Stuffed Shells In Air Fryer Recipe (Taco Inspired)

What a fun way to spice up taco Tuesday! This recipe is great to serve as an appetizer or family dinner. The surprisingly crisp outside paired with the creamy full-flavored center make a great Mexican dish.

This recipe makes a great appetizer for parties, game days or a great twist on taco night. The kids will request seconds.  With just a few simple ingredients you can create this trending Mexican-Italian dish.

Surprise your friends or family with this fun taco inspired dish. A delicious bite of the crispy shell and gooey beef and cheese filling.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 13 minutes

Total time: 43 minutes

Yield: 24 servings

What You’ll Need

  • 1 lb Ground Beef (85/15)
  • 7 oz Green Chiles (diced)
  • 1 small Yellow Onion (diced)
  • 1.1 oz Taco Seasoning (1 packet)
  • 12 oz Jumbo Shells
  • 8 oz Mexican Blend Cheese (shredded)

Ingredient Notes 

Ground Beef

I like to use ground beef for this recipe. I think it resembles the closest to tacos for flavor and retains moisture. I chose a leaner meat of 85/15; however, any will do. 

Taco Seasoning 

Any package taco seasoning works fine. It’s easiest to just buy a packaged seasoning, but you can use your own blend. All the flavors can be adjusted to preference. 

You can omit any spicy seasoning flavors like cayenne or add a little more. I personally like to add coriander in my seasoning mix and double down on the cumin for authentic flavor. 

Green Chiles

I buy canned fire roasted green chiles and add the whole contents. I don’t bother with straining.

The extra liquid imparts flavor and moisture for the filling making it extra creamy once the cheese is added. These chiles are mild and child friendly. 

Jumbo Pasta Shells

I buy a boxed pasta shell. This is the best kind to use for this recipe. I don’t bother with frozen or fresh shells.

Make sure to add salt and olive oil to your boiling water to avoiding the shells sticking. You’ll want to fully cook the pasta, not al dente. You want to cook the pasta in boiling water on the stove.

You can’t boil pasta in the air fryer.  The primary purpose of an air fryer is to fry foods. So as this works for crisping it doesn’t with imparting moisture. It is best to stick to the stovetop method when pasta or rice is considered. 


This is what creates a gooey center and pairs perfect with the ground beef.  I buy a shredded Mexican blend for this recipe. I think the flavor is best.

You can use any type of cheese you’d prefer.  You can always add a couple tablespoons of queso cheese to make the mixture extra creamy. 

Spray Oil

I use Primal Kitchen’s Avocado oil spray. Any nonstick spray will work. I like the avocado oil, because it can reach a cooking temperature of 500°F and is a healthier option. We spray the shells and basket to avoid sticking and give a crispy shell. 

How To Make It

Step 1: Get your Ingredients Ready

Start by getting the ingredients together you’ll be using in the recipe. If you’re making a taco seasoning by scratch, you’ll want to measure the amounts out.

Get your Ingredients Ready

Step 2: Add Pasta Shells 

Cook per instructions on the box. Be sure to cook the pasta through and not al dente. Cook pasta in a pot on the stove.

Add Pasta Shells

Step 3: Add Beef to the Skillet

Add ground beef, onions, green chiles and taco seasoning together on md-high heat in a skillet. I add a little nonstick spray, but because you get moisture from the beef and green chiles, extra oil isn’t required. 


Step 4: Cook Ground Beef

Cook until ground beef is brown, and onions are tender. About 5-7 minutes. Allow the filling to cool before adding cheese mixture.

Cook Ground Beef

Step 5: Add the Filing 

Add the filing in a piping bag or Ziplock gallon bag. I like to only add half of the ground beef mixture. 

You can simply snip off the corner with scissors to easily fill the shells. Alternatively, you can always spoon in a tablespoon of filing with a spoon. 

Step 6: Cover the Shell

Cover the filled shells with another empty shell on top.  Add about 10-12 shells, depending on your size air fryer. Do not overcrowd the shells.

Step 7: Spray Oil 

Spray the Shells and basket with the nonstick spray.

Step 8: Bake the Shells

Bake at 400°F for 13 minutes. 

