Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta
See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.
Prep the ingredients for this Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta the night before and then start it cooking in your crock pot when you are ready. With just 10 minutes prep, this comforting pasta dish couldn’t be easier or faster to make!
In this busy season of life, slow cooker recipes are my best friend. It’s the easiest way for me to get dinner on the table. Once all of the kids are home from school, it can be nearly impossible for me to get into the kitchen to cook a meal. Getting the food on plates, pouring milk, and getting everyone washed and to the table is difficult enough!
This Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta is a new recipe that I fell in love with at first bite.
The flavor is spot on, and it’s just the kind of warm comfort food you want after a long day. Cheesy pasta with ground beef and your favorite taco flavors… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! My crock pot roast is another of our favorite comfort food meals.
When I created this recipe, I wanted it to be as easy as possible. My first thought was to make it a no chopping required recipe, like this Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup. But I really wanted some sneaky veggies in this taco pasta so I added a chopped bell pepper. In the tips section below I’ve suggested ways you can add even more vegetables to this Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta, if you like.
We’re using taco seasoning plus 1 cup of jarred salsa to flavor this Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta. Using salsa is one of my favorite tricks for getting lots of flavor into a recipe with zero effort. For the taco seasoning, I like to use my homemade taco seasoning recipe, since the flavor and nutrition profile is much better than store bought. I always keep some of my homemade taco seasoning stocked in my spice drawer.
Tips for making this Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta:
- I couldn’t live without my 5 quart slow cooker. It’s reasonably priced and programmable. I love it!
- You can add chopped onion, chopped fresh spinach, and/or finely chopped carrot to this recipe to get even more nutritious vegetables into your meal.
- You can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.
- You can add a can of beans, rinsed and drained (pinto or black beans would be good) to the recipe as written, or substitute two cans of beans for the beef to make this meal vegetarian.
- Want to make this in your Instant Pot? You’ll love my Instant Pot Taco Pasta recipe!
More Easy Pasta Recipes
Easy Slow Cooker Taco Pasta
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- salt and pepper
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup jarred salsa, I used mild
- 15 ounce can corn, drained
- 3 tablespoons taco seasoning, I use this easy recipe
- 2 ½ cups water or low sodium chicken broth, I used one 14.5 ounce can chicken broth plus enough water to total 2 ½ cups
- 12 ounces shell pasta shapes, whole grain or white
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, stirring often, until browned. Transfer beef to slow cooker.
- Add the bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, salsa, corn, taco seasoning, and broth or water. Stir.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours.
- Stir in the pasta. Cook on high for 10-20 minutes. Pasta cook time will vary by slow cooker, begin checking for doneness at 10 minutes.
- Stir in the cheddar cheese and serve.
This recipe is soo good! I made it this weekend for lunch/dinner meal prep this week. Added black beans, spinach, onion, and carrot. It was super easy and so so delicious! thanks 🙂
Hi Gabi, I’m SO excited to hear that you tried this recipe and loved it! It’s good to know that it worked well with the addition of black beans, spinach, onion and carrot. I’m going to try adding more veggies next time!
Would you happen to have the Taco Pasta cooking time for an InstaPot?
If you read through the other comments, you’ll see others have asked about and tried this in the Instant Pot with success. It’s on my list to try but I haven’t gotten to it yet. Let me know how it goes if you try it!
I just shared my Instant Pot version of this recipe! Find it here: Instant Pot Taco Pasta
I’ve just come across this recipe from Pinterest and it looks and sounds delicious! I’m definitely bookmarking this one for later!
Sounds yummy! Could you freeze leftovers after and reheat just like any other casseroles?
Hi Corrie, I have some in my freezer right now but haven’t reheated/eaten it yet. I’ll try to report back after I do. 🙂
How did reheating it from frozen work? I just found this recipe and am wondering the same!
This reheats well from frozen. Thaw it first in the refrigerator (or microwave on defrost) and then warm in the microwave.
Do you drain the grease from your meat or transfer it all?
If I’m using at 90% or more lean ground beef I don’t drain it. If I’m using 80 or 85% I drain off the excess grease.
Do you cook your pasta first
No, add uncooked pasta and it cooks in the slow cooker.
What other vegetables can I use other than the ones listed? I won’t use beans because my children wont eat them. But I am not going to use any meat. How long should I cook in slow cooker?
