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These Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats are a healthy and fresh dinner option to enjoy all summer long! Piled high with ground beef or an optional vegetarian filling, this customizable meal will please everyone around your dinner table — even the picky little kids!

Two baked stuffed zucchini boats filled with a hearty meat and vegetable filling sit on a white plate surrounded by blooms of white flowers.
Table of Contents
  1. Tips for Making Family-Friendly Stuffed Zucchini Boats:
  2. Ingredients for Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats
  3. How to Make Fresh Zucchini Boats
  4. Stuffed Zucchini Boats Easy Prep Tips & Tricks
  5. ​Storage: Can You Freeze Zucchini Boats?
  6. Fresh Zucchini Boats Recipe Variations
  7. More Delicious Zucchini Recipes
  8. Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats Recipe

Before you run off and assume that your finicky offspring (or husband) would NEVER enjoy this stuffed zucchini, hear me out! The vegetables are mild, and the familiar Italian flavors appeal to just about every palate. Plus, if you tell a kid that he’s eating a “boat,” it’s sure to pique his interest!

Tips for Making Family-Friendly Stuffed Zucchini Boats:

  • Pick your filling! I have included a recipe that uses ground beef, but you can substitute with ground chicken or ground turkey. I have also included notes on how to make both vegetarian and vegan zucchini boats, so be sure to keep reading for those tips! There’s a way to adapt this meal for almost anyone.
  • Serve it with another familiar side dish. For instance, I pair the stuffed zucchini boats with a side of pasta and marinara sauce. That way, I know that the boys can fill up on pasta, even if they don’t devour the zucchini boats. Since there’s less pressure and less focus on the zucchini, I find that it makes the kids more adventurous. They can taste one bite without fear that it’s their only option for dinner. Even though they were skeptical at first, all 3 of my boys ended up eating a decent amount of their zucchini…in addition to the pasta. You never know how they’ll react until you offer it, right?

Ingredients for Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Here is an overview of the fresh, easy ingredients I use to make easy stuffed zucchini boats for dinner. As always, the complete ingredients are included in the recipe card at the end of this post. 

  • Fresh Zucchini: medium zucchini are the perfect size for this recipe. If you use large zucchini, you can make more servings (serve one half instead of two halves for a full serving).
  • Tomato Sauce: tangy and hearty base for the zucchini boat filling.
  • Ground Beef: my protein of choice for this recipe. It can be subbed out for another protein to add some variety to the recipe.
  • Sweet Bell Peppers & Tomatoes: these vegetables add freshness to the filling.
  • Onions & Garlic: aromatics that infuse flavor into the meaty, hearty zucchini boat filling.
  • Salt & Pepper: to enhance the flavors of the dish.
  • Fresh Basil: the perfect fresh herb for a garnish.
  • Parmesan Cheese & Breadcrumbs: combined, this mixture makes a perfect crispy, golden-brown topping.
Vegan zucchini boats made with a bean and vegetable filling are served on a white plate surrounded by white flower blooms.

Vegetarian or Vegan Stuffed Zucchini Boats Recipe Variations

If you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or just trying to work more meatless meals into the rotation, this zucchini boats recipe is a great way to work more veggies into a meal and can be easily altered to fit a meatless diet. Here are some great ways to adjust the recipe.

  • You can use just about any type of bean that you enjoy. I stuffed my zucchini boats with chickpeas, but white beans or black beans would also be delicious.
  • Tofu or impossible meat can be substituted for the ground beef. 
  • For vegetarian zucchini boats without beans, make a diced vegetable medley for the filling. Fresh veggies like red bell pepper, red onion or sweet onion, or yellow squash pair perfectly with fresh tomatoes for a hearty, veggie-packed filling.
  • If you want a vegan meal, just omit the Parmesan cheese.
An overhead image of eight zucchini boats on a tray of tomato sauce. Each zucchini half is filled with a seasoned beef and vegetable mixture topped with crispy breadcrumbs.

How to Make Fresh Zucchini Boats

This easy zucchini boats recipe is one of the best ways to use up fresh zucchini — we don’t even let the zucchini pulp go to waste! Talk about a plate full of colorful veggies! Here’s how to make this easy recipe that the whole family will love. 

  • Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then hollow out the inside of each half.
  • Pour tomato sauce into a baking dish, then arrange the zucchini boats in the sauce.
  • Prepare the zucchini boat mixture on the stovetop.
  • Fill the zucchini boats with the cooked mixture.
  • Bake for 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven.
Two zucchini boats served on a white plate. Each zucchini half is filled with a beef and vegetable mixture and topped with a Parmesan breadcrumb mixture.

Stuffed Zucchini Boats Easy Prep Tips & Tricks

If you’re intimidated by the prep time involved in stuffing a zucchini, let me assure you: this is not difficult! I resisted homemade zucchini boats for years because I just assumed that they were way too time-consuming for my kitchen. Wrong! As usual, I’ve managed to make this process as quick and easy as possible.

  • While some stuffed zucchini recipes call for roasting the hollow zucchini shells before stuffing, I find that pre-baking is not necessary at all. The vegetable becomes nice and tender (but not too soft) with just 20 minutes in the oven, so you can cut out that extra step!
  • For quick prep, I also suggest using a melon baller to scoop out the inside of the zucchini. If you don’t have one, it’s fine — just use a sharp teaspoon. However, the small end of an inexpensive melon baller makes the process so fast — with just one swipe down the center, you can remove all of the zucchini pulp!
  • To avoid the last-minute dinner rush, try preparing the zucchini boat filling in advance. If you have time on the weekend or the night before, you can sauté the meat and vegetables ahead of time.
  • You can even prepare the entire dish in advance, cover it with plastic wrap, and bake it in the oven when you’re ready to eat. Work ahead to eliminate the stress!
Fresh homemade zucchini boats baked in a hearty tomato sauce, and filled with a meat and vegetable mixture.

How do you keep zucchini from getting soggy in the oven?

Zucchinis are one of those vegetables that have a higher water content. Because of this — like other roasted vegetables — they can become soggy when roasted. First, use the freshest summer zucchini you can find. If it’s not zucchini season when you’re making this recipe, avoid any zucchini that are soft, rubbery, or slimy to the touch. When you’re ready to bake the zucchini boats make sure to not overcrowd the casserole dish or baking sheet. Leave a little bit of room between each boat.

What is a good side dish for zucchini boats?

There are plenty of great side dish options to serve with zucchini boats! Here are some great pairings: 

A baking sheet filled with fresh zucchini boats and tomato sauce, each filled with a meat and vegetable filling and garnished with bunches of fresh herbs.

​Storage: Can You Freeze Zucchini Boats?

Frozen zucchini tends to get mushy once thawed, so I would not recommend freezing fully assembled or cooked zucchini boats. However, if you have leftover filling (and you likely will, since you’ll only need about half the meat mixture to stuff four medium-sized zucchini), you can easily freeze it and keep it on-hand for other recipes. The filling can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months and is perfect to have on hand for other recipes.

A close up image of two zucchini boats served on a white plate, filled with a ground beef and vegetable mixture, topped with breadcrumbs.

Fresh Zucchini Boats Recipe Variations

  • Instead of ground beef, switch up the flavors with a different meat option — ground turkey, ground chicken, ground Italian sausage, or even shredded rotisserie chicken can be used. 
  • For a cheesy zucchini filling, add shredded cheese! Mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, or a shredded Italian blend would be delicious. You could also try cheddar cheese or Monterrey Jack cheese.
  • Season the zucchini boats with salt, pepper, and fresh herbs or Italian seasoning before adding the filling. While you don’t need to pre-bake the zucchini shells, seasoning every aspect of this recipe makes sure there’s flavor in every bite.
  • For a heartier filling, stir in some of the tomato sauce or use 1/4-1/2 of a cup of your favorite marinara sauce.

Whether you serve Stuffed Zucchini with ground beef or opt for a light and fresh vegan or vegetarian stuffed zucchini dinner, I hope that this simple recipe offers a new way to enjoy summer’s fresh vegetables — with as little effort as possible!

More Delicious Zucchini Recipes

Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 263.6 kcal
These Easy Stuffed Zucchini Boats are a healthy and fresh dinner option to enjoy all summer long!



