taco stuffed shells

$14.65 recipe / $1.47 serving

But Mom! Everyone else is doing it!

I don’t know who the first person was to stuff pasta shells with taco fillings, but it’s definitely a good idea. I kept seeing taco shells around the internet, so I had to make some, Budget Bytes style.

I made this recipe affordable by using homemade enchilada sauce (takes less than ten minutes), homemade taco seasoning (takes about two minutes), and beans cooked from dry in my slow cooker (cooked ahead of time and kept in the freezer until used). It took a little thinking ahead, but it definitely saved some bucks.

This recipe ended up being a little more work than I anticipated and I dirtied more dishes than I like to, but in the end it was well worth it. It made a HUGE batch of ten large servings, nearly all of which went into my freezer. I’ve been eating these amazing shells for almost a week now and have yet to get tired of them!

I didn’t realize that the ground beef I bought was in a 1.5 lb. package instead of just one pound, so thats part of why it made so much. You could also do this with just beans and no meat if you want it even less expensive!

I paired this with some cilantro lime rice and I was a happy, happy girl.

Taco Stuffed Shells

Taco Stuffed Shells

4.8 from 8 reviews
taco stuffed shells
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $14.65
Cost Per Serving: $1.47
Serves: 10
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil $0.16
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 medium yellow onion $0.49
  • 1½ lb. ground beef $6.09
  • 2 cups black beans $0.56
  • 2 cups pinto beans $0.56
  • 1 recipe taco seasoning $0.34
  • 1 tsp salt $0.05
  • 12 ounces jumbo shells $2.78
  • 1 recipe red enchilada sauce $0.77
  • 2 cups shredded cheese $2.50
  • 3-4 whole green onions $0.19
  1. Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large skillet over medium heat with the olive oil until soft and transparent (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add the ground beef and continue to cook until browned. Mix together the taco seasoning ingredients while the beef is browning. Once the beef is fully cooked through, add the taco seasoning and stir to combine. Drain the beans and add to the skillet. Stir until combined. Taste and season with salt as needed (I used about 1 teaspoon).
  3. Allow the beef and bean filling to sit while you cook the pasta shells. Bring a large pot to a boil, add the shells and cook just until tender. Be sure not to over cook the shells or they will be soft and difficult to fill. While the pasta shells are cooking, prepare the enchilada sauce.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse with cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Spray the inside of a 9×13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray. Fill the shells with the beef and bean filling and place in the casserole dish. It’s okay if they’re not aligned neatly or if they topple over and spill some filling, it will still be good.
  5. Once all of the shells are filled and in the casserole dish, pour the prepared enchilada sauce over top and then add the shredded cheese. Cook in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through (all ingredients are already cooked, so there is no real danger of undercooking here. You just want to get it all HOT).
  6. Slice the green onions and sprinkle over top after it comes out of the oven. Serve hot!
If you don’t want to make your own beans, taco seasoning, and enchilada sauce, here are the store bought equivalents: 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, 1 (15 ounce) can of pinto beans, 1 packet of taco seasoning, and one (28 ounce) can of enchilada sauce.

Taco Stuffed Shells

Step By Step Photos

onion garlicStart by dicing the onion and mincing the garlic. Add them to a LARGE skillet with the olive oil and cook over medium heat until soft and transparent.

ground beefAdd the ground beef and continue to cook until it is FULLY browned.

taco seasoningWhile the beef is browning, mix up your taco seasoning (or use a store bought packet).

taco beefOnce the beef is fully cooked, add the taco seasoning and stir until combined.

add beansadd beansAdd the drained beans (because WE LOVE BEANS!). Stir until combined. Taste and add more salt if needed (I added about one teaspoon).

cook pastaNext, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Make sure to not let them get too soft or they’ll be all wobbly and difficult to fill. Also, while the pasta is boiling away, you can quickly prepare the enchilada sauce (because it only takes 5-10 minutes).

fill shellsfill shellsDrain the pasta and rinse it with cool water until it’s cool enough to handle. Spray a LARGE casserole dish with non-stick spray. Fill the shells and place them in the casserole dish. I found the easiest way to fill them is to hold a shell in one hand and fill it with a spoon using the other. Now, the shells WILL topple over and spill their guts, but that’s okay because when you serve it you’ll just be scooping everything up anyway.

pour enchilada saucesmothered enchilada saucePour the enchilada sauce alllll over the whole thing. This is where it starts to get really good. Preheat your oven to 350, too.

