Taco Pasta Salad: With a creamy taco ranch dressing, this no-mayo pasta salad is an easy vegetarian meal that’s loaded with a whole slew of fresh and healthy taco ingredients.
Can you imagine a more perfect meal than one that smashes tacos and pasta together?! Surely, I cannot!
So if you’re with me on this, let me introduce you to my taco pasta salad. Oh, there are lots of taco pasta salad recipes out there but none come anywhere close to this one.
Why, you ask? Because this one is made with all of the BEST taco ingredients:
- taco seasoning mixed with ranch and sour cream for the dressing
- grilled corn
- black beans
- cherry tomatoes
- lime juice
The ingredients remind me a lot of the ones I used for my taco lasagna earlier this year except for the carbs, I replaced the tortillas with pasta for this taco pasta salad.
Pasta Salad without Mayo
Let’s chat for a minute about this creamy taco dressing, shall we? Because it’s the star of this meal! I mean, really and truly the star.
And my gosh, could this not be the most easy taco dressing ever? I took my homemade taco seasoning and mixed it into some ranch dressing and sour cream.
THAT’S IT. My taco seasoning takes about 5 minutes to mix together but if you don’t have the time or all of the ingredients in your kitchen, 1 taco seasoning packet from the grocery store will work just as well.
What I love most about this taco dressing is that there’s no mayo in it. Honestly, I just can’t get into mayo-based salads and I don’t tend to make them. So this is a great mayo-free pasta salad for the mayo haters out there! (Disclaimer: I’m not a mayo hater in the least. I just don’t enjoy it in picnicky-type salads.)
Vegetarian Taco Pasta Salad
OK, so we’re not vegetarians but a lot of what we eat happens to be meatless. And this taco pasta salad turned out to be a quick meatless meal because it was one that I threw together one night last summer completely on a whim.
We hadn’t been to the grocery store in like 2 weeks and I wasn’t about to tote a sick 1 year old to the store to find something for dinner. So I foraged in my pantry, fridge, and freezer and this is what I came up with.
If you wanted to add meat to this pasta salad, you certainly could. Shredded cooked chicken would be great here as would leftover pulled pork. I’ve seen a few recipes out there that add cooked taco meat (ground beef, chicken, or turkey) to taco pasta salad too.
The Greatness that is Taco Pasta Salad
I have to tell you, Kyle and I absolutely flipped out over this meal. I mean, it took less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish so that goes a long way in my book.
And it’s pasta that tastes like tacos! How could we possibly NOT like this meal?
It’s loaded up with a whole slew of fresh and healthy taco filling ingredients and it’s mixed with a taco ranch dressing.
Riley on the other hand? Would not eat this dinner. We tried every which way to convince her to eat it since she, as a toddler, obviously loves all things pasta and every taco component we’ve ever placed in front of her.
And she all but devoured this pasta salad when I made it for the first time last summer. But she’s in a really fussy eating phase right now so I guess it’s to be expected?
Anyway, I know you guys will love this quick weeknight pasta salad just as much as two-thirds of our family did. The kid isn’t the best judge of food deliciousness right now. What can I say?
For the creamy taco dressing:
- 2 tbsp homemade taco seasoning or 1 store-bought packet
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¾ cup homemade or store-bought ranch dressing
- Juice of ½ lime
For the pasta salad:
- 12 oz wagon wheel pasta (or other small pasta shape), cooked, lightly rinsed, and cooled
- 1 avocado, pitted and diced
- 8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 small or 1 large ear of corn (or 1 cup frozen kernels, thawed or 1 (15 oz) can corn, drained)
- 2 scallions, sliced
- Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
- To make the creamy taco dressing: Mix the taco seasoning, sour cream, ranch dressing, and lime juice together in a small bowl. Set aside. (See note below.)
- To make the pasta salad and assemble: If you want to grill the corn (therefore, you won't be using thawed frozen corn or canned corn), heat a grill to medium-high and cook the corn for 8 to 10 minutes, turning it every few minutes. Once it starts to char/brown on all sides, remove it from the grill and let it cool for 10 minutes. Slice the corn off the cob with a sharp knife while holding it perpendicular to the counter.
- In a very large bowl, mix all of the pasta salad ingredients together. Stir in the taco dressing until all of the salad ingredients are well-coated. Serve immediately or chill for up to 2 hours before serving. (See note below.)
Make ahead notes:
- You can make the taco dressing up to 5 days in advance.
- The avocado will start to turn brown in the fridge after a couple of hours. It isn't spoiling; this is just what happens when avocado hits the air. So don't be tempted to make this pasta salad too far in advance of when you plan to serve it.
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