  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Halve the zucchini lengthwise. Hollow out the zucchini by scooping out the pulp, reserving the shells. I like to use the small end of a melon baller for this, but a teaspoon also works fine. Finely chop the pulp and set it aside to use later.
    4 medium zucchini
  • Pour tomato sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (or a similar size large dish). Arrange zucchini shells in the dish. Set aside.
    1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add reserved zucchini pulp, beef, bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until beef is no longer pink (about 8 minutes). Drain skillet. Stir in basil.
    1 lb. ground beef (I used 96% extra lean), 1 sweet bell pepper, diced, 2 medium tomatoes, chopped, 1 onion, finely chopped, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • In a separate bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs.
    ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, ¼ cup breadcrumbs
  • Pile the beef mixture into the zucchini shells in the prepared dish.*
  • Sprinkle the top of each zucchini half with about 2 teaspoons of the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through and golden brown on top. Garnish with fresh basil, serve, and enjoy!
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


VEGETARIAN OPTION: Omit beef. Sautee vegetables in the skillet, as instructed. When vegetables are soft, stir in 1 can (about 1.75 cups) drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, as well as the chopped basil. Use this vegetarian filling to stuff the zucchini shells and proceed with recipe above. Baking instructions remain the same.
FOR A VEGAN OPTION: Use beans as described above and omit the Parmesan breadcrumbs on top.
*You will probably only need about ½ of the meat mixture to stuff the zucchini. If you have extra meat mixture leftover, you can freezer or refrigerate it for later use. For instance, stir the leftover meat mixture into a jar of marinara sauce and serve over pasta. Or use the leftover meat filling to stuff baked potatoes, another batch of zucchini, or even bell peppers. Wrap the beef and vegetables in tortillas, add cheese, and serve as tacos!


Serving: 2zucchini halves stuffed with beef fillingCalories: 263.6kcalCarbohydrates: 22.4gProtein: 15.3gFat: 13.5gSaturated Fat: 5.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.7gMonounsaturated Fat: 5.5gCholesterol: 45.2mgSodium: 894.6mgPotassium: 1082.4mgFiber: 5.1gSugar: 8.4g
Keyword: ground beef, healthy dinner, vegetarian, zucchini
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Blair Lonergan

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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  1. This was a good, basic recipe I used as a guide before tweaking to personalize to my tastes. First, after halving the zucchini I microwaved them for a few minutes to pre-cook them a bit. I browned the sausage, using Italian sausage I had removed from the casings. To that I added chopped red and yellow bell pepper, onion and the garlic, more than called for, and some fresh herbs. I did chop the zucchini pulp and added that too. I used no bread crumbs or other filler. I mixed up the mozzarella and Parmesan, added some to the sausage mixture and reserved some to sprinkle over the top. Rather than spaghetti sauce I used a good quality marinara, much less than 32 ounces, as I didn’t want the zucchini swimming in sauce. I baked this, uncovered, for just over half an hour. I served Hubs his over a bed of rice and left my low-carb version as is. Delicious.

  2. Yummm! These look so perfect – and I can’t believe I’ve never thought of cooking them with sauce like this! I need to try them soon

  3. I made these for dinner a few nights ago and they were a hit with the whole family! I followed your recipe exactly but omitted the bread crumbs and they were still delicious. This was my first time making zucchini boats and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy they were. We also thought they make for the perfect summer meal – hearty enough to fill you up after a day spent playing in the sun yet not too heavy to eat in the evening heat. Thanks for another great recipe!

    p.s. the leftover meat mixture worked great the next morning in an egg scramble!

    1. Awesome! I’m so glad that you enjoyed them, Lauren! And I love the idea of using the extra meat in an egg scramble. Thanks so much for that suggestion!

  4. I love this idea, and how healthy it is compared to other recipes! You have a great suggestion of pairing it with other familiar foods, a trick that I will start implementing! Can’t wait to make.
    Do you have any ideas for the scooped out zucchini? I was thinking of mashing it and using it for zucchini bread, but would love other ideas.

    1. Hi, Brie! Hmmm…I would maybe saute the zucchini and add it to a pasta sauce, or just dice it and cook it with butter, garlic and salt in a skillet and use it as a side dish! 🙂