Hi Barry, besides bell pepper, carrot, spinach and onion, you might try sweet potato, butternut squash, or mushrooms. Zucchini might work too but I’d add it later on in the cook time so it doesn’t get mushy.
It says to add uncooked pasta for 10-20 mins? Is that correct?
Yes, follow step 4 of the recipe instructions. Check for doneness at 10 minutes. It may take 20 minutes or so depending on the pasta and how much heat your slow cooker produces on high.
You say the serving size is 1/8 of the recipe. Do you know the actual size in oz, grams, or ml?
Hi Roxan, I don’t know the exact measurement for the serving size.
Thank you for taking the time to post recipes! You have such a busy life so please know your blog is one of my favourites. I’ve bookmarked this recipe! I have been thinking about whether I should buy a slow cooker… Definitely going to do more research.
Thank you for your thoughtful words, Linda! They made my day. 🙂 I LOVE my slow cooker because it allows me to do dinner prep earlier in the day when I find a few free minutes. I’d highly recommend getting one. I’ll be sharing lots more slow cooker recipes because they are some of my most popular!
Loved it! I did 6hrs on low, and 20-30min on high to cook the pasta (stirring in between 10min increments helps). Added in chopped onion, subbed the corn for mexicorn, subbed cheddar for shredded Mexican cheese, and added in some cayenne pepper while browning the meat. Great amount of flavor and still a mild enough kick for someone who thinks Chipotle is spicy (me). Would opt for more than 1lb ground beef next time, for a more even beef/veggie and pasta mix. Can’t wait to eat those leftovers!
What sides, if any, would pair well with this? I’m making it this weekend, my husband is dying to try it!
I usually serve a green salad and French bread with this. Enjoy!
Do you think that would be OK with elbow macaroni? I thought I had shells in my pantry but I was mistaken.
Yes, I think elbow macaroni will be great! I hope you enjoy this dish! 🙂
Could you do this recipe without the salsa?
Yes, I think you could and that would make it less spicy. In it’s place, I would add a cup of crushed or diced tomatoes. You could also add 1/2-1 cup of chopped onion. Let me know how you like it!
I find making pasta in the slow cooker makes it mushy when you reheat leftovers. This recipe is so delicious..but I just make a serving of pasta when I’m eating a serving..
Zucchini would also be a great addition, the kidlings will never notice!!
I agree! Especially if you grate it up finely. 🙂
How does it not get watery with the amount of water/broth?
When you add the pasta, it absorbs any remaining water/broth. Trust me, it works! I’ve made this recipe many times and it’s always perfect. 🙂
This slow cooker dinner was amazing! Super easy to prep and ready right after work (with the help of my husband since he’s off earlier than me by adding the pasta in) thank you for this delicious recipe, it’ll definitely be a repeat in my household!
This one is on repeat in my house! I’m so glad you loved it as much as my family does!
This was an easy set it and forget it recipe. It was very flavorful, not dried out at all. Even the leftovers reheated really well. There wasn’t a lot left over, but enough for my son to happily take to school with him for lunch the next day. I left the corn out because of a finicky hubs. I really like the bell pepper in this. I used a red one so it would hide amongst the tomatoes LOL. My 12 year old son didn’t even notice! I felt that it really gave this dish a good flavor. Yum!
I’m so glad you enjoyed this!
I cooked this the 1st time last night and it was so good . My husband ate 3 bowls full at dinner and ate the rest today for lunch. My 13yr old daughter loved it too. I definitely will be putting this on the menu for now on .
I’m so happy to hear that! This one is a favorite of mine too, and definitely worth going back for seconds (or thirds ?).
I have made this dish twice now and it is an all around family favorite!! Thank you so much for sharing!!
I am so happy to hear that! This is one of my very favorites, too. 🙂
This is a great recipe and everyone loved it. I made this for our poker night buddies for about 14 people. I followed the recipe multiplying it by 5 and used 2 crock pots. I did add a little more chicken broth to completely cover the mix before adding the pasta and added a little extra seasoning to make up for the extra broth. I will definitely use this again on future poker nights or even a family dinner. Great Job!!
I’m so glad it was a hit! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.
Made this recipe today it’s in the slow cooker for 5 hours can’t wait to try it!!
