Taco-seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese help make these taco stuffed zucchini boats a satisfying (and better for you) main dish recipe.
Zucchini. Not one of my favorite fruit-slash-vegetables. I blame this on being ambushed by an English muffin pizza piled super high with zucchini slices served at a friend’s house when I was younger, so I was anti-zucchini for a bunch of years afterward. Thankfully I’m over that now and have used zucchini in several recipes here on the blog, like easy sweet potato zucchini pie, sesame almond butter zucchini noodles (zoodles!) and balsamic meatloaf with sauteed vegetables (my FAVE).
We’re coming up on zucchini season, which is great timing because I kind of want to eat these taco stuffed zucchini boats as often as I can. They’re a lightened up, inspired take on tacos, as zucchini takes the place of corn/flour tortillas. But first let’s talk about the beef. So good! After browning ground beef and draining off the fat, you’ll add a hefty amount of spices like chili powder and cumin to the beef and pour water over top. Lower the heat and let it all simmer until the water is just about gone. That will leave you with ultra juicy, boldly-flavored beef that jazzes up a fruit/vegetable that’s relatively flavorless (sorry, zucchini).
I used this same technique in this loaded Mediterranean beef rice bowl recipe (with different spices, of course) and loved the results. The extra step of seasoning and simmering is well worth the extra time!
Once the beef is cooked, the taco stuffed zucchini boats are assembled and popped in the oven so the zucchini becomes tender and the cheese melts. There’s definitely wiggle room here with what ingredients you add, so feel free to change up the toppings in line with what your crowd likes. I added diced tomatoes and pepper jack cheese pre-bake, and then topped them with jalapeno pieces (definitely optional) and chopped cilantro just prior to serving.
With all the flavors going on here, we didn’t miss the tortilla element one bit! This is a great dinner option that’s on the healthier side but is still hearty and will fill you up.
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 3/4 lb ground beef
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 zucchini
- One-quarter of an onion, chopped
- Half of a 14.5-oz can of petite diced tomatoes
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
- Jalapeno pepper, optional
- Cilantro, chopped
- Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Add beef to a skillet set over medium-high heat. Break up beef into pieces as it cooks, until crumbles are fully cooked.
- Drain fat from the beef, and then place the skillet back on the stovetop. Sprinkle spice mix over top of the beef, and then raise the heat to high. Pour water into the skillet, then lower heat to low-medium.
- Let beef simmer until nearly all of the water has reduced. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or baking dish with foil and lightly grease.
- Cut the ends off of each zucchini and slice in half. Using a spoon, scoop out the center of each zucchini half, removing the seeds. Leave about 1/2" of an edge to hold in the filling.
- Place the six zucchini boats next to one another on prepared baking sheet or dish. Evenly spoon beef into each boat, and then onion.
- Evenly distribute the diced tomatoes to the zucchini boats, and top each with shredded cheese.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the zucchini is relatively fork-tender.
- Top with sliced jalapeno pepper and cilantro before serving.