Turkey Taco Stuffed Shells are a flavor-packed meal made a little lighter with lean ground turkey. Jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with flavorful ground turkey taco meat, cheese and salsa, and baked to perfection.
Taco Tuesday is something a lot of families look forward to, but as the one who actually has to make said tacos I am always looking for ways to spice things up. These Taco Stuffed Shells are the perfect alternative!
My Turkey Taco Stuffed Shells are loosely based off of my Cheesy Turkey Taco Pasta recipe. It’s a simple meal that packs a real punch of flavor. The pasta is tender and the meat flavorful, creamy and cheesy with a little bit of heat and a hint of lime. I used a jarred salsa for this taco pasta recipe, which adds a fantastic flavor, but you could also add some additional veggies, like peas and carrots, to round out this dish as a full meal. On the side, my taco salad (just leave out the meat) would be a delicious option.
I love creating ground turkey recipes as an alternative to ground beef. It’s tasty and packed with protein, and is much lighter than beef which will save a few calories and fat while still creating a delicious meal.
HOW TO MAKE TURKEY TACO STUFFED SHELLS
Making a big pan of my Ground Turkey Taco Stuffed Shells couldn’t be easier! You just need a few ingredients and about 45 minutes.
Make the Ground Turkey Taco Meat:
Start by cooking a pound of ground turkey with some onion and garlic. This will add flavor to the meat itself. If your turkey releasing a lot of liquid during cooking, you may want to drain it before adding anything else.
Next, add some of your favorite salsa, but I do recommend that it be a more blended salsa, and not chunky so that it can help to form the sauce a little better. Chunky salsas tend to be more thin and watery. Stir in some taco seasoning and water and let that pot simmer for about 10-15 minutes. The mixture will reduce and thicken a bit, so when time’s up you can add some cheese to complete the sauce.
While the turkey taco meat is simmering away, cook some jumbo pasta shells in a pot of boiling water. Depending on the brand and the size of the pasta the cooking time may vary, so be sure to check the package. You want to remove the shells just before they become al dente pasta, (tender but still have a bit of a bite to it), because they will be able to cook a little further in the oven. Lay the shells out on a flat surface to dry.
Assemble the Taco Stuffed Shells:
Once the pasta and taco meat are ready, it’s time to assemble the turkey taco stuffed shells! First pour some salsa into the bottom of a baking dish. Then stuff the taco meat inside the shells. A cookie scoop is great for getting even amounts. Stuff them as full as you can without splitting the shell, and arrange them in the baking dish, open side up. Pour more salsa on top and sprinkle on lots of Pepper Jack and Cheddar cheeses.
Bake the stuffed shells in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Just before serving, garnish the pasta with some fresh tomatoes, green onions, avocado, sour cream or any other taco toppings you can think of! We like to add crunchy tortilla chips sometimes, too.
Easy Make Ahead Taco Stuffed Shells!
These stuffed shells can easily be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and even frozen for an easy weeknight freezer meal!
Make ahead a day in advance: Prep everything up to the top cheese layer but don’t bake it and make sure that the filling is cooled. Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Add fresh cheese and bake as directed.
Easy Freezer Meal: This meal can also be made ahead of time and frozen. Prepare as directed except for the cheese topping, but don’t bake it. Make sure the filling is cooled and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Wrap the whole pan in foil and pop in the freezer for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to cook, thaw in the fridge overnight, add fresh shredded cheese and bake as directed.
CAN YOU FREEZE LEFTOVER TACO MEAT?
If you happen to have some taco meat leftover, if freezes beautifully! Just scoop out the portion you plan to freeze to a separate bowl and let it cool completely. Then transfer it to a freezer bag, label it and freeze for up to 6 months. To thaw, place frozen taco meat in the refrigerator overnight.
The taco stuffed shells will also freeze well. Let them cool, then place into a resealable freezer bag or airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 months. You can thaw overnight (recommended) or bake from frozen. I recommended adding some freesh cheese on top before baking – because you can never have too much cheese!
Leftovers can also be store in the fridge for up to 3 days and reheated in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Microwaving is fine for smaller portions.
Sliced green onions, diced tomatoes, sour cream, avocado and cilantro as desired for garnish
Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook onions until soft; 3-4 minutes. Add ground turkey and garlic and cook until meat is no longer pink; about 5 minutes. Drain any liquid and return meat mixture to the pan.
Stir in salsa, taco seasoning and water. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until sauce is thickened and reduced. Stir in ½ cup of each pepper jack and cheddar cheeses until melted.
Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain. Lay pasta shells in a single layer on a paper towel to dry.
Pour 1 cup of salsa into a large baking dish and spread to coat bottom evenly.
Scoop 1-2 tablespoons of the meat mixture (a medium cookie scoop is perfect for getting even portions) into each cooked shell and arrange in the baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with remaining salsa and cheese.
Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Garnish with cilantro, parsley, sour cream, avocado, sliced green onions and/or diced tomatoes if desired. Serve immediately.
Keep in mind that the number of shells you are able to fill may vary based on the amount of meat you fill them with. Amounts given are approximate.
Let us know how it was by leaving a review or sharing on Instagram with the tag #yellowblissroad
Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.