Would you need to brown the beef before cooking? Seems like 6 hours in the crock pot would do it for you. Trying to cut down on dishes, lol!
Hi Karis, You’re right that the beef should cook through in the crockpot. I always brown ground meat before adding it to my slow cooker because it develops the flavor and also if you don’t brown it beforehand it may make the meal greasy. It’s personal preference, though!
My whole family loved this crockpot meal! My kids actually ask for it a lot now. And of course the convenience of the crockpot is already s win for me .
I’m so glad! Easy crockpot meals are a lifesaver around here!
I made this before and it was delicious! I was gonna make it tonight but forgot to get the ingredients i needed for it so can i make it on the stove in one pot? Just wondering if you tried it that way bc thats how im doing it tonight let u know how it works
I’m glad you enjoy this recipe! If you read through the comments, others have made this on the stove with success. I hope yours turned out well!
Do you think I could add the pasta at the end already cooked? Maybe decrease the broth? I’d like to try this on a night I need supper ready as soon as we get home. Thanks!
Yes, you could add cook pasta at the end but you would need to decrease the broth. Since I haven’t tested the recipe that way I’m making a guess here, but I bet it would work without any broth because you’ll have some liquid from the crushed tomatoes and salsa. If you try it let me know how it turns out!
When adding extra veggies, do you dump them in at the same time as the peppers? Does the spinach wilt too much? Could you Brown the onions w the beef first?
Yes, you could brown onions with the beef. When you add the veggies depends on the type. Firm veggies, such as finely chopped carrots, can be added at the beginning (with the peppers). I would stir in chopped spinach after cooking and it should wilt down right away due to the heat of the other ingredients.
This is SO GOOD. Definitely a new favorite in our house!! I followed the recipe exactly except I added 4 oz cream cheese with the cheddar because I had to use it up and WOW. So creamy and delicious!
This turned out so good! I was worried it would be watery still after adding the noodles but it turned out perfect. Thanks for the awesome recipe.
Mmmm cream cheese sounds like a great idea! I usually add cream cheese to my taco soup so yum yum. Thanks for the tip.
Might sound like a dumb question, but the recipe says to add pasta AFTER the veggies and cook for only 10-20 minutes . Is that correct? Is pasta done with only that much time?
That’s correct. As long as your slow cooker is on high and already hot, the pasta will cook in that amount of time. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the recipe. It’s one of our favorites!
My crock pot has high 4/6 hrs or slow 8/10hrs what would I use for this recipe
You aren’t able to change the number of hours from 4/6 or 8/10? If not, you can always just turn the crock pot off manually after it has cooked the amount of time that you want. I’d use the high setting and cook it for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, then add the pasta and then turn it off when the pasta is cooked.
can I use taco seasoning bought at the store and can we add extra cheese or is the amount you have plenty? I am making this for a potluck. I hope to have it cooked just before I head out the door so it stays warm…. :/ Thanks!! 🙂
You can use store bought taco seasoning. We love this recipe as is, but if you want it very cheesy you can add extra cheese. Another option is to have shredded cheese, sour cream, etc. available for people to add as toppings if desired when serving. Enjoy!
I was wondering if I could make this on the stovetop instead of crockpot?! If so how would you recommend me doing it?
Here’s what I would try: Brown the ground beef in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Add the remaining ingredients, except for pasta and cheese. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the pasta, cover and cook at a low simmer until the pasta is cooked. Then stir in the cheese. If you try it, let me know how it turns out. 🙂
I’m about to try this now with stovetop instead of crockpot! Will let you all know@!!
I made this tonight on the stovetop, following your directions, and it came out perfectly! This was so delicious, and everyone loved it!!
I followed your stove top/Dutch oven instructions and your recipe to a T and the pasta started sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning, even though I stirred frequently, almost as though there wasn’t enough liquid. I added the exact amount of everything in the recipe. Maybe my pot is just crappy? I added a little more liquid but didn’t seem to help much. Still turned out great, but a decent chunk of my pasta was burnt. ?
I’m sorry to hear that. It could be the pot, or as you said, maybe more liquid was needed, or maybe the heat needed to be turned down. I haven’t tried this recipe myself on the stove, but other commenters have had success cooking this on the stove.
Have you tried making this in an instapot? If so, how long did you have it on high pressure?
