Get ready for a tastebud tantalizing twist to the classic mac and cheese recipe thanks to the simple addition of tuna and taco seasoning! This Tuna Mac and Cheese casserole combine delicious southwest cooking flavors, including black beans and crushed tortilla chips as a crunchy topping!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- This Tex-Mex casserole is made with pantry staple ingredients and is ready to eat in less than 30 minutes! This creamy, spicy tuna mac and cheese recipe comes together in 30 minutes!
- Tuna mac and cheese combines some of the most loved comfort foods in one dish: tuna noodle casserole, mac and cheese, and tacos!
- The addition of tuna and black beans provides a hearty boost of protein that’s sure to keep the family feeling satisfied for longer!
If you’re looking for an easy and quick one-pot dinner that’s loaded with Tex-Mex flavors, this Taco Tuna Mac and Cheese is a must-try!
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Note: The full list of this recipe ingredients with their amounts and options are listed in the recipe card below.
- Elbow macaroni-- use your favorite shape.
- Butter -- may salted or unsalted. If using salted be sure to check taste.
- Garlic -- fresh for flavor.
- All-purpose flour -- thickener.
- Onion Powder -- flavor.
- Milk -- whole milk makes a richer sauce. You may also use evaporated. milk for a thick rich sauce.
- Salt - for taste.
- Pepper - spiciness and taste.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese - the smooth cheesy taste.
- Taco Seasoning - spiciness and flavor.
- Black Beans -- adds to the Southwest flavor.
- Canned Yellowfin or Albacore tuna -- we love this brand of tuna.
- Fresh Cilantro -- add to the Mexican flavor.
- Tortilla chips -- gives the casserole dish texture and taste.
- Hot Sauce (optional) -- for the heat lovers out there.
Note: This is an overview of the instructions. The full instructions are in the recipe card below.
- While pasta is boiling, add butter and garlic to a large oven-safe skillet or pot.
- Slowly whisk in the flour and onion powder, allowing it to cook for 30 minutes or until a paste is made.
- Add in the milk slowly, whisking any lumps that have formed.
- Increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil followed by reducing the heat to simmer until the sauce thickens to a gravy consistency.
- Add the cheese and taco seasoning until completely melted.
- Add in the drained tuna.
- Fold in the noodles and black beans.
- Mix until well combined.
- Pour the tuna mac mixture into a baking dish.
- Add crushed nacho chips over the pasta and sprinkle shredded cheese over the crushed chips to broil in the oven. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro.
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You’ll need the following items to make this recipe successfully.
- Pasta pot with drainer -- you may also use a deep pot and strainer.
- Large size skillet -- non stick is the best in this instance.
- Dry measuring cups -- for accurate measuring.
- Liquid measuring cup -- to measure the milk.
- Cutting Board -- chopping the cilantro.
- Sharp knife -- for the cilantro.
- Whisk -- smoothly mixing the ingredients.
- Cheese Grater -- we prefer grating our cheese because it doesn't have fillers.
- Baking dish 13X9 inch -- for finishing the mac and cheese casserole.
These are the questions we are most frequently asked about making Southwest Tuna Mac and Cheese.
This Taco Tuna Mac and Cheese is near to perfection in my opinion but that also depends on taste preferences. You could add in extra veggies, make the creamy cheese sauce extra spicy, or even use a different meat protein…The possibilities are endless!
Canned tuna pairs well with fresh and juicy salad ingredients while it’s also ideal with comforting pasta, melted cheese, or loaded into a freshly baked roll. Canned tuna can also be combined with potato in potato salad or in tuna and potato cake/fritter.
Easy! Simply add in some cayenne pepper, toss in some sliced jalapeno peppers, or serve the mac and cheese with some hot sauce!
The mac and cheese mixture instantly becomes much more creamy and luxurious with the addition of milk, adding extra flavor to the dish too. Feel free to use regular dairy milk or plant-based milk like cashew.
- If you want to make this dish ahead of time and freeze it, I suggest that you leave the crushed chips and shredded cheese off the top of the casserole until just prior to baking. That way, the chips won’t get soggy from storage.
- Pasta usually takes around 8 minutes to cook through but I usually shave off a minute or 2 to achieve al dente pasta so that by the time the semi-cooked pasta has been mixed with the melted cheese mac mixture and added under the broil in the oven, it’s not overcooked.
