Taco Mac and Cheese combines two family favorites in 30 minutes or less. There’s no boxed mac and cheese in sight, just homemade goodness using fresh or leftover taco meat.

Large skillet filled with taco mac and cheese, toped with salsa, sour cream crushed tortilla chips and green onions.

Taco Mac and Cheese

This Taco Mac and Cheese is a fusion of the creamiest homemade macaroni and cheese, and richly spiced ground taco beef, and yes, it is just as good as it sounds.

It’s based on a cheap “recipe” my husband used to make for us and our roommates in college, but so much better, since we’re making REAL homemade mac and cheese, and there’s no boxes in sight.

It comes together in a little less than 30 minutes, and everybody eating it gets to top their bowl with their choice of taco-style toppings.

Why you’ll love Taco Macaroni

  • This family-friendly recipe allows everybody to customize their toppings in a fun way.
  • You can tailor the spice level to your liking with different amounts of taco seasoning, diced green chiles, and optional salsa and hot sauce toppings.
  • While the recipe has directions for making the taco meat, it’s also the most delicious way to use up leftover taco meat.
Wooden background with ingredients arranged on it, like shredded cheese, elbow noodles, taco seasoning mix, canned tomatoes and green chiles, butter, ground beef and onion.

Taco Macaroni Ingredients

  • elbow macaroni noodles – or any short, tube shaped pasta you like best (I also like penne and cavatappi for this recipe, and my salmon pesto pasta as well).
  • 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 macaroni, 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! The roux technique is super useful for gravy from scratch.
  • taco seasoning – you’ll just need a portion of one of those packets from the store. You can use the rest of the packet to make my shrimp fajita recipe. You could also use my best dry rub for ribs if you wanted to make this more like bbq mac.
  • 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 Taco Mac n Cheese

  1. NOODLES. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to package instructions for al dente.
  2. SAUTE. As the water boils and the pasta cooks, add the beef and onion to a large skillet and cook until the meat is cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meat to a bowl, and discard any excess grease remaining in the pan.
  3. SAUCE. In the same skillet, make a roux with flour and butter, and then whisk in milk to make a creamy sauce.
  4. ADD. Add the taco seasoning, tomatoes, chiles and cheese, along with the cooked, drained noodles and the cooked beef. Stir until the cheese is melted.
  5. SERVE. Serve the taco mac and cheese topped with crushed tortilla chips, green onions, salsa and sour cream.
Large skillet of Mexican pasta dish, with serving in smaller bowl nearby.

Taco Mac Recipe Substitutions

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 recipe as well!

Even ground lamb would work here, because I also use it for lamb tacos, so I know the flavors work great together. Or, save your lamb for lamb bolognese.

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).

Taco Mac and Cheese Recipe Home Chef Tips

  • 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.
  • 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.
Closeup on elbow macaroni and cheese with ground beef, topped with salsa and sour cream.

How to serve Taco Mac N Cheese

Serve this topped with crunchy crushed tortilla chips, vibrant sliced green onions, and a cool dollop of sour cream.

This is also where you can add spice by offering a variety of salsas and hot sauces for topping.

Small blue bowl of mac and cheese with ground beef, topped with sour cream and salsa.

How to store Taco Mac and Cheese

Cool any leftovers to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container for up to 3 days.

Reheat in a small baking pan in the oven, or in the microwave on 50% power until warmed through.

Mexican Mac and Cheese FAQs

What to make with leftover taco meat?

Taco mac and cheese is the best thing to make with leftover taco meat. The bold flavor of the spiced beef combines with the creamy pasta for a fusion dinner the whole family will love. If you decide to make this recipe using leftover taco meat, you can skip skep 2 of the recipe below, stirring in your leftover meat in step 4.

Skillet filled with taco mac and cheese, toped with salsa, sour cream crushed tortilla chips and green onions.

Mexican Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Taco Mac and Cheese combines two family favorites in 30 minutes or less. There's no boxed mac and cheese in sight, just homemade goodness using fresh or leftover taco meat.

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions for al dente. Drain well.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Serve topped with with crushed tortilla chips, sliced green onions, salsa and sour cream, if desired. 

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 774Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 124mgSodium: 607mgCarbohydrates: 72gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 44g

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