Stuffed Zucchini Enchilada Boats

It’s zucchini season and we are enjoying it every way you can imagine. I’m trying to win a world record for incorporating zucchini into as many back-to-back meals as possible. I’ve been throwing shredded zucchini in our pancakes, making cheesy baked zucchini nuggets for lunch (recipe coming soon!), and we’ve made these enchilada zucchini boats no less than three times.

Stuffed Zucchini Enchilada Boats

In the interest of full disclosure, my healthy-appetite-carb-loving family was a tad bit skeptical when we sat down to the dinner table the first time I served these. Everyone but me kind of looked around at each other in awkward silence as if to say, “Uh, do you think mom forgot the rest of the meal?” since often zucchini is a side dish for us. But I was doing the happy I Told You So dance after dinner when everyone had devoured their stuffed zucchini with declarations of love. Brian did gently remind me on the third day following that the I Told You So dance was getting kind of old (so I have issues letting things go, I’m ok with it).

Stuffed Zucchini Enchilada Boats

Despite the zucchini base, this meal is not going to leave anyone hungry. The cute little zucchini boats are piled high with a warm saucy mixture loaded with lean ground meat, hearty beans and a smattering of flavorful spices. So, so, so good. The leftovers are quite possibly even better (I chopped through the leftovers with a sharp knife so the zucchini was in little pieces and enjoyed it like a big plate of sloppy but yummy zucchini enchilada hash). The success of this enchilada-style stuffed zucchini has kept me daydreaming about what other flavor combos could be stuffed inside the humble green squash successfully. I sense some experimentation happening very, very soon.

In case you are looking for other zucchini inspiration, here are a few of my favorite zucchini recipes! Zucchini: it’s what’s for dinner (and lunch and breakfast around here).

What To ServePao de Queijo (great bread option to keep this meal completely gluten-free)
Creamy 5-cup Fruit Salad (or seasonal fresh fruit cut up)

One Year Ago: Grilled Honey Chicken and Veggie Kebabs
Two Years Ago: Salted Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark
Three Years Ago: Turkey Burgers with Romaine and Carrot Slaw

Stuffed Enchilada Zucchini Boats

Stuffed Enchilada Zucchini Boats


  • 4 medium zucchini, halved
  • 8-12 ounces lean ground turkey or ground beef (depends on how meaty you want this dish to be)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped (seeds and membrane removed if you want less heat)
  • 16 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (or a combination)
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Scoop out the center of each zucchini, discarding the seeds and leaving the outer zucchini flesh about 1/4-inch thick, forming little zucchini boats. Sprinkle the cut side of each zucchini with a little bit of salt (a pinch for each zucchini half). Set aside while preparing the filling.
  3. In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the ground turkey or beef over medium heat with the salt and pepper, breaking the meat into little pieces as it cooks. Once cooked all the way through, drain any excess grease, except for 1-2 teaspoons, and scrape the meat to a plate.
  4. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the onion, garlic and jalapeno. Cook the mixture until the onion has softened and turned translucent, 4-5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, and coriander. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle in about 1/3 cup of the sauce and spread across the bottom of the pan.
  7. Stir the cooked meat and beans into the remaining sauce in the skillet.
  8. Scoop an even amount of the meat and sauce mixture into each zucchini boat, piling it on.
  9. Cover the baking dish with a layer of lightly greased foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and layer the cheese over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes more until the zucchini is fork tender.
  10. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro on top and let the zucchini enchilada boats rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Source: greatly adapted from a recipe in Cuisine at Home, August 2014 (nixed the enchilada sauce in favor of tomato sauce + seasonings, used lean meat instead of chorizo, changed up the other spice amounts, type of cheese, etc.)

51 Responses to Stuffed Zucchini Enchilada Boats

  1. Haley says:

    Made this last and it was so delicious! My husband was a little skeptical but agreed it was very tasty, and my kids loved that they can eat their dinner out of a “boat”! Thanks for a new delicious use for zucchini!!

