Taco Mac and Cheese

This taco mac and cheese is a protein loaded comfort food. Using lean ground beef, homemade taco seasoning and a twist in the sauce you’re going to love this quick and easy recipe. 
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Why you’ll love this recipe

  • 39 grams of protein per serving!
  • Takes two classics and serves them in one easy and quick dish ready in a flash. 
  • Homemade seasoning can go with just about anything. 
  • Even picky kids will be reaching for more.  
  • Easily customize your heat level with mild to hot salsa. 

Family dinner just got a lot more exciting with taco mac and cheese. Homemade seasoning and a made from scratch cheese sauce creates a high protein dish richly flavorful and insanely good. 

taco mac and cheese

The cheese sauce

Homemade cheese sauce is always a good idea. Making it healthy and high protein is an even better idea. How do I make the taco mac and cheese deceivingly healthy? With my secret ingredient, cottage cheese. No one will know it’s in there, they will only know they can’t put the fork down. 

To make this sauce high protein and creamy we use 8 oz. of low fat cottage cheese combined with salsa. So simple, so effective. Blend the cottage cheese with an immersion blender, food processor  or a small blender prior to adding the salsa. Get it as smooth as possible, then add your salsa, milk, and flour and you are left with a creamy cheese sauce ready to be added to the taco mac and cheese. 

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taco mac and cheese

How to make this gluten and dairy free

This taco mac and cheese is full of dairy so making it dairy free may be a bit tricky. This recipe uses cottage cheese, milk and two different types of cheese. You can try with dairy free alternatives. I am using Banza Chickpea Pasta Elbows to add protein to this dish which are also gluten free. 

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Ingredients and Substitutes:

These are the main ingredients and substitutions. See recipe card below for full ingredients list and instructions for this Taco Mac and Cheese.

Ground Beef: this recipe uses lean 96/4 ground beef. You can use any percent beef or substitute with ground chicken or turkey. I do suggest sticking with ground meats.

Bell Pepper: this recipe uses one red bell pepper chopped into small chunks. You can use red, green, orange or yellow. 

Homemade Taco Seasoning: I use the same homemade taco seasoning in all of my taco flavored recipes. With a combination of cumin, paprika and chili powder it is tested and loved time and time again. Use it on anything! 

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Cottage Cheese: you’ll need 1/2 a small container or 8 oz. of your favorite low fat cottage cheese. Good Culture and Nancy’s Organic are my favorite brands. 

Salsa: I definitely suggest using the fresh salsa found in the refrigerated sections. They’re low calorie, fresh, and flavorful. I like used the Signature Select Roasted Taqueria Style in Medium. This is where you adjust your heat level. Use mild to hot salsa! 

Elbow Noodles: you can use any elbow noodles. This recipe uses 8 oz. Banza Chickpea Pasta Elbow which has added protein and is gluten free. Swap with your favorite just note the nutrition facts will change. 

Milk: the sauce has 1/4 cup of whole milk. You can use nonfat, 2% coconut or almond. The nutrition facts will change but not by a huge amount as it is such a small amount used.  

Flour: to get the sauce to thicken I added 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour. You can use gluten free flour or even Kodiak protein flour. 

Cheddar Cheese: you will need 1/2 cup of mild cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar for the cheese sauce. You can use all mild or a combination of others. 

taco mac and cheese

How to make this Taco Mac and Cheese:

Step 1

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions. 

Step 2

While the noodles cook start browning your meat in a pan over medium breaking down into bite size pieces as you cook it. 

Step 3

While the meat browns combine all taco seasonings in a small bowl with water. Once browned add the taco seasoning to the meat and reduce to a simmer. Add the chopped bell peppers and let simmer for 5 minutes stirring often. 

Step 4

Using a immersion blender, food processor or small blender, blend the cottage cheese so that it is completely smooth. Once smooth add the salsa, milk and flour and mix together well to combine. 

Step 5

Add the cottage cheese sauce, mild cheddar and sharp cheddar cheese to the pan with the meat mixture. Mix together to completely melt the cheese and evenly combine. 

Step 6

Drain the noodles from the water and add to the pot with the meat and cheese mixture. Mix together well. Top with chopped cilantro and enjoy!
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What to serve with this recipe?

This taco mac and cheese is great as a standalone meal but you could also serve with a side salad or roasted vegetables. To beef it up you could even serve it over cauliflower rice to add volume. 

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What is a serving size for this macaroni?

Serving size is approximately 240 grams or 1 heaping cup per serving. The recipe makes 6 servings. 

Nutrition facts are an estimate. As always, for the most accurate measurement per serving weigh your final dish (minus the pan!) and divide by the serving amount. 

If you like this recipe be sure to check out some of our other easy recipes!

Taco Mac and Cheese

This taco mac and cheese is a protein loaded comfort food. Using lean ground beef, homemade taco seasoning and a twist in the sauce you’re going to love this quick and easy recipe. 
5 from 45 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 384 kcal

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Ingredients
  

  • 1 lbs. lean ground beef 96/4
  • Taco Seasoning
  • 8 oz. Banza Chickpea Pasta Elbows weighed uncooked
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 113g

Cheese Sauce

  • 8 oz. low fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup medium spice salsa
  • 1/4 cup whole milk sub 2%
  • 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese 56g
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese 56g
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Taco Seasoning

  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1.5 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions. 
  • While the noodles cook start browning your meat in a pan over medium breaking down into bite size pieces as you cook it. 
  • While the meat browns combine all taco seasonings in a small bowl with water. Once browned add the taco seasoning to the meat and reduce to a simmer. Add the chopped bell peppers and let simmer for 5 minutes stirring often. 
  • Using a immersion blender, food processor or small blender, blend the cottage cheese so that it is completely smooth. Once smooth add the salsa, milk and flour and mix together well to combine. 
  • Add the cottage cheese sauce, mild cheddar and sharp cheddar cheese to the pan with the meat mixture. Mix together to completely melt the cheese and evenly combine. 
  • Drain the noodles from the water and add to the pot with the meat and cheese mixture. Mix together well. Top with chopped cilantro and enjoy! 

