Cowboy Pasta Salad


This side dish is ready for the family cookout. 

Cowboy Pasta Salad
Photo: Photo: Jennifer Causey; Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall
Active Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
40 mins
16 cups

The family cookout is going to love this pasta salad with enough flavor and flair to head up the side dish table. Inspired by our beloved Cowboy Casserole, this recipe uses taco-inspired ingredients such as black beans, corn, cheese, jalapeños, cilantro, and ground beef to create a filling pasta salad that works easily from busy weeknights to the weekend barbecue. A lime dressing adds the perfect amount of tang, while crisp veggies offer freshness and bite. Our Test Kitchen Professionals noted that this recipe makes a very large batch, meaning it's perfect for big gatherings or if you really love leftovers. Alternatively, they recommend that you can easily halve the recipe to make a smaller amount. Since this pasta salad already has seasoned taco meat in the mixture, it makes a satisfying lunch main, or you're able to leave out the ground beef if desired for when you're already serving a meat-heavy cookout spread. Overall, this cool Cowboy Pasta Salad is a crowd-pleasing side dish to try this season.


  • 1 (16-ounce) package uncooked rotini pasta (or penne, farfalle, shells, elbow)

  • 1 pound 90/10 lean ground beef

  • ½ cup chopped yellow onion (from 1 small onion)

  • 4 teaspoons mild taco seasoning mix (from 1 package)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 ¼ teaspoons black pepper, divided

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

  • ½ cup chopped red bell pepper (from 1 small pepper)

  • 1 medium jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions (about 4 scallions)

  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish


  1. Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente; drain and transfer pasta to a large bowl; let cool slightly at room temperature, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium-high; add ground beef, onion, taco seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook, stirring often to crumble, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.

  2. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper in a small bowl. Pour mixture over cooled pasta, and toss to combine thoroughly.

  3. Gently stir in ground beef mixture, corn, black beans, tomatoes, red bell pepper, jalapeño, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper into pasta mixture. Gently fold in cheese and scallions until combined. Garnish with cilantro, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

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