This Tex Mex spin on smoked shotgun shells stuffs manicotti shells with a blend of ground beef, Mexican chorizo, green chiles and jalapeño peppers, and shredded Mexican cheese. The stuffed shells are wrapped in bacon and smoked until the bacon is perfectly crispy then brushed with Texas spicy BBQ sauce.
These spicy BBQ shotgun shells are an amazing appetizer, especially when served with dips like smoked salsa and queso. We’ll get to that later, don’t worry!
Ingredients for Texas Shotgun Shells
Here’s everything you’ll need for the filling:
- Mexican Chorizo – If you have trouble finding it in your area, you can make your own with 80/20 ground pork (or even other proteins like ground chicken).
- Ground Beef – Go with beef that’s at least 90% lean since the chorizo has plenty of fat.
- Diced Green Chiles and Pickled Jalapeño Peppers – These add great flavors and can be swapped for other smoked, roasted, or pickled peppers. (Think: chipotle peppers in adobo or even Mexican chili oil.)
- Ranch Seasoning – This provides a nice little punch but can be replaced with garlic powder, onion powder, and dried or freshly chopped herbs.
- Shredded Mexican Cheese – I’m typically against pre-shredded cheese, but the thick cut Mexican 4-cheese blend (cheddar, Monterey jack, queso quesadilla, and asadero) from Tillamook works great for making a shotgun shells filling.
Mix all these together and stuff it inside manicotti or cannelloni shells before wrapping them in bacon. I had the perfect amount for 24 stuffed shells.
Do you need to parboil the shells before filling?
I’ve seen some recipe creators recommend boiling the shells for a few minutes before filling to prevent any crunchy shotgun shells. In my testing I found it unnecessary with a longer cook at 275ºF like this.
If you plan to have a faster cook at 300ºF or 325ºF, you’ll probably want to boil the shells in water for 4-5 minutes before filling and wrapping.
After the shells are stuffed and wrapped, you can go straight on the smoker or add an optional seasoning. I added a sprinkle of the HEB beef fajita seasoning from my Traeger fajitas recipe, but any BBQ rub or Tex Mex seasoning blend would work well for these stuffed shells.
Making Traeger Shotgun Shells
I tested different temperature ranges developing my smoked jalapeño poppers recipe and found a longer cook at 275ºF produced the best bacon.
Every smoker is different, so you’ll want to check on the bacon pretty regularly in the back half of the cook. Keep an especially watchful eye around your grill’s hot spots and rotate any shotgun shells that are getting a little too crispy.
After the bacon is where you want it, your filling should be well above the safe temperature zone (165ºF). But it’s always a good idea to check with a probe just to be safe.
At the very end, I recommend brushing your shotgun shells with BBQ sauce. I used the Traeger Texas spicy blazin’ BBQ sauce, but any sauce works. My Tex Mex smoked pork tenderloin uses a blend of 1/4 cup dark brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce. You could double or triple this blend in a pinch.
After brushing the BBQ sauce on your stuffed shotgun shells, give them about 15 minutes. Once the sauce gets thick and sticky, you’re ready to rock.
If you’re using a homemade sauce like the brown sugar and hot sauce combo above, you may want to crank the temperature a bit to caramelize the sugar faster.
What to Serve with Stuffed Shotgun Shells
The first two require a bit of prep in advance, but the queso blanco is super easy to make. Just throw some queso blanco Velveeta in a smoker safe dish with a can of diced green chiles or RO-TEL and a splash of milk or Mexican crema. You can pop this on the smoker in the back half of your cook.
Other great dips for shotgun shells include ranch or creamy jalapeño ranch, sour cream, guacamole, salsa verde, or additional BBQ sauce.
You can’t go wrong here, and I’d love to hear what you end up serving your stuffed shells with. Let me know in a comment or recipe review. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
- 1 pound Ground Beef (90/10)
- 1 pound Mexican Chorizo
- 8 oz Shredded Mexican Cheese
- 4 oz can Diced Green Chiles
- 2 Tablespoons Pickled Jalapeño Peppers, diced
- 1 Tablespoon Ranch Seasoning
- 24 Manicotti
- 24 slices Bacon (regular or center cut)
- Sprinkle of Your Favorite BBQ Rub (optional)
- 1 cup Spicy BBQ Sauce*
- Preheat smoker to 275ºF with the lid closed.
- Mix the ground beef, chorizo, cheese, green chiles, diced jalapeño peppers, and ranch seasoning in a large bowl.
- Fill the manicotti shells with the meat filling, using your fingers to press the filling all the way through from end to end.
- Wrap each shell with a slice of bacon, making sure to start and finish both ends on the bottom of the shell. Optional: Sprinkle your favorite BBQ rub or Tex Mex seasoning over the bacon.
- Place the bacon wrapped shells on the grill grates and cook for 75-90 minutes until the bacon is crispy.
- Brush the shells with the BBQ sauce and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Serve the shells with your favorite salsa, queso, ranch, or dips.**
*I used Traeger Texas Blazin' BBQ Sauce, but any BBQ sauce works. You can add a splash of hot sauce to your favorite sweet BBQ sauce for an extra kick.
**See post above for the smoked queso and smoked salsa recipes pictured here.
Smoke with a sweeter wood like apple or cherry for best results.
You can make these shotgun shells the day before and refrigerate until going on the smoker. You'll want to freeze them if you plan to make ahead any longer than a day.
To reheat smoked shotgun shells, you can use an oven or air fryer at a low temperature (300ºF) to reheat without burning the bacon. Reheat for 10-15 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165ºF again. You can also microwave a few at a time for 60-90 seconds.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1 Shotgun Shell
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225Total Fat: 11gCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 14g