Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe

This Tex-Mex pasta salad recipe is a perfect blend of Italian and Mexican cuisine. It's a hearty, zesty dish that combines the comfort of pasta with the kick of Tex-Mex flavors. A pasta salad like no other, it's ideal for potlucks, barbecues, or those busy weeknights when you need a quick and satisfying meal.

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe
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Photos of Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe

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Most of the ingredients used in this recipe are easily found in your pantry or local supermarket. However, you might need to look in the international aisle for the taco seasoning mix and pickled jalapeno peppers. Also, for an extra punch, look for extra lean ground beef, which will add a rich, meaty flavor without too much grease.

Ingredients for Making Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Olive oil: Used for cooking the pasta and browning the beef. It adds a rich, smooth flavor.Salt: Enhances the flavor of the entire dish.Fusilli pasta: Its spirals are perfect for holding onto the zesty dressing.Ground beef: Adds a savory, protein-packed component.Taco seasoning mix: Provides the distinctive Tex-Mex flavor.Salsa: Adds a spicy, tangy element.Ranch dressing: Gives a creamy, tangy contrast to the spicy flavors.Red bell peppers: Adds a sweet, crunchy texture.Green onions: Provides a mild, fresh bite.Pickled jalapeno peppers: Offers a spicy kick.Black olives: Gives a briny contrast to the other flavors.Cheddar cheese: Melts into the warm pasta for a gooey, creamy finish.

One reader, Casi Causey says:

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This tex-mex pasta salad recipe is a game-changer! The fusion of flavors is incredible, and the combination of pasta, beef, and zesty dressing is simply irresistible. It's a hit at every gathering, and I love how easy it is to prepare. A definite must-try for anyone who loves Tex-Mex cuisine!

Casi Causey

Techniques Required for Making Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

How to cook pasta: Boil water with olive oil and salt, then add the fusilli and cook until firm to the bite. Drain and set aside.

How to brown ground beef: Cook and stir ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease.

How to mix dressing: Combine salsa, ranch dressing, bell peppers, green onions, jalapenos, and black olives in a medium bowl, and toss together.

How to assemble pasta salad: Combine the cooked pasta, cooled beef mixture, cheddar cheese, and dressing mixture in a large bowl, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

How To Make Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Unlike the usual pasta salad, this dish is heavy on tex-mex flavors, ground beef, bell peppers, chili peppers, and cheese.

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes



  • 2tbspolive oil
  • 1tspsalt
  • 16ozfusilli pasta
  • 2lbsextra lean ground beef
  • oztaco seasoning mix
  • 24ozmild salsa
  • 8ozranch dressing
  • red bell peppers,chopped
  • 6green onions,chopped
  • ¾cuppickled jalapeno peppers,chopped
  • ozblack olives,sliced
  • 8ozCheddar cheese,shredded


  1. Fill a large pot with water; pour in the olive oil and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Stir in the fusilli, and return to a boil.

  2. Cook the pasta uncovered for about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and stir in the ground beef. Cook and stir until the beef is crumbly, evenly browned, and no longer pink. Drain and discard any excess grease. Mix in taco seasoning mix, remove from heat, and cool completely.

  4. Combine salsa, ranch dressing, bell peppers, green onions, jalapenos, and black olives in a medium bowl. Toss together the cooked pasta, cooled beef mixture, Cheddar cheese, and dressing mixture in a large bowl.

  5. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.


  • Calories: 547.40kcal
  • Fat: 26.59g
  • Saturated Fat: 8.57g
  • Trans Fat: 0.59g
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 8.37g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 7.09g
  • Carbohydrates: 44.68g
  • Fiber: 4.15g
  • Sugar: 6.64g
  • Protein: 32.75g
  • Cholesterol: 85.28mg
  • Sodium: 1197.22mg
  • Calcium: 211.72mg
  • Potassium: 755.92mg
  • Iron: 3.83mg
  • Vitamin A: 120.23µg
  • Vitamin C: 33.84mg

Technique Tip for Preparing Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

When preparing the fusilli pasta, it's crucial to stir occasionally while it's boiling to prevent it from sticking together. Also, to ensure that your pasta is cooked to perfection, try tasting a piece after about 7 minutes of boiling. It should be firm but cooked through, a state known as 'al dente'. This will give your tex-mex pasta salad a delightful texture.

