These cheesy taco stuffed shells are made from jumbo pasta shells filled with creamy taco beef, smothered with salsa and melty cheese. It’s a Tex-Mex twist on a favorite family dinner!
If you’re looking for another taco-inspired recipe without pasta, try my Easy Taco Stuffed Peppers.
This incredibly cheesy, beefy, and mouthwatering taco stuffed shells are a classic pasta dinner reimagined into a Tex-Mex favorite! Al dente jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with creamy taco meat and then baked beneath layers of zesty salsa and melted cheese. It’s a fun and easy family feast that you can make on any given weeknight with a few basic ingredients. Everyone will be shouting olé!
Why You’ll Love This Taco Stuffed Shells Recipe
- Extra cheesy. Would it be a true stuffed shells recipe without delightful strings of melted cheese pulling away as you scoop it from the pan? I think not.
- Tex-Mex flavors. These taco stuffed shells are packed with flavor from the inside out thanks to juicy ground beef, black beans, sour cream, salsa, and a sprinkle of taco seasoning.
- Make-ahead-friendly. Stuffed shells are one of my favorite make-ahead meals. Get your pasta shells filled and in the casserole dish, then refrigerate them until you’re ready to bake. This taco version is no different!
These stuffed shells are a breeze to make with just a few basic pantry ingredients. Be sure to scroll to the recipe card below the post with the full measurements and recipe instructions.
- Jumbo shell pasta
- Ground beef – You can also make this recipe with ground chicken, turkey, or pork.
- Taco seasoning – Use homemade taco seasoning or one packet of your preferred store-bought taco seasoning.
- Black beans – If using canned, remember to drain and rinse them.
- Salsa – Use a jar from the store or try homemade restaurant-style salsa.
- Shredded cheese – I use cheddar, but you can use another melty cheese or a Mexican cheese blend.
- Sour cream
How to Make Taco Stuffed Shells
The beauty of these Mexican stuffed shells is that they’re quick to make and you can even prepare them the night before (see below). Here’s how to get this dish ready for the oven:
- Cook the shells. Boil the jumbo shells, draining them a couple of minutes before their suggested cooking time. You want them slightly underdone so they don’t turn out mushy after baking.
- Prepare the taco meat. Meanwhile, brown the beef in a skillet, and add the taco seasoning and water. Simmer, then take the pan off the heat and stir in some of the black beans, salsa, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.
- Assemble. Spread more salsa into the bottom of a baking dish. Spoon the beef mixture into your cooked shells and nestle the shells into the salsa. Sprinkle on additional salsa and shredded cheese.
- Bake. Bake your stuffed shells at 350ºF for 30 minutes until they’re hot and bubbly. Dish up with your favorite taco toppings and dig in! See below for topping and serving ideas.
Tips and Variation Ideas
- Don’t overcook the pasta. Remember to cook your shells about 3 minutes shorter than the recommended time on the package. This way, they won’t overcook while they bake.
- Use salsa verde. In place of regular tomato salsa, make your filling with homemade salsa verde.
- In place of shredded cheddar cheese, use Velveeta or nacho cheese.
- If you don’t have taco seasoning, try fajita seasoning instead. The spices are very similar.
Why Are My Stuffed Shells Watery?
If your shells seem a bit watery when they come out of the oven, let the casserole rest for a few minutes. Sometimes that’s all it takes for the filling to firm up for serving! Otherwise, there are a few reasons why stuffed shells might turn out soggy:
- It could be the salsa you’re using is too watery, which will leak more liquid into the casserole. In this case, try a chunky salsa.
- Also, ensure you brown the ground beef well, until no pink remains. Undercooked beef can also release liquid while it continues to cook in the oven.
Toppings for Taco Stuffed Shells
Any way that you’d dress a taco, you can dress up these stuffed shells. Here are some of my favorite topping ideas:
- Sour cream
- Roasted corn salsa
- Diced tomatoes
- Avocado or guacamole
- Sliced jalapeños
- Chopped cilantro
- Pico de gallo
What To Serve With Taco Stuffed Shells
Piled with your favorite taco toppings, these easy taco stuffed shells don’t need much to become a meal. Try some of the tasty Tex-Mex meal ideas below, and don’t forget a Mexican chocolate chip cookie for dessert!
- Mexican Quinoa Salad
- Southwest Chicken Salad
- Shrimp and Avocado Tostadas
- Chicken Enchilada Dip
How to Store and Reheat Stuffed Shells
- Make-ahead. Once your shells are assembled in the casserole dish, cover them tightly and refrigerate them up to 24 hours ahead. When you’re ready, simply uncover the shells and bake as directed. The stuffed shells may need a couple of extra minutes in the oven if you’re baking them cold from the fridge.
- To store, transfer any leftover baked stuffed shells in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To reheat, warm servings of shells covered in the oven or in the microwave until hot throughout. Add more salsa and cheese as needed.
Can I Freeze Taco Stuffed Shells?
Yes! Stored tightly in a freezer-safe container, these taco stuffed shells can stay frozen for up to 2-3 months. Defrost them in the fridge overnight before reheating.
- Enchilada Pasta Casserole
- Fiesta Chicken Casserole
- Easy Beef Taco Casserole
- Taco Spaghetti
- Southwest Chicken Salad
- Crockpot Santa Fe Chicken
- 1 (12 oz) box Jumbo Shells
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning (3 Tablespoons homemade)
- ½ cup water
- 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups salsa, divided
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- ½ cup sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350º F.
- Heat a large pot of water to boil and cook jumbo shells for 3 minutes shorter than the time on the box.
- Heat a large skillet over high heat, add ground beef, breaking it apart, and cook until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for 2-3 minutes for the liquid to evaporate.
- Remove from the heat and stir in ½ cup salsa, ¾ cup cheddar cheese, and sour cream until well combined.
- Pour ½ cup salsa into the bottom of a casserole dish.
- Fill the cooked shells with 2-3 Tablespoons of the beef mixture and place in a casserole dish. Top with the remaining salsa and cheese.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is hot.
- Serve topped with sour cream, tomatoes, or whatever desired taco toppings.
Amount Per Serving Calories 376Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 87mgSodium 955mgCarbohydrates 17gFiber 4gSugar 4gProtein 26g
Nutrition Disclaimer: All information presented on this site is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information shared on dinnersdishesanddesserts.com should only be used as a general guideline.
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