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.

Tacos meet mac and cheese in this home-run of a recipe and the results are a cheesy, meaty, nutritious comfort food that’s perfect for weeknight dinners. Ready in under 30 minutes, this is a family favorite.

Made with homemade taco seasoning and a made-from-scratch cheesy sauce, this easy taco mac and cheese recipe is every bit as delicious as it sounds. 

The cheese sauce is made with cottage cheese making it deceivingly high in protein. Add in lean ground beef and Banza chickpea noodles, you have a high-protein, flavorful meal the whole family will rave about.

If you’re on a Mac and cheese roll, try my white cheddar mac and cheese or pizza mac and cheese. If you’re just looking for high-protein recipes, you’ll love my list of 20+ High Protein Macro-Friendly Chicken Recipes.

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • 39 grams of protein per serving.
  • A perfect meal for Taco Tuesday.
  • Creamy mac and cheese sauce loaded with taco flavor.

This recipe started as me making ground beef and noodles and accidentally creating the best one pan taco mac and cheese that does not use a packet of cheese flavoring for my family. I started tossing everything from the fridge into the pan and the rest is history. My family loves this recipe and I can’t wait to hear what your family thinks!

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, taco seasoning, shredded cheese, cottage cheese, salsa, noodles and flour and bell peppers for taco mac and cheese.
  • Lean Ground Beef: use ground turkey, chicken, or any preferred meat.
  • Chickpea Noodles: use your favorite noodles, I’m using chickpea pasta to boost the protein some.
  • Taco Seasoning: we make our own taco seasoning in this recipe but to save time you can use a packet of your favorite taco seasoning.
  • Cottage Cheese: I do not recommend committing this, give it a shot and let me know what you think! It makes the best creamy macaroni and you can’t taste it, promise!

Variations

  • Add a 4 oz. can of green chiles or jalapenos 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. 

Dietary Modifications

  • If using Banza chickpea noodles, this recipe is gluten-free, as is.
  • This recipe relies heavily on dairy ingredients and therefore isn’t recommended to make dairy-free but you can try with dairy free alternatives to cottage cheese and cheese. Or you can use a dairy-free box mix and add in the meat and salsa from this recipe.

How to make this Taco Mac and Cheese (a step-by-step visual guide):

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

Raw ground beef in a pan to brown.

While the noodles cook start browning your meat in a large skillet over medium heat (image 1).

Brown ground beef in a skillet.

Break it down into bite-sized pieces as you cook it (image 2).

Step 3: add the seasoning and vegetables

Taco seasoning mixed in a small bowl.

While the meat browns combine all taco seasonings in a small bowl with water (image 3).

Taco seasoned meat in a pan.

Once browned add the taco seasoning to the meat (image 4). Mix to evenly coat the meat in the seasoning and reduce to a simmer.

Bell peppers added to the meat mixture.

Add the bell peppers (image 5). Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes stirring often (image 6).

Step 4: make the sauce

Cottage cheese smoothed in the food processor.

Using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender, blend the cottage cheese so that it is completely smooth (image 6).

Cottage cheese, flour, salsa and flour added to a small bowl to mix.

Once smooth add the salsa, milk, and flour (image 7) and mix well to combine. 

Step 5: add the sauce to the meat

Sauce and shredded cheeses added to the meat mixture.

Add the cottage cheese sauce, mild cheddar and sharp cheddar cheese to the pan with the meat mixture (image 8).

Fully combined meat sauce and cheese sauce in a pan.

Mix together to completely melt the cheese and evenly combine (image 9).

Step 6: add the noodles

Cooked elbow pasta added to the cheese and meat mixture.

Drain the noodles from the water and add the cooked pasta to the large skillet with the meat and cheese mixture (image 10).

Fully mixed taco mac and cheese.

Mix together to completely melt the cheese and evenly combine (image 11).

Expert Tip!

Make two batches. One for now and one to freeze as meal prep! Double up that taco seasoning too so you can use it on meat for taco night or in Greek Yogurt 5 Layer Dip!

Recipe FAQs

How to store leftover taco mac and cheese.

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 so you can add a splash of milk or beef broth to help loosen it back up when reheating.

How should I reheat taco mac and cheese?

Simple microwave! I love having leftovers for lunch the next day. If it seems to need a little bit more liquid to loosen it up just add a splash of water or milk (dairy or plant-based) to the macaroni to loosen it up.

What should you serve taco macaroni with?

Serve topped with your favorite taco toppings, tortilla chips for scooping, cilantro or as is. I also love this with a non-alcoholic Moscow mule mocktail or NA beer.

Can you freeze macaroni?

This is a great recipe to meal prep, freeze and reheat at work, school or on the go out the door. Simply freeze in individual portions and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes until cooked through. Add a splash of milk or water to loosen if needed.

Bowl of taco mac and cheese ready to serve.

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 60 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!

67 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great quick lunch recipe and it tastes great! I used extra creamy oat milk in the sauce and it was perfect! Makes enough for leftovers as well. Added this one to my rotation!

  2. 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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