cheeseCover that sucker with cheese and pop it in the oven. Cook it at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the whole thing is hot and the cheese is nice and melty on top.

taco stuffed shellsAnd then you’re in taco shell heaven. Oh yeah, sprinkle the green onions over top after it comes out of the oven.

portionAs usual, I portioned the whole thing out before refrigerating. I actually ran out of containers, that’s how much it made. Most of these containers ended up in the freezer after they cooled in the fridge. I also added a scoop of cilantro lime rice to each container. I’ve been having very, VERY happy lunches ever since! :D



  1. My cousin just a baby this was the meal we brought over to them, to help make life easier with the little one. we all loved it! we ate it with sour cream which i feel is a must.

    To be honest the wife felt it was a touch to bean heavy. next time i will use a bit less beans or more hamburger.

  2. Brittany says:

    I made this tonight and it turned out awesome! The only thing I different was i used ground turkey, and I used spicy Taco seasoning and hot n spicy enchilada sauce! Perfect!!

  3. I made these last night for a dinner party and they were very good. The enchilada sauce really is worth the extra step.

    I would add sour cream to the ingredient list, it really is a must to serve along with the shells.

  4. ReBecca says:

    I made this last night and brought it in today for my works’ lunch potluck. I did it all like you,suggested, first time doing that and I have to say it was Delicious!! Thanks

  5. Katie K. says:

    These are amazing! I froze half of the cooked shells and DH and I ate the rest over the past couple of days. Pasta + Mexican food = awesome!

  6. Barbara says:

    These are really delicious, and wonderful to have on hand in the freezer. I usually freeze them individually on a cookie sheet, then wrap in meal-sized packages. That allows me to pull out just the number I need, for one or for a crowd. Add the sauce (also frozen in portions), and dinner is ready in no time.

  7. Lyndsay says:

    My mom and I made this tonight and it was delicious! It was so easy to make and super filling.

  8. Wende says:

    We had enough filling for 2 pyrex containers of shells… and burritos for lunch!

    My fiance is in the middle of remodeling our master suite and I work full time with an hour commute each way, so my weekends are spent prepping meals that he can pop in the oven before i get home! Thank you so much for your recipes, your humor and your wonderful step-by-step photos!!

  9. Erika says:

    I made this for dinner tonight, and I absolutely loved it! I’m so glad I found your website; I will definitely follow more of your recipes!

  10. seaward says:

    Loooved these! I left out the meat, so I had some shells left over but wound up with the perfect amount of filling to fill a 9×13 dish.
    I’m in love with the new layout, by the way :)

  11. JSpangs says:

    I made these last night and they were delicious! I ran out of containers to freeze them in, so it looks like I’ll be eating this for lunch the rest of the week, not that I mind! Thanks for this great recipe!

  12. Very yummy!! First time to your site, definitely not the last, that’s for sure!! So had to tweak it just a bit, due to ingredients I had on hand…..I used left over chicken from a roasted chicken I had, then added the pinto beans a touch of cream cheese to chicken mixture and reheated. Added some diced green chili’s as well! Since I didn’t have red enchilada sauce” I used mild green chili enchilada sauce instead, then topped with the cheese and baked as you directed. It turned out amazing! Thanks so much!

  13. Anonymous says:

    i made this and it was amazing! i need to make more dinner turned leftover for lunch recipes like this. thanks for sharing!

  14. I’ve had this bookmarked since August and finally got around to making it today. My family loved it!! I will definitely be making it again.

    I couldn’t find enchilada sauce here so I made your recipe. It was easy & super tasty.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This was delicious! I didn’t have any shells on hand and I didn’t really have time to fill them all, so I just boiled some penne and mixed it all together into a casserole and sprinkled cheese on top. It was sooo good still, and a lot less work. My 10 month olds gobbled it up for dinner and for lunch the next day.

    The filling by itself was so delicious though, next time I’m just going to take out the pasta entirely and stuff it in a taco shell.

  16. just made these tonight with ground turkey. PHENOMENAL! I am a medical student and I love discovering high-yield dishes like this that will feed me for a few days and tastes great! :) Thank you, Beth!

  17. Anonymous says:

    Made this tonight, it was soooooo good!! I’ve yet to find something I don’t like on here. Thanks for all the yummy posts!

  18. Anon – Salsa might work, but it would probably be slightly less flavorful.

  19. Anonymous says:

    would salsa work instead of enchilada sauce?