I’m so spoiled by my instapot, that’s it’s hard for me to wait for slow cooker meals anymore! Haha
You can brown the beef using saute mode and then add the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheese. I would try 3 minutes of pressure cooking at high pressure, followed by a controlled quick release. Then stir in the cheese. If you try it, let me know how it turns out!
I did cook in the instapot for 4 minutes as you suggested sautéed the ground beef first, put all ingredients in except cheese and did 4 minutes high pressure cook then quick released and added the cup of cheese. It was perfect.
I just shared my Instant Pot version of this recipe! Find it here: Instant Pot Taco Pasta
I love this recipe. Do you think I can use a can of regular tomato sauce instead of crushed tomatos.. only because that’s all I have on hand right now?
In a pinch, that should work. 🙂
Very good. Will use less broth next time. I only did 2 cups of broth and still turned out a bit watery, but that could have been just my crockpot, otherwise a great recipe 🙂
Roughly how much is one serving would you say? If the recipe serves 8?
I haven’t measured out the total yield of this recipe, but I will try to remember to do so the next time I make this.
How many packets of store bought taco seasoning would you recommend?
I would recommend using one packet. Enjoy!
Any instant pot directions?
If you read through the comments, you’ll see others have asked about and tried this in the Instant Pot with success. It’s on my list to try but I haven’t gotten to it yet. 🙂
Hi Rona, I just shared my Instant Pot version of this recipe! Find it here: Instant Pot Taco Pasta
I’m just wondering if you’ve tried this in the instant pot? It looks like a recipe that would be easily adaptable to the IP! Looks yummy! I’m excited to try it!
If you read through the comments, you’ll see others have asked about and tried this in the Instant Pot with success. It’s on my list to try but I haven’t gotten to it yet. 🙂 If you try it, let me know how it turns out.
Hi Aubri, I just shared my Instant Pot version of this recipe! Find it here: Instant Pot Taco Pasta
Absolutely delish! I didn’t have salsa or onion so I put more stock and chopped tomatoes in with some garlic and the whole family demolished it. Served with cut up tortillas. Cooked all in pressure cooker for 20mins.
Enough left over for tomorrow night- family of 5!
I want to make this tomorrow. Do you drain any grease from the ground beef before adding to the crock pot?
If there is a lot of grease in the pan, then yes, I would drain it. I usually buy lean ground beef so there isn’t any grease to drain. Enjoy! This is one of my all-time favorites!
I currently have this going in the crock pot. I have not added the pasta to it yet. Why is it so watery??
The liquid is needed to cook the pasta. Don’t worry, it will be absorbed by the pasta as the pasta cooks.
Is it supposed to be soupy while cooking? Does it thicken up? I followed the recipe! Help!
The liquid is needed to cook the pasta. Don’t worry, when you add the pasta it will be absorbed by the pasta as the pasta cooks.
Do you have to cook pasta prior to adding to crockpot?
Hi Jamie, please see Step 4 of the recipe instructions. The Pasta cooks in the crockpot but time will vary depending on the pasta used. I hope you enjoy!
I made this today and it was really good. I did my own twist on it. I didn’t use the can of tomatoes or bell pepper as my family doesn’t like bell peppers, instead I used a can of Rotel. I had to also add a little extra broth to it I. The end when I added the noodles.
Made this tonite for my brother-in-law who is recovering from leg surgery. Both he and my sister loved it! I substituted low sodium beef broth for the chicken broth and used 4 cheese Mexican instead of cheddar. Now my husband wants me to make it for us!!
Looks so tasty! Would this taste good without the cheese? We have a dairy allergy in the house so was thinking about making without cheese and then just have cheese on the side for those who can eat it. Would this work, and still taste ok for the cheeseless version?
That will work just fine. Enjoy!
I found this recipe and made it for dinner it was very tasty I was wondering what happens to all the access liquid but it all got absorbed
Yes, the pasta absorbs it as the pasta cooks.
Do you use small or medium shell pasta?
Slow cooker taco pasta
I’ve used both! Both work well, but I usually use medium. 🙂
Can I use Velveeta instead of 1 cup of shredded cheddar? And how much?
I haven’t tried that substitution before but I would start with less, maybe 2/3rds of a cup. You can then add more if it isn’t cheesy enough after tasting.
Easy and delicious. We keep ground beef pre cooked in the freezer for quick grabs when we don’t want to cook. It made this super simple.
