These zucchini boats are a great way to get in your serving of veggies and then some. Simple to make, these meat-and-cheese stuffed zucchini halves make a fantastic meal or appetizer option!
😍 Here’s why you’ll love this recipe:
- It is incredibly easy to make.
- It uses fresh and wholesome ingredients.
- It is clean eating and gluten-free.
- It is packed with healthy veggies.
- It takes just around 30 minutes to make.
- Both the flavors, spices, cheese, and even protein can be customized to suit your personal taste.
- It can serve as both appetizer or entree!
To make this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Ground Beef: You can use whatever blend you prefer. If you’re not a fan of beef, feel free to use anything from turkey to chicken to pork or any other ground protein of your choosing.
- Carrots: finely minced, this is a great recipe for sneaking in some extra veggies.
- Onion: Red, yellow or white works fine.
- Garlic: Opt for using fresh cloves over dried or powdered garlic.
- Butternut Squash: I recommend cubing your squash into small cubes so that they cook faster.
- Salt: I’m using a pink Himalayan but you can also use a sea salt if you like.
- Black Pepper: Pre- or fresh ground can be used.
- Oregano: Fresh or dried works well.
- Smoked paprika.
- Raw cane sugar.
- Celery seeds.
- Worcestershire Sauce: The flavor profile this adds to the meat filling is phenomenal.
- Tomato Sauce: Opt to use a plain, unseasoned sauce. I personally like Pomi.
- Oil: I’m using an Extra Light Olive Oil but you can use any clean label oil of your choice.
- Parsley: Fresh parsley adds a clean and bright pop of flavor to your dish.
- Cheese: Feel free to use and melting cheese of your choice. My favorites include cheddar, Colby, mozzarella, Gouda or fontina.
- Zucchini: Whole fresh zucchini. Honestly there’s no substitution here…unless you want to make some of these Stuffed and Loaded Baked Potatoes.
Here’s how to make this dish:
We’ll start by making the meat sauce in 4 easy steps:
- To a skillet on med-high heat saute your onions, garlic and celery seeds in oil.
- Add in the finely minced carrots and small cubed butternut squash and cook for a few minutes.
- Create a well in the veggies and add in the ground beef and spices. Break the meat up and cook until no longer pink.
- Add in the tomato and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Cover and let simmer on low heat until the squash is cooked and soft. Be sure to turn it every few minutes and if you notice that it’s drying out you can either add more tomato sauce or add in some stock or bone broth.
While the meat filling simmers, we’ll prep our zucchinis. To do this, wash them thoroughly. If your zucchini’s are store bought then chances are they have an (edible) food grade wax on them to help preserve them. A great way to remove this is to soak your zucchinis in warm water that has a tbsp of lemon juice and baking soda in it and then scrub them with a vegetable brush before rinsing them under running water.
Once your zucchinis are washed, pat them dry and then cut the tips off. Then, slice them in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, gently scrape and scoop out the insides to make a hollow (like a boat!). Try to avoid scraping the part near the top and bottom so that the filling won’t spill out.
Now, while the skins are completely edible, are packed with nutrients, and give a bit of texture to the dish, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea. You can leave your skins on or you can use a vegetable peeler to remove strips of skin or you can remove the skins entirely.
If opting to peel your zucchinis, I recommend doing it after hollowing your halves out because the skins add structure and stability to your zucchinis while you hollow them out. It sucks when you’re hollowing out a half and it suddenly breaks in half. 😩
Once your meat filling is done, top it with some freshly chopped parsley and then proceed to fill your zucchini halves.
Place your filled halves onto a tray or into a baking dish and top with some off-the-block shredded cheese. Today I’m using a Colby but you can use any melty, semi-hard cheese that you like. 🧀
Note: If aiming for a dairy-free dish, omit the cheese or use your preferred clean-eating substitute.
Bake your zucchini boats in your preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Or, if you’re a fan of browning your cheese, you can do that too!
And there you have it, a simple and easy meal option that comes together lickety-split. Loaded with veggies (and hidden veggies), meat and cheese, this one has everything good packed into a, dare I say portable vessel.
Did you try this recipe? If you did, leave a comment below and let us know if you enjoyed it or reach out to us on social media (@kitrusycleaneat and #kitrusy) and don’t forget to show off your pics and tag us so we can celebrate your delectable creations together! 🥳
- 1 tbsp extra light olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 small onion minced
- ¼ tsp celery seeds
- 1 medium carrots minced
- ¼ cup butternut squash cubed small (optional)
- 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
- ½ tsp Himalayan salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp Dried Oregano
- ¼ tsp raw cane sugar
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- 5 medium zucchini
- 1 cup shredded cheese Cheddar, Colby, Mozzarella or any semi-hard cheese of your choosing
To garnish: Chopped chives or parsley.
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- In a large skillet on med-high heat, add the oil along with the minced onions, garlic, and celery seeds. Fry until fragrant.
- Add your carrots and squash and cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Push your veggies to the sides of the pan and add the meat in the middle along with the spices (salt, pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, sugar). Break the meat up and allow it to cook until no longer pink.
- Incorporate the vegetables into the meat and add the tomato sauce along with the Worcestershire sauce. Cover and let your meat sauce simmer on low heat until the squash is fully cooked/softened before adding in the chopped parsley. (see note)
- While the meat simmers, prep your zucchini by thoroughly washing each one (see note). Then, slice off the ends and cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, carefully scrape out the insides and remove the seeds, leaving a hollow. Try to leave the top and bottom intact as this will keep the filling from spilling out.
- Fill your cored out zucchini halves with the meat mixture and top with shredded cheese.
- Place your zucchini boats onto a baking sheet or into a casserole dish and bake in pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Garnish with chives or parsley and serve immediately.
- Be sure to dice the squash small so that it cooks faster.
- If your meat sauce is drying out or doesn't have enough liquid in it, you can either add more tomato sauce or add in a touch of stock or bone broth.
- Be sure you thoroughly wash the zucchini to remove any wax or residue on the skins.
- Though the wax is food grade and edible, it's not always ideal to ingest so a great way to remove any wax is to set your zucchini into a bowl of warm water that contains 1 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar and 1 tbsp of baking soda. Let them soak for a minute before scrubbing them and rinsing them off.
- Alternatively you can use a vegetable peeler to peel the skins off or even peel alternating strips off if you like.
- Try adding a tbsp or two of BBQ sauce to your meat mixture for an extra kick of flavor.