We first got this idea from a viral tiktok recipe about air frying pasta shells to make and alternative to tortilla chips. We've kicked it up a notch to make these absolutely delicious, crispy and cheesy air fryer taco stuffed pasta shells. These make a great appetizer or a fun meal for Taco Tuesday. This will soon be a family favorite way to use leftover taco meat from last night.
This Mexican Italian fusion dish is a fun twist for an easy taco night. Cooked in an air fryer so they're quick and easy and crispy too. Great for an easy dinner night.
AIR FRYER TACO STUFFED PASTA INGREDIENTS
You may have all of these ingredients for this Mexican twist on an easy recipe in your refrigerator or pantry and not need to make a trip to the grocery store! If this is your first time making this delicious recipe you might want to read the possible variations before deciding on your ingredients.
- Pasta: Use large or jumbo pasta shells.
- Filling: Fill shells with your favorite taco meat. We used leftover carnitas from our favorite carnitas recipe.
- Etc: cheddar cheese, sour cream, taco seasoning, parsley, cooking spray
Click the tabs to see possible substitutions for each of these ingredients.
Use any taco meat you want. These would be great with ground beef taco meat, chicken taco meat or even lentil taco filling. They could be good with just refried beans and cheddar cheese as well.
Add more filling into your shells. Try salsa, beans, different kinds of cheeses, green onions, mangoes, or anything you like in your tacos.
Enjoy this great recipe as an addition to a tasty meal, special family dinner or dinner party with these other recipes:
- Main Dish: Carnitas– Serve these air fryer taco stuffed pasta shells as an appetizer to your carnitas tacos dinner!
- Side Dish: Italian Salad– This classic side dish is colorful and full of flavor!
- Drink: Sangria – Tasty red wine sangria goes well with Mexican dishes.
- Drink: Blackberry Cocktail – Delicious alcoholic or non-alcoholic versions.
Follow the full instructions and kitchen tips and quick tips for the best way to make this recipe. Don't forget to check the prep time and cook time in the recipe card below before you begin.
COOK PASTA: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta shells according to package instructions. Shells should be fully cooked, not al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cool water.
FILL PASTA: Cupping a pasta shell in your palm, place about a tablespoon of the carnitas into the shell. Wedge a stick of cheese over the carnitas.
COVER PASTA: Wrap a second shell over the open side of stuffed shell to form a “lid.”
PREPARE AIR FRYER: Spray the bottom of the air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray.
FILL AIR FRYER: Set the stuffed shells in the basket of the air fryer, leaving just a bit of space between each shell.
SPRAY SHELLS: Continue assembling the stuffed shells. Once the air fryer basket is filled spray the tops and exposed sides of the shells with non-stick cooking spray or your favorite oil.
AIR FRY PASTA: Cook at 400°F for 13 minutes until the shells are crispy and light golden brown.
MAKE TACO SOUR CREAM: Combine sour cream and taco seasoning to make taco sour cream dip.
EAT: Remove shells from the basket and keep warm while cooking the remaining batches.
Storing your food properly is important to prevent spoiling or food poisoning.
Refrigerate: Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag and refrigerate for up to 3 days if you can't eat it the next day.
Freeze: Store in an airtight, freezer safe, container. If you're storing in a zip top plastic bag, try to get as much air out as possible. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Defrosting: A great way to defrost is in the refrigerator overnight. Air fry to cook again.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Click the questions to see the answer.
Pasta Shell Ingredients:
- 1 pound box of jumbo pasta shells - about 48 shells
- 2 cups carnitas
- 24 oz. cheddar cheese - cut into 1 oz. sticks
- Non-stick cooking spray
Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning - more or less to taste
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta shells according to package instructions. Shells should be fully cooked, not al dente. Drain pasta and rinse with cool water.
- Cupping a pasta shell in your palm, place about a tablespoon of the carnitas into the shell. Wedge a stick of cheese over the carnitas.
- Wrap a second shell over the open side of stuffed shell to form a “lid.”
- Spray the bottom of the air fryer basket with nonstick cooking spray.
- Set the stuffed shells in the basket of the air fryer, leaving just a bit of space between each shell.
- Continue assembling the stuffed shells. Once the air fryer basket is filled, you can begin cooking the batch.
- Spray the tops and exposed sides of the stuffed shells in the basket. Cook at 400°F for 13 minutes until the shells are crispy and light golden brown.
- Remove shells from the basket and keep warm while cooking the remaining batches.
Stir together sour cream and taco seasoning for an easy, tasty dip.
You can spray the non stick oil over the cooked pasta shells and toss (or toss with vegetable oil) to prevent them from sticking to one another while assembling.
You really want to make sure these are contained. Do not overfill and be sure the second shell really wraps around the stuffed shell to keep everything in a nice little package.
These do not need to be flipped in the air fryer. Best results are achieved without flipping, but ensuring that there is some breathing room between the shells in the air fryer - we found 8 at a time fit best in our air fryer.
Exact cook times will vary depending on the size and wattage of your air fryer. We recommend testing one shell to get started and adjust accordingly.
Use any of your favorite taco meats in here - seasoned ground beef or chicken would also be great. You can also vary the type of cheese.
If your pasta is not cooked all the way through, it will be al dente and crisped from the air fryer - cooking the pasta completely ensures a crisped pasta that is easy to bite into and tastes delicious.
MORE RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE
- Air Fryer Naan Pizza
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
- Fried Fish Tacos
- Caprese Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
- Air Fryer Cookie for One