  2. cathy says:

    Another winner for a zucchini dinner! Thanks 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    Well, it’s that time again – zucchini everywhere! Just made this and loved them. The only change I made was throwing the insides of the zucchini in the meat mixture – didn’t want to throw it out. It was great!

  4. lynette says:

    Thanks so much for posting yummy recipes and making my life easy!

  5. Samantha says:

    Just found you through Pinterest and am loving all the recipes! I’ve pinned and printed a handful already!
    I’m wondering if you think I could shred/dice the zucchini instead, and still proceed with the rest of the recipe? My boyfriend is weird about stuffed peppers and I know he’ll turn his nose up about this too. Even though it’s the exact same vegetable haha.

    • Mel says:

      Hi Samantha – yes, I think you could definitely cube the zucchini and toss everything together and bake that way. I actually ate the leftovers like that (I just chopped everything up with my fork) and it was divine.

  6. Chelsey says:

    Since I seem to be the only person without zucchini coming out of my ears, do you think this would be good on other squash? I have spaghetti squash on hand and I think I’m going to try it!

  7. Sarah says:

    Absolutely loved these! Great way to get some extra veggies in, while still getting great protein and little fat. My 3 year old didn’t want the “bikini” but my husband and I loved them!

    I’ve recently discovered your website, and I’m absolutely loving it! Thanks so much for what you do, your website is entertaining an a fabulous meal resource!

  8. Jessica W. says:

    Like many others, I tried this recipe because of the copious amounts of zucchini that I currently have-and it looked good from the pictures. It was excellent, better than I expected. I can’t wait to make it again!

  9. Roberta says:

    Really. Good. Made filling the day before with ground turkey so flavors had a chance to blend-and as a small timesaver the next day. For Day 3…hash” idea with a fried egg on top…amazing. Thanks for a good one Mel. I already have ideas for using the filling for other things.

  10. Sharri says:

    These had great flavor! Even my meat-and-potato loving husband loved them! Thank you!!

  11. Brittany says:

    I have to be honest, I was a bit skeptical when I first read the recipe. But out of desperation to use up my zucchinis I went ahead and tried it, and it is delicious!! Seriously, I really loved it and so did my husband! Thanks for saving my dinner time and again! p.s. I love your writing style, it is so much fun to read!

  12. Jeni says:

    My mouth is watering… these look fabulous! I may have to rethink my dinner plans!

  13. Cammee says:

    Oh yum! I love serving spaghetti sauce over zucchini, but this sounds even better!

  14. Kristina says:

    I made these for dinner last night and oh my goodness were they amazing! We LOVED them! Next time I am definitely making more because we ended up with no leftovers! I found this recipe to be really easily adaptable for our dinner crowd, as well. I did not mix the ground turkey into the sauce, to help accommodate our vegetarian guest, but rather sprinkled it into the empty boats before pouring the sauce over them. This is definitely a keeper recipe and is going to be in our regular rotation. So yummy!

  15. Sheila says:

    Delicious! We are not fond of zucchini unless it is in zucchini bread. I used Italian sausage for the meat. I too saw this recipe in the August issue of Cuisine at Home and gave it no more than “a glance” until you applied your skill and worked your magic. 🙂 Thank you, Mel for all your hard work!

  16. Momstarr says:

    Just made these for dinner. Followed the recipe exactly and all turned out delicious. My husband and I agree that this mixture would taste wonderful in bell peppers too!! Thanks for another great recipe!!!!

  17. JNE says:

    So excited about this recipe!!! I’m definitely trying these. I’ve been looking for a zucchini boat recipe I think my kids will eat and I think these are it! Yay! Thank you!

  18. Erika says:

    Mel, I just made these tonight – they were wonderful. I used left over taco meat from your Best Ground Beef Tacos ever added extra tomato sauce and the pinto beans then put about a 1/4 Cup of water in the bottom of the pan and the fam loved them.

