Cheesy Taco Pasta

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Cheesy Taco Pasta is easy to make and tastes like the Hamburger Helper you used to eat as a kid except better. Much better.

Cheesy Taco Pasta is easy to make and tastes like the Hamburger Helper you used to eat as a kid except better. Much better.Cheesy Taco Pasta is my nod to the hamburger helper I grew up eating as a kid. While this isn’t exactly the “crunchy taco hamburger helper” because I skipped adding the tortilla chips on top, the ooey gooey meat and cheese sauce is still the same and with just a few ingredients!

We LOVED this Cheesy Taco Pasta, just like the Hamburger Helper we grew up with!You can certainly add your own fresh vegetables to the mix instead of the salsa, but I used a good jarred salsa and it tasted fantastic. On occasion I’ve also used fresh salsa (I firmly believe that recipe is one of the best ever), but the higher water content of it makes the pasta more watery.

You can also make this Cheesy Taco Pasta as cheesy as you’d like. I added only a single cup of cheese, while some in my family will add additional piles of cheese to their plate. If you want your pasta to be really cheesy I suggest 2 cups of cheese. A giant bowl of Cheesy Taco Pasta is the perfect quick dinner with just five ingredients!

You can also freeze this pasta for a later date. I’d skip adding the cheese and when you defrost it, use a cup of chicken or beef stock. Then once warmed through add the cheese, mix and serve.

Looking for more great cheesy pasta dishes? Look no further:

Just 5 ingredients in this Cheesy Taco Pasta! So delicious!

And yes, you can absolutely add crushed chips to the top! Then you’ll be re-living some awesome childhood hamburger helper memories. Or if you want something a bit different you can also make my Mexican Stuffed Peppers with all the taco flavors but none of the pasta!

Tools Used in the making of this Cheesy Taco Pasta:
Cast Iron Skillet: This is my most used pan in my kitchen, heavy, keeps heat well and gives the BEST sear ever.
Large Shells Pasta: I am linking to this because when I sent my husband to the store to get large shells he brought home the variety you stuff! So for reference here is the size you need!
Jarred Salsa: Cuts the prep time down to just a couple of minutes and the flavors are still outstanding.
Taco Seasoning: I use this to cut down on prep time but still keep quality high. You can use my Homemade Taco Seasoning recipe if you’d prefer not to use a packet.


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Cheesy Taco Pasta

  • Yield: 8 Servings
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American Fusion
  • Author: Sabrina
Cheesy Taco Pasta is easy to make and tastes like the Hamburger Helper you used to eat as a kid except better. Much better.



Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Cook the shelled pasta according to the directions on the box and drain.
  2. Add the ground beef to the pan and brown well.
  3. Drain the fat.
  4. Add the taco seasoning and 3/4 cup of water, stir and cook until water is gone.
  5. Add the pasta back into the pot with the salsa and cheese.
  6. Stir to combine.
  7. Serve immediately, preferably with crunchy tortilla chips (optional) on top.

Recipe Video

Nutrition Information

Yield: 8 Servings, Amount per serving: 316 calories, Calories: 316g, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 55mg, Sodium: 408mg, Potassium: 322mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 7.1g, Vitamin C: 1.1g, Calcium: 12.8g, Iron: 9.6g

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Keyword: Cheesy Taco Pasta
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We LOVED this Cheesy Taco Pasta, just like the Hamburger Helper we grew up with!
A giant bowl of Cheesy Taco Pasta is the perfect quick dinner with just five ingredients!
Just 5 ingredients in this Cheesy Taco Pasta! So delicious!

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        1. The boxed pasta I used was packaged as a full pound so I used half a box for this recipe. Hope this helps clear up any confusion.

      1. love that you give the recipe for taco daughter always finds it to spicy so we can never have the package stuff ,so now i will be able to tone it down for her and we can all enjoy it.your recipes i have seen so far are amazing and not outlandishly complicated so us average joes can make them.thank you.

