Home ยป Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Creamy Taco Mac

Meatless Monday & Money Matters: Creamy Taco Mac

tacomac2We were grocery shopping in Meijer yesterday afternoon when Mr. Prevention comes strolling up to the cart with his arms over-flowing with foods that get the side eye from me. When I flipped over his luncheon meat turkey package to point out the sodium nitrate, he responded with, “WTF is a nitrate and why do I care?” (No exaggeration, this was said).



Can I just say, we’ve had this conversation MANY times before. But, I seized the opportunity, yet again, to educate on rates of cancer, namely colon cancer, and the fact that nitrates are 100% avoidable.

“Do you want me to get something from the deli counter instead?” he asked.

“Yes, dear, that would be a better option”, I responded calmly.

tacomac1Sometimes, it’s easier, maybe even preferred, to not have meat on the table. This vegetarian meal has been on my must-make list for far too long. Though the ingredient list is simple and wholesome through and through, the end result is fun, healthy (nearly 17 grams of fiber per serving!!!), comfort food.

We both loved this meal. My only complaint is that it didn’t reheat that well for leftovers. I did find that stirring in about a tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt and/or some salsa solved this problem, however!


Creamy Taco Mac adapted from Delish via Annie’s Eats and from Cook’s Illustrated Skillet Lasagna recipe, as seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 tsp salt
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ground chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cayenne
1 lb whole wheat dry pasta, shape of choice
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups water
2 (14-oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (7-oz) container 2% plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced


Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the pasta, diced tomatoes with juices, water, and beans. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 15-20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir about half of the simmering pasta mixture into the yogurt. Stir this tempered yogurt into the pasta. Cover and simmer over low heat until heated, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and avocado. Serve. Yield: 7 servings.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 447 calories; 9.9 g. fat; 1 mg. cholesterol; 399 mg. sodium; 75 g. carbohydrate; 16.9 g. fiber; 18.7 g. protein

Result: A flavorful, vegetarian, inexpensive, one-pot meal that comes together in about 25 minutes from start to finish. This meal would certainly appeal to kids, as well.

Money Matters: This recipe uses low-cost ingredients like canned tomatoes ($1.60 for 28 ounces) and canned beans ($1.79 for 28 ounces). The pasta was $1.29 a box. Onions cost $0.50 each. The oil (~$0.10/tablespoon), garlic, and spices come in around $0.40 total. The Greek yogurt ($1.19 for a 7 ounce container), red bell pepper ($1.50), and avocado ($1.25) are the most expensive, fresh ingredients. The total cost of the recipe comes to $9.72 and $1.39 per serving.


I have no plans today — thanks to the holiday, classes are cancelled and I don’t start my new job until tomorrow. 😀

P.S. I started categorizing recipes based on the number of calories. I hope this is helpful to some of you!

Be well,

Share With Your Friends!


  1. January 16, 2012 / 8:58 am

    Bookmarking this! Love the sound of this mac, and it doesn’t even contain cheese, just yogurt. Mr. P will learn eventually. I wish all of my pals were nutrition-minded too!

  2. January 16, 2012 / 9:02 am

    Great recipe! And great reminder about nitrates!

    Enjoy your Monday off, and have a great week!

  3. January 16, 2012 / 9:18 am

    This is a combination of several of my favorite things-Mac n Cheese, pasta, and Mexican food! It looks so yummy!

  4. January 16, 2012 / 9:41 am

    I have that nitrate conversation with Jason all the time. There is one packaged brand (something natural, it’s in a brown box that looks cardboardy) that I try to get him to buy but if it’s not on sale, he insists of getting whatever is.

    • Nicole, RD
      January 16, 2012 / 10:25 am

      I think you’re describing Hormel’s bacon/meat and if so, we buy a ton of their product, as well!

  5. Melanie
    January 16, 2012 / 9:49 am

    This recipe looks great, but I have a question about the nitrates. So the turkey/ham/roast beef from the deli counter is nitrate free? I figured it all had nitrates.

    • Nicole, RD
      January 16, 2012 / 10:25 am

      Melanie: Great question! Nitrates are a preservative that help give meat a aesthetically pleasing pink color and help prevent rancidity. Always avoid cured meats but generally speaking, many deli meats do not contain nitrates because they don’t have a very long shelf-life. Some of the packaged meats will be good come July (!?), but the meat you buy at the deli counter will likely get slimy and rancid after 3-4 days. You can always ask the person working the deli counter to ensure the meat you purchase is nitrate-free, as well. I hope that helps!

      • Melanie
        January 18, 2012 / 7:09 am

        Wow, I just didn’t know that. We don’t eat a lot of lunchmeat, but that’s reason enough to stand in line at the deli. I figured it was all the same thing and took the easy route of picking it up in the lunchmeat/hot dog/bacon aisle.

  6. January 16, 2012 / 9:57 am

    Looks delicious!

    I have today off, but am opting to work and take Friday off instead. Ahh the joys of having a flexible job.

    Enjoy the day and have a great first day tomorrow!! (Are you going to take “first day of work” photos, similar to the ones I am sure you Mom took of you on your first day of school?? ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. January 16, 2012 / 10:56 am

    Yum– looks like a great veggie meal! And I love the idea of reheating it with greek yogurt!

  8. January 16, 2012 / 11:18 am

    This sounds amazing – definitely my kind of meal.
    Enjoy your day off!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. January 16, 2012 / 2:01 pm

    I am not sure my husband has ever even looked at a nutrional label! Another winning dish Nicole! ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Tt in nyc
    January 16, 2012 / 9:01 pm

    Great recipe here! As a two decades plus vegetarian (now vegan) i often recommend to my omni parents that they dont want a completly meat free meal that just less meat is a step in the right direction- for example, my mom was making chicken noodle soup and i suggested she just use half chickpeas and half chicken, that way she got the “flavor” of the chicken but was actually eating less of it. Although they will never be meat free they are finding a middle ground to be “meat less”

  11. January 16, 2012 / 10:06 pm

    This looks delicious! I am a huge fan of pasta….but unless it’s a very spicy or pungent sauce (like this one YAY!), I have a hard time with whole wheat pasta. I’ve heard some good things about multi grain pasta, but haven’t tried it yet…..have you?

    • Nicole, RD
      January 16, 2012 / 10:09 pm

      Ann: I have, but I don’t notice a huge difference between the two. I like Barilla’s pastas the best if that helps ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for your comment!

  12. January 16, 2012 / 10:17 pm

    This looks fantastic! I am loving meatless meals lately too, but my husband is having a harder time transitioning to them. This though, I think he’d definitely go for ๐Ÿ™‚ It will bring a welcome change into our regular taco nights.

  13. January 17, 2012 / 8:35 am

    I’m sad that this meal wasn’t the best at reheating – that is important to me – I need to find something Matt will take for lunch!

    Thanks for posting – this has been on my list to make for a few weeks now!

  14. Pingback: Pasta Dishes

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