This delicious stuffed zucchini boats recipe is easy to make in just 45 minutes. The zucchinis are stuffed with a juicy ground beef and tomato mixture, then topped with slices of mozzarella cheese and baked in the oven to perfection.
Love my stuffed zucchini boats? My stuffed tomatoes with ground beef are super delicious and a great way to use up extra tomatoes.
⭐ Why this recipe works
There are many reasons to love this stuffed zucchini recipe. One of the main reasons is that it's so simple to prepare and pleases everyone from adults to kids because of the baked, soft zucchinis stuffed with delicious homemade beefy marinara sauce.
It's the perfect low-carb dinner that's inexpensive and can easily be prepared in advance by any home cook for a busy weeknight meal. Preparation-wise, all you need to do is make a hole in the zucchinis, fill them with the beef mixture, then top with cheese and bake in a hot oven.
The flavor of the slightly spicy beef mixture is a combination of Italian tomato sauce, juicy ground beef, chili, and Italian seasoning - with a soft texture from the baked zucchini boats.
If you're struggling for ideas to use up some fresh veggies from tomatoes to eggplant and zucchini - stuffing them with meat sauce mixture is the tastiest and easiest way. Zucchini boat recipes are versatile too and can be filled with various ingredients to satisfy everyone's taste buds.
Equipment-wise, you only need a skillet to cook the filling and a baking dish to bake the stuffed zucchini shells, which makes the washing up afterward a breeze!
🍽 Key Ingredients
Using fresh ingredients for these stuffed zucchini boats with ground beef makes all the difference to the overall flavor.
Beef - Use lean ground beef from the butchers if possible. Chuck, sirloin tip, or bottom round are the best cuts of beef for mincing and will give you a high lean to fat ratio.
Cheese - We're using fresh mozzarella cheese (sliced) and grated parmesan cheese to top the zucchini boats.
Seasoning - You only need a bit of herby Italian seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes for a kick of heat.
Zucchinis - Buy fresh large zucchinis. Try to choose the straightest ones possible that are firm.
Vegetables - As always with beef, it is mandatory to sauté the onion and garlic to add flavor to the ground beef.
The sauce - Any canned tomato sauce will work for this recipe, or use homemade marinara sauce.
If you don't want to use beef, you could substitute it for Italian sausage, ground chicken, or even turkey.
You can substitute fresh mozzarella for shredded mozzarella cheese to sprinkle on top of the zucchini boats.
🔪 How to make
This stuffed zucchini boats recipe is quick and easy to prepare in advance or made ready to serve in 45 minutes with my step-by-step guide and walkthrough video. Once the flavorsome beefy marinara sauce is made, the rest is simple.
- Finely chop the garlic, cloves and onion.
- Slice the fresh mozzarella into 1-inch thick slices.
- Wash and slice each fresh zucchini in half, lengthwise down the middle, then use a spoon to carefully scoop out the center. Be sure to leave enough on the sides and the bottom so that the zucchinis hold their shape.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onion for 4 - 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic for a few more minutes until fragrant.
Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the beef, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
Stir in the crushed red pepper and the Italian herbs, cooking until the meat is cooked through.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius).
Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the sauce comes together and thickens - about 20 minutes.
Spread a tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish, then add the zucchini and spread some olive oil over them as well.
Fill zucchini boats with the meat sauce evenly, making sure not to overfill them.
Bake zucchini boats in the preheated oven for about 20/25 minutes until the zucchinis are tender.
Remove them from the oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, followed by the mozzarella slices.
Turn the oven to broil on high heat and place the topped zucchini boats under until the cheese has melted and started to turn golden brown - about 5 - 8 minutes.
💭 Cooking tips
Sitting the zucchini boats
Once you have cut the zucchinis in half, you may find that they don't sit flat on the baking dish and fall to the side a bit once they're filled. One way to make them nice and flat is by slicing a tiny sliver under the zucchini - so that it sits flat.
Do not scoop too much
Make sure you don't scoop out too much of the zucchinis, since this will be too fragile and break while cooking.
