Mexican spaghetti is a mashup of two dinnertime favorites: pasta and tacos! Tex-Mex seasoned meat is paired with veggies, spaghetti, cheese, and all your favorite taco toppings to create this kid-approved one-pot dinner.
Why you’ll love it: All the flavor of tacos in a spaghetti dinner—what’s not to love?!
How long it takes: about 30 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large skillet with a lid (or Dutch oven)
- 1 Recipe Overview
- 2 About this Mexican Spaghetti
- 3 Cooking Tip
- 4 Ingredients You’ll need
- 5 Straight-sided Skillet
- 6 How to make Mexican Spaghetti
- 7 FAQs
- 8 Ways To Change Up Mexican Spaghetti
- 9 Make Ahead Ideas
- 10 Storage & Reheating Tips
- 11 More Tex-Mex Favorites
- 12 Get the Recipe: Mexican Spaghetti Recipe
The dinnertime struggle is real, my friends.
Whether it’s food allergies and sensitivities or simply a matter of picky eating, coming up with meal ideas can be exhausting when there are kids in the house. It might even feel like your only option is to serve mac and cheese for dinner every night. (And not good homemade mac and cheese! It must be the kind in the box. With powder. Orange powder, not white.)
Don’t wave the white flag and admit defeat! Instead, add this Mexican spaghetti to your meal plan.
There’s a whole lot to love about this recipe, and I go over some of those reasons below. But let’s just bold, highlight, and underline the fact that you will love it and your kids will love it. How many dinners can you say that about?!
About this Mexican Spaghetti
- Super kid-friendly. First, it’s spaghetti and tacos together in one dish. For sure that’s going to be a winner with the kiddos. It’s also customizable—everyone can add their favorite toppings to their bowl. Kids love that.
- One pot, one dish. Instead of cooking the pasta separately, it cooks together with the other ingredients, which means you have fewer pans to clean. As if that’s not good enough, this is a recipe that has everything you need for a well-rounded meal in a single dish, so there’s no need to make a side either. Love that!
- Surprisingly healthy. Mexican spaghetti doesn’t sound like a healthy dinner, but it actually is! There’s no added oil, it’s made with lean protein, and the amount of cheese is enough to make it delicious without overdoing it. You can also use no-salt-added tomatoes and tomato paste to reduce the sodium content.
If you have taco seasoning in your pantry (or my homemade taco seasoning), substitute it for the chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. I suggest using 1½ to 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning, based on taste.
Ingredients You’ll need
- Lean Ground Turkey or Lean Ground Beef: Either option works here! Using a lean protein means you won’t have to drain off any fat from the pan.
- Onion: Regular pantry yellow or white onions are just fine here but red onions will work too.
- Bell Pepper: You can use any color. Green has a bit more bite and an almost grassy taste to it, while yellow, red, and orange are sweet and mild.
- Tomato Paste: You’ll have leftover tomato paste; I like to freeze it in an ice cube tray in tablespoon-size portions, then pop them in a freezer bag. The next time you need a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, you won’t need to buy a whole can!
- All-Purpose Flour: This helps thicken the sauce.
- Spices: Chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, and dried oregano add lots of taco flavor to our Mexican spaghetti.
- Kosher Salt and Coarse Black Pepper: Freshly ground black pepper is best. If you use more finely ground salt and pepper, don’t add as much.
- Water: You need just enough water to cook the spaghetti and create the sauce.
- Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilies: Don’t drain them! The liquid in the can also builds the sauce for this recipe.
- Spaghetti: While I love whole wheat spaghetti and the protein-packed gluten-free spaghetti made with chickpeas, lentils, and other legumes, those pastas don’t cook the same as regular pasta. To ensure that the noodles don’t fall apart and the sauce has the perfect consistency, stick with your everyday kind of spaghetti here.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese: I strongly recommend shredding it yourself. It’s not food snobbery; pre-shredded cheese has a powdery substance called cellulose added to it to keep it from clumping in the bag. This ingredient also keeps it from melting as smoothly as freshly shredded cheese; it does melt, but it has a bit of a mealy quality to it.
- Fresh Cilantro: If you’re a cilantro hater, you can skip it!
- Optional Garnishes: Avocado, lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced green onions, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, pickled red onions, basically anything you like on your tacos.