Time-Saving Tips for Preparing Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Prep ahead: Cook the pasta and brown the ground beef in advance to save time. Store them in airtight containers in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Use pre-cut ingredients: Opt for pre-cut bell peppers, onions, and jalapenos to cut down on prep time.

One-pot cooking: Consider using a large pot to cook the pasta and a skillet to brown the ground beef simultaneously to save time and minimize cleanup.

Multi-task: While the pasta is cooking, start browning the ground beef to make the process more efficient.

Efficient assembly: Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before assembling the salad to streamline the process.

Substitute Ingredients For Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe

  • olive oil - Substitute with avocado oil: Avocado oil has a similar mild flavor and high smoke point, making it a suitable substitute for olive oil in this recipe.

  • fusilli pasta - Substitute with penne pasta: Penne pasta has a similar shape and texture, making it a good substitute for fusilli in this recipe.

  • extra lean ground beef - Substitute with ground turkey: Ground turkey is a lean alternative to beef and will work well in this tex-mex pasta salad recipe.

  • taco seasoning mix - Substitute with homemade taco seasoning: Making your own taco seasoning allows you to control the spice level and avoid any unnecessary additives.

  • mild salsa - Substitute with diced tomatoes and green chilies: This substitution provides a similar flavor profile and texture to mild salsa.

  • ranch dressing - Substitute with Greek yogurt mixed with taco seasoning: This alternative provides a tangy and creamy element similar to ranch dressing, but with a healthier twist.

  • red bell peppers - Substitute with orange bell peppers: Orange bell peppers offer a slightly sweeter flavor and vibrant color, making them a great substitute for red bell peppers.

  • green onions - Substitute with chives: Chives provide a mild onion flavor and a pop of color, similar to green onions.

  • pickled jalapeno peppers - Substitute with fresh jalapeno peppers: Fresh jalapenos can be used to add heat and flavor, similar to pickled jalapenos.

  • black olives - Substitute with kalamata olives: Kalamata olives offer a rich and briny flavor, complementing the tex-mex flavors in the salad.

  • cheddar cheese - Substitute with Monterey Jack cheese: Monterey Jack cheese has a mild flavor and melts well, making it a suitable substitute for cheddar cheese in this recipe.

Best Way to Present This Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

  1. Elevate the plating: When presenting the Tex-Mex pasta salad, focus on creating an artful arrangement on the plate. Use vibrant colors and textures to make the dish visually appealing.

  2. Incorporate fresh herbs: Garnish the dish with freshly chopped cilantro or parsley to add a pop of color and a burst of fresh flavor.

  3. Utilize contrasting textures: Consider adding a crunchy element, such as tortilla strips or toasted corn kernels, to provide a contrast to the creamy dressing and tender pasta.

  4. Highlight the ingredients: Showcase the vibrant red bell peppers, green onions, and jalapeños to emphasize the Tex-Mex flavors of the dish.

  5. Balance the flavors: Ensure that each component of the salad is well-distributed to create a harmonious blend of flavors in every bite.

  6. Focus on precision: Pay attention to the placement of each ingredient on the plate, aiming for a balanced and visually appealing presentation.

  7. Emphasize the cheese: Grate the cheddar cheese over the top of the salad just before serving to create an enticing presentation and highlight the cheese's role in the dish.

  8. Consider the vessel: Choose a suitable serving dish or plate that complements the vibrant colors of the Tex-Mex pasta salad and enhances the overall presentation.

