Home » Pasta

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells are the “some­thing dif­fer­ent” we all need to shake up taco night. These cold, damp and blus­tery Fall days have me reach­ing for some of our favorite com­fort food recipes. This one is a favorite!

Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells are explod­ing with fla­vor and hearty, sat­is­fy­ing good­ness! Savory chick­en, black beans, pops of sweet­ness from corn, lots of uma­mi-bring­ing-veg­gies and a kick of heat from toma­toes with chilies are all wrapped in a to-die-for creamy, cheesy sauce. And then, yeah … stuffed in a per­fect­ly cooked pas­ta shell.

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells served in a white bowl
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

Like most Amer­i­can­ized recipes, there’s noth­ing authen­tic Mex­i­can about these deli­cious stuffed shells. But, they have all those famil­iar South­west­ern fla­vors that you know and love. A lit­tle spicy kick, the under­ly­ing hint of cumin and the cheesy, creamy fill­ing will make this one of your fam­i­ly’s favorite dinners.

For anoth­er scrump­tious dish with south of the bor­der fla­vors, check out my Easy South­west Chick­en recipe. It’s great as a main dish or used in recipes like this one.

How I Came Up with the Recipe

I cre­at­ed this Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells recipe in 2011, in an attempt to do some­thing “not Ital­ian” with pasta. 

I exper­i­ment­ed, focus­ing on my family’s love of Mex­i­can and south­west fla­vors. The hap­py result was these Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells. It was the #1 recipe on my old blog for 4 years running!

The recipe makes enough to feed a group of 8–12 peo­ple (36 shells) and it freezes eas­i­ly. But, I usu­al­ly prep it into 3 sep­a­rate foil pans — two for the freez­er and one for our din­ner, that night. Then, I have plen­ty for future meals, as well as one to share with friends or fam­i­ly who just need a break from cook­ing for a night.

Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells left­overs heat up beau­ti­ful­ly in the microwave. You and your fam­i­ly are going to love shak­ing up taco night with these scrump­tious­ly creamy and crazy fla­vor­ful pas­ta shells.

How to Make Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

Once you have this lit­tle bit of prep done, the recipe for Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells goes togeth­er quickly. 

One of the best invest­ments I ever made was a *high-qual­i­ty chef’s knife for my kitchen. It makes my cut­ting and chop­ping jobs go so much more quick­ly and smooth­ly. When it fits your bud­get, it’s a tool I high­ly recommend.

Start with any pre-cook­ing and chop­ping you need to do. If you don’t have pre-cooked chick­en in your freez­er, [We need to talk. 🙂 ] that, and cook­ing the pas­ta shells, is the first order of business. 

Cook the pas­ta shells slight­ly al dente (cooked, but with a firm bite). The shells will con­tin­ue to cook as you bake them, so you don’t want them to be too soft, at this stage. They will also be eas­i­er to han­dle and stuff if they still have a lit­tle firm­ness to them.

Prep enough chick­en to make 4 cups, small diced or shred­ded, (3 or 4 chick­en breasts depend­ing on size). Rotis­serie chick­en, or even left­over chick­en if you have enough, would work real­ly well, too.

Also, mince the pep­pers and slice the green onions, thinly.

While all that cook­ing and chop­ping is going on, drain and rinse the black beans. Also, drain two cans of toma­toes with chiles, but reserve the liq­uid from both cans. I usu­al­ly drain the tomato/chilies liq­uid it into my 4‑cup liq­uid mea­sur­ing cup. 

Add the drained beans and toma­toes to a mix­ing bowl, along with the diced chick­en, pep­pers, green onions and frozen corn. Stir all the chick­en and veg­gies togeth­er to even­ly dis­trib­ute everything.

In a small­er mix­ing bowl, mix the soft­ened cream cheese, sour cream and taco sea­son­ing. When it is creamy and ful­ly mixed, add it to the chick­en and veg­gies in the larg­er bowl. Stir to com­bine every­thing evenly.

Add the picante/salsa to the mea­sur­ing cup with the reserved toma­to liq­uid. Add enough chick­en stock to bring the amount up to 3 cups.

