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Taco Macaroni and Cheese is a delicious mashup of two favorite meals. Cream cheesy mac and cheese gets a zesty makeover with ground beef and taco flavorings.
There’s no denying that we are a family that loves macaroni and cheese! (Did you know we have almost a dozen different mac and cheese recipes on our site?)
Well – we’re adding one more…this fantastic Taco Macaroni and Cheese! It’s an easy one pot meal that takes about an hour to prepare and cleanup is super easy.
This a meal that your entire taco-loving family will enjoy!
Why You’ll Love Taco Macaroni and Cheese
- Creamy, cheesy pasta is mixed with a zesty beef taco mixture, then topped with crushed nacho chips for more flavor and crunch.
- The recipe is enough to feed a hungry crowd, with plenty of leftovers the next day. Or, this recipe can easily be cut in half for a smaller quantity.
- You can change up the pasta, meat, cheeses, and seasonings to suit your family’s tastes.
Key ingredients and Substitutions
- Taco seasoning – Mix up your own blend of spices (see our homemade Taco Seasoning here) for ground beef tacos, or use two packets of a store-bought taco spice mix.
- Ground beef – Choose a ground beef with lower fat content such as 85/15 or 90/10 or even 93/7. This will allow you to skip draining off the fat and you’ll keep all the flavorful juices in the pan.
- Sweet onion – Go with vidalia or other sweet onion. Their mild taste offsets the spicy heat from the other ingredients in this taco-flavored pasta dish. Yellow or white onion can also be used if that’s what you already have on hand.
- Tomatoes – We chose canned Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles, but plain or fire-roasted canned diced tomatoes without chiles can also work if you don’t want the chiles in your dish.
- Noodles – Elbow noodles are traditional for most macaroni and cheese recipes, but any shaped pasta will work if you prefer.
- Cream – Heavy cream is added after the noodles are cooked and it adds luscious creaminess to the dish. You could use light cream or half and half, but the finished pasta won’t be as creamy.
- Cheese – Three types of cheese are added – each adding flavor and texture: Monterey Jack for that melty, stringy taco profile; sharp white cheddar for its distinctive tangy bite; and sliced white American for its ability to melt into a creamy, milky consistency.
- Nacho topping – Any crumbled nacho chip is fine. We used Cool Ranch Doritos.
Special supplies needed
- Large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven
How do I make Taco Macaroni and Cheese?
- Sauté the onion until soft and translucent.
- Brown the (lean) beef but do not drain.
- Add taco seasoning, three cups of water, elbow noodles and the can of diced tomatoes.
- Simmer until the noodles are tender. (Add the fourth cup of water as needed and a little at a time, until the noodles are tender and there is only a little liquid left in the pan.)
- Add the heavy cream and all three cheeses.
- Heat through to thicken and melt the cheese.
- Serve with crumbled nacho chips over each portion.
Chef’s Tip – Depending on which brand of elbow noodle you buy, the amount of water and the length of cooking time will vary to get to the correct doneness. Start cooking with three cups of water and slowly add some or all of the fourth cup of water as needed. It’s OK if there is a little liquid left after the noodles are cooked – the starchy water helps give the cheese sauce a creamy consistency.
Frequently asked Questions
Can I make Taco Macaroni and Cheese ahead of time? Yes. Cook the entire recipe ahead of time, but cool it quickly so the noodles do not overcook.
How do I store leftovers? Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
How do I reheat leftovers? Reheat each portion in the microwave for best results.
Can I freeze? We don’t recommend freezing this dish. This pasta will over soften once frozen and thawed.
You might like these other Macaroni & Cheese recipes:
- Lobster Mac and Cheese
- Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese
- Perfect Macaroni and Cheese
- Air Fryer Mac & Cheese
- Ranch Macaroni and Cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup sweet onion, diced
2 pounds lean ground beef such as 85/15 or 90/10
1 10-ounce can Rotel diced tomatoes with chiles (mild or hot – your choice)
2 1/2 cups dry elbow noodles
3–4 cups of water
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 pound sliced white American cheese, cut into pieces
Cool Ranch Doritos (or other nacho chips), to garnish each portion
In a large skillet with high sides or a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
Once hot, add the onions and cook three minutes.
Add the beef and break up as you brown. Do not drain once browned.
Add the taco seasoning and stir to combine.
Add the canned tomatoes with their liquid, dry elbow noodles and three of the four cups of water and bring to a simmer.
As the noodles cook with the beef, you may need some or all of the fourth cup of water. Since pasta brands are all different, the amount of water and the cooking time will vary.
Once the pasta is tender, add the cream and all three cheeses and stir to combine over medium heat. Once hot, remove from the heat.
The final consistency should be thick and creamy similar to macaroni and cheese but with ground beef and tomatoes in it. As the mixture sits off-heat, it will thicken up more so if it is a little loose to start, the pasta will eventually absorb that liquid.
Serve with crushed Cool Ranch Doritos over each portion.
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