No Brainer Taco Macaroni

(1 vote)
41 Comments
4 minutes
May 23, 2024
Andi GleesonJump to Recipe

This Taco Macaroni is beyond easy for nights when you want to eat something tasty for dinner but are extra low on time and energy. It’s picky eater approved!

This simple recipe is just right when you need a VERY easy family-friendly dinner!


You know I usually try to make recipes mostly from scratch around here. Occasionally I might sneak in a can of soup or packet of seasoning mix, but I mostly stick to unprocessed ingredients. There are times, though, when we all need a family-friendly meal that is beyond easy. On those nights, there is no shame in grabbing that box of macaroni and cheese and calling it dinner.

This simple recipe is just right when you need a VERY easy family-friendly dinner!

Last week, in the span of ten days, my husband fell and broke his jaw and hand, my laptop died, and then my 3-year-old fell and hit HIS mouth on concrete requiring an emergency trip to the dentist. I am not even joking.

When you have a dark cloud hanging over your head, you just want to feed your family (and yourself!) something everyone will happily eat that takes little effort. That’s how this super simple Taco Macaroni was born.

This simple recipe is just right when you need a VERY easy family-friendly dinner!

My 7-year-old is not great at trying new things. He’s had more mac and cheese out of a box than I’d care to admit, but it doesn’t usually have meat and taco seasoning mixed in. He does love taco meat, but I knew I might be pressing my luck by combining two dishes he likes into one. Not only did he eat it, he proclaimed that it was the best thing he ever had AND I’m the best cook in the world. While it is a little depressing that this is what he calls culinary genius, it does go to show that even the pickiest eaters will likely enjoy this one.

Why I love this Taco Mac and Cheese Recipe

There are 4 main reasons I love this recipe and keep it in my back pocket for weeks when I just need a win.

  1. It only takes one pot or skillet to make, reducing the work involved in making it and cleaning up. This is a double win in my books.
  2. It can be on the table in under 30 minutes. I honestly was in a rush the other day and had it done in just under 20 all in!
  3. Kids love it, and to be honest, so do most adults. It is nostalgic, comforting, and indulgent. I often steal a bite or two of my kid’s kraft mac and cheese, but this time, I just dug right in!
  4. It uses only four ingredients, all of which I usually have on hand.

How to make this Taco Mac and Cheese Even Better

How is that possible? Well here are my recommended modifications and additions for taco mac:

  • Add some tomatoes. If you want to sneak in some vegetables and flavor, you can add some diced fresh tomatoes, a can of well-drained diced tomatoes, or my favorite, a can of Rotel fire-roasted tomatoes. You can add whichever you prefer at the end once the pasta is cooked, but before adding the cheese packet.
  • Top it! I love adding toppings to dishes, and because of the ground turkey and taco seasoning, you can add some great taco toppings to this dish. My kids love a dollop of sour cream on top. I like to add some diced jalapenos, sour cream, and shredded cheese and mix it all together.
  • Sneak in more veggies. If you want your kids to eat even more veggies you can add some diced onion, red pepper, or green pepper after adding the ground beef or turkey and sauteing for 1-2 minutes before adding the water and pasta. If you dice them pretty small, the veggies almost disappear but still add some flavor and extra nutrients.
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This simple recipe is just right when you need a VERY easy family-friendly dinner!

No Brainer Taco Macaroni

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

  1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray, and heat over medium-high heat. Add ground meat, and sprinkle taco seasoning over the top. Stir and cook until meat is cooked through, crumbling it as much as possible.
  2. Stir in uncooked macaroni (not the cheese packet yet!) and 2 c. water. Bring to a simmer, and cook for the recommended time on the macaroni package. Most liquid should be absorbed at this point. If the pasta looks dry before cooking is complete, add about 1/4 c. water at a time as needed.
  3. Reduce heat to low, and stir in cheese packet and a little milk to your desired consistency. Turn off heat and serve.

Notes

This would also be great with a can of diced tomatoes (drained) or a cup of frozen peas added with the macaroni and water. I kept it simple so my kids would eat it!

  • Author: Andi Gleeson
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Category: Dinner, Pasta and Noodles
  • Cuisine: American

 You’ll also love these super duper easy dinner ideas!

Andi Gleeson, food blogger

Andi Gleeson

Andi Gleeson is a passionate blogger and mom based in San Francisco who focuses on easy and delicious dinner recipes.

41 comments

Martin Screlli
4 years ago

This has got to Kobe beef right?

Steph
4 years ago

I LOVE that you’ve called this ‘no brainer’. Honestly… I need more ‘no brainer’ recipes in my life! thankyou!

Lara Lyon
4 years ago

The picture looks like the original kraft mac and cheese. I used the thick and creamy version with the same results. I was worried about the taco seasoning, it got really thick while the noodles were cooking. But I added the juice from the drained can of tomatoes and green chiles and it turned out fantastic! My husband loves quick one skillet meals since he likes to spend the evening with me NOT being in the kitchen so much. He really likes this one! Thanks for posting this!

