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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
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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!

Enjoy!

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells served in a white bowl

The Recipe

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Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells


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

Description

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! 


Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

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

16 thoughts on “Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells”

  1. Thank you so much for shar­ing this amaz­ing recipe! Will sure­ly have this again! It’s real­ly easy to make and it tast­ed so deli­cious! High­ly recommended!

    Reply

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