Prepare the Pan and Stuff the Shells

Mexican Chicken stuffed shells filled ready for cheese

There’s no way to avoid it, real­ly. Stuff­ing the shells for Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells is a hands-on job. I’ve tried using a spoon to scoop up the fill­ing and stuff it into the shells. You’ll have few­er torn shells, and more even­ly stuffed pas­ta, if you resign your­self to being messy for a cou­ple min­utes and just use your hands.

Prep the pan or pans by adding 1/3 of the salsa/broth liq­uid sauce to the bot­tom. If you’re mak­ing every­thing in one pan, add 1 cup of the liq­uid to the bot­tom of the pan. If you are bak­ing 3 indi­vid­ual 9x9 foil pans, add 1/3 cup to the bot­tom of each pan. Save the rest of the sauce for just before baking.

A 12 oz. box of jum­bo shells usu­al­ly has 40+ shells in it. I cook them all and then I pick the best 36. Some may have torn in cook­ing or after drain­ing. By cook­ing the whole box, you should have enough intact shells to make 36. Any left­over shells can be chopped and tossed with some melt­ed but­ter and salt and pep­per for a yum­my snack.

Add the fill­ing to each shell. Fill them right to the top, maybe even slight­ly heap­ing. This recipe makes just enough fill­ing for 36 gen­er­ous­ly filled shells. You want the shells to be able to stand face-up in the pan because of the weight of the fill­ing. I’ve nev­er mea­sured it, but my guess is their must be 2 or 3 heap­ing Table­spoons of fill­ing in each shell.

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells ready for the oven.

Stuff all 36 shells, plac­ing into the pre­pared pans, as you go. If there is any fill­ing remain­ing, dis­trib­ute it even­ly between the shells you’ve already stuffed. You should have 1 pan of 36 shells or 3 pans of 12.

Driz­zle the remain­ing tomato/broth liq­uid even­ly over the stuffed shells. If mak­ing 3 small­er pans, use 2/3 cup of the liq­uid for each pan.

Top each indi­vid­ual shell with a Table­spoon or so of grat­ed Ched­dar cheese. 

Baking or Freezing Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

Secure­ly cov­er the pan (or pans) with foil. If you’re wor­ried about the cheese stick­ing to the foil dur­ing bak­ing, you can spray the under­side with pan spray. 

At this point you can freeze for lat­er use, or bake the Mex­i­can Stuffed Shells at 350° for 30–40 minutes. 

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells baked in the pan

I usu­al­ly bake one pan and put two in the freez­er. To use frozen Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells, thaw the pan in the fridge, overnight. 30 min­utes to 1 hour before bak­ing, set the pan on the counter to come to room tem­per­a­ture. It can be baked straight from the fridge, but the bak­ing time will be much longer, if you’re start­ing with the shells and fill­ing com­plete­ly cold. Thawed shells brought to room tem­per­a­ture can be baked as usu­al and should be done in about 30–40 minutes.

Bake the shells for 30–40 min­utes at 350°. They should be hot all the way through, the cheese should be melt­ed and the pan sauce will be bub­bling, when they are done.

Remove the foil and serve Mex­i­can Stuffed Shells with a big green sal­ad or your favorite steamed veg­gies. They’re phe­nom­e­nal and I can’t wait for you and your fam­i­ly to put a new twist on taco night!


Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells served in a white bowl

The Recipe

clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

  • Author: Glen­da Embree
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 36 shells 1x


Hearty, deli­cious chick­en and pas­ta dish with a lit­tle south­west­ern flair. The stuffed shells are mild­ly spicy.  Make them for com­pa­ny and you’ll be the hit of the party! 