Essential Tools for Making Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

  • Large pot: Used for boiling pasta or cooking large quantities of food.
  • Skillet: A versatile pan used for sautéing, frying, and browning ingredients.
  • Medium bowl: Used for mixing and combining ingredients for the dressing.
  • Large bowl: Used for tossing and combining the pasta salad ingredients.
  • Colander: Used for draining the cooked pasta.
  • Spatula: Used for stirring and flipping ingredients in the skillet.
  • Cutting board: Used for chopping and preparing the bell peppers, green onions, and other vegetables.
  • Chef's knife: Used for cutting and chopping ingredients.
  • Measuring spoons: Used for accurately measuring small amounts of ingredients such as salt and taco seasoning mix.
  • Measuring cup: Used for measuring liquids such as olive oil and salsa.
  • Mixing spoon: Used for mixing and tossing the pasta salad ingredients.
  • Grater: Used for grating the cheddar cheese.

How To Store and Freeze Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

  • To store the tex-mex pasta salad, transfer it to an airtight container or cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to 3-4 days.
  • The flavors of the pasta salad will meld together and intensify over time, making it even more delicious the next day.
  • If the salad appears dry after storing, you can stir in a little extra ranch dressing or salsa to moisten it before serving.
  • For longer storage, you can freeze the tex-mex pasta salad. Transfer the salad to a freezer-safe container, ensuring there is minimal air space to prevent freezer burn.
  • Label the container with the date and freeze for up to 2-3 months.
  • To thaw the frozen pasta salad, transfer it to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. The pasta may soften slightly after freezing and thawing, but the flavors will still be delicious.
  • After thawing, give the salad a good stir and add a little extra ranch dressing or salsa if needed to refresh the texture and flavors before serving.
  • It's best to consume the thawed pasta salad within 2-3 days for optimal taste and texture.

How To Reheat Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Leftovers

  • Reheat the tex-mex pasta salad in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired temperature. This method is quick and easy, but may result in slightly softer pasta and vegetables.
  • For a crispier texture, reheat the pasta salad in a skillet over medium heat. Add a small amount of olive oil or butter to prevent sticking and to add flavor. Stir frequently until heated through, about 5-7 minutes.
  • If you prefer a cold pasta salad, simply remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to meld and the salad to slightly soften.
  • To maintain the best texture and flavor, reheat only the portion of tex-mex pasta salad you plan to eat. Store the remaining salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
  • If the pasta salad seems dry after reheating, add a small amount of salsa, ranch dressing, or olive oil to moisten it and enhance the flavors.
  • For a crispy twist, sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese on top of the reheated pasta salad and place it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Random Fact About Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Tex-Mex Pasta Salad is a versatile dish that can be easily customized to suit different tastes and preferences. It can be made with various types of pasta, and the ingredients can be adjusted to include different vegetables, meats, and cheeses. This dish is perfect for potlucks, picnics, or as a side dish for a barbecue. It's a great way to enjoy the flavors of Tex-Mex cuisine in a convenient and delicious pasta salad.

Is Making Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Economical for Home Cooking?

This Tex-Mex pasta salad recipe is quite cost-effective for a household. The ingredients, such as lean ground beef, pasta, and vegetables, are reasonably priced and readily available. The versatility of the dish makes it suitable for various occasions, adding value to its cost-effectiveness. The approximate cost for a household of four people would be around $20-$25, making it an affordable and satisfying meal option. Overall Verdict: 8.

Is Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Healthy or Unhealthy?

This tex-mex pasta salad recipe, while flavorful, is not particularly healthy. Here's why:

  • The recipe uses a significant amount of ground beef, which is high in saturated fat and calories.
  • Ranch dressing and cheddar cheese add additional saturated fat and calories to the dish.
  • The recipe lacks a significant amount of vegetables, which are essential for a balanced meal.
  • Pickled jalapenos and black olives, while adding flavor, are high in sodium.

To make this recipe healthier, consider the following suggestions:

  • Swap the ground beef for lean ground turkey or chicken to reduce the saturated fat content.
  • Use a low-fat ranch dressing or create a homemade version using Greek yogurt as a base to cut down on calories and fat.
  • Increase the amount of vegetables in the recipe. Add diced tomatoes, corn, and black beans for added fiber, nutrients, and texture.
  • Reduce the amount of cheddar cheese used, or opt for a low-fat version to decrease the saturated fat content.
  • Use whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta to increase the fiber content and make the dish more filling.
  • Limit the amount of pickled jalapenos and black olives used to reduce the sodium content, or opt for fresh jalapenos and low-sodium olives.

