Taco-seasoned ground beef or turkey, tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese help make these taco stuffed zucchini boats a satisfying (and better for you) main dish recipe. They’re a great use for a surplus of zucchini!
Zucchini is not one of my favorite fruits/vegetables. I’ve learned it’s botanically a fruit, but if there’s ever a mental image of a blah vegetable, it sure is a piece of soggy, unseasoned zucchini. I blame this zucchini distaste 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.
Here though the zucchini is front and center. We’re coming up on zucchini season, which is great timing because I’d like to eat these taco zucchini boats as often as I can. They’re a lightened-up and inspired take on tacos, as zucchini takes the place of corn/flour tortillas. Piled high with southwestern flavors, this healthy dinner recipe is filling and satisfying, all without tasting ‘lighter’ at all.
These zucchini taco boats are filled with spiced-up and juicy taco meat. While that linked recipe is my go-to, hits the spot every time version, I scaled down both the quantity and spices used here to make things simpler and to fit in six zucchini halves.
Ground beef or turkey both work! You can also use your favorite pre-made spice blend or follow the not-too-spicy one in the recipe card below, which features chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and more. If you’re in the market for a new homemade taco seasoning, the one I’ve just linked to is my favorite.
Three-quarters (ish) of a pound of meat will fill about three medium-large zucchini. I had a mix of larger and smaller zucchini when I was taking these pictures, so you see a mismatch there. They all cooked in the same amount of time so it’s not important if they’re not the same size.
As far as toppings go on these zucchini taco boats, you can certainly do your own thing, but diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, diced jalapeno, and fresh cilantro are my picks.
First start by stirring together the spice blend in a small bowl. Then measure out two-thirds of a cup of water and set that by the stove, too.
Crumble and cook the meat (either beef or turkey) in a skillet until fully cooked. If using beef, drain the fat before proceeding. Scatter the spice mix over top of the cooked meat in the skillet, then pour in the water.
Let everything simmer, stirring occasionally, until the water is just about gone. This step allows an even distribution of spices over the meat and ensures it retains moisture, even after these zucchini boats take a spin in the oven.
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.
For a similar southwestern-spiced-meat-with-cheese-stuffed-in-another-questionable-fruit-or-vegetable recipe, you may also be interested in healthy stuffed poblano peppers. This one uses ground turkey from the start and other hearty additions like black beans and corn.
- Either ground beef or ground turkey will work in these zucchini taco boats. If using beef, drain the fat before seasoning and adding the water.
Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 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 or turkey
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 zucchini medium to medium-large
- 1/4 onion chopped
- Half of a 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded (or your preferred variety)
- Jalapeno pepper, optional
- Cilantro diced
- Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried oregano, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Add beef (or turkey) 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.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.