Creamy Taco Mac

Some people are very opposed to convenience foods such as Hamburger Helper.  While I suppose in general I have turned into such a person, I do think that those types of products have their place.  Obviously they are convenient, but they can also be a starting point for someone who knows absolutely nothing about cooking to slowly learning that they are capable of making something edible.  I certainly ate my fair share of Hamburger Helper growing up and during college and you know, it really doesn’t taste all that bad.  My culinary interests clearly have grown far beyond the boxed food realm, but every once in a while I crave the old childhood favorite.  Now that I tend to avoid most processed foods though, I opt for this homemade version instead.  With multi-grain pasta, ground turkey and homemade taco seasoning, this is a much healthier copycat that tastes better than the boxed version.  I made a few minor changes to add a bit more flavor, and I also reduced the liquid a bit to thicken the sauce.  This is a great meal that is bound to be a crowd-pleaser.

Creamy Taco Mac
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1¼ lbs. ground turkey
8 oz. dry pasta shapes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Cook pasta according to the package directions.  Drain, reserving ½ cup of pasta water.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Remove from the heat and top with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Source: adapted from Delish

69 Responses

  1. I love pasta with cheese 🙂

  2. Annie this looks so easy, and exactly like the type of dish that my husband would love. We haven’t had anything near this flavor profile in months, and after so serendipitously finding cheddar cheese (finally!) this would be a very welcome surprise for my husband for sure! I have two small quick questions – is that cilantro that you garnished with? and what do you think about adding in a few green chiles too?

    • Hi Jenn,
      Yep, I used cilantro to garnish. It was a nice addition. I think green chiles would be a great mix-in!

  3. Oooo…I’m so excited. I’ve been trying to substitute ground beef with ground turkey lately and this look great! I can’t wait to try it out. thanks for sharing. oh, and I tried your homemade taco seasoning just last night and it is wonderful! I don’t think I’ll ever go back 🙂

  4. I never had the boxed version, but your “clean” version sounds tasty! Thanks for sharing it.

  5. This comforting meal looks delicious! Definitely on the “to-make” list.

  6. Yours looks even better than mine! I made this on Sunday and we loved it more than the boxed version as well!

  7. When you posted on WC that you were making this not too long ago I immediately thought it sounded like something amazing for us because my husband LOVES hamburger helper and the idea of this is so similar. I’m so glad you’ve posted this because I was thinking about making it next week.

  8. Looks fantastic, I’ll definitely be trying this one out!

  9. it sounds wonderful!

  10. Yum, Yum, Yum!! Can’t wait to give it a try!! 🙂

  11. we’re moving in a couple weeks so I’m in pantry clean out mode and running out of ideas…this is PERFECT! Thank you!

  12. That looks delicious! I must admit I still love Hamburger Helper because it’s so quick and easy, but I’ll be making your taco mac instead from now on. Thanks for the recipe!

  13. this looks good, i want to try it and make more healthy if possilbe

  14. Glad you liked it! Its one of our favorites now. I’ve been making it almost once a week which is unusual in our house… I’m usually trying out new recipes! 🙂

  15. Great idea! I too tend to turn my nose up at boxed foods and prepared items, however, I have to come clean to crraving some Hamburger Helper now and then. I’ll definitely be trying this – I wonder if anyone has a homemade recipe for the cheeseburger macaroni….that was always my favorite.

  16. HI Annie, I’m Anne and I have a site, so when I found you and THEN found that you had a son named Andrew-I do as well, I knew I would love your blog and I DOOO! It is so sophisticated, I just love it, can’t wait to have more time to look around!! annw

  17. I usually avoid boxed meals too. But recently my Dad gave me four boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese. I tell ya, it has been so good and I have enjoyed the heck out of some powdered cheese sauce. Don’t tell anybody!

  18. I totally agree with you – boxed mixes serve a great purpose for those learning to cook or trying to get a quick meal on the table. I love how you’ve ‘healthified’ this dish and used fresh ingredients!

  19. I have all the ingredients – I think this will be perfect for our family dinner tomorrow night. Thanks for sharing this!

  20. My husband and I have a fun-loving ongoing argument about Hamburger Helper. I’m not a fan, but he grew up on the stuff and I think he gets nostalgic for it! I’ll have to make this for him this week!

  21. …and I just read the other comments. Looks like my husband isn’t the only one who loves his Hamburger Helper. Funny!

  22. Just put this into my ‘recipes to try’ folder- so excited. This meal is right up my cooking alley!!!

  23. Looks delish and couldn’t be any easier. Thanks for the recipe, Annie! Looking forward to giving it a try sometime soon. I work full-time and have 2 little ones, so I’m always on the hunt for something healthy and quick! 🙂

  24. Looks wonderful. I am putting it on my things to try list.

  25. This looks great except my family does not like ground turkey. Do you think i can use hamburger instead or would it be to heavy?

    • Hollie, sure, you can always sub them interchangeably, it just won’t be as healthy. If I were you, I would just use the turkey. They probably wouldn’t even notice if you didn’t tell them. I wouldn’t!

  26. You are so right about it being a starting point…I was always experimenting and adding to the boxed versions…until I just started making my own and not from a box!

    This looks delicious!