Editor's Thoughts on This Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe

This Tex-Mex pasta salad recipe offers a delightful fusion of flavors and textures. The combination of tender fusilli pasta, savory ground beef seasoned with taco spices, and a zesty mix of salsa and ranch dressing creates a harmonious blend. The addition of vibrant bell peppers, green onions, pickled jalapenos, and black olives adds a refreshing crunch and a burst of tangy heat. The finishing touch of sharp cheddar cheese brings a rich creaminess to the dish. Overall, this recipe promises a satisfying and flavorful Tex-Mex-inspired pasta salad that is sure to be a hit at any gathering.

Enhance Your Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe with These Unique Side Dishes:

Guacamole: Creamy avocado dip with a hint of lime and cilantro, perfect for scooping with tortilla chips
Cornbread: Moist and buttery cornbread muffins, a classic Tex-Mex side dish
Grilled Corn on the Cob: Sweet and smoky corn on the cob, brushed with chili-lime butter for a flavorful twist

Alternative Recipes Similar to Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Spicy Beef Tacos: Create a flavorful and spicy beef taco recipe using ground beef, taco seasoning, and your favorite toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese.
Mango Salsa Chicken: Whip up a delicious mango salsa chicken dish using juicy chicken breasts, fresh mango, red onion, and cilantro for a burst of tropical flavors.
Vegetarian Black Bean Soup: Prepare a hearty and nutritious vegetarian black bean soup using black beans, onions, bell peppers, and a blend of savory spices for a comforting meal.

Suggested Appetizers and Desserts to Serve with Tex-Mex Pasta Salad

Stuffed Mushrooms: Delight your guests with savory stuffed mushrooms filled with a flavorful mixture of cream cheese, garlic, and herbs. These bite-sized appetizers are the perfect way to kick off any meal.
Spinach and Artichoke Dip: Indulge in a creamy and cheesy spinach and artichoke dip, served with crispy tortilla chips for dipping. This classic appetizer is sure to be a hit at any gathering.
Chocolate Mousse: Indulge in a rich and creamy chocolate mousse, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of cocoa powder. The smooth texture and decadent flavor will leave your taste buds craving for more.
Strawberry Cheesecake: Savor the luscious combination of creamy cheesecake filling and sweet, juicy strawberries on a buttery graham cracker crust. Each bite is a delightful balance of tangy and sweet flavors that will leave you wanting another slice.

Why trust this Tex-Mex Pasta Salad Recipe:

This Tex-Mex pasta salad recipe offers a fusion of flavors and textures, making it a delightful addition to any meal. The use of fusilli pasta provides a perfect base for capturing the savory ground beef and vibrant bell peppers. The combination of mild salsa and ranch dressing creates a harmonious blend of tangy and creamy notes, while the addition of pickled jalapeno peppers adds a hint of heat. With the inclusion of cheddar cheese and black olives, this recipe promises a satisfying and flavorful experience, earning the trust of all who savor it.

Share your thoughts on this Tex-Mex Pasta Salad recipe in the Recipe Sharing forum and let us know how it turned out for you!
Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
Yes, you can definitely use a different type of pasta for this recipe. Feel free to use any pasta shape you prefer, such as penne, rotini, or macaroni.
Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
Absolutely! This tex-mex pasta salad can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a few hours before serving. This allows the flavors to meld together for an even more delicious dish.
Can I make this recipe vegetarian?
Certainly! You can easily make this recipe vegetarian by substituting the ground beef with plant-based meat alternatives or adding more vegetables like corn, black beans, or grilled tofu for a protein boost.
Can I adjust the spiciness of the dish?
Of course! You can easily adjust the spiciness of the tex-mex pasta salad by adding more or fewer jalapeno peppers according to your preference. You can also choose a milder or spicier salsa to suit your taste.
How long will the leftovers last?
The leftovers of this tex-mex pasta salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Just make sure to give it a good stir before serving the leftovers to redistribute the dressing and flavors.

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