Taco-seasoned ground beef or turkey, tomatoes, and your favorite shredded 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.
Thankfully I've gotten past that. Zucchini makes a sneaky addition to our beloved balsamic meatloaf and is an essential element to easy zucchini pie.
Here though the zucchini is front and center. These taco seasoned zucchini boats are 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 being lighter tasting at all.
Recipes to Love This Recipe
- Taco zucchini boats are really versatile! A variety of meats, veggies, and cheeses all work to make these to your taste.
- Zucchini is a good source of nutrients, including vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium (source).
- This is a great recipe to make if you have leftover taco meat.
- Zucchini: When choosing zucchini from the store, look for ones that have firm skin with the least amount of blemishes. I try and go for medium-ish zucchini, but my store didn't have a great selection so you'll see some size variety in these pictures. This isn't a very exacting recipe so some variance is just fine.
- Meat: Ground turkey or ground beef are both good options here. Be sure to drain the fat before seasoning if using beef. This is seasoned with a scaled down version of my favorite homemade taco seasoning, though your favorite store-bought blend works for convenience.
- Onion: This is diced and raw, though if you have leftover sautéed onion they would work, too.
- Tomatoes: Fresh or canned diced tomatoes are fine. If using canned tomatoes, a fire-roasted variety adds a nice flavor. Drain before using.
- Cheese: Lots work! A sharp cheddar or any of the jack cheeses are usually my picks.
- Cook Meat - Crumble ground meat in a large skillet until fully cooked. Scatter dried spices over the meat, then pour in water. Allow everything to bubble up and simmer until the water has reduced. This step allows an even distribution of spices over the meat and ensures it retains moisture, even after these zucchini taco boats take a spin in the oven.
Tip: If using beef, be sure to drain the fat before adding the seasoning and water.
- Scoop Zucchini Boats - Slice each zucchini in half lengthwise, then scoop out most of the flesh, leaving a boat shape. Set aside the scooped out zucchini for another use.
Tip: A grapefruit spoon (one that has jagged teeth around the mouth) makes this step even easier.
- Assemble - Spoon cooked taco meat into each zucchini boat, then top with diced onion, diced tomatoes, and then shredded cheese.
- Bake - Bake at 400°F for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the zucchini becomes fork-tender. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil partway through if the cheese is browning more than you'd like before the zucchini have softened.
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.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Don't Waste the Zucchini - Some zucchini boat recipes call for sauteing the inner zucchini flesh and adding it to the meat, but I find that brings too much moisture. Instead I like to chop it up and use it in place of shredded zucchini in a different recipe, such as balsamic meatloaf with veggies or Bisquick zucchini pie.
- Switch It Up - A meatless ground meat alternative would work great here. If going this route I'm partial to tempeh, seen in these tempeh tacos. Also consider adding more/different fillings, such as black beans, roasted corn, etc.
- Topping Suggestions - Diced jalapeño pepper, chopped cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream.
- Can You Freeze Them? Whole zucchini in this way gets pretty water-logged and doesn't freeze well. If you'd like to simplify the process of making taco stuffed zucchini boats, you could cook, season, and freeze the meat to streamline future dinners.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- ¾ pound ground beef or turkey
- ⅔ cup water
- 3 medium zucchini
- ¼ medium onion diced
- Half of a 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes drained
- 4 ounces shredded cheese (about 1 cup)
- Diced jalapeño pepper optional
- Chopped cilantro optional
- Combine chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Add ground beef or turkey to a skillet set over medium heat. Break up meat into pieces as it cooks, until the crumbles are browned and fully cooked.
- If using beef, drain the fat from the pan. Scatter the spice mix over top of the cooked and crumbled meat in the pan, and then raise the heat to medium-high. Pour water into the skillet, then lower heat to low-medium.
- Let beef simmer until nearly all of the water has reduced. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a rectangular baking dish with cooking spray, or line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Cut the very ends off of each zucchini and slice in half lengthwise Using a spoon, scoop out the center of each zucchini half, removing the seeds. Leave between one-quarter and one-half inch of an edge to hold in the filling. Reserve the scooped out zucchini flesh for another use.
- Place the six zucchini boats next to one another in the prepared baking dish on the sheet pan. Evenly spoon the taco-seasoned meat into each zucchini boat, then scatter with onion.
- Evenly distribute the diced tomatoes among the zucchini boats, and top each with shredded cheese.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the zucchini is relatively fork-tender. Cover the dish with aluminum foil partway through the bake time if the cheese is browning before the zucchini is cooked through.
- Top with jalapeño peppers, chopped cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, sour cream, etc. to serve.
- Ground Beef - I'm not picky with the fat percentage if using beef since it's drained off. 80/20 is usually my go-to.
- Zucchini Size - Zucchini of varying sizes can be used for this recipe. Just try and leave the same edge thickness around each boat so they cook in the same amount of time.
- Using Up Zucchini - Chop the reserved zucchini flesh and use in recipes in place of shredded zucchini, such as quiches, quick breads, etc.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Hi Tracey, they should stay for a few days in the refrigerator, or for longer if stuffed and frozen in an air-tight bag or container. I'd cover with foil while reheating so they don't brown up too quickly before they're heated throughout.
ohhh what a great idea to use zucchini instead of taco shells. I am so going to make this!! Thank you for sharing the recipe.
You're welcome, Shiho! Hope you enjoy. 🙂
Tayler Ross says
These are so perfect for Taco Tuesday! I love this low carb meal!
Definitely a Taco Tuesday favorite!!
What a fantastic idea! I love the idea of having my tacos without the guilt. And I love zucchini and do something similar with pizza topping so I know I'm going to be making these Taco Stuffed Zucchini in the near future.
Let me know how it goes, Linda. Sounds delicious with pizza toppings, too!
I am kinda sorta obsessed with zucchini (one of my faves!). I'm so excited for zucchini season - these taco boats sound fantastic!
Would appreciate calorie and nutrition values
Hi Alex, using My Fitness Pal as a guide, each serving is approximately 447 calories. I haven't calculated the various nutrition values yet, though in the short term I'm hoping to add nutritional info to each of my recipes. I hope that is helpful!
What is considerend a serving? Each zucchini boat?
Two "boats" make up a serving, so one full zucchini as they're halved.
I also use My Fitness Pal and would appreciate any nutritional information
Hi Claudia! Thank you for the reminder - I've added the nutrition here. For ease of use I use a different nutritional calculator, which shows slightly lower calories per serving here (approximately 400). Estimating values for this one was a bit tough because the recipe calls for draining off the fat from the ground beef, which sometimes isn't easily worked into the equation for nutrition.