How to make Mexican Spaghetti
Whisk together the seasonings and flour in a small bowl; set aside.
Cook the ground turkey (or beef), onion, and peppers in a large skillet set over medium-high heat until the turkey is browned and the onions are translucent.
Stir in the tomato paste and spice/flour mixture until the tomato paste coats the meat.
Add the water and tomatoes, stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Stir in the spaghetti and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10 to 11 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally to make sure it isn’t sticking. If it seems dry, add a bit more water or lower the heat.
When the pasta is cooked, reduce the heat to low, then stir in the cheese and cilantro. If you’re not quite ready to serve the pasta, cover the pan and turn off the heat. The sauce will continue to thicken slightly as the pasta absorbs the liquid.
Serve Mexican spaghetti with your favorite garnishes. Kids love to add their own special touch (and adults do, too!).
While sides are not absolutely necessary with this one pan dinner, warm homemade baked tortilla chips go well. They’re easy to make with corn tortillas (just 3 ingredients!). Serve them with restaurant-style salsa, homemade guacamole, or refried bean dip. Black bean and avocado salad is always a hit, too.
If the pasta has too much liquid in it, you can raise the heat and let it boil off. Letting the pasta rest in the pan with the heat off for five to ten minutes, covered, will usually do the trick. The pasta continues to absorb the liquid even off the heat. The sauce will thicken and become more creamy.
Mexican spaghetti typically pairs taco meat with spaghetti, vegetables, a zesty sauce, and cheese.
Ways To Change Up Mexican Spaghetti
- Switch up the protein: You can substitute ground chicken or chorizo, or make your Mexican spaghetti vegetarian by using a can of rinsed and drained black beans or your favorite plant-based ground meat.
- Add extra veggies: Toss in another bell pepper or stir in thawed frozen corn during the last few minutes of cooking time. Sliced black olives aren’t really a vegetable but they’re also delicious in this dish!
- Try a different cheese: Monterey jack, pepper jack, or mild cheddar also work well in this recipe.
- Make it creamy: Stir in ½ cup sour cream after removing the pan from the heat to make your Mexican spaghetti super creamy.
Make Ahead Ideas
Wash and prep the vegetables and shred the cheese up to a day in advance to get a head start on this recipe.
Storage & Reheating Tips
- Refrigerate: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Freeze: Mexican spaghetti also freezes well. You can store it in an airtight container, or transfer it to a large freezer bag and freeze it flat so you can stack it with other freezer dinners like Instant Pot chili. Let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat it according to the instructions below.
- Reheat: Individual portions can be reheated in the microwave on 50% power in 1-minute increments, stirring each time until heated through. Reheat larger amounts on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add a bit of water if the pasta seems dry.
Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this Mexican spaghetti recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #37. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
We’ll be adding a new meal plan weekly. If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.
- 1 pound lean ground turkey (or lean ground beef)
- ½ cup chopped onion (1 small onion)
- 1 large bell pepper (any color), chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
- 3 cups water
- 1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
- 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti, broken in half
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (shred it yourself for best results)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Optional garnishes: avocado, lettuce, tomato, green onion, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, etc.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet (that has a cover) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, onion, and peppers and cook until turkey is browned and cooked through and onions are translucent, breaking up turkey as it cooks.
- Add tomato paste and spice mixture. Keep stirring until tomato paste coats all the meat, about 1 minute. Be sure to keep stirring so the tomato paste doesn't burn.
- Add water and tomatoes. Stir well and bring to nearly a boil.
- Add pasta, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for 10 to 11 minutes (use pasta directions as a guide) or until al dente, stirring occasionally to make sure pasta gets cooked evenly. Add more water if pasta seems too dry. If it's sticking, reduce heat a bit.
- When pasta is cooked, reduce heat to low, stir in cheddar cheese and cilantro, stirring until cheese is melted.
- Serve immediately, topped with any taco garnishes you love.
- If you prefer, use ground beef, chicken, sausage, or chorizo instead of ground turkey.
- If you have taco seasoning in your pantry, substitute it for the seasonings listed in the recipe: chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt and pepper. I suggest using 1½ to 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning, based on taste. Try my homemade taco seasoning — no artificial ingredients or additives.
- To reduce sodium content, use no-salt-added tomatoes and tomato paste.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.