One Pot Taco Mac and Cheese

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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!

A close up overhead shot of a pot of taco mac and cheese

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.

Be sure to try our One Pot Pizza PastaOne Pot Mexican Chicken and Rice, and One Pot Creamy Chicken and Noodles!

Ingredients for Taco Mac and Cheese

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

Get a detailed list of ingredients & instructions in the recipe card below.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Once the cheese is completely melted, garnish with diced tomatoes and green onion.
collage of images showing how to make taco pasta

FAQs

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.

Variations

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.

Serving Suggestions

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.

A large pot with taco mac and cheese. A wooden spoon lifts a serving up

If you want to stretch it a little further, add copycat Olive Garden Salad and maybe some chips and guacamole or homemade salsa. I like to garnish with more fresh tomatoes and sliced green onions.

Or, stir in some steamed broccoli or serve some veggies on the side.

What to do with leftovers

Storage: Store taco macaroni leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.

Freezing: I don’t like the texture of thawed and reheated pasta, but if you need to freeze it, transfer to a freezer friendly container and freeze for up to 3 months.

Reheating: Thaw completely if frozen and reheat in the microwave for 60-90 seconds.

  • Depending on the brand of taco seasoning you use, you may need to add a little salt at the end. Just be sure to taste it first.
  • You can use any type of small cut pasta you like, but elbow noodles are the obvious choice.
A bowl of cheesy taco macaroni with two forks and sliced green onion garnish

More Easy One Pot Meals to Try

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One Pot Taco Macaroni and Cheese

4.54 from 32 votes
One Pot Taco Mac and Cheese is the perfect blend of seasoned ground beef, pasta, and cheese. It's fast, easy and ready in 30 minutes!
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 6 servings
Calories 450kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 cup diced white onion about 1 small
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoon Taco Seasoning divided in half
  • 1/2 pound small, dry pasta about 2 ½ cups
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese about 6 ounces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes diced, plus some for garnish if desired
  • thinly sliced green onions for garnish if desired

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 450kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 33gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 663mgPotassium: 637mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 841IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 308mgIron: 3mg

Kristin Maxwell

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.

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Comments

  1. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, made it more for the family. It’s delicious! Creamy, a little spicy and very filling. I doubled the recipe and cooked it an additional 12 minutes. Thank you for a one pot quick dinner that I’ll make again.

  2. Added a diced red pepper to the onions and garlic. Huge hit with my kids, and great for lunches the next day too! Thanks so much!

  3. Only thing I did differently was one can of rotel undrained in lieu of cherry tomatoes, came out fantastic. I had to let it cook uncovered for about 15 extra minutes to get all the liquid absorbed, but well worth the wait.

  4. Hi,
    I’m making this for a camping potluck. Can I double all the ingredients or should I make two separate batches? Thank you so much!

    1. Hi, If you have a 5-quart saute pan (a skillet with high sides) a double batch would likely work. However if you’re not sure, I’d ere on the side of caution and make two batches.

  5. Delicious! All of my teenage girls loved it. I used a can of petite diced tomatoes instead of fresh, added a diced red pepper and omitted the beef broth and used 1 1/2 c of water instead. It was perfect to make on a busy sports night. Thank you!

  6. Love it so easy
    Added kidney beans
    Used diced can tomatoes
    That is all I have
    Cooking now
    Love the smell

  7. New family favorite! We omitted the cherry tomatoes for the little one and swapped the beef broth for chicken broth because that’s what we had on hand. We will make again!

  8. IT WAS GOOD BUT. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND ADDING SEVERAL HERBS AND SEASONINGS AND ONIONS TO BEEF TO BROWN, THEN DRAINING THE BEEF. ALL THE GREAT JUICE FROM THE SEASONINGS AND ONIONS DRAIN WITH THE FAT FROM THE BEEF. I HAVE NOTICED SEVERAL SITES THAT DO THIS WAY. TRY BROWNING THE BEEF, DRAIN THE FAT, THEN ADD ALL THE OTHER INGREDIENTS CALLED FOR. NO LOSS OF FLAVOR.

    1. I hear what you’re saying. The first tablespoon of taco seasoning helps to flavor the meat while it’s cooking, and despite draining some of the liquid will stay behind. Then more taco seasoning is added to flavor the sauce.

  9. I made this last night for my parents and I. I used a can of Rotel tomatoes. Loved how easy it was! Good taco flavor too!

  10. Made this on the weekend, was skeptical at first but was absoultely delishous! Recommended it to my sister 🙂

  11. You did not say to cook the pasta before adding this to the meat, I did not cook the pasta it has been cooking on low heat for 30 minutes and the pasta is not cooked yet!!! Did you omit cooking the pasta in your recipe? Help! Very disappointed!!!! I would give this recipe a zero or less!

    1. The pasta is NOT cooked before adding it to pan. Everything cooks together with the meat, liquid and dry pasta. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you, Did you follow the directions exactly as written?

    2. Then you didn’t do something right. I’ve made this half a dozen times and it comes out perfectly every time. There are many other dishes I make where you add the pasta in and cook everything together. Following the directions to a T makes a huge difference. It’s definitely not the recipes fault as much as it is the person who cooked it. Doesn’t seem like anyone else had any problems.

  12. I made this recipe as is, except I used one large white onion and three garlic cloves. I love the one pan thing and the taco seasoning and will make it again, but with a few modifications. I would ditch the beef broth (which gives it a “dinner in a box” taste) and the cherry tomatoes and replace both with a can of diced tomatoes. I would also add some chopped bell peppers. Lastly, I would add some black pepper and fresh cilantro as garnish. It’s a fun recipe, it leaves a lot of room for improvisation.

    1. The whole recipe will feed 4-6 people depending on how much you serve each person. Serving size is probably around 1 1/2 cups.

  13. Have you tried leaving out the beef or adding some black beans or something instead? I’d like to make a vegetarian version of this.