  20. Anonymous says:

    My husband is licking all the pans and spoons! I can’t count how many little tweaks I had to make based on what we had in the pantry, but the end result was incredible – super spicy, with bursts of flavor from the corn (we had some corn from our farm share to use) and beans. You alluded to seeing these shells all over the internet, but I have never seen this idea before your blog. Thank you again for helping me turn out amazing meals night after night!

  21. This one was a WINNER! We added some frozen corn and a green pepper to the onion/garlic stage. It was great! Thanks for the awesome post!

  22. These were absolutely amazing. You were not kidding about it making a lot. My pan was actually too small, so I had to pull out a pie plate for the rest. Thank you for mentioning that you immediately froze most of the batch. Cooking for one always ends with a lot of leftovers that grow mold after I get tired of them. Now they will be in the freezer waiting for when I want them again. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. It was absolutely amazing, and congrats on the cookbook. I can’t wait until it comes out.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Tired it yesterday and absolutely loved it. I used mixed beans instead of black and pinto because of the cost in our store. Soooo Good. Now I have meals for the boys when I cannot be there

  24. Anonymous says:

    I made this last night. It was amazing! Love it. I look forward to getting your book. I love your site! ;)

  25. Oh, I wanted to add that I used a can of refried beans instead of pinto beans, because that’s what I had. SO GOOD!

  26. I made this with a few changes. I sauteed a jalapeno and a red bell pepper with the onion, and I used chicken (from the whole roasted chicken, also from your blog) instead of ground beef. I also stirred in some sauteed shredded cabbage because I had some to use up. This was amazing! I have been eating it all week and I still have at least four more meals to go. Love your blog, and I am so excited about the book!

  27. Made this tonight for dinner and just finished eating it. Delicious! You must have superpowers to have gotten all those shells to fit into a 9×13 pan, though! I ended up putting the excess in a 8×8 dish and freezing it. No complaints though, I’m looking forward to getting to enjoy it again without having to do the bulk of the prep work! :-)

  28. Made these tonight and topped with a bit of sour cream. These are absolutely phenomenal! Have plenty to freeze for left overs. Great recipe. Thanks!

  29. This was sooo gooood (even after i forgot the pinto beans, overcooked the noodles, and forgot half the cheese, people showed up so i was distracted, whooops!!!) I will be making again for sure, and likely next week!


  30. I had no idea that enchilada sauce was so easy to make! I made the taco shells this weekend and they were phenomenal. Even my son, who abhors meat, had seconds. This is a definite keeper!

  31. My family LOVED this one, and for the two picky eaters I live with, that’s saying a lot. Thanks!

  32. Angela says:

    I am making this today, but I’m going to use shredded chicken breasts instead of ground beef. My stomach is growling just thinking of it!

  33. On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday – and I love this post so I’m featuring it as part of today’s roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and thanks so much for inspiring me…

  34. thanks both for the meatless suggestions!


  35. Anonymous says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and it gets 5 really BIG stars! It was truly perfection and will be this years Xmas dinner for the fam! Thanks!

  36. Jina says:

    I wish I was eating this for lunch right now! But I know I would have instant food coma from the pasta and rice. Do you have any advice on staying alert after a delicious carb-y lunch? I would love to hear it.

  37. jeri says:

    Because I love your blog, I need to share a video on YouTube called “Julia Child Remix.” I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It’s brilliant. Happy 100th Julia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80ZrUI7RNfI&feature=youtu.be

  38. Love this idea, and thanks for the reminder of portioning out before freezing/serving. I often make big meals like this, thinking I’ll be saving myself some cooking time the rest of the week, but by the time dinner is done, half the pan is gone! I know that must mean I’m a good cook, but our waistlines are paying dearly! A tip: Instead of boiling noodles/shells you’re going to use in a casserole with sauce, you can line them up in your casserole dish, and pour in boiling water from a kettle and let the pasta soak just until they’re pliable but still slightly firm, (just under al dente) and drain. This lets your pasta soften enough to work with, but not get so cooked that it can’t absorp any of your delicious sauce you worked so hard on. Solves the problem of watery pasta casseroles. I do this when I make lasagne and it works like a charm!

  39. My browser looks like a Budget Bytes Fanclub meanwhile, that’s how many bookmarks I’ve saved from your delicious cooking, Beth!