Keith moore
5 years ago

I make this often but add in a can of fiesta nacho cheese soup

Nikki
5 years ago

Hi! Do you use the can of soup in place of anything or just added to the recipe?

paige
6 years ago

i was wondering if i used two boxes of macaroni do i just double the recipe measurements ?

Markita
7 years ago

OMG, I love this! I made some minor alterations as we didn’t have a box of mac-n-cheese available and it was so amazing! Thank you for posting this!!!

Liz
9 years ago

Thank you Andi – Happy New Year

Emmett nlasier
9 years ago

on your taco macaroni do you drain the Greece off I will but it don’t say

Andi Gleeson
9 years ago

Hi, Emmett! I used lean ground turkey so didn’t have much to drain off. If you use a different meat and have a good bit of grease, then yes I would drain it. Thanks for asking!

Dan
10 years ago

Hi – I just wanted to let you know I did make this for the boys that night and they loved it. Super easy and delicious. We added diced tomatoes and avocado to the top. This has definitely been added to the line up!

Andi
10 years ago

So glad you guys liked it, and the tomatoes and avocado on top sound so good! Thanks for letting me know, Dan :)

Dan
10 years ago

Sounds like our week – poison ivy and a broken finger with our older son. Younger son has been sick and clocked his head. We will totally be making this tonight. Everything’s right in the fridge. But, ouch, a broken jaw??

Andi
10 years ago

Oh man you are having a hard time, Dan! Fortunately, my husband is on the mend now, but it sounds like our bad luck moved your way. Hope your boys feel better soon and enjoy the macaroni!

Vivian Honda
10 years ago

Make something very similar. My grandson calls it tacaroni. He loves it.

Andi
10 years ago

You win on the cute name, Vivian! :)

Tabitha
10 years ago

Oh wow yum, this looks so easy and good. I have ground beef out for dinner tomorrow night, I think I’ll be making this! Love the few ingredient foods.

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Tabitha! I hope you like it too.

Lavende & Lemonade
10 years ago

I’d need to mix in some spinach…I’m a veggie addict…but this would go great together!

Andi
10 years ago

Yes, spinach would be great, or I liked it with peas mixed in too. I had to serve it like this with salad on the side to get my kids to eat it!

Kippy
10 years ago

That looks so easy! I too use gluten free macaroni, and I’m not gluten intolerant! It’s good stuff! I will try this…easy night dinner!

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Kippy! I usually still make regular mac and cheese for my kids because it keeps me from finishing theirs before I even eat my dinner. That’s about the only way I have lost weight since giving up wheat – I can’t finish my kids food ;)

Alexandra Young
10 years ago

I definitely understand this! We try to cut out as many preservatives as possible but sometimes it’s just easier and more time efficient. My sister who is 11 would love this dish!

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Alexandra. Maybe you can make it for her :)

Laura @ Hayestone
10 years ago

If it’s picky eater approved, I’m sold! Looks like a great ‘comfort’ meal :-)

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Laura! If my kids will eat I bet almost any would!

Joni
10 years ago

Weeknights are all about quick and easy at my house as well :) Kid approved is always a bonus!

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Joni! I hope you get a chance to try this one at your house.

Candace
10 years ago

We do something similar to this when we just want an easy night. So yummy! Comfort food as it’s best.

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks, Candace! You can’t beat a super easy dinner sometimes.

jo @ cheneycraft.blogspot.com
10 years ago

Mac and cheese was tea choice for our youngest this week when we were menu planning . Love this twist. We add leeks and bacon.

Andi
10 years ago

That sounds so good, Jo! You can never go wrong with bacon.

Joanna
10 years ago

Me too, I usually cook from scratch, but sometimes we just need fast and easy dinner ! This one is perfect :)

Andi
10 years ago

Thank you, Joanna!

Brenda Young
10 years ago

Quick n easy for one of those days, and what kid could turn down Mac n cheese?

Andi
10 years ago

Yes, some days it’s gotta be quick or else everyone will be eating PB&J (not that there is anything wrong with that)! Thanks for stopping by, Brenda :)

Thalia @ butter and brioche
10 years ago

I totally am obsessed with anything mac and cheese related.. so this taco version is definitely a recipe that I will be recreating. Thanks Andi for the awesome recipe, I have never seen mac and cheese look this good before!

Andi
10 years ago

You are too sweet, Thalia. Thank you!

marcie@flavorthemoments
10 years ago

I hear you — sometimes you gotta just use a packet of something to get a meal out quicker. I love the sound of this taco mac, too! What a great idea — that would be an instant hit here!

Andi
10 years ago

Thanks for the support, Marcie! I added peas to the leftovers and liked that even more, but I was afraid of adding anything green and my boys refusing it ;)

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