This loaded Cowboy Pasta Salad recipe is tossed with a bright and light lemon-cumin dressing. It’s super easy, fast, and perfect to prepare ahead of time for your next potluck or gathering!
Cowboy Pasta Salad
Sick of eating the same old blah pasta salads? This recipe is such a great way to switch up your summertime picnics or barbecues! Each bite is packed with amazing flavor. Sweet corn and cherry tomatoes, taco spiced beef, black beans, lots of cheese, and topped with a sprinkle of green onion. I can promise you won’t be going home with any leftovers!
You’re probably used to pasta salads that are loaded with a mayo-based creamy dressing. While I do love a good creamy pasta salad, this version is so nice and bright! The simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and cumin is the perfect way to complement all the goodies in this salad.
Ingredients in Cowboy Pasta Salad
Detailed measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
For the salad:
- Bowtie pasta – This is also known as butterflies or farfalle. Any other pasta can be used such as penne, rigatoni, elbow, etc.
- Ground beef – You can use other ground meats like chicken, turkey, or pork, or leave the meat out entirely if you like.
- Taco seasoning – Use this recipe to make your own taco seasoning, or you can use a store-bought mix.
- Red pepper flakes – Add as much or as little as you prefer.
- Corn – Feel free to use fresh, canned, or frozen corn.
- Black beans – If you use dry beans, make sure to give them enough time to cool down after you cook them.
- Cherry tomatoes – I find that small tomatoes hold up better in a salad like this. You can, of course, use any type of tomato you have handy.
- Cheddar cheese – Monterey jack or gouda would also be great.
- Green onions – You can use red or white onion, but I like the more mild flavor of green onion in this recipe.
For the dressing:
- Lemon juice – Fresh is always best!
- Olive oil – Avocado, grapeseed, sunflower, flaxseed, and safflower oils would also work.
- Cumin – This is the main ingredient in taco seasoning that really gives it that recognizable taste. I love to add some extra!
- Salt & pepper – Season to taste.
What Kind of Pasta Should I Use?
Any small type of pasta will work. Try these out:
You can also try this salad out with grains such as quinoa or a wild rice blend.
What Else Can I Mix Into My Pasta Salad?
This salad is very versatile! This is a great way to clean unused ingredients from your kitchen. You can try:
- Bell peppers
- Broccoli or cauliflower
- Jalapenos, fresh or canned
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Kidney beans
How to Make Cowboy Pasta Salad Recipe
- Cook the pasta and beef: Cook your pasta al dente according to package instructions. Brown the beef in a skillet over medium-high, drain excess fat, and mix it with the taco seasoning and pepper flakes.
- Make the dressing: Mix all the dressing ingredients together and toss with the pasta.
- Finish the salad: Add the beef, corn, bean, and cherry tomatoes. Toss well. Fold in the cheese and green onion. I like to leave a bit leftover to sprinkle on top as a garnish. Serve and enjoy!
Tips for Making the Best Pasta Salad
- Make sure you don’t over-cook the pasta. Mushy noodles will break easily as you stir all the ingredients together.
- Rinse the pasta well with cold water after you strain it. This will prevent the noodles from sticking together.
- Make your own taco seasoning! The flavor is so much better than what you’ll find in a store.
- If you make this salad ahead of time, leave the dressing off until right before you serve it.
What to Serve With Cowboy Pasta Salad
Since this recipe has meat in it you can definitely serve it on its own, or try serving it with these recipes:
How to Store Leftover Pasta Salad
Because of the beef, this salad is safe to eat at room temperature for two hours before it needs to be refrigerated. Leftovers will last 3-4 days in the fridge. If you need, you can whip up some extra dressing to toss the pasta with when you eat the leftovers in case too much has been absorbed.
I wouldn’t recommend freezing this salad! The tomatoes and pasta will fall apart after thawing.
Did You Love This Salad? Try These Recipes!
- Macaroni Salad
- Easy Chicken Salad
- Panzanella Salad
- Easy Coleslaw Recipe
- Italian Pasta Salad
- Chicken Ranch Pasta Salad
- Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad
Craving More? Follow Along:
Cowboy Pasta Salad
- 1 lb bowtie pasta or pasta shells
- 1 lb ground beef extra lean
- 2 tsp taco seasoning
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp lemon juice fresh
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
- 15 oz corn drained (1 can), or frozen
- 15 oz black beans drained and rinsed (1 can)
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes quartered
- 2 cups cheddar cheese shredded (yellow)
- 4 green onions chopped
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until it's no longer pink, breaking it up as you go along with a wooden spoon. Should take about 6 to 8 minutes to cook. Drain excess fat if needed.
- Season the meat with taco seasoning and red pepper flakes.
- In a small bowl wisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper. Pour over the pasta and toss.
- Add the ground beef, corn, black beans and cherry tomatoes to the pasta and toss well.
- Fold in the cheese and green onions.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.