Step 9: Assemble Remaining Shells

While the first batch bakes you want to assemble the remaining shells. I like to do this on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Then I can switch out the cooked shells onto the cookie sheet while the next batch bakes. 

Step 10: Plate and Serve

Platter up these shells as an appetizer or plate for a fun dinner. 

Alternative Ingredients or Substitutions

Can I Change the Meat?

You can substitute the ground beef for chorizo or carnitas meat. Sometimes you can find precooked carnitas meat at your local store.

Trader joes has a great pre-made Carnitas. Healthier options include ground chicken or turkey. 

Can I Make It Vegetarian?

The meat can be switched to lentils or black beans. 

Can this Recipe Be Made Ahead of Time?

I’m a big fan of meal prep. You can cook the noodles ahead of time and store in a Ziplock bag or airtight container. You can as well make the meat mixture and store in a Ziplock bag or airtight container.

These can be made a day or two ahead of time, so you just fill the noodles and air fry on the day making a 43-minute meal ready in less than twenty minutes. It makes a great appetizer with friends or weeknight dinner.

It stores up to five days in an airtight container. It can be reheated in the air fryer at 360°F for 4-5 minutes.

It can be frozen for up to two months in the freezer. I do suggest freezing them on a nonstick surface like parchment or wax paper in the freezer individually.

This prevents sticking together. A few hours usually do the trick.   Add the frozen shells to an airtight container or Ziplock bag. Try to remove as much air as possible. 

Garnish Ideas:

Cilantro, Iceberg lettuce, Black Olives, Tomatoes, Limes

What to Serve With this Dish

  • Ranch Dressing
  • Queso Cheese
  • Salsa
  • Salad

Tips and Tricks

  • Add Salt (to season) and Olive oil (to prevent sticking) to your boiling water when cooking the pasta.
  • Cook the pasta through not al dente
  • Do not overcrowd the air fryer, 10-12 shells fit perfect per basket. I used a Ninja Foodi for this recipe.
  • Use a Ziplock bag in place of a traditional piping bag. This will keep your hands clean.
  • Use a cookie sheet to assemble the second batch of shells. Line with parchment paper for no fuss clean up.  
  • Pre freeze your cheese so when it combines with the beef it doesn’t over melt. 

Cooking Times By Air Fryer Model

ModelCooking TimeTemperature
Ninja Foodi13400°F
Phillips Airfryer XXL (HD9630)10375°F
Nuwave Bravo XL Grill11375°F
Power XL 2&3 Qt Vortex12380°F
Breville Smart Oven10375°F

You may need to increase or decrease your cooking time depending on how crispy you’d like these shells.

I prefer a crispy shell as you can see in the picture. The texture of the crispy shell with the creamy and cheesy center is perfect. 

The taco shells reheat in the air fryer at 360°F for 3-5 minutes.

You may also like Air Fryer Dehydrated Chile Lime Mango Recipe

Stuffed Shells In Air Fryer (Taco Inspired)

Stuffed Shells In Air Fryer (Taco Inspired)

Yield: 24
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes
Total Time: 43 minutes

Spice up your weeknight dinner with this taco inspired stuffed shell recipe. It’s crispy shell and creamy cheese filling make this a family favorite. 


  • 1 lb Ground Beef (85/15)
  • 7 oz Green Chiles (diced)
  • 1 small Onion (diced)
  • 1.1 oz taco Seasoning (1 packet)
  • 12 oz Jumbo Shells
  • 8oz Mexican Cheese Blend (Shredded)


  1. Gather your ingredients and measure your spices if necessary.
  2. Add pasta shells to boiling water. Cook per instructions on box and cook through.
  3. Add ground beef, chiles, taco seasoning and onions to skillet and cook on md-high heat.
  4. Cook beef for 5-7 minutes until browned. Add cheese once it has cooled. 
  5. Add the filing to a piping bag and pipe the mixture into the shell.
  6. Make sure to add another empty shell on top. Add shells to the air fryer basket.
  7. Spray the oil on the shells to prevent sticking 
  8. Bake the shells at 400°F for 13 minutes.
  9. Assemble the remaining shells and switch out with the previous batch
  10. Plate and serve


  1. Cook pasta through not al dente
  2. Do not overcrowd the basket, 10-12 fit prefect
  3. Use a ziplock bag for piping the mixture 

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