      2. I started a long time ago using tomato sauce instead of water with the dry taco seasoning.. I make a lot of taco salads for my family as we all love them.. Keeps the sauce from being watery.. If a little thick for some, you can always add a tablespoon or two of water if needed.. Love the difference…

        1. Sandra, That sounds so good. Would love to try it using the tomato sauce, Could you please tell me what size can of tomato sauce you use? Thank you so much for any help you can give me. 🙂

          1. You can use diced or stewed tomatoes as a substitute though it will change the flavor a bit. I hope you enjoy it!

  1. I just love how easy this is to make! Definitely adding this to the weekly meal plan rotation soon. 🙂

        1. Yes, I use about 2 tablespoons for every pound of beef. You can always add more or less depending on your taste.

  2. Hi Sabrina. This recipe was amazing.  I made it for my family tonight and they LOVED it.  My husband said I will never eat hamburger helper ever again.  This will definitely be in our dinner rotation from now n.  

  3. Hi Sabrina, just want to make recipe correctly. When should I add the pasta? Should I do it after the water and taco seasoning? Thanks so much looks great!!

    1. I’ve never used it before but because you’re seasoning it, I would think it would still work. If you decide to try, let me know how it worked out.

  4. This looks really good…and easy!! I never use oil to brown ground beef though…it really doesn’t need it??But, to each his own! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! I tend to tell people to add oil because depending if the skillet they’re using is a non-stick one or how lean the meat is, the meat could tend to stick so adding just a bit of oil will prevent that.

  5. Hi- this dish was delish! I added a can of black beans for a protein boost and it worked well. And then stirred in sour cream with MORE cheese once served. It was a hit with me and my husband and two out of three kiddos, one of them thought it was too spicy. Thanks for the great and easy recipe!

    1. Hi Sara I have a question. Did you drain the black beans before adding them and also how much sour cream did you use? Thanks for any help 

    1. That’s a good question. I’ve never tried it but I would suggest using enchilada sauce with diced tomatoes. The flavor will be stronger so you could mellow it out a bit by adding in sour cream. Let me know how it works out!

    2. Try rotel instead of salsa if you don’t like onion. That’s diced green chilies and diced tomatoes

    3. I don’t like onions either (or peppers for that matter) but I do like salsa, (I just pick out the chunks). So for this recipe. I bought a not too chunky salsa (like restaurant style) and puréed it. Worked great! No onion chunks and kept the salsa flavor!

  6. Husband and I absolutely loved this.  Wish I saw the other comment, adding black beans and sour cream before I served it.  But there’s definately going to be a next time.  

  7. I think the ingredient list is deceiving. I opted to make my own taco seasoning. No where did it say how much the recipe needed and I assumed it was all of it! Big mistake!! I noticed some people saying they used 1-2 TB of the seasoning. It should have been explained better. While we ate some of the macaroni, the meat was way too spicy!! 

    1. I’m so sorry! It looks like my recipe plug in didn’t save the edit. I just edited again so I really hope it saves correctly this time.

  8. I added the whole amount of seasoning ? It’s so hot!! I should’ve read the comments. I had no idea it was supposed to be one tablespoon of the seasonings made ?

    1. Oh no! I’m so sorry. My recipe plug in must have not saved my edit. I just edited it again so I hope it sticks. It should read “use 1-2 tablespoons to equal 1 taco seasoning packet”.

      1. I tried it with the ground chicken and added a little more cheese. I tried it in the slow cooker as well. It turned out awesome.

  9. I accidentally bought bow tie pasta. I’m sure that will be though, don’t you think? I’m also going to add a little bit of black beans and corn. Can’t wait to try it!

      1. I think I’ll try it with the shells next time, but the black beans and corn definitely worked well. Great one pot meal for sure. The meat/salsa/cheese mixture is a good base that you probably take in several different directions. I think it might be good to try rice instead of pasta. 