Units Scale
  • 12 oz. box jum­bo pas­ta shells (about 40 shells)

For the Mex­i­can Chick­en Filling:

  • 4 cups chick­en breast, cooked and chopped or shredded
  • 2 cans diced toma­toes with chiles (drain and RESERVE liq­uid) (Rotel or store brand, either works)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 6 green onions, sliced thin
  • 1 large bell pep­per (any col­or), minced
  • 1 1/2 blocks cream cheese (12 oz. total), soft­ened (not melted)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 pack­et taco sea­son­ing (or 3-4 Table­spoons home­made taco sea­son­ing or 2 Table­spoons home­made South­west­ern sea­son­ing)
  • 1 1/2 cups extra sharp Ched­dar cheese, grated

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup of sal­sa or picante sauce + extra for drizzling
  • 1 cup chick­en stock
  • reserved liq­uid from diced toma­toes with chiles


  1. Cook pas­ta shells in well salt­ed, boil­ing water until al dente (still have a lit­tle bite to them). If you cook them too long, they will be dif­fi­cult to stuff.  They are going to have addi­tion­al cook­ing time in the oven. Drain the pas­ta and set aside while you make the fill­ing.  I usu­al­ly run cold water over them as I’m drain­ing them.  This quick cools them and makes them eas­i­er to han­dle for stuffing.
  2. While the pas­ta cooks, dice or shred enough chick­en breast to make 4 cups.  That’s 3–4 chick­en breasts for me.  A whole rotis­serie chick­en works, too.
  3. Chop bell pep­per and green onions. 
  4. Grate the cheese.
  5. Mix the diced chick­en, rinsed and drained black beans, drained toma­toes with chilies (Remem­ber to reserve the tomato/chilies liq­uid from both cans.), corn, bell pep­per and green onion in a medi­um mix­ing bowl.
  6. In a small­er mix­ing bowl, blend the cream cheese, sour cream and taco seasoning.
  7. Add the cream cheese mix­ture to the chick­en and veg­gies.  Stir to thor­ough­ly combine.
  8. Mix the chick­en broth, picante/salsa and reserved tomato/chilies liq­uid.  I mix this in my 4‑cup liq­uid mea­sur­ing cup and end up with 3 cups of sauce.  I put in the reserved tomato/chiles liq­uid, first, then add the sal­sa.  Next, I add enough chick­en stock to make 3 cups of liquid.
  9. If bak­ing all the shells in one pan, pour one cup of the liq­uid sauce into the bot­tom of your bak­ing pan.  If divid­ing the shells between three 8x8 foil pans, add 1/3 cup liq­uid to the bot­tom of each pan.  Save the rest of the liq­uid for just before baking.
  10. Using a spoon, or your fin­gers, fill each of your cooked and cooled pas­ta shells, set­ting them into the sauce cov­ered pan. Con­tin­ue until all shells are filled and arranged in the pan.
  11. When the pan is full, driz­zle the shells with the remain­ing liq­uid sauce and then sprin­kle with the shred­ded cheese.  [This is the point to freeze the shells, if you’re mak­ing these for future use.  See the notes on freez­ing, below.]
  12. Cov­er the bak­ing pan(s) tight­ly with foil and bake at 350 degrees 30 min­utes or until hot and bubbly.


To Bake Frozen Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells:

To use frozen Mex­i­can Chick­en Stuffed Shells, thaw the pan in the fridge, overnight. 30 min­utes to an hour before bak­ing, set the pan on the counter to come to room tem­per­a­ture. It can be baked straight from the fridge, but the bak­ing time will be much longer, if you’re start­ing with the shells com­plete­ly cold. Thawed shells brought to room tem­per­a­ture can be baked as usu­al and should be done in about 30–40 minutes.

Bake the shells for 30 min­utes at 350°. They should be hot all the way through, the cheese should be melt­ed and the pan sauce will be bub­bling, when they are done.

  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Cook Time: 30 min
  • Cat­e­go­ry: Main Dish, Mex­i­can, Pasta
  • Method: Bak­ing
  • Cui­sine: Mex­i­can

Key­words: Mex­i­can, chick­en, pasta

If you’re hun­gry for even more Mex­i­can-inspired dish­es, be sure to check out my Easy Sheet Pan Chick­en Faji­tas, Enchi­la­da Casse­role or Jalapeno Chick­en and Corn Chow­der.

enchilada casserole
jalapeno chicken and corn chowder

More Delicious Mexican Recipes

More Chicken Recipes

More Pasta Recipes

More Quick Fix Supper Ideas

18 thoughts on “Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells”

  1. The Stuffed Shells look absolute­ly deli­cious! I’m gro­cery shop­ping in a few days, and will be get­ting the ingre­di­ents I need for this recipe. Thanks for sharing!


Leave a Comment

Recipe rating