This Taco Mac and Cheese can be made from scratch, or with leftover taco meat. Combine two family favorites in a meal that comes together in less than 30 minutes!
The truth is, we’re just like every other American family: busy all day long trying to balance work and childcare. When we sit down for dinner, we pretty much just want tacos and mac and cheese like everybody else.
Sure, once in awhile (mostly on the weekends when we’re feeling ambitious), it’s short rib tacos or pimento mac and cheese. But for the most part, it’s ground beef tacos with taco seasoning or classic elbow noodles with lots of gooey cheese.
This recipe is inspired by a mac and cheese with ground beef dish that Jeff used to make quite often in college, to cheaply feed a crowded house full of students.
I’ve written this taco mac and cheese recipe to be something you can easily get on the table in less than 30 minutes to deliciously satisfy your family on a weeknight.
What you’ll need for this hamburger mac and cheese:
Here’s the rundown on everything you’ll need to make taco macaroni and cheese:
- elbow macaroni noodles – or any short, tube shaped pasta you like best (I also like penne and cavatappi).
- ground beef – or another type of ground meat or leftover taco meat (more on that below).
- chopped white onion – yellow or red onion work, too!
- milk – whole milk will make the creamiest final dish, but use whatever you have around.
- butter – for making the roux that will thicken the milk into a sauce.
- flour – the other part of the roux!
- taco seasoning – you’ll just need a portion of one of those packets from the store.
- canned petite diced tomatoes – I like the petite diced, but regular diced works too.
- canned green chiles – these will add a little kick, but won’t make the dish too spicy.
- extra sharp Cheddar cheese – this is always my fav for mac and cheese, but Montery Jack would be good, too.
- optional: lemon margaritas for the adults and agave lemonade for the kids.
How to make this taco mac and cheese:
While I made a few attempts at testing this hamburger mac and cheese as a one pan meal, I ultimately wasn’t happy with the texture of the noodles or the meat that way.
So, in an effort to bring you the best taste and texture, this mac and cheese with ground beef recipe was developed for one skillet + one pot (just like my pesto pasta with veggies and chicken).
You’ll use the pot to cook the elbow macaroni noodles according to their package instructions. Easy peasy.
While that’s happening, you’ll be cooking ground beef and onion in a skillet, just like you would for classic (American style) tacos.
When the meat is finished, you’ll set it aside, and then use the same skillet to make a bechamel sauce (which is just a fancy term for flour + butter + milk) for this Mexican mac and cheese.
Then, you’re going to combine everything! Add the pasta that you’ve cooked and drained, and the beef that was set aside. You’ll also be stirring in taco seasoning, canned diced tomatoes, canned green chiles and Cheddar cheese.
Serve this taco mac and cheese right from the skillet, topped with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream and salsa, if you’d like.
Tips for making this Mexican macaroni and cheese successful:
- I’ll always remind you to salt your pasta water. Salt it generously! If you don’t do this, your finished taco mac and cheese will taste bland. If you’re new to salting pasta water, Taste of Home has a great article on How to Salt Pasta Water the Right Way.
- Drain the canned tomatoes and green chiles very well, as you don’t need any extra liquid added to this hamburger mac and cheese.
- If you’re not a fan of canned vegetables, skip the tomatoes and chiles and stir some chopped up fajita veggies into this mac and cheese with ground beef instead.
- Buy cheese in a block and shred it yourself for the best melting for this taco mac recipe. That pre-shredded stuff is easy, but just never melts as well, and never tastes as good, either, in my opinion.
Make this mac and cheese with ground beef, ground turkey or chicken, or leftover taco meat.
Ground beef is, of course, the classic choice for American-style tacos, and thus, this hamburger mac and cheese. But to cut a few calories and grams of fat, feel free to substitute ground turkey into taco mac and cheese!
Ground chicken is also an often-overlooked versatile option, as demonstrated by my chicken sloppy joes. It works in this Mexican mac and cheese recipe as well!
This taco mac n cheese recipe is also perfect to keep in mind for when you have leftover taco meat. Assuming it’s already been cooked with onions and taco seasoning, you can skip Step 2 entirely and stir your leftover taco meat in at Step 4 (but omit the additional taco seasoning).
- 6 ounces (1-1/2 cups) elbow macaroni noodles
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 5 teaspoons taco seasoning
- 1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chiles, drained
- 4 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Crushed tortilla chips, sliced green onions, salsa and sour cream, for serving (optional)
- Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions for al dente. Drain well.
- Meanwhile, add beef and onion to large high-sided skillet or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Cook 6 to 8 minutes or until meat is cooked through, using spoon to break up meat as it cooks. Spoon out and discard any excess grease in pan. Use slotted spoon to transfer beef mixture to medium bowl.
- Reduce heat to medium and melt butter in same skillet. Add flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. While whisking, add milk in steady stream and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened, whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat. Add taco seasoning and whisk until well combined. Add tomatoes, chiles, cheese, pasta and meat. Stir until well combined and cheese is melted.
- Serve topped with with crushed tortilla chips, sliced green onions, salsa and sour cream, if desired.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 774Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 607mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 44g