    1. Yes, you can make this into a slow cooker version very easily. Add the browned meat with the rest of the ingredients to a slow cooker and add 2 cups of water. Cook on low for 3-4 hours. Once it’s cooked, add the cheese in and stir. Enjoy and have fun at the reunion!

    1. The salsa does add to the flavor so if you don’t care for it, you could substitute with enchilada sauce with diced tomatoes. The flavor might be stronger so you could always mellow it out a bit with some sour cream.

    1. Yes just skip adding the cheese part. When you reheat it, add a bit of chicken or beef stock. Once warmed through, add the cheese and you’re all set! Enjoy!

  10. Have you ever added corn to this? Wondering what kind would be best? Frozen or canned? And if canned, do you drain it? Probably stupid questions but I’m a beginner at cooking so I usually don’t edit recipes at all bc I don’t want to mess it up. Lol

    1. Sure, I would add 1 cup of frozen corn. Increase your salsa too though and cheese. Maybe do 1 1/2 cups of each. Add the corn in with the pasta and it’ll defrost easily and quickly.

  11. Made this using ground Italian sausage and ground Turkey. So delicious. This will be my go to, quick fix meal. Family absolutely enjoyed it.

  12. Made this dish using ground Italian sausage and ground Turkey. So DELICIOUS! This will be my go to, quick fix meal.

  13. I found this recipe yesterday on Pinterest just by typing in “dinner” ??. Made it last night because it sounded so simple! It was simple and a huge hit with my family! Even my picky 12 year old!! Thank you for sharing!! 

  14. My 16 yr old daughter found this recipe on Pinterest and asked if I could make it. This was an awesome dish and super easy to prepare. I doubled the recipe, used a whole pack of taco seasoning, a jar of my favorite salsa and it was amazing. Will definitely make this again. 

  15. Great recipe. Super easy to prepare. Added extra water from noodles to tin out sauce. I also added Tastefully Simple Fiesta Party Seasoning to mine ~ it made the taste over the top.

  16. Made this for my 3 and 6 year olds. Added a half cup of chopped carrots, a chopped small zucchini and a half cup of corn. Kids gobbled it up, even with the sneaky veggies! 

  17. My husband & I made this, we both like it. One time we made it, my husband wanted to put it on a taco shell. Boy was it good, If you didn’t try that yet, you should.

  18. My husband & I made this, we both like it. One time we made it, my husband wanted to put it on a taco shell. Boy was it good, If you didn’t try that yet, you should. I made it again tonight 2- 16 – 18, a with the taco shells.

  19. This recipe is in our regular rotation we love it so much.  In fact, it’s taco Tuesday but it’s snowing, so we decided to make it taco pasta Tuesday instead 🙂 Thanks for another great recipe.

  20. So delicious!! I read how some added a can of drained black beans and a can of drained corn, so I added both of those, but kept everything else the same – it really made the meal stretch even farther – and best of all, even my picky kids loved it! Definitely a recipe I will make over and over again.

  21. This was a big hit at home tonight. Followed the recipe exactly how you posted it and it did not disappoint. Thank you!!

  22. If i top this recipe with the crushed tortillas and grated cheese and pop back in the oven will this be ok ?

  23. Honestly this is one of the greatest recipes I have found on Facebook! It was absolutely amazing and will be making this again. If I could give it 10/10 stars I would!!! 

  24. Made this Friday night after work. It is sooooo delicious!!! Made it with ground pork and my husband ate four bowls. Making it again tonight…and it’s only Monday!! Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Sounds like winner to me!! Thanks for taking the time to come back and let me know how much you all enjoyed it!

  25. I just made this, strict to the recipe. It tastes amazing. I used a medium salsa and it has some heat, but not too much. Easy to make and delicious. I will definitely make this a regular on the menu!

