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Cowboy Pasta Salad

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overhead shot of Cowboy Pasta Salad in a bowl with a large wooden spoon
This cowboy pasta salad is packed with protein, pasta, veggies, and cheese for one of the heartiest salads around.
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Table of Contents
  1. Cowboy Pasta Salad Ingredients
  2. How to Make This Cowboy Pasta Salad Recipe
  3. How To Serve
  4. Storage
  5. More Recipes You’ll Love
  6. JUMP TO RECIPE

If you are looking for a cowboy-sized dish, our loaded cowboy pasta salad will do the trick. This is not your average macaroni salad and is packed with plenty of protein, veggies, and cheese, plus the perfect amount of kick from the creamy dressing. 

Cowboy Pasta Salad in a bowl

Cowboy Pasta Salad Ingredients

Cowboy Pasta Salad raw ingredients that are labeled

You’ll need:

For the Macaroni Salad

  • 16-ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can of whole kernel sweet corn, drained
  • 1 (15.25-ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2¼ cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese

For the Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise (your favorite brand)
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce (your favorite brand)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice 
  • 1½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

SUBSTITUTIONS AND ADDITIONS

NOODLES: You can substitute any type of noodle for the elbow macaroni in this cowboy salad. Rotini pasta, penne pasta, or bowties would all be great options.

OIL: You can substitute extra virgin olive oil for the vegetable oil to toss the noodles in.

BEANS: Pinto beans, kidney beans, or even chickpeas would be delicious substitutions for black beans if you prefer.

How to Make This Cowboy Pasta Salad Recipe

OUR RECIPE DEVELOPER SAYS

This cold pasta salad can be made the night before you plan to serve it.

STEP ONE: Cook the elbow macaroni to al dente according to the package directions. Drain the hot water off and rinse with cold water to stop the noodles from cooking. 

PRO TIP:

Be sure to drain the pasta very well so that you don’t have extra moisture in your pasta salad.

water drained out of the macaroni in a drainer

STEP TWO: Once drained, add the cooked pasta to an extra-large mixing bowl. Pour 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over the macaroni and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

vegetable oil poured on top of the macaroni in a bowl wrapped with plastic wrap

STEP THREE: Add the ground beef and red pepper flakes to a 3 to 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Drain any excess grease.

ground beef topped with flakes of red peppers in a pot

STEP FOUR: Add the mayo, BBQ sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, sriracha sauce, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper to a small bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Set it aside. 

mayo, barbecue sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire, dijon mustard, sriracha, salt and pepper whisked together in a bowl

STEP FIVE: Remove the macaroni from the refrigerator. 

STEP SIX: Add the cooked ground beef, crumbled bacon, corn, black beans, tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded cheddar to the pasta.

PRO TIP:

If you are making this salad the night before, leave out the tomatoes as they can soften the noodles.

ground beef, bacon, corn, black beans, tomatoes, green onions and cheddar added to the pasta in a bowl

STEP SEVEN: Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Serve immediately, or cover the salad and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

depressing poured on top of the salad

How To Serve

This hearty pasta salad can stand on its own as a full meal or be served as a side dish. Add our  cucumber salad or Caesar salad for a little bit of extra freshness and greenery and you will have a filling lunch or dinner to enjoy.

Don’t forget to check out our potato salad or taco pasta salad as two more hearty summer salad options to feed a crowd.

Storage

IN THE FRIDGE: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

IN THE FREEZER: We don’t recommend freezing pasta salad as the texture will become soggy once thawed.

close up shot of spoonful of Cowboy Pasta Salad

Even heartier than a typical pasta salad and with plenty of tasty ingredients, all smothered in a creamy dressing, this cowboy pasta salad is a dish that you don’t want to miss. Plan to bring this to your next potluck. It’s hearty enough for a main dish but just as perfect for a crowd-pleasing side dish

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What type of pasta is best in pasta salad?

Any bite-sized pasta works well in pasta salad. Penne, bowties, or rotini are all excellent choices.

Should I serve this pasta salad warm or cold?

This dish is meant to be served cold.

Can I freeze this salad?

We don’t recommend freezing pasta salad as the texture will change once thawed. This recipe is best made fresh.

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overhead shot of Cowboy Pasta Salad in a bowl with a large wooden spoon

Cowboy Pasta Salad

5 from 2 votes
This cowboy pasta salad is packed with protein, pasta, veggies, and cheese for one of the heartiest salads around.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

Macaroni Salad

  • 16 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 15.25 ounces whole kernel sweet corn, drained
  • 15.25 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, your favorite brand
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce, your favorite brand
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions. Drain the hot water off and rinse with cold water to stop the noodles from cooking. Be sure to drain very well.
  • Once drained, add the pasta to an extra-large mixing bowl. Pour the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over the macaroni and toss. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.
  • Add the ground beef and red pepper flakes to a 3 to 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Drain any excess grease.
  • Add the mayo, barbecue sauce, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, sriracha sauce, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper to a small mixing bowl. Whisk to combine thoroughly. Set it aside.
  • Remove the macaroni from the refrigerator.
  • Add the cooked ground beef, crumbled bacon, corn, black beans, tomatoes, sliced green onions, and shredded cheddar.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the ingredients thoroughly. Serve immediately, or cover the salad and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

Notes

  • This cold pasta salad can be made the night before you plan to serve it.
  • Be sure to drain the pasta very well so that you don’t have extra moisture in your pasta salad.
  • If you are making this salad the night before, leave out the tomatoes as they can soften the noodles.

Nutrition

Calories: 650kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 39g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 12g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 710mg | Potassium: 618mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 508IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 3mg
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  1. Mark says

    5 stars
    This is definitely perfect for summer eats! But I’ll be making it year round because we really enjoyed it.

  2. Janae says

    Great hit! No mayo so used plain Greek yogurt. Also great without bacon. Just didn’t have it on hand. But definitely one our whole family loved and was so easy!