Taco Stuffed Shells with Queso

Looking for a crowd-pleasing dish that combines the best of tacos and Italian cuisine? Look no further than these delectable Taco Stuffed Shells topped with gooey queso. Bursting with flavor and creativity, this recipe is sure to become a new family favorite. Whether you’re hosting a casual weeknight dinner or entertaining friends, these stuffed shells are guaranteed to impress.


  • 12 ounces jumbo shell pasta: These large pasta shells provide the perfect vessel for holding the savory taco filling.
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef: Lean ground beef serves as the hearty base of the taco filling, adding protein and flavor.
  • 1 ounce taco seasoning: A blend of aromatic spices that infuses the ground beef with irresistible taco flavor.
  • 1/3 cup water: Helps to create a rich, flavorful sauce for the taco filling.
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped: Fresh cilantro adds a burst of freshness and herbaceousness to the filling.
  • 1 1/2 cups queso (homemade or store-bought): Creamy queso cheese lends indulgent richness and cheesy goodness to the dish.
  • 1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated: Shredded Cheddar cheese adds gooey, melty perfection to the top of the stuffed shells.
  • Green onions, for garnish: Bright and zesty green onions provide a pop of color and freshness.
  • Taco sauce, for serving: Tangy taco sauce adds a final burst of flavor and a touch of heat.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) to ensure it’s ready for baking your stuffed shells to perfection.
  2. Cook the jumbo shells according to package instructions until al dente. Properly cooked shells will hold their shape and texture.
  3. Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through and no longer pink.
  4. Season the beef with taco seasoning and water, allowing the flavors to meld and the sauce to thicken.
  5. Stir in the chopped cilantro, infusing the filling with fresh, herbaceous flavor.
  6. Prepare the casserole dish by spraying it with non-stick spray to prevent sticking.
  7. Fill each jumbo shell with a generous spoonful of the taco meat mixture, arranging them snugly in the casserole dish.
  8. Pour the queso evenly over the stuffed shells, ensuring each one is generously coated in cheesy goodness.
  9. Sprinkle the shredded Cheddar cheese over the queso, creating a golden, bubbly topping when baked.
  10. Bake the stuffed shells for 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the filling is heated through.
  11. Serve the stuffed shells hot, drizzled with taco sauce and garnished with sliced green onions for a burst of freshness and color.

Additional Tips:

  • Make-Ahead Convenience: Prepare the stuffed shells in advance and freeze them for an easy weeknight meal. Simply thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
  • Customize to Your Taste: Feel free to customize the filling with your favorite taco ingredients, such as black beans, corn, or diced tomatoes, for added texture and flavor.

Serving and Storage Tips:


  • Garnish Creatively: Before serving, add a final flourish by garnishing with freshly chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, or sliced avocado for a burst of color and freshness.
  • Serve with Sides: Accompany your Taco Stuffed Shells with Queso with classic Mexican sides like refried beans, Spanish rice, or a crisp green salad for a well-rounded meal.
  • Family Style: Place the casserole dish of stuffed shells directly on the table for a cozy, communal dining experience that encourages sharing and seconds.


  • Refrigeration: Store any leftover stuffed shells in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Simply reheat in the microwave or oven until heated through before serving.
  • Freezing: To freeze unbaked stuffed shells, assemble them in a freezer-safe dish, cover tightly with foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to enjoy, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking according to the recipe instructions.
  • Individual Portions: For convenient single servings, portion out leftover stuffed shells into individual airtight containers before refrigerating or freezing. This makes for easy grab-and-go lunches or quick dinners on busy days.


  • Microwave: Reheat individual servings of stuffed shells in the microwave on medium power for 2-3 minutes, or until heated through.
  • Oven: For larger portions, reheat the stuffed shells in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly and heated through. Cover with foil to prevent excessive browning.

Make-Ahead Tips:

  • Prep in Advance: Save time on busy weeknights by preparing the taco meat mixture and stuffing the shells ahead of time. Store the assembled dish in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
  • Freezer Meals: Double the recipe and assemble multiple batches of stuffed shells for convenient freezer meals that can be enjoyed at a moment’s notice. Just remember to label and date each dish for easy identification.

Enjoying Leftovers:

  • Creative Remix: Transform leftover stuffed shells into new dishes by chopping them up and using them as filling for quesadillas, topping for nachos, or stuffing for bell peppers.
  • Soup or Casserole: Incorporate leftover stuffed shells into soups, casseroles, or skillet meals for a delicious twist on classic recipes.


Vegetarian Option:

  • Black Bean and Corn: Replace the ground beef with a mixture of black beans, corn, diced bell peppers, and onions seasoned with taco seasoning for a hearty and flavorful vegetarian alternative.

Cheese Lover’s Twist:

  • Three Cheese Blend: Amp up the cheesy goodness by using a combination of queso, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheese for an extra indulgent filling.

Healthier Alternatives:

  • Turkey Taco Filling: Swap out the ground beef for lean ground turkey or chicken for a lighter, lower-fat option without sacrificing flavor.
  • Whole Wheat Shells: Use whole wheat jumbo shells or even zucchini noodles for a healthier twist on this classic recipe.

Flavorful Additions:

  • Spicy Kick: Add diced jalapeños or a dash of hot sauce to the taco filling for an extra kick of heat.
  • Chipotle Mayo: Serve the stuffed shells with a dollop of chipotle mayo or sour cream on top for a creamy, smoky finish.

International Fusion:

  • Tex-Mex Fusion: Incorporate Tex-Mex ingredients like diced tomatoes, green chilies, and black olives into the taco filling for a fusion twist.
  • Mediterranean Influence: Infuse the filling with Mediterranean flavors by adding ingredients like feta cheese, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes, and topping with tzatziki sauce before serving.

Creative Toppings:

  • Avocado Salsa: Top the stuffed shells with a vibrant avocado salsa made with diced avocado, tomato, onion, cilantro, lime juice, and salt for a fresh and tangy finish.
  • Pico de Gallo: Serve alongside a zesty pico de gallo made with diced tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice, and salt for a burst of flavor.

Mini Stuffed Shells:

  • Party Appetizer: Make mini stuffed shells using small pasta shells or pasta shells cut in half for bite-sized appetizers perfect for parties and gatherings.

Dessert Twist:

  • Sweet Variation: For a unique dessert twist, fill the shells with a sweet mixture of ricotta cheese, cinnamon, sugar, and chocolate chips, and drizzle with caramel or chocolate sauce before serving.

Seasonal Variations:

  • Fall Inspired: Add diced butternut squash or sweet potato to the taco filling and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds for a festive fall twist.
  • Summer Fresh: Incorporate seasonal vegetables like zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers into the filling for a light and summery version of this dish.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. Can I use different types of pasta for this recipe?

Yes, while jumbo shells are traditionally used, you can experiment with other pasta shapes like manicotti tubes or large pasta shells to find your preferred variation.

2. Is it necessary to use lean ground beef, or can I use another type of ground meat?

You can substitute lean ground beef with ground turkey, chicken, pork, or even a meatless alternative like textured vegetable protein (TVP) or crumbled tofu for a vegetarian option.

3. Can I make the taco seasoning from scratch?

Absolutely! Homemade taco seasoning allows you to customize the flavor to your liking. Mix together chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, and pepper for a delicious DIY blend.

With its irresistible combination of taco flavors, creamy queso, and comforting pasta shells, these Taco Stuffed Shells with Queso are sure to become a hit with your family and friends. Easy to make and bursting with flavor, this recipe is perfect for any occasion, from casual dinners to festive gatherings. Try it tonight and prepare to be amazed by the delicious results!