  26. We made this recipe last night and it was fantastic. I grew up eating the Taco Hamburger Helper and this is so much more delicious. We did add in a small can of green chilis for a little more body and I finished the bowl with a little sour cream. My wife is a very picky eater and she loved it.

  27. This is a great way to use up leftover taco meat if you made way too much (like I always do ?)! Thanks for the great recipe!

  28. Do you think I could substitute milk for the water (I’m a dairy lover)? In the alternative maybe I could substitute sour cream for the water and warm up the sour cream in a a small sauce pan then add the taco seasoning and stir until well combined and then dump that mixture into the beef mixture.

  29. Can you use taco sauce instead of salsa because I have picky eaters who do not like big hunks of tomato ? they do not like hunks of green pepper or they do not like salsa

  30. I’ve been looking for recipes my super picky toddler will eat. I made this for lunch today. I subbed turkey for beef, as we don’t eat it and chopped a handful each of carrots and kale. I added them to the meat in the beginning to cook and absorb the flavor of the taco seasoning. She loved it (so did I)! Definitely a keeper. Thanks!

  31. This recipe is amazing! I make a similar recipe but use jarred marinara sauce instead of salsa. (My son doesn’t like alot of spice). Also add extra cheese to melt on top. I usually make this recipe a couple of times a month, such a quick and easy recipe!!

  32. Hi Sabrina!

    I’m planning on making this, but would like to use regular shells instead of the large ones, but the box we usually get is 1 lb. Can I use the entire box of regular shells for this recipe? Or would I have to double everything in the recipe since the box is 1 lb? Thanks!

    1. If you use the entire box, your dish will be pasta heavy. I would recommend using half the box or doubling the other ingredients.

  33. Could I substitute the noodles for rigatoni or large elbows? Publix did not have the large noodles from the picture. ?
    Also Newman’s Own salsa, mild ok?

  34. This recipe is so quick and easy and full of flavor!!!! Literally takes no time. This recipe feeds plenty!!!! I wish I could give it more stars!

  35. My family LOVES “beef taco helper” that I usually re-vamp and bake in the oven. I tried your recipe instead, added corn niblets, onion, doubled the cheese.. baked and topped with sour cream and chives… SOOO good! I recommend anyone add corn and sour cream, for my family it made it perfect 🙂

  36. Just made this! My daughter barely came up for air she enjoyed it so much, and she’s a notorious picky eater. Love this recipe!

  37. Mine turned out perfectly!! I even added corn and black beans (both rinsed before adding) and it was DELICIOUS!! I cannot describe how happy I am that a Pinterest meal actually turned out terrific!! I will absolutely be making this again! ??

  38. Made this tonight. Really quick meal. I added diced tomatoes & extra salsa (chunky). It was great & will make great leftovers.

  39. Excellent recipe! I cooked the meat, added the salsa and taco seasoning. I added about 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil. Then I added the uncooked pasta and cooked until the pasta was tender (about 10 minutes) and the sauce was thickened. Great by itself but hubby likes chopped onions, jalapenos, and even black olives on top.

  40. Absolutely yum! Partner loves it, when reheating to stop it going to dry I add a bit more salsa. Would make a hundred times

  41. This just replaced my mom’s baked Mac n cheese since as long as I can remember. It was great stop and shop brand fresh salsa is excellent in this recipe!!!!! Will be making later for family holidays. Not dry not watery, flavors mix well. We love extra cheesee

  42. We loved this recipe!! We traded out the pasta for a veggie pasta and the beef we traded for ground turkey but it was still so yummy!

  43. Made this last night and it was really good. Kids asked me to make it again lol, so that says something. Followed the recipe but did add extra cheese, because we all love cheese. Also garnished it with a sprinkle of cheese, green onions and sour cream. Definite keeper thanks.

  44. Im serving this tonight on a bed of shredded lettuce. Maybe I’ll put warmed refried beans on the lettuce too. Thanks for a simple weeknite recipe!