal?
One Pot meals are an easy way to completely simplify your dinnertime routine. They are warm and comforting like a casserole, but require minimal prep and clean up and just about 30 minutes to make. You just need a pot or a pan to cook in plus a few prep tools. That’s just a few dishes to wash!
One Pot Meals typically include a protein, starch and veggies all rolled into one delicious dish making it a full and complete meal.
Can I make Taco Mac and Cheese with Chicken?
Absolutely! If you want to use chicken instead of ground beef, just cut chicken breasts into small pieces and cook in place of the ground beef. You just need to brown the chicken, not cook it all the way through. Then proceed with adding the pasta, liquid, etc.
Spicy: Bring the heat by adding a can of diced jalapenos or a can of Rotel tomatoes (well drained) in place of the cherry tomatoes. A pinch or two of cayenne pepper will also turn up the heat.
Deluxe: Top with crushed tortilla chips, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and sour cream.
Cheese: Another way to change it up would be with different types of cheese. A white cheddar would be delicious or even gruyere or pepper jack. You could make it extra creamy by adding a couple of ounces of cream cheese.
Meat: Any kind of ground meat will work. Feel free to swap in ground turkey or ground chicken, even ground pork or sausage.
Like I mentioned this is a full and complete meal in one, so you could really just serve it on its own and be fine for four people.
1pintcherry tomatoes diced, plus some for garnish if desired
thinly sliced green onionsfor garnish if desired
In a 12-inch skillet or a 3-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and cook the onions until slightly soft; 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds before adding the ground beef and 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning. Break up the beef with your spatula. Cook until beef is no longer pink. Drain and return to the pan.
Add water, broth, pasta, diced cherry tomatoes, and another tablespoon of taco seasoning.
Cover the pan and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, stirring twice to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove cover, increase heat to medium and stir pasta until most of the liquid is gone. (Note, if the liquid is already absorbed this step is unnecessary).
Turn off heat and add the shredded cheese, reserving a handful for topping. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Top with remaining cheese and cover the pan, letting it sit for 5 minutes to allow cheese to melt completely.
Divide into bowls, and garnish with diced tomatoes and green onions. Other optional garnishes include cilantro, sour cream, avocado, olives or crushed tortilla chips.
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Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.