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Why choose between the spicy, meaty goodness of a taco and the al dente perfection of pasta when you can have both? My Taco Pasta Salad is a jubilant fiesta of flavors, bursting with succulent ground beef, rich cheese, and fresh veggies—all harmoniously united by a sumptuous French dressing.
The Best Taco Pasta Salad
Whoever said salads have to be a snooze-fest hasn’t met this Taco Pasta Salad. I’m talking ground beef so flavorful it practically dances off the plate, harmonizing with pasta in a way you never thought possible.
Imagine diving into a bowl where every mouthful features the comforting taste of home-cooked pasta, the zing of taco seasoning, and the unexpected crunch of Doritos, all enveloped in a creamy French dressing. Yep, you’ll be ditching those ordinary salads and elevating your meal game in no time.
Why You’ll Love This Taco Pasta Salad
- Two Worlds, One Dish – This Taco Pasta Salad is the ultimate fusion of your two favorite meals—tacos and pasta. Get the best of both culinary worlds in one irresistible dish.
- Fast and Foolproof – Who’s got time for complicated recipes? This dish is your weeknight savior; it’s quick to whip up and even quicker to vanish from plates.
- A Flavor Carnival – Forget about subtle; this salad screams flavor. With seasoned beef, tangy dressing, and a burst of cheese, every bite is a celebration.
- Ground Beef: It provides that savory, meaty richness we all love in a taco. You can swap it for ground turkey or plant-based meat for a lighter or vegetarian option.
- Taco Seasoning: The flavor enhancer. This mix brings the beef to life with spices and herbs. Make your own or use a store-bought blend. If you’re in a pinch, a mix of cumin, chili powder, and paprika can work.
- Pasta: The carbohydrate canvas. I recommend penne or shells to hold all the flavors. Gluten-free pasta or whole-grain versions are fine too.
- Corn: Adds a sweet crunch. Canned, frozen, or even fresh corn will do. You could also try diced bell peppers for added color.
- Black Beans: The fiber-rich filler. Drained canned beans are super convenient, but you could also cook your own from scratch.
- Grape Tomatoes: They bring juiciness and a pop of color. Cherry tomatoes or diced plum tomatoes can step in if needed.
- Iceberg Lettuce: Offers a refreshing crunch. Feel free to swap with romaine or even spinach for a nutrient boost.
- Black Olives: For a touch of briny richness. If olives aren’t your thing, try capers or skip them entirely.
- Cheddar Cheese: Adds creamy, salty goodness. A Mexican cheese blend or even mozzarella could also work here.
- French Dressing: Ties all the flavors together. Italian or ranch dressing could serve as a substitute. Heck, go crazy and use salsa if you want a different kick!
- Doritos: The crunch factor. Crush them up for that nostalgic texture. If Doritos aren’t your style, any tortilla chip or even croutons could work.
You’re not gonna believe how easy this Taco Pasta Salad is! Seriously, it’s like the universe conspired to make all your favorite flavors play nicely in one bowl. Let’s get started, shall we?
First off, let’s get that pasta going. Boil it just like the package says, then drain it and give it a good cold rinse. Trust me, the cold rinse keeps it from getting mushy later.
While the pasta’s boiling, brown your ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it’s all crumbly and no longer pink, drain the fat and sprinkle in the taco seasoning. Give it a good stir—you want every bite to scream “fiesta!”
Alright, now comes the fun part. In a big bowl, toss everything—pasta, beef, veggies—with the French dressing. Go on, get your hands in there and mix it up. You want every piece to get some love from that dressing.
Nearly there! Sprinkle in that shredded cheddar cheese, and give it another toss. Oh, and don’t forget the pièce de résistance: the crushed Doritos. These guys bring the crunch that makes everything pop.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make this Taco Pasta Salad ahead of time?
Absolutely, you can prepare most of this dish ahead of time. However, I’d recommend adding the Doritos and dressing just before serving. That way, you keep that awesome crunch factor intact.
What’s a good substitute for French dressing?
Can I use ground turkey instead of beef?
You bet! Ground turkey works just as well if you’re looking to lighten it up a bit. Just make sure you season it well with the taco seasoning so you don’t miss out on any flavors.
Do I have to use canned corn and black beans?
Nope! Fresh corn off the cob and cooked black beans work great. Just make sure to adjust the seasoning, as canned varieties usually come with some added salt.
- Opt for Quality Taco Seasoning: Trust me, the taco seasoning is the MVP here, so go for a high-quality or homemade blend. If you’re watching sodium, look for low-sodium options.
- Pasta Matters: Use a pasta shape that holds onto the sauce and other ingredients well. Penne, farfalle, or rotini are fantastic choices. Gluten-free? No worries, there are plenty of GF pasta options out there that’ll work beautifully.
- Dress to Impress: To avoid sogginess, consider serving the French dressing on the side, so guests can add to their own liking. If you’re not a fan of French dressing, a zesty lime vinaigrette could work wonders too.
- Make it Veggie: Want to go meatless? Swap out the ground beef for a plant-based alternative or even some spicy grilled tofu. Just don’t forget to adjust your cooking times accordingly.
- Timing is Everything: If you’re making this for a potluck or picnic, keep the Doritos and dressing separate until you’re ready to serve. This keeps the chips crunchy and the salad fresh.
Store leftover taco pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge. Leftovers will last 3-4 days.
I don’t recommend storing this recipe in the freezer. Because of the water content of the veggies and cooked pasta, after it thaws it will become soggy.
Discover Other Delicious Salads
- Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Cowboy Pasta Salad
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Macaroni Salad
- German Potato Salad
- Classic Potato Salad
- Antipasto Salad
- BLT Pasta Salad
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 pound pasta (uncooked, such as penne or shells)
- 1 cup corn (canned or frozen)
- 15 ounce black beans (rinsed and drained (1 can))
- 2 cups grape tomatoes
- 2 cups iceberg lettuce (shredded)
- ½ cup black olives (pitted, sliced)
- 2 cups cheddar cheese (or mexican blend, shredded)
- 1½ cups French dressing
- 1 cup doritos (crushed)
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and rinse it well with cold water.
- Brown and crumble the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain off the fat and mix in the taco seasoning.
- Add all the ingredients to a large mixing bowl and toss well until everything is coated with dressing. Serve cold and enjoy!
- Make-Ahead Tip: You can prepare the meat and pasta a day ahead and store them in the fridge. Just assemble and toss with the dressing right before serving.
- Vegan/Vegetarian Adaptations: Replace the ground beef with a plant-based alternative and use vegan cheese to make this dish vegan-friendly.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge. However, it’s best to store the dressing and Doritos separately to maintain texture.
- Heat Factor: If you like it spicy, feel free to add some diced jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce to the dressing for that extra kick.
- Cheese Options: While cheddar or a Mexican blend is recommended, feel free to experiment with other cheeses like pepper jack for a spicy twist.
Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.