  27. This looks so good! Thanks for sharing. 😀

  28. I made this last night for dinner and it was so yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  29. I saw you post this yesterday and knew I had to make it for dinner! I just finished my plate! It was fantastic! Thank you for the delicious recipe. I used low fat cream cheese and sour cream, so it was pretty healthy too.

  30. Made this tonight for the family. My 24 year old will not eat ground turkey, but I had this all made before he got home. Can you say 4 helpings????
    OMG………it’s a keeper.
    Love your blog!

  31. Great recipe!! I too grew up with the occasional homemade meal being replaced with Hamburger Helper, but I love the idea of a homemade version. We just recently started making our own taco seasoning and what a difference. Now we have a great recipe to try it out with.

  32. Just the kind of recipe that my family loves!

  33. I am just wondering if anything can replace the cream cheese in this recipe? I am NOT a fan at all! Anyway, thank you. Love you site and your recipes, I’ve made so many! 🙂

    • Erika, I don’t know, that’s what gives it the creaminess. I guess you could just add more sour cream but I’m not sure how that would taste or if the texture would be right.

  34. That taco pasta looks really tasty!

  35. Made this tonight. It got a thumbs up from my husband, his brother and sister. Yum!

  36. I love this type of recipe. If you have Italian, Chinese, Japanese, or American versions please post. I am making this this week. I know we are going to love it. thanks for the great recipes.

  37. This post was timely. We were hungry and feeling quite tired. We had everything on hand and it was very tasty.

    One method I changed was with the meat. I browned the meat, added the seasoning, then added 3/4 cup of water, turned the heat on medium-low and allowed the flavors to absorb for 30 minutes.

    I’ve found that it helps the flavors incorporate deep into the meat grounds and increases the flavor.

  38. I made this on Friday night and it was great! It also warmed up perfectly the next day. One suggestion: get rid of the turkey fat before adding the onions. Leave just enough to coat the onions. I was able to drain almost 1/4 of a cup of fat!

  39. Have you ever tried not draining the tomatoes and using that liquid instead of the pasta water? Just wondering. We had this last night and it is definitely in the “keeper” pile! Thanks!

  40. Just made it for dinner tonight, it’s great! I added in some green chiles, and used yogurt instead of sour cream, and garnished w/ some avocado on the side. Thanks for posting such a yummy recipe!

  41. This is my new favorite site Annie you are fabulous! This dish was so good.

  42. Thanks for posting, this looks so good! I’d love to see more weeknight recipes if you have them. 🙂 Yum yum!

  43. Hi Annie,
    Made this last night and it was so yummy and SO easy! Great weeknight meal for sure! Thanks

  44. PS have you announced the Earth Day giveaway winners yet? Just curious. Thanks!

  45. WOW. This is SO good, and so easy to make! We used to love Hamburger Helper, but this is just as quick and easy but tastes SO MUCH BETTER! Thanks for providing a non-packaged alternative that doesn’t take hours to prepare.

  46. I made this meal tonight for dinner… it was fabulous! I love how quick and easy the recipe is, yet it is still very flavorful. Thanks so much for another great recipe!

  47. This was so good, my husband assumed it was bad for him, and was pleasantly surprise when I told him it was not.

  48. looks fantastic!

  49. Hi Annie, this was so good. It was a big hit in my house. Even my little one year old son ate it happily and he is a very picky eater. In fact, my husband asked me to go the next day and make it again the following night for dinner. Thanks! This one’s a keeper!

  50. Wow, Annie i know that you have many amazing recipes but this someone is one of my favorites and Adam’s too! Miss you guys

  51. I just made this for my family tonight. They all loved it. My picky four-year- old daughter said I could make this every night! Thanks for sharing.

  52. Great recipe! I also wondered about not draining the tomatoes and using that liquid. I even think I would use the water and the tomato juice, I think I would like it “wetter”. I’m looking forward to the Italian version if you ever try to make that! 🙂

  53. I finally got around to making this! It was so good! Thanks for sharing this recipe – it is a great weeknight meal and will be a regular in our household! Thanks!

  54. I will admit I was slightly skeptic when I first read this as I despise boxed meals, but when a Sunday night rolled around with little time to cook I decided to give it a go. My 3yo son ate this meal faster than he’d ever eaten anything in his short life and even ate seconds! It was so tasty and just full of flavor. The cream cheese really made it. We didn’t have all the ingredients to make your taco seasoning so I used some Napa Valley Mexican Fiesta in place and it was great. Thank you for providing such quick and delicious meals that appease even the pickiest of eaters. 🙂

  55. I just made this for dinner last night – YUM! It was quick, easy, & very tasty! I even added some green peppers! Thanks!

  56. Made it and loved it! Even my 19 month old who usually won’t touch meat gobbled it up

  57. This was fabulous! Everything was on hand and the kids loved it – with one serving leftover (and one of the kids has already claimed it for tomorrow LOL)

  58. I made this tonight, and it was great! Thanks!

  59. I made this for dinner the other night – both me + my husband loooooved it! 🙂 Yum, yum, yum!

  60. This was so delicious and easy to make! I am enjoying it right now with friends 🙂

  61. Finally got around to making this after reading all the raves on TB for months. It’s definitely on my regular rotation now because my 20 mo old ate seconds. Mixed some veggie puree in for him and he chowed down! Now, if you could just come up with an alternative Cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, my hubby would be in heaven! 🙂

  62. Made this last week and it was delicious! Thank you for the great recipe!

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