Next time I’ll use total in place of the crushed tomatoes, but just because we always have that on hand. Thanks for the tasty easy dinner!
Do you drain the beef or leave it?
If using very lean ground beef I usually do drain off excess fat. I do drain the excess fat with 80% or 85% lean beef.
this is my first time making it? what if i accidently put a little too much pasta, would i add more broth?
If the liquid gets all soaked up before the pasta is cooked then yes, I would add a little more broth. It might be fine without adding extra, as long as you didn’t increase the amount of pasta by too much.
Before I added the pasta, I tasted the broth. It was wonderful! So, I will also use this recipe for taco soup! I used 90/10 ground turkey. Fantastic!
Silly question, but can I just use the McCormick taco seasoning packet? The whole thing or just 3 tablespoons out of the packet? Thanks! Going to try this tonight ??
Yes, you can use a taco seasoning packet. I believe adding the whole packet will be fine, unless you are feeding people who may like less seasoning.
This was soooo good! My toddlers and picky husband loved it. I put in 2 cups of baby spinach chopped really small (my kids dont like the texture of it whole), 1 can of pinto beans, a bell pepper. It was AMAZING and had enough that we have lunch for 2 more days! So glad pinterest led me here! I’ll be following now and this recipe is in our rotation ❤
Could I possibly use Orzo pasta instead of the kind listed?
Can’t. wait to try this recipe. Sounds absolutely AMAZINGLY delicious!!!!
I would recommend sticking to either shell pasta or a similar sized shape, such as elbow pasta. Orzo may work but since the pieces are so small, the amount of pasta needed and the ratio of pasta to liquid may be different.
If I cook this in a Dutch oven pot, what temperature should I put the oven, and for how long?
I would recommend cooking it on the stove, not in the oven. Here is what I have suggested to another commenter, and another reader left a comment that this method worked perfectly for her. 🙂 Brown the ground beef in a large pot, such as a Dutch oven. Add the remaining ingredients, except for pasta and cheese. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the pasta, cover and cook at a low simmer until the pasta is cooked. Then stir in the cheese.
Hello, I can’t wait to try this recipe, but one of the soon to be eaters of it has celiac’s, so the noodles will need to be gluten free. Are there any differences that you’re aware of in the recipe as far as liquid/cook time of the noodles, or maybe in the way it reheats ? TIA !
Hi Wez, I haven’t tried this recipe with gluten free pasta, so I can’t advise on any modifications you might have to make. If you try it, please report back on how it goes, as I would love to know. 🙂
Silly question, do I drain the tomatoes?
No, don’t drain them. Unless otherwise stated in the recipe, you’ll never drain canned tomatoes for my recipes. 🙂 Enjoy the taco pasta!
Do I use 2 1/2 cups water and the chicken broth or one or the other?
You need 2 1/2 cups of liquid total. So either water OR broth (or a combination of the two to equal 2 1/2 cups total). I often use a 14.5 ounce can of broth, which is about 1 3/4 cups, plus 3/4 cup water to equal 2 1/2 cups total.
Love this recipe so much. Was looking to make it tomorrow but I only have beef broth. Would that work? Or should I just hold off a day and buy the chicken broth.
Beef broth will work well. I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Stupid question probably but do you drain the beef before putting it in the crock pot?
If there is a fair amount of extra grease I recommend draining it off.
Loved it! My husband ate 2 huge bowls. This will be added to our rotation for sure!
This recipe was a 10/10! It will definitely become part of our regular rotation. I didn’t have a pepper, so I used an onion instead and it worked great. Thank you so much for sharing this!
Can you make this the night before and reheat in the crockpot the next day?
I think the pasta may dry out in the time it would take to reheat this all the way through in the crockpot. It’s a fairly easy recipe so I’d advise making it the day of. If you want to do some of the prep work the night before, you can brown the ground beef, chop the bell pepper and mix up the taco seasoning (if using homemade). Then store the cooked beef and bell pepper in the fridge until you’re ready to add them to the crockpot. It’s really easy to put together from there!
Hi! Are there any changes to cooking to cooking time if I use ground chicken instead?
The slow cook time will be the same. Follow the recipe step to brown the ground meat on the stove before adding it to the slow cooker. Enjoy!
Loved it i also added a can of black beans n a little more cheese as I used 16oz of pasta