📖 Recipe Variations
Zucchini boats are versatile with the ingredients you can stuff inside them. Try these 3 variations of the recipe.
Pizza zucchini boats
Forget spending hours making pizza dough when you can make these quick zucchini pizza boats using pesto and tomato sauce instead of beef to fill zucchini shells and topping with pepperoni along with the cheese.
Zucchini boats with rice
Adding some fluffy rice to the beef sauce makes stuffed zucchini boats even more filling.
Zucchini boats with breadcrumb topping
Add a nice golden crunch to your stuffed zucchini recipe by mixing 1 cup of panko bread crumbs with the shredded parmesan and sprinkle it over the stuffed zucchinis and bake in the oven until golden brown. Add the mozzarella on top to broil for 5 minutes.
🥗 What to serve with
Stuffed zucchini boats pair well with many side dishes from salad to pasta and roasted veggies, to name a few. These are some of my quick and easy favorites.
Use any leftover zucchinis to make quick and delicious zucchini pasta with chorizo and a creamy white wine sauce with grated parmesan.
If you like your spicy food as much as I do, then these fried jalapenos stuffed with shredded cheese are perfect for you and for pairing with stuffed zucchinis.
This southern classic fried cabbage is a delightful pan-fried recipe of cabbage, bacon, garlic, and spices tossed together for an easy side dish that's perfect for pairing with any dinner recipe.
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
Do you eat the skin on zucchini?
Yes, the skin on the zucchini is perfectly edible. Ensure they are thoroughly washed before baking them to remove any dirt particles.
What to do with the zucchini core?
If you're not one for wasting the center part after scooping it out, you can make zucchini taco boats. Cook the center parts with the beef, onions & garlic, and add taco seasoning and salsa instead of the tomato sauce.
🧊 Storing and ♨️ Reheating
Stuffed zucchini boats are great for making in advance to store in the fridge later on and can be reheated after being baked.
Refrigerating zucchini boats - Place any leftovers on a plate and cover it with aluminum foil or place them in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge.
To freeze zucchini boats - I don't recommend freezing zucchini boats once cooked because zucchini becomes mushy when thawed.
Although you can freeze the meat sauce mixture and use it to make fresh stuffed zucchinis for another time - just make sure to thaw the mixture overnight.
Reheating - To reheat leftover stuffed zucchini boats, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook them for 8 - 10 minutes until the center is hot.
🍳 Related Recipes
If you love my stuffed zucchini boats recipe. Try one of these fantastic italian recipes for your next meal.
👪 Serving Size
This stuffed zucchini boats recipe will give you 4 to 5 servings with 3 large zucchinis, or you could scale the recipe and use more zucchinis to cater to more guests.
🎥 Watch how to make it
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Try one of my comfort dinner recipes for your next family meal! And if you have any questions, I'm here to help!
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion - diced
- 3 garlic cloves - minced
- salt and pepper - to taste
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 tablespoon Italian herbs
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 3 zucchinis - large
- ¼ cup parmesan
- 2 8 oz fresh mozzarella - sliced
- Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy large skillet over medium low heat.
- Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 - 5 minutes, then add the garlic and continue to cook for a few more minutes, or until fragrant.
- Increase the heat and add the ground beef, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks.
- Stir in the crushed red pepper and the Italian herbs and cook until the meat is cooked through.
- Heat the oven to 350°F
- Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the sauce comes together and thickens - about 20 minutes.
- Slice the zucchinis lengthwise down the middle, then use a spoon to carefully hollow out the center. Be sure to leave enough on the sides and the bottom so the zucchini holds its shape.
- Spread some olive oil on the bottom of a casserole dish, then add the zucchini and spread some olive oil over them as well.
- Fill each boat with the meat sauce, then bake in the oven for about 20/25 minutes, or until the zucchini is fork tender.
- Remove from the oven then sprinkle parmesan cheese on top, followed by the mozzarella slices.
- Put in your broiler on high heat until the cheese has melted and is starting to brown - about 5 - 8 minutes.