This vegetarian taco pasta is a comforting combination of taco seasonings, pantry staples, and a creamy sour cream-based sauce. And it's ready in under 30 minutes!
Vegetarian taco pasta is pretty much what it sounds like. Classic taco flavors like cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, and cilantro are combined with pasta shells to make a cozy, cheesy vegetarian meal.
This recipe is a lot like vegetarian chili mac, which is one of the most popular recipes on the blog. Taco pasta is very similar because it relies on pantry staples and the same kind of Tex-Mex inspired flavors.
📋 Recipe features
- Quick & easy: This recipe is ready in less than 30 minutes and is super simple to make. Just saute the veggies, add a few ingredients to make the sauce, then stir in the cooked pasta.
- Creamy sauce: The pasta sauce is made up of just sour cream and water from the cooked pasta. It's seasoned with a handful of common seasonings inspired by Tex Mex tacos.
- Simple ingredients: Taco pasta is a combination of pantry staples like beans and canned tomatoes and fresh ingredients like pepper and onion.
- Versatile: Add in extra veggies, use different beans, or choose your favorite pasta shape to make this recipe your own.
- Shell pasta: Any short-grain pasta like macaroni or rotini will work. You can also use protein pasta, whole wheat, or gluten-free pasta in place of white pasta.
- Kidney beans: This is the main source of protein in the recipe. You can also use canned red beans or black beans.
- Tomatoes with green chiles: The chiles add a little bit of heat. Feel free to use a can of regular diced tomatoes for a spice-free option.
- Spices and seasonings: Sautéed onion, bell pepper, and garlic sautéed in olive oil make the base of the recipe. Add in cumin, chili powder, dry oregano, and fresh cilantro as the seasonings.
- Sour cream: This contributes much of the creaminess of the sauce. For a lighter option, you can use plain Greek yogurt.
- Cheddar cheese: Thick-cut farm-style sharp cheddar is my go-to but Mexican blend cheese is another good option.
🔪 Step by step instructions
Before you begin: Cook the pasta to al dente. Make sure to reserve at least ½ cup of the water from the cooked pasta. This is used in the sauce.
- Heat a Dutch oven or medium stock pot over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Once hot, add diced onion, bell pepper, and salt. Sauté until softened, about 6 minutes. Add in garlic and sauté a minute more or until aromatic.
- Stir in the spices, cooking just 30 seconds to bloom them. Stir in the tomatoes and chiles with juices, drained kidney beans, and cilantro. Continue cooking over medium-high heat until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low. Add the sour cream and pasta water to the pot, whisking to form a sauce.
- Stir in the pasta and shredded cheddar cheese. Enjoy!
- Extra protein: Double the can of beans, add tofu chorizo, or vegan tempeh taco meat.
- Extra spice: Saute a diced jalapeno with the garlic for additional heat or add 1-2 teaspoons of hot sauce.
- Taco seasoning: You can use a packet of taco seasoning in place of the cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Or use one tablespoon of homemade taco seasoning.
- Make it vegan: You can use an equal amount of vegan sour cream or cashew cream in place of sour cream and vegan shredded cheddar or Mexican three cheese blend in place of the cheese. My chipotle pasta salad is pretty similar to this recipe and is a good vegan alternative.
- Serve topped with additional chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, and a dollop of sour cream.
👩🏻🍳 Storage and make ahead tips
- Prep ahead options: You can make the pasta 1-2 days in advance. Toss the cooked pasta with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking before refrigerating. Peppers and onions can also be sautéed 1-2 days in advance as needed.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days.
- Reheating: Reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through.
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Cheesy Vegetarian Taco Pasta
- 8 ounce dry shell pasta reserve ½ cup of the cooked pasta water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium yellow onion roughly chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper roughly chopped
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 10 ounce can diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 15 ounce can kidney beans drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro plus more for topping
- ½ cup sour cream plus more for topping
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- ¼ cup sliced green onions for topping
- Cook pasta according to package instructions in well-salted water. Reserve ½ cup cooked pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat a Dutch oven or medium stock pot over medium-high heat. Drizzle with olive oil. Once hot, add the chopped onion, bell pepper, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté until the onions are softened and golden, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add in minced garlic and sauté a minute more, or until aromatic.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook for about 30 seconds, stirring consistently.
- Stir in the tomatoes and chiles with juices, drained kidney beans, and cilantro. Continue cooking over medium high heat until warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.
- Reduce heat to low. Add the sour cream and reserved pasta water, whisking until a sauce forms.
- Stir in the cooked pasta and shredded cheese. Heat until the cheese is melted and everything is warmed through, about 1-2 minutes.
- Taste for salt. Serve topped with fresh chopped green onions and additional cilantro if desired. Enjoy!
- Beans: The beans can be doubled for extra protein. Red beans, kidney beans, and black beans all work here.
- A packet of taco seasoning can be used in place of the chili powder, cumin, and oregano.
- Storage: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes until heated through.
Author's note: This recipe was originally shared in October 2020. It was updated August 2022 with new tips and a video. The recipe remains the same.