This Cowboy Pasta salad is a TexMex Pasta Salad at it’s most tantalizing. It is fully loaded with everything delicious and makes not only a crowd pleasing potluck side but is a stand-alone dinner as well.  You can make the entire salad ahead of time and just add the bacon before serving for easy entertaining or meal prep.  This Cowboy Pasta Salad is delicious slightly chilled but equally delicious served warm. No matter how you serve it, this Cowboy Pasta Salad is one for the “favorite recipe file!”

This summer has been the year of pasta salads at Carlsbad Cravings from Italian Pasta Salad with Tortellini to Po Boy Shrimp Pasta Salad to Cubano Pasta Salad with Mojo Dressing and many more listed below.  But none of these pasta salad recipes boast juicy, ground beef – until today.  Think taco salad – but even dreamier.

A pasta salad is only as good as its dressing and this Cowboy Pasta Salad has the best dressing AKA Creamy Southwest Barbecue Sauce! It’s punchy, tangy, creamy and as spicy-as-you-like- it depending on if you use mild, medium or hot salsa and if you want to amp up the heat with hot sauce.

Cowboy Pasta Salad with the BEST Dressing!
This Cowboy Pasta Salad is purely addicting loaded with juicy ground beef, bacon, sweet corn, black beans, tomatoes and cheese smothered in tangy, creamy southwest barbecue sauce!  Perfect for potlucks or make ahead dinners!

Pasta Salad
  • 1 pound mini farfalle or other small pasta such as rigatoni or shells
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey see note
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chiles
  • 1 tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp EACH garlic powder, salt (omit salt if using ground turkey and bouillon)
  • 4-6 tablespoons diced canned jalapeno peppers (from 4 oz. can)
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
  • corn from 1 ear sweet corn
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup cubed sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 small red onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 pound thick center cut bacon cooked and chopped
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream may sub plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup salsa medium if you like a kick
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp EACH smoked paprika, salt, pepper
  • Hot sauce to taste

  1. Whisk together all of the Dressing ingredients in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta just until al dente according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain. Add to a large serving bowl and toss with half of the dressing.
  3. Brown meat with onions in a large skillet over medium heat. Drain off excess grease. Stir in green chiles and all spices. Set aside to cool while you chop your veggies.
  4. Add beef and all remaining salad ingredients to pasta except bacon.
  5. If serving immediately, add bacon and stir in desired amount of dressing. If not serving immediately, hold bacon and dressing and add when ready to serve. Add hot sauce for spicier, apple cider vinegar for tangier, brown sugar for less tangy if desired.
  6. Cowboy Pasta Salad can be served slightly chilled, at room temperature, or heated through. Leftovers are equally delicious heated in the microwave.


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