This traditional taco pasta salad is made with spiral pasta, ground beef, sweet tomatoes, veggies, plenty of cheese, and topped with sweet Catalina dressing.

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Taco pasta salad served in a bowl.

About Taco Pasta Salad

Whether you’re planning a summer BBQ or are just in need a simple side dish, taco pasta salad is always a solid choice. Between the tender pasta, fresh veggies, and the melody of flavors, it’s a great dish to have in your recipe arsenal not only because it’s easy, but because everyone always loves it.

I get compliments every time I make this, and what better endorsement is that?

And because it’s so good, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve made this pasta salad as a last-minute offering for a house party. I’ve even whipped it up as an easy lunch to help get me through the week.

This recipe is a classic, and it’s classic because it’s so good.

Top down view of taco pasta salad in a bowl.

What’s in taco pasta salad?

While there are a couple different recipes floating around the internet, I tend to prefer classic taco pasta salad. It’s the pasta salad I remember from my childhood and is always a hit at parties. To make it, there are six core ingredients:

  • Spiral pasta – You can always use any pasta that you like, but this pasta salad is best with spiral pasta. I like to go with rotini pasta since it’s easy to find and made by most popular brands.
  • Ground beef – Just like a classic taco, this pasta dish is made with ground beef. However, you could easily substitute this for another ground meat, or even use cooked chicken or shrimp. Essentially any meat that goes well with taco seasoning will work well in this pasta.
  • Taco seasoning – This just wouldn’t be a taco pasta salad without a little taco seasoning. You can either use store-bought seasoning or make your own.
  • Veggies – No taco is complete without a round of fresh veggies, particularly leafy lettuce and red tomatoes. Both are present in this pasta salad, as well as chopped yellow onion and green pepper.
  • Cheese – You can use any cheese you like, but I’ve found classic cheddar cheese to work the best.
  • Catalina Dressing – Proper taco pasta salad has a slightly sweet taste, and that comes from the Catalina salad dressing. Like the taco seasoning, you can either use a store-bought sauce or make your own.
Pouring catalina dressing over taco pasta salad.

What can you serve with taco pasta salad?

This pasta salad packs a lot of flavors, so when choosing a main dish, stick with something on the milder side. A few of my favorites:

How long is taco pasta salad good for?

Once prepared, taco pasta salad can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three to five days.

Can you make taco salad in advance?


To ensure the best presentation, I would recommend making this pasta salad up to 24 hours in advance. It should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Can you freeze taco pasta salad?

Bad news here, guys. I personally can’t recommend freezing pasta salad. It can be done, but you might get wildly different results depending on when you freeze it, how it’s packaged, etc. And even if you do everything correctly, freezing and thawing will ultimately remove a bit of water from all ingredients, which could greatly impact the texture of the salad.

However, if you’re dead set on freezing a pasta salad for later, check out this article for a complete guide: Tips to Freezing Pasta Salads.

Notes & this for this pasta salad

  • If you don’t already have one, you’ll need an extra large bowl to mix all of the ingredients together.

More tasty salad recipes

How to make taco pasta salad

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – Cook pasta per package instructions. When finished, rinse pasta thoroughly with cool water to stop the cooking process. Drain pasta, place in a bowl, cover, then set aside.

Step 2 – Cook and crumble ground beef until no longer pink, then drain any excess grease. Place in a bowl, cover, then set aside to cool.

Step 3 – When ready to mix, add the cooked pasta, cooked ground beef in an extra large bowl. Add taco seasoning on top, then stir thoroughly.

Step 4 – Add lettuce, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, green pepper, and onion to bowl. Drizzle Catalina sauce on top, then mix thoroughly.

Step 5 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Taco pasta salad served in a bowl.
4.30 from 17 votes

Taco Pasta Salad

45 minutes prep + 20 minutes cook
480 kcal
Yields: 8 servings
This traditional taco pasta salad is made with spiral pasta, ground beef, sweet tomatoes, veggies, plenty of cheese, and topped with sweet Catalina dressing.


  • 16 ounce rotini pasta, uncooked
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 ounce taco seasoning, (1 pkg)
  • 3 cup shredded lettuce
  • 2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper


  • In a large saucepan, cook spiral pasta per package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Place pasta in a bowl, cover, and set aside.
    16 ounce rotini pasta
  • In a large skillet, cook and crumble ground beef over medium high heat until no longer pink. Drain grease, cover, then set aside to cool.
    1 pound ground beef
  • In a large bowl, add cooked pasta and ground beef. Sprinkle taco seasoning on top, then mix thoroughly to coat pasta and beef.
    1 ounce taco seasoning
  • Add lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cheddar cheese, onion, and green pepper to bowl with pasta mixture. Drizzle Catalina dressing on top, then mix thoroughly.
    3 cup shredded lettuce, 2 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper, 1/2 cup Catalina dressing
  • Serve immediately.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 615mg | Potassium: 444mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 826IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 136mg | Iron: 3mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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Recipe Rating


    • Karen Dean
    • 5 stars

    Made this last night for dinner. DELICIOUS!!!!!
    I used OTT’s original dressing in place of Catalina dressing. I also mixed everything together while noodles and hamburger were still hot making cheese melty and I like romaine lettuce wilty. Will definitely make again!

    • Dee Iske

    This recipe sounds really good. However, unless you plan to eat every bit the lettuce will become soggy and unappetizing in any leftovers. I’ll make it with out the lettuce and offer crushed nacho chips to sprinkle over your serving.

    • Stephanie

    I would use a combo of sour cream and taco sauce for the dressing.

    • Nancy
    • 2 stars

    This was just ok, much better the next day BUT then the tomatoes and salad aren’t fresh anymore.

    • Nancy

    I made this recipe tonight. It was good. Definitely a party salad. It makes a lot.

    • Kathy Estes

    Can’t wait to try this. Looks great!!

    • Tom Jackson

    Print button doesn’t work on PC computer.

    • Eileen Ritchie

    What is Catalina sauce ??
    I live in Australia and have not heard of this 😊



    • Regina
    • 5 stars

    I’d be all over this salad if someone brought it to a cookout!! Maybe I should be that someone 😉