  40. If you’re trying to avoid white flour pastas, think this could work with bell peppers instead of shells?

  41. cindy says:

    haha, typo alert: “of,” not “or!” Why don’t they have “edit” buttons on these things? :D

  42. cindy says:

    Steve, I’ve been substituting “beef-less” and “chicken-less” vegetarian “meat” from Trader Joe’s. They have strips, ground “beef,” pulled “chicken,” and probably a couple more varieties I haven’t tried yet. Texture is good, and they absorb all the yummy flavors or whatever you put them in. Pretty cheap too!

    Beth, typos and all, I LOVE THE WAY YOU WRITE! You’re so cool! :) I was about to make more of that tamale stuff (damn you, you’ve got me hooked on cheesy cornbread) but I think I’ll try this instead…did I mention that I didn’t really know how to cook until I found your blog? This is awesome! So proud of myself! I’m all grown up now! (50 years old – finally!) :D

  43. team Taylor – You can definitely add some water to help the spices incorporate. Mine might have had some wateriness in the bottom of the skillet already, I can’t remember!

  44. i am making this right now. my beef is 90% lean and when i added the taco seasoning, it looks like i could use some water? did you have to add water? i was also looking to see if you drained the meat, did you just use the grease for the liquid?
    thanks :)

  45. This is going to be on my table soon let me tell you that! Thanks!

  46. Lynn – THANK YOU! hahahah “beens” :P

    Cheap – Awesome tips! Thanks!

    Steve – yeah, I’d just do a mix of beans. It will still be awesome!

  47. cool, i have some pasta i need to get rid of. want to remove the meat; any suggestions anybody? i guess more beans. anything else?

  48. cool, i have some pasta i need to get rid of. want to remove the meat; any suggestions anybody? i guess more beans. anything else?

  49. Oh wow, I’ve got to make this recipe! There’s only a couple of things I might suggest to make it a bit more budget friendly.
    We have taken to buying our shredded cheese at Costco. A 5 lb. bag of shredded cheddar/mozzarella is about $10. I bring it home and put it into 3 or 4, 2-quart freezer bags. One bag goes in the fridge and the rest in the freezer–pulling it out as needed to thaw in the fridge. It works great and it’s half the price (or less) of what I can buy in a 2-cup bag at the grocery store.
    The other thing is that you spent $4 a pound for hamburger. This is something I also buy “in bulk” when it’s on special. Unfortunately with price increases, the best I can do now is 80% lean on special about once a month for $1.99/lb. I’ll buy about 4 or 5 lbs. and spend 5 minutes at home to “break it down” to freezer bags with a pound per bag–and a bag with 2 plastic wrapped half pounds.
    It’s just the 2 of us most of the time and I measure a “pound” for 2 at 12 ounces. It’s enough for 2 hamburger patties or a dozen meatballs or “Maid-Rites” for 2 or tacos for 2. Two years ago I could still get “London Broil”/bottom round or boneless chuck for $1.99 on special and I’d have it ground but that’s now about $3.50 on special. Plus, when I have ground beef that lean, I keep a package of breakfast sausage links handy to add a bit more fat for flavor and cooking–each link is an ounce and costs about $.15 on special.
    Just a couple of thoughts. I love the idea of using dry beans to save money and actually create better flavor. Thanks.

  50. I hate being the spelling person, but you spelled beans “beens” in step 2 of the written directions.

    This looks awesome :)

  51. Chris says:

    I seriously LOVE this idea. They look amazing. I like to do surprise lunches for my coworkers periodically and this would be PERFECT. And SO much less expensive than other lunches I have prepared. Thanks for all of your wonderful budget friendly ideas. =)

  52. These look delicious! I will definitely be making these one day.

  53. Mimi – You probably could, although the baking time will probably change because it has so much further to go to get from frozen to hot. Also, you might want to use something other than glass because the quick temperature change could cause it to break. Maybe try one of those disposable aluminium casserole dishes.

  54. Could you freeze the whole pan after putting the enchilada sauce on? Then put the cheese on & bake the day of?

  55. Cassie – I put them in the refrigerator at work, bu they’re still pretty much frozen solid by lunch time. So, I just microwave them until they’re hot! It takes a little stirring or moving the food around, but it usually only takes about 5 minutes :)

  56. I have a question about your leftovers, Beth. I know you freeze them in individual portions. Do you bring them out the day/night before so that they’ll be ready to eat by lunchtime? Or do you let them thaw the morning of?

  57. Okay, this looks AMAZING. Definitely making it this weekend with ground turkey.

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