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.



Cheesy Taco Pasta

5 from 144 votes
  • Yield: 8 Servings
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Course: Main Course
  • Cuisine: American Fusion
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
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

[brid autoplay="true" video="454140" player="18816" title="Taco Pasta Rec" description="Cheesy Taco Pasta" duration="59" uploaddate="2019-08-22 13:15:15" thumbnailurl=""]

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: 355g, Vitamin C: 0.9g, Calcium: 128g, Iron: 1.7g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Cheesy Taco Pasta
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!

About the Author

Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

See more posts by Sabrina

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.


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  1. Super good base recipe. I didn’t have shell pasta, so I used elbow. Also, the first time I made it I realized IT IS best served right away. I needed a quick meal to whip up for lunch this morning, though, so I added some half and half and stirred the cooked pasta and cheese in before the liquid was all cooked up with the taco meat. It heated up nicely.

  2. This was perfect! I used it as a base recipe to use the odds and ends in the fridge. The left over taco meat that wouldn’t make enough servings for round 2, added green pepper, onion, and cherry tomato to the recipe with the shell macaroni noodles that I had. Perfect way to reinvent the taco left overs, use up that remainder of salsa and sour cream. Its going into the menu rotation for sure!

  3. I love it when it’s quick and tasty! thanks, especially helpful when kids are at home from school due to quarantine.

  4. This was absolutely delicious and easy to make! My only question is how many calories? It’s important for me to know how many calories I intake.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I do have nutritional facts at the bottom of the recipe card though they are an automated calculation. You may want to input it into your own counter to make sure it’s accurate.

  5. Perfect! Delicious, simple, and uses ingredients I always have on hand. I did the pasta and meat at the same time in separate pots and i was done in 25 minutes! Thank you!

  6. I was wondering if you could cook this in the instapot, but not sure how? I am a beginner at using the instapot so don’t know conversions yet.

    1. I’ve not tested it before. You might be able to find another recipe online using similar ingredients and use that as a guideline. Good luck!

    1. I used 1 cup of jarred salsa for this recipe. Feel free to add more to your liking or if you plan on doubling the recipe.

  7. Love how easy and quick this is! Used elbow macaroni, substituted a can of rotel tomatoes for the salsa, added garlic and topped the dish with sour cream! It was delicious!

  8. Super easy and delish! Used Velveeta shredded cheddar for that extra oomph! of cheesy goodness. I’m not a big fan of salsa but this recipe is so versatile. I only used a 1/2 jar.

  9. Just made this for dinner tonight and it is AMAZING! Always looking for fast easy meals. This is a hit! Used the Sargento 4 cheese Mexican blend instead of Cheddar

    1. Just made this for dinner tonight and it is AMAZING! Always looking for fast easy meals. This is a hit! Used the Sargento 4 cheese Mexican blend instead of Cheddar.

  10. No baking needed. Only needed 1 pan. Did not disappoint. Was delicious. To be honest was sceptical with lack of ingredients but it truly was good. Thank you

  11. So easy, even with a crabby one-year-old on my hip! This was a hit with the little ones! Great use for my ultra-mild homemade salsa. I added a bit of frozen spinach to the sauce for some hidden nutrition. Then I decided to spoon the sauce over the noodles, like you would spaghetti (kid friendlier that way). We added shredded cheese, sliced black olives, sour cream, and crumbled corn chips on top. Awesome!

    1. Made tonight for supper- SO good! I thought about adding some cheddar cheese soup to the recipe, but it was perfect as is. So quick and easy, and full of flavor!

  12. I made This for dinner tonight! It tastes amazing. I added a bit more water at the end to help the cheese melt nice and gooey – plus the pasta will soak up the liquid while it’s in the refrigerator. I also just used penne noodles and used about 3/4 of the box. I just added extra while mixing.

    1. Awesome. Thanks for sharing you used penne. I was wondering if I could use that type of pasta as I have everything except for the large shells. I may still go buy them fof my first try on this recipe…but good to know it worked with another pasta. Love that it’s just a few simple ingredients.

  13. Delicious! I accidentally used double the amount of pasta (I’m in Canada and failed to convert the measurements properly from pounds to grams) but it still turned out great! It made 5 large servings for me. Delicious meal prep! Will definitely make this recipe again in the future.

  14. Very very good! Added 1/2 can refried beans and 1/2 cup sour cream. Family devoured it. Quick to make. Will make again but will double the recipe.

  15. Just made this tonight with the shells, ground Turkey, salsa and cheese with a packet of taco mix. It was really good. Next time I will add veggies and some beans.

  16. I made a really tasty!!! pot of pasta penne with ground beef, cheese and salsa casera. Made per your instructions , I just had different ingredients available to me. To make a even larger dish, you can add corn or any other veggie you like!

  17. This is delicious and my family loved it!! I used a jar of black bean and corn salsa along with a jar of mild salsa. I omitted the water and just mixed in my taco seasoning in along with the salsa. This is definitely on my family’s menu!!

  18. Made this tonight with ingredients I had on hand. Everybody liked it very much. I added some refried beans into the meat because I had no corn or bell peppers, came out fantastic! Love the fact that it is so versatile.

  19. Do you use a whole box of shells? I know the recipe says 1/2 a pound but when I try to visualize that it seems like there would be a lot more meat than pasta.

  20. I have made this many times. I am not a fan of jarred salsa so I go to Chili’s and ask them for 2 cups of salsa (I double the recipe). It also freezes very well… which is why I double it.

  21. I make something kind of like this but no salsa I brown the hamburger add some prego meat sauce a packet of taco seasoning mix in the large shells after boiling and put In a baking dish then spoon a mixture of sour cream and onion and chive cream cheese that you mix together before hand and top with cheddar cheese and bake it’s so good

  22. Its really good. I dont drain the fat, there usually isnt that much, or not as much as you would believe. So I just leave that in there and add the seasonings and water. Comes out great. And this is from someone who DOESN’T like tacos lol.

  23. I’m not a fan of using ground meats. Could you substitute with something like chicken or can ot be eaten meatless?

  24. Love this recipe! I added about a cup of sour cream to the dish itself, along with the salsa and cheese. So yummy! Thank you! This will definitely be a go-to dinner on busy evenings in our house!

  25. This was really good. I added onion to the ground beef while it was cooking. And used a 1/4 cup of taco seasoning. And garnished it with cilantro, green onions and sour cream. It was delicious.

  26. I made this a couple nights ago and it was a big hit! I sautéed some red bell pepper and few cloves of minced garlic for extra flavor before adding the meat. I also added a little cumin, garlic powder, and coarse black pepper to the mix. I used half salsa and half picante sauce because it’s what was on hand and it turned out so tasty! Thanks for the recipe…we will be making this again!

  27. 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!