- If your cheese sauce is too thick for any reason, whisk in a little extra milk until you achieve the desired consistency.
- Always shred your cheese from a block as it melts much better than pre-shredded cheese and also tastes better!
- Store-bought taco seasoning can be used or you can even make your own taco seasoning from scratch to use in this mac and cheese and other Mexican-inspired recipes.
- If you don’t enjoy tuna, use your favorite meat instead. Shredded chicken or ground beef would be delicious alternatives for this dish.
- I’ve used elbow macaroni pasta in this recipe but you can use various other noodles that you prefer to cook.
- The black beans add bulk to this meal and also tie in well with the Mexican cuisine influence of the taco tuna mac idea. Feel free to use a different type of bean or add in some other veggies such as corn, mushrooms, and bell peppers.
- Sharp cheddar cheese is my go-to for any mac and cheese recipe. Cheddar Jack or another cheese of your liking can also be used. You could also opt for a Mexican cheese blend.
- Instead of crushed chips, consider sprinkling some breadcrumbs on top of the assembled tuna mac and cheese.
- Make the mac and cheese from scratch like I have or use a box-made mac and cheese mixture.
- Canned yellowfin tuna is my favorite in this recipe but you could also use something like Albacore tuna.
- All-purpose flour does a great job of thickening the cheese sauce but you could also use gluten-free flour or whole-wheat pastry flour.
Store leftover tuna mac and cheese in the refrigerator for 3-4 days in an airtight container or in the casserole dish, covered tightly in plastic wrap.
Tuna mac and cheese casserole can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven, covered with aluminum foil so that the cheese doesn’t burn.
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🍽 Serve with
For something lighter, try a side of fresh Italian Summer Salad With Basil Dressing.
📞 Chiacchierata (chat)
This Tuna Mac and Cheese is a classic macaroni and cheese with tuna and beans mixed into it. I like to think of it as a delicious taco twist to a traditional bowl of comforting mac and cheese which has been well received by the family over the years!
If you love the flavors of southwest cuisine then I guarantee that this is going to soon become a favorite of yours too!
What's new? Check out my All Our Way Store on Amazon. We'll be adding more items we love and use or wish we had to make cooking fun and easy.
📝 Recipe Card
This Taco Tuna Mac and Cheese Casserole offers a southwest version of the classic macaroni and cheese with the addition of tuna, black beans, and taco seasoning.
Make this cheesy pasta casserole as spicy as you like with easy ingredients adjustments and enjoy the added crunch of the crushed tortilla chips as a topping.
If you love this recipe please give it 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.
Southwest Taco Tuna Mac and Cheese Casserole
- 8 ounces Elbow Macaroni or any kind you prefer
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Clove Garlic minced
- ¼ cup All-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1½ cups Whole milk
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 6 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese about 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 packet taco seasoning 1.1 ounce
- 15 ounce Can Black Beans rinsed and drained
- 5 ounce Can Yellowfin or Albacore tuna drained
- 2 ounce Sharp Cheddar Cheese about ½ cup shredded and reserved for the topping.
- Fresh Cilantro chopped
- Hot Sauce
- ½ cup Nacho chips roughly crushed
- Baking dish 13X9-inch Sprayed with vegetable spray
- Boil the macaroni al dente, according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is boiling, make a slurry by adding butter and garlic to a large oven safe skillet or pot. Over medium heat melt the butter and whisk in the flour and onion powder. Cook for 30 seconds until a paste forms. Slowly add in the milk whisking away any lumps.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes stirring until the sauce thikens up similar to a gravy.
- Add in the 6 oz. of cheese and 1 packet of taco seasoning and stir until completely melted
- Fold into the cheesy sauce the cooked noodles, black beans, and drained tuna. Mix until well combined.
- Pour the tuna macaroni and cheese into a prepared baking dish. Spead the crushed nacho chips over the pasta and then sprinkle the ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese over the crushed chips.
- Place the casserole dish under the oven broiler to melt the cheese on top.
- Sprinkle the chopped fresh cilantro over the melted cheese and serve immediately.
- Serve with hot sauce for those who like spicy (optional).