Taco mac and cheese combines all of your favorite taco flavors into a comfort food dinner made easy in one-pot. It’s the ultimate taco mac recipe packed with seasoned beef, beans, pasta and lots of gooey cheese!
Why You’ll Love This Taco Mac and Cheese
Ultra-cheesy and filled with Tex-Mex flavor, taco mac and cheese is perfect for busy weeknight dinners. Here’s why you’ll want this recipe on repeat:
- Easy: All it takes is one pan, a bit of prep and 25 minutes on the stovetop for this taco mac to come together. Then we finish it off under the broiler until perfectly melty!
- Flavor: Seasoned ground beef, cheese, and pinto beans combine together to make a well seasoned pasta dish with tons of taco flavor.
- Creamy: This taco mac and cheese is deliciously creamy, with wonderful strings of melted cheese every time you lift a bite from the plate.
- Easy to customize: From add-ins to toppings, there are tons of ways that you can make this taco mac recipe your own.
If you like getting creative with homemade mac and cheese, you’re going to love this cheesy taco mac bursting with Tex-Mex flavor. For more cheesy goodness, try my cheeseburger macaroni, this homemade Hamburger Helper, or creamy baked mac and cheese.
Ingredients For Taco Mac
Below is a short overview with notes on the ingredients you’ll need. Check the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact amounts.
- Pasta: Elbow noodles or another short tubular pasta like penne, ziti, or rigatoni.
- Ground Beef: We used lean ground beef, but you could also use ground chicken or ground turkey.
- Onion and Garlic: Easy aromatics that give this dish loads of flavor.
- Taco Seasoning: Make your own homemade taco seasoning if you’d like, or you can use a packet.
- Butter and Flour: You’ll use unsalted butter and regular all-purpose flour to create the roux that forms the cheese sauce.
- Milk: Use whole milk for the creamiest results.
- Cheese: We used a combination of freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese and mild colby jack. You can also try Monterey Jack, pepper jack, gruyere cheese, etc.
- Beans: Canned pinto beans add to the Tex-Mex flavor, but you can also use black beans.
How to Make This Taco Mac Recipe
This Mexican mac and cheese is easy to make in just one pan. Be sure to use a skillet that can go safely from the stovetop to the oven.
- Brown: Cook the ground beef in a large skillet, drain any grease and then stir in diced onion, garlic, and taco seasoning. Set the taco meat aside while you prepare the sauce.
- Cheese sauce: In the same pan, whisk together the flour and butter to create a roux, then whisk in the milk. Once thickened, add both cheeses, stirring until completely melted.
- Combine: Add the seasoned beef back into the skillet with the cheese sauce, along with the cooked pasta and pinto beans. Stir everything together to combine.
- Broil: Top of the taco mac and cheese with additional shredded cheese, then pop it under the broiler to melt. Another option is to place a lid over the skillet to melt the cheese.
- Serve and enjoy: Serve it up with your favorite toppings and dig in!
Tips and Variations for Mexican Mac and Cheese
With the following tips, your dish is sure to turn out perfect every time:
- Al Dente: Cook your elbow macaroni until just al dente, meaning tender with a bit of bite in the center. Drain the cooked pasta and run under cold water to prevent sticking.
- Freshly Shredded Cheese: Make sure to grate the cheese fresh from the block. Packaged shredded cheeses contain anti-caking agents that prevent them from melting smoothly.
- Spicy: Make it spicier by adding diced jalapeños or serrano peppers, when you add the onions to the skillet.
- Low-carb: Feel free to swap the noodles for cooked cauliflower, like in this recipe for cauliflower mac and cheese, for a low-carb version.
- Different Protein: In place of ground meat, you can use crockpot salsa chicken or leftover crockpot birria beef.
- Casserole Dish: If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, assemble your taco mac in a casserole dish instead. Transfer to a greased 9×13″ baking dish, top with shredded cheese, and broil as directed.
There are so many ways that you can top this Mexican mac and cheese recipe, similar to how you’d dress up a taco!
- Avocado: Top with diced or sliced avocado, or try this recipe for authentic guacamole.
- Salsa: Try homemade pico de gallo, diced tomato, or this easy restaurant-style salsa.
- Sour Cream: Or Mexican crema if you have it on hand.
- Herbs: Fresh cilantro is always a great choice, or you can use chopped green onions.
- Peppers: Top with sliced jalapeños, or try these spicy pickled jalapeños and carrots.
- Tortilla Chips: Crush up some tortilla chips or strips and sprinkle on top for a crunchy bite!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
- Store: Store leftover taco macaroni and cheese airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: Reheat in the microwave, oven, or in a skillet on the stovetop until warmed through. If needed, add a little water or chicken broth to help loosen up the cheese sauce.
- Freezer: Freeze leftovers airtight in a freezer-safe container for up to 1 month. Thaw the taco mac and cheese in the fridge overnight before reheating.
More Easy Pasta Recipes to Try
Taco Mac and Cheese
- 12 oz elbow pasta, cooked and drained
- 1 lb ground beef, or ground turkey
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 (1 oz) packet taco seasoning
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 (16 oz) block Colby Jack cheese, shredded (about 4 cups)
- 1 (4 oz) block sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- Cook the ground beef in a large sauté pan, breaking it apart as it cooks. Drain the grease.
- Add the onion, garlic and taco seasoning and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, until onion is softened. Remove from the pan and set aside in a large bowl.
- In the same skillet, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, then whisk in the milk and continue cooking and whisking until thickened, about 2 minutes.
- Combine the cheeses. Reserve 1 cup of the shredded cheese for later. Add the rest of the cheese to the thickened milk, stirring until melted and combined.
- Add the beef/onion mixture back to the pan with the cheese sauce. Stir to combine. Then add the pasta and beans to the sauce mixture and fold to combine.
- Turn on the broiler on your oven to high. Add the remaining cheese to the top of the pasta. Place the pan on a high rack under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, to melt the cheese on top.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve this taco mac and cheese with desired toppings.
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