This taco stuffed shells recipe stuffs the best taco filling into tender jumbo pasta shells. Kids and adults are going to love this fun, easy-to-make meal!
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If you love traditional stuffed shells, these taco stuffed shells are going to be a new favorite!
Anytime I can’t decide between taco night and pasta night, this is the recipe I reach for. It is the best of both worlds. Perfectly seasoned taco meat, tasty refried beans, sweet corn and, of course, so much cheese all packed inside jumbo pasta shells. The loaded taco shells are lined up in a casserole dish, covered in more cheese, and then baked until golden brown. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Well, it is! You really can’t go wrong with cheesy taco stuffed shells!
Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe
I already mentioned how easy it is to make taco stuffed shells, but it is definitely worth mentioning again. It’s so simple! My Tex Mex taco stuffed shell recipe uses a few canned ingredients, like refried beans and canned corn, to save time. But that doesn’t cut back on any flavor!
Of course, everyone likes their tacos a little differently, so everyone may want their own filling in their taco stuffed shells. Luckily, this recipe is very flexible, too. You can mix your favorite taco topping into the shell filling, making them perfect for you and your family. Add some sliced jalapeños, chop up some tomatoes, top the cheesy taco stuffed shells with a few sliced olives or you can even use ground chicken in place of ground beef.
With that being said, the recipe is absolutely perfect exactly as it is written. So, let’s get into all the details so you can start making taco stuffed shells!
Ingredients for Taco Stuffed Shells
See full recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.
- Ground beef – I like to use 85/15 ground beef, which I think has the perfect balance of juicy fats and tender meat.
- Taco seasoning – Use store-bought or homemade taco seasoning.
- Chicken broth
- Refried beans – Canned refried beans help save a lot of time since you don’t have to spend hours cooking the beans to perfection. I like the traditional refried beans but, once again, feel free to grab the spicier beans, regular black beans, or fat-free beans.
- Canned corn
- Shredded Mexican cheese
- Salsa – I like to use spicy, chunky salsa for my taco stuffed shells because they have big chunks of tomatoes! Grab some pico de gallo instead of salsa for a fresher take on the same topping.
- Sour cream
Here are a few easy ways to tweak these taco stuffed shells:
- Use any kind of ground meat. Ground chicken, ground turkey, or even ground pork will all work well.
- Stuff the taco filling into large, manicotti noodles rather than shells. These are almost like burrito stuffed shells!
- Use shredded sharp cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack rather than a Mexican blend. You can also use Velveeta or nacho cheese in place of shredded cheese, if preferred.
How to Make Taco Stuffed Shells
- Cook the shells: Boil a big pot of water, and cook your pasta shells. You don’t need to cook them as soft as you would typically make pasta since they will be going back into the oven; they are also a little easier to stuff when they are still slightly firm.
- Cook the meat: Cook the ground beef in a large skillet until it is starting to brown and no longer pink. Add the taco seasoning and chicken broth. Then, simmer the meat. This makes it nice and juicy and also thickens the taco seasoning sauce.
- Add the veggies: Stir the refried beans and canned corn into the pan. Add ¾ cup of the shredded cheese, and mix until the cheese melts.
- Stuff the shells: Scoop the filling into the pasta shells, stuffing them as much as you can. Place the stuffed shells in a casserole dish with a little salsa in the bottom. Once all the shells are filled and lined up, pour the rest of the salsa over the shells, and sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese.
- Bake the shells: Bake the taco stuffed pasta shells until the cheese on the top is completely melted and the salsa is bubbling in the bottom of the pan. I like to let the shells cool for about 5 minutes before serving as that cheese comes out of the oven pretty hot!
You can make these taco stuffed shells, let them cool in the casserole dish, wrap the entire dish up with plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil, and freeze the shells for up to 2 months! To serve, unwrap the casserole dish, and pop it back into the oven for about 20 minutes to reheat.
How to Store Taco Stuffed Shells
If you have leftover taco stuffed shells, place them in an airtight container, and keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days. When you want to reheat the shells, I recommend putting a few stuffed shells on a plate, scooping a little extra salsa over the top, and reheating them for 1-2 minutes in the microwave. The extra salsa helps prevent the noodles from drying out as they reheat.
I always make a batch of queso dip to serve alongside my taco stuffed shells. Queso is a great appetizer to enjoy while your shells are in the oven and it keeps the Mexican theme going.
I also love making chicken tortilla soup to go with taco stuffed shells. The warm soup complements the cheesy shells perfectly and adds more bulk to the meal, making it extra filling.
When my taco filling is ready and the shell pasta is cooked, I like to hold one shell in my palm and use the other hand to scoop the filling into the shell. Holding the shell makes it easy to stuff and get as much filling as possible into each shell.
I boil my jumbo pasta shells for about 13 minutes. This is a little less than most packages recommend, but it is okay for the shells to be a little firm. They will go back to bake more in the oven and they are easier to stuff when they are al dente.
Taco Stuffed Shells
- Large pot
- 9×13 casserole dish
- Measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- 16 jumbo pasta shells
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 Tablespoons taco seasoning
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 can refried beans
- 1 can corn
- 1 1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese
- 2 cups salsa
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Cook the shells in the boiling water for about 13 minutes. They will still be slightly firm but that’s okay; they will continue to cook in the oven later on.16 jumbo pasta shells
- Drain the shells and set them aside.
- Add the ground beef to a large skillet and cook over medium high heat, chopping up the beef as it cooks to make small crumbles. Cook the beef for about 6-8 minutes. It will just be starting to brown.1 pound ground beef
- Stir in the taco seasoning and chicken broth. Cook the meat for another 5 minutes. The broth will begin to thicken.2 Tablespoons taco seasoning, 1 cup chicken broth
- Stir the refried beans and corn into the skillet and then add ¾ cup of the shredded cheese to the skillet and stir, melting the cheese into the meat and beans.1 can refried beans, 1 can corn, 1 1/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese
- Pour ½ cup of the salsa into the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish.2 cups salsa
- Scoop about ⅓ cup of the ground beef mix into each cooked pasta shell, placing the shell into the casserole dish after you stuff it with the meat. I like to use a large soup spoon to scoop the meat but you can also use a ⅓ cup measuring cup to stuff them with exactly the same filling.
- Pour the remaining salsa over the shells, covering them evenly.
- Place the shells in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. If the shells start to look to brown or crisp, loosely cover the casserole dish with foil.
- Remove the shells from the oven and immediately sprinkle them with the remaining ½ cup of shredded cheese.
- Top the shells with a drizzle of sour cream then serve while warm!1/4 cup sour cream