Mexican flavors come together in this Taco Pasta Salad with Catalina dressing! It's a great main dish to add to your weeknight dinner rotation, of your can take it to a potluck as a side dish.
Bonus...this taco salad tastes even better the next day! Taco Tuesday, here we come!!
Here in the midwest, a cold pasta salad is expected at summer barbeques and family reunions. This is one of my summer favorites and is similar to the equally delicious Dorito taco salad.
Perfect for serving a large crowd, it's also a great option for an on the go meal or packed in a cold lunch.
Why you'll love this recipe
This can be served as a main course or as a side dish - I love a cold salad with flexibility!
You can portion it into mason jars for individual servings at a party - so cute!
It's a great way to use up leftover taco meat! I usually make a double recipe and repurpose it later in the week.
It's a taco recipe!! Enough said.
For those of you who can't get enough tacos, check out my taco stuffed peppers, too!
- rotini pasta - this kind of pasta is also known as spiral pasta. Bowtie pasta, aka farfalle also works well. A whole-grain pasta or chickpea pasta work well, too! If you have extra pasta in your pantry, you'll want to make chicken bacon ranch pasta salad next time!
- ground beef
- taco seasoning - you'll need the equivalent of a packet of seasoning, or you can easily make my homemade taco seasoning
- tomatoes - I had cherry tomatoes on hand so I halved them. You could also use grape tomatoes or chopped roma tomatoes
- bell peppers - any color. I used red and green pepper.
- green onions - just use the green tops for a mild flavor.
- sweet corn - you can used canned sweet corn or the equivalent of fresh when it's in season or frozen corn.
- red kidney beans - or substitute black beans or pinto beans. No need to be fussy!
- catalina dressing - or French dressing - your choice!
- tortilla strips - I use these for garnish and to add a little crunch but you can omit if you'd like!
How to make taco pasta salad
Y'all, this is so easy. Seriously. If you are a taco fan you need to make this salad.
Step 1: Cook pasta. Directions are on the package. My only tip here is that you don't overcook it and let it cool a bit before adding it to your salad bowl.
Step 2: Cook the ground beef and add taco seasoning. Basically we're making taco meat.
Easy peasy. Set it aside to cool a bit.
Step 3: Everyone goes into the serving bowl - cooled ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, corn and beans.
Step 4: Add the cooled, cooked pasta and give it all a stir.
Step 4:Add your dressing of choice and toss together gently until all combined.
Cover and place in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
Add the crushed chips just before serving so they stay nice and crunchy, as they should be!
It's gonna be a new family favorite!
How to store leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.
Add your favorite taco toppings, jalapenos, black olives, cheese or avocado. My kiddos put a dollop of sour cream on their portion, but then again they add sour cream (and ketchup) to anything they can!
You can also garnish this with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro for a pop of bright flavor.
Want more crunch? Add diced red onions to the mix.
Feeling cheesy? It's always a good idea to add some shredded cheddar cheese!
You'll also love this variation, my taco salad with Catalina dressing.
- You can substitute the tortilla strips for crushed up Doritos, yum!
- If you don’t prefer Catalina dressing you can substitute salsa.
- You can also substitute black beans for the kidney beans.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
Other taco recipes
make your own homemade taco seasoning, too!
If you make this taco pasta salad, leave a recipe review below. I'd love to hear from you!
Cold Taco Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces rotini pasta
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 ounce packet taco seasoning
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- Half of a green bell pepper diced
- Half of a red bell pepper diced
- 4 green onions chopped green parts only
- 1 15 ounce can sweet corn, drained
- 1 15 ounce can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups Catalina dressing
- Tortilla strips for garnishing
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water if you prefer and cook the pasta according to the package directions. *Don't overcook it, we want it to be al dente or still have a little bite so it holds up with all the ingredients.
- Drain the cooked pasta and rinse with cold water. Tip: spread it on a rimmed baking sheet to cool faster.
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and cook the ground beef until no longer pink, crumbling as it cooks. Drain the grease if needed.
- Add your taco seasoning and a few tablespoons of water, just like making tacos. Cook on medium for 5 minutes until combined.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In a large bowl combine the cooled noodles, cooled ground beef, tomatoes, peppers, green onions, corn and beans.
- Add your dressing and toss together gently until all combined.
- Cover and place in fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
Before serving top with tortilla strips.