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Cheesy taco pasta recipe

This one pot chicken taco pasta recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners. A delicious twist on taco Tuesday, this 30 minute meal is cheesy, saucy, and so tasty.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my one pot chicken pasta with sun dried tomato sauce and my creamy Dijon chicken pasta recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my one pot meals in one place.

Cheesy chicken taco pasta recipe in a wide, shallow teal pan with a blue green towel next to the pan.

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Why you should make this recipe

If you love tacos and you like easy, one pot meals with pasta, this is the recipe for you.

  • One pot – This meal is made in one pan, which means cleanup is a breeze.
  • 30 minute meal – Ready in about half an hour, and most of that time is hands off.
  • Versatile – I used boneless, skinless thighs in the recipe, but you can use chicken breasts or ground chicken, if you prefer.

Cheesy chicken taco pasta recipe

This taco pasta recipe is full of flavor. It has tender pieces of chicken, pasta coated in a cheesy sauce, and extra cheese sprinkled on top. It’s the perfect weeknight dinner – it cooks in one pan, it’s ready in roughly 30 minutes and it feeds up to 6 people.

Chicken taco pasta with cilantro in a teal blue pan.

For best results, use a wide, shallow pan to cook this meal. I used an enameled cast iron 4 qt. (4L) braiser. This provides plenty of surface area for your chicken to brown, and vegetables to cook. Shallow sides allow the steam to escape from the pan, whereas tall sides trap it, causing the food to steam.


Sometimes referred to as “Mexican pasta”, this quick and easy dinner uses mostly pantry ingredients and get dinner on the table in no time.

Ingredients for chicken taco pasta on white background.
  • Chicken thighs – Boneless, skinless thighs have a bit more fat in them, so they are more forgiving when cooking, and less prone to drying out.
    • Substitutions: Use chicken breast, or ground chicken, if you prefer.
  • Chicken stock – Store-bought or homemade stock is the base of the cheesy sauce.
  • Pasta – You’ll need short pasta for this recipe. Choose shells, penne, or rotini, so the cheesy taco sauce can get inside all of the little nooks in the pasta.
  • Taco sauce – You can make my 20 minute taco sauce recipe, or you can buy it.
  • Taco seasoning – Make homemade taco seasoning or buy a packet at the store.
  • Half and half – A splash of cream gives the sauce body.
  • Diced tomatoes – You’ll need about half a can.
  • Onion, bell pepper, and garlic – These give our taco pasta a ton of flavor.
  • Cilantro – If you have the gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, swap it for parsley.
  • Cheese – For best results, get a block of cheese and grate it, don’t buy the bag of shredded cheese.

How to make

Here’s a quick summary of how to make this taco pasta recipe. Please see the card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe. 

Step by step photos showing how to make this taco pasta recipe.
  1. Prep – Gather all of your ingredients. Brown the chicken, onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Add taco seasoning and stir to combine.
  2. Add the stock, taco sauce, tomatoes and pasta to the pan, then give it stir.
  3. Cook, covered, until the chicken and pasta are done.
  4. Garnish with remaining cheese and cilantro, then serve.

Taco pasta recipe FAQ’s

Can I make this chicken taco pasta ahead of time?

Yes, but the pasta will soak up the sauce, and may get a little mushy. To reheat the pasta, add a splash of stock to loosen the sauce.

How long will it last in the fridge?

This taco pasta dish lasts 3 – 4 days in the fridge. Because it has cooked chicken in it, I wouldn’t keep it for longer than that.

Can I freeze it?

Yes. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then gently reheat with a splash of stock.

One pot pasta with chicken, cheese and cilantro with a large serving spoon in the back of the pan.

Variations and substitutions

  • Spaghetti – Swap out the shells for long noodles to make cheesy taco spaghetti.
  • Swap out the thighs – Not a fan of chicken thighs? Use chicken breast or ground chicken. I’ve made it with all 3, and they are all delicious.
  • Rotisserie – For a very easy dinner, fold in rotisserie chicken at the end of cooking just to warm it through.

Serving suggestions

If you are having a theme dinner, make a batch of my Mexican chocolate day of the dead cupcakes. For a quick and easy drink to go with dinner, try my 3 ingredient classic margarita recipe.

Pasta in a blue green pan with shredded cilantro sprinkled on top.

Garnish the taco pasta with cilantro and extra cheese on top. In addition, you could top it with diced avocado or dollops of sour cream.

Helpful tools and equipment

  • A 4qt. (4L) wide, shallow pan is your best bet for this taco pasta recipe. I used this teal Tramontina braiser.
  • A box grater, laying on its side, is the easiest way to grate cheese. The cheese will stay inside, and you can just pick it up and dump it. Easy!

Please share

If you love this recipe, please give it 5 stars!

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Taco pasta recipe

Cheryl Bennett
This one pan taco pasta recipe is a quick and easy weeknight meal that the whole family will love.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course One Pot Meals
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 570 kcal


  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into thin strips (*see note)
  • 2 tbsp. butter or oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 tbsp. taco seasoning homemade or store-bought
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup taco sauce homemade or store bought
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with a little juice
  • 3 cups chicken stock/broth
  • 1/2 lb. short pasta I used medium shells
  • 1/3 cup half and half or light cream
  • 2 cups. freshly shredded cheese from a block for best results do not use pre-shredded (*see note)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro for garnish optional


  • In a wide 4 quart/4L pan, heat the butter, or oil, over medium high heat. Add the sliced chicken thighs, and cook until lightly browned, 6 – 8 minutes.
  • Add the diced onion and diced bell pepper to the pan. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over everything and stir to combine. Lower heat to medium, cook until onion starts to become translucent, 6 – 8 minutes. Add garlic and stir to combine.
  • Add taco sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and pasta to the pan. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer, cover with a tight-fitting lid and lower heat to medium low if it starts to boil – you want it to simmer, not boil. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes, or until chicken and pasta are cooked through. (Check the cooking time on your box of pasta.)
  • Remove from heat. Add half and half, and 1 1/2 cups of shredded cheese. Stir for a couple of minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is combined.
  • Garnish with remaining shredded cheese and chopped cilantro on top. Serve.


  • If you prefer, you can swap out the chicken thighs for chicken breast, or ground chicken. You could also use ground turkey or ground beef.
  • For a VERY quick and easy option, use rotisserie chicken. No need to cook it, just fold it in at the end of the cooking time.
  • A 6 ounce block of cheese will yield the 2 cups needed for the recipe.
  • To reheat: add a splash of chicken stock to loosen the sauce. The pasta will absorb more of the sauce as it sits.
  • The sauce will thicken slightly as it cools, so if you prefer a lot of sauce, add in an extra splash of stock and half and half to your pasta.
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.


Serving: 1gCalories: 570kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 36gFat: 30gSaturated Fat: 14gPolyunsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 1172mgFiber: 2gSugar: 14g
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