Notes

Nutrition facts are an estimate. 

Nutrition

Serving: 240gCalories: 384kcalCarbohydrates: 31.7gProtein: 38.9gFat: 12.8gSaturated Fat: 4.4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 18.1mgSodium: 760.1mgPotassium: 467.6mgFiber: 4.1gSugar: 4.2g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

56 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is so great! Just like any of the other Tex-Mex flavored recipes on ohsnapmacros, it makes this Texas girl happy!!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this today and it was AMAZING! I actually used 6oz of noodles to cut some carbs and it was great!! Thanks!!

  3. 5 stars
    Delicious!! I was skeptical since I don’t usually enjoy the taste of cottage cheese or Banza but it was incredible. Cozy and perfect for winter time! Our toddler also enjoyed it. Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    So quick and delicious. My husband and 15 year old son ate more than one serving and my son has requested it as a meal prep for his school lunches.

  5. 5 stars
    My FAVORITE meal prep recipe! The portion is so filling and satisfying that I never feel the need to go back for me. (Do I want to? ABSOLUTELY. but I’m very satisfied after just one serving) The fish is full of flavor and protein! The only change I make is subbing the chickpea pasta for a protein pasta but either way is delicious!

  6. 5 stars
    Absolutely delicious! I’ve made this recipe twice so far with ingredients as listed and it’s been delicious and creamy both times. I don’t have an immersion blender so I used the cottage cheese as is and I couldn’t even tell. A staple!

  7. This was delicious – what do you think about batch making the sauce and freezing it in the appropriate increments for future cooking?

  8. 5 stars
    Danielle has hit it out of the park AGAIN!

    It’s amazing to create your own cheese sauce here with healthy ingredients! This was easy enough, and liked it just as much as a hamburger helper skillet. Will definitely be on remake!

  9. 5 stars
    This recipe tastes naughty but it’s so good and macro friendly! Win win!! Definitely a staple recipe in my house!

    1. Not sure I understand. Do you mean when you search for it in MFP? It shows correctly when I search it. Or do you mean you came up with less calories when entering it? If so, you must have missed an ingredient or used something different than I did. Just triple checked my entry.

  10. 5 stars
    This was great! I used Zuchinni Protein Penne Pasta instead because it’s what I had. This will definitely be making it into my rotation of recipes! Thank you!

  11. 5 stars
    This recipe hardly needs another review, but just here to confirm it’s a winner!! Regular rotation at our house. Toddler approved!!

  12. 5 stars
    One of the most delicious lunches I have ever made! I’ve shared the recipe with several friends, who have in turn passed it on to their friends, and we’re all a little obsessed. The cottage cheese hack is brilliant!

  13. 5 stars
    So much protein!! This recipe is in our regular rotation. Super easy to make, tastes delicious (you cannot tell there is cottage cheese), really high in protein, and makes quite a bit for meal prep!

  14. 5 stars
    This has become one of my go-to’s for a quick, tasty meal during a busy week. My family loves this one and I often substitute in turkey burger.

  15. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorites! So easy and yummy + packed with the macros I need!! I make it often!

  16. 5 stars
    This is a fantastic recipe. My husband does not like cottage cheese and he has no clue he’s eating it. My kids tell me it’s the worst looking best dinner I’ve ever made and I mean I don’t find it bad looking at all, but if they are eating 2 bowls of it, I could care less how it looks!! Thank you for this, so happy I came across your recipes!

  17. 5 stars
    Yum yum yum! So great for meal prep. Works perfect for my busy days at work and is always tasty. I use protein pasta and it works great.

  18. 5 stars
    This is my favorite recipe of yours! We’ve worked this into our weekly rotation. I would’ve never thought to make the cheese sauce this way and it’s so delicious!

  19. 5 stars
    My family absolutely loves this recipe. My youngest daughter has it practically memorized and makes it herself! We use sharp cheddar throughout rather than mild, just personal preference.

  20. 5 stars
    This was my first time trying chickpea pasta and I’m hooked. Love how cheesy this is but still macro friendly!

  21. 5 stars
    There are so many taco Mac and cheese recipes out there. I’ve tried them. And let me say this one is far superior and a family favorite!

  22. 5 stars
    Taco Mac and Cheese has to be one of my top five favorite recipes on this site. It is so creamy and bursting with flavor. First time I made it, I was so skeptical of the cottage cheese but oh my! It is amazing!!! My teenage son and I have a feud over the taco pastas, he says the Taco Tuesday Skillet is supreme and I say this one is!

  23. 5 stars
    So happy my whole family approved! This is the first recipe of yours I’ve tried and already have a few others planned for next week!

  24. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner and it was delicious. Picky husband and daughter loved it! I added 45 g of onion with bell pepper and it was great.

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