High Protein Taco Mac and Cheese

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Taco night with a twist! This Taco Mac and Cheese is a protein-loaded comfort food made with lean ground beef, homemade taco seasoning and a homemade cheese sauce. This quick and easy meal makes the perfect family dinner, all week long.
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Large bowl of taco mac and cheese with cilantro on top with a wooden spoon ready to serve.

Weeknight dinners just got a lot more exciting with this easy and absolutely delicious taco mac and cheese that the whole family will love. Homemade taco seasoning and a made-from-scratch cheese sauce create a high-protein dish that is richly flavorful and insanely good. 

This was an accident recipe, a happy little taco macaroni accident, and is one of my go-to family recipes now for busy weeknights. Both kids and adults love this and it is a repeated request along with Lazy Lasagna.

The mac and cheese sauce steals the show

Homemade cheese sauce is always a good idea. Making it healthy and high in 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 low-fat cottage cheese combined with salsa. So simple, so effective and so delicious.

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. 
  • Even picky kids will be reaching for more.  
  • Easily customize your heat level with mild to hot salsa. 
Mac and cheese with ground beef and veggies in a skillet.

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 is also gluten-free. 

Ingredients and Substitutes:

These are the main ingredients and substitutions. See the recipe card below for the 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.

Homemade Taco Seasoning: I use the same homemade taco seasoning in all of my taco-flavored recipes. Substitute with your favorite store-bought.

Cottage Cheese: you’ll need 8 oz. of your favorite low-fat cottage cheese. I love Nancy’s and Good Culture.

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: 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.  

Cheddar Cheese: swap with any shredded cheese you prefer.

Variations

  • Add a 4 oz. can of green chiles to add some additional heat. 
  • Include more vegetables to up the fiber. 
  • Add riced cauliflower to up the volume.
  • Top with your favorite taco toppings or tortilla chips. 
Close up of mac and cheese with taco seasoning beef.

How to make this Taco Mac and Cheese:

Step 1: cook the noodles

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni according to the package instructions. 

Step 2: cook the beef

While the noodles cook start browning your meat in a large skillet over medium heat breaking it down into bite-sized pieces as you cook it. 

Step 3: add the seasoning and vegetables

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: make the sauce

Using an immersion blender, food processor, or 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 sauce to the meat

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: add the noodles

Drain the noodles from the water and add the cooked pasta to the large skillet with the meat and cheese mixture. Mix together well. Top with chopped green onions or cilantro and enjoy!

Serving and storing suggestions

Store your taco macaroni in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or stovetop when ready to enjoy. Leftover macaroni is never the same in my opinion so you can add a splash of milk or beef broth to help loosen it back up when reheating.

Serve topped with your favorite taco toppings, tortilla chips for scooping, green onions, cilantro or alone as is.  

Skillet of taco mac and cheese with a spoon.

What is the serving size for this macaroni?

The 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!

If you make this recipe, please leave a rating and/or comment! Tag me on Instagram @ohsnapmacros, I love hearing from you!

Large bowl of taco mac and cheese with cilantro on top with a wooden spoon ready to serve.

Taco Mac and Cheese

Danielle Lima
Taco night with a twist! This Taco Mac and Cheese is a protein-loaded comfort food made with lean ground beef, homemade taco seasoning and a homemade cheese sauce. This quick and easy meal makes the perfect family dinner, all week long.
5 from 54 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
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 large pot of water to a boil and cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions. 
  • While the noodles cook start browning your meat in a large skillet over medium heat breaking it down into bite-sized pieces as you cook it.
  • While the meat browns combine all taco seasonings in a small bowl with the water to create a paste. 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 an immersion blender, food processor, or 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 the cooked pasta to the large skillet 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: 32gProtein: 39gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 760mgPotassium: 467mgFiber: 4gSugar: 4g
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

64 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.

  25. 5 stars
    Love love love this recipe! So delicious and easy!!! I’ve made this recipe as stated above and I’ve used beef before- both amazing!!! The sauce is PERFECT!

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