  19. YUM! I love this lighter take on enchiladas. Pinned!!

  20. Karen K says:

    Hi! Making these for dinner tomorrow! I’m not too sure about the sauce, but I’ll try it. I was going to use bottled enchilada sauce, but if your hubby liked your exact recipe, then maybe mine will 🙂 BTW, what about that choc zucc cake recipe??? That sure got my attention!! Is that on your blog? GOTTA try that!!

  21. Stacey says:

    I agree, made these for dinner tonight and they were lovely! I had my doubts, but they really won me over!

  22. Mary Nelson says:

    Made these for dinner last night, and my mom and husband (who both typically abhor the little green devils) were in zucchini heaven. They loved this meal and requested that I make it again. Big praise! Can’t wait for the zucchini nuggets recipe. Thanks, Mel!

  23. Stephanie says:

    Wow! I had these for dinner last night! Delicious!

  24. Jodi says:

    I made these last night, and they were delicious! Thank you for another fabulous recipe!

  25. auntie M says:

    I made these with our home grown zucchini last night and we devoured them! The sauce is fantastic! Love, love, love.

  26. Beth says:

    Made these last night and they were delicious! No leftovers is my only complaint. Thanks!

  27. Jared Solko says:

    These look fantastic! We made something similar years ago with italian sausage and marinara which until now I had completely forgotten about. Can’t wait to try this version!

  28. Casey C says:

    I made this for dinner tonight without the meat. It was yummy!

  29. Julie says:

    Haha I just thought what am I going to do with all these zucchini. Having this for dinner. Also tonight my daughter was in charge of treat and wanted chocolate cake I said do you want it from a box or from scratch? My 8yo son asked what scratch meant and I said you have to use a recipe and real ingredients. Oh, like so mels.

  30. Shar says:

    This sounds like an even yummier version of the recipe my Mom used to make when we were kids. Can’t wait to try it.

  31. Lisa says:

    I love zucchini time. I made your smothered chicken with mushroom gravy last night for dinner but I substituted zucchini for mushrooms. It was a hit!

  32. Tiffany says:

    Yumm!! These look incredible!

  33. Cheryl says:

    I just found your blog, and I love it! I am the only vegetable lover/eater in my family of four. Your recipes are just what I need to convert my husband and daughters. I really enjoy your writing style, too! I can’t wait to try these zucchini boats!

  34. Christy says:

    I LOVE zuchini season! I can hardly wait to make this up! 🙂 YUM!

  35. Beverley says:

    I’ve been looking for recipe just like this thank you thank you thank you. I have all the ingredients in my kitchen right now so guess what’s for dinner tonight? xoxo

  36. Denise says:

    This looks delicious!!! I just bought zucchini to make zucchini chips, but I think I’ll try this first. 😉

  37. Emily F says:

    I’ve been dying to make something like this. I hope my zucchini plants up their production soon so I can!

  38. Helen says:

    Honestly, one of my favorite things about summer is ZUCCHINI… It’s not on here yet, our last freeze of spring was just after Memorial Day … I planted late ! I can’t wait to try this and to have the recipe for the cheesy nuggets… Here’s hoping some zucchini comes my way SOON!!!

  39. susanj says:

    these look delicious. One of my favorite things about your posts is that you always put a what to serve with it to make a complete meal. Its really nice! Thanks.

  40. I love zucchini boats and so does the family. This year I put up a recipe for Stuffed Jalapeno Popper boats and everyone raves over it.
    This looks like a crowd pleaser too.

    Have an awesome week Mel!

  41. Sheila H. says:

    This one will have to get marked for our late summer season because our spring/summer zucchini is done in the south Alabama heat. Hopefully my boys will do a happy dance too.

  42. Kim in MD says:

    Reading your posts always makes me smile, Mel! My kitchen is overflowing with gorgeous vegetables from my MIL’s garden. I am always looking for new recipes to use them in, especially the zucchini. This looks delicious, and I can’t wait to make this for dinner tonight!

  43. Zucchini is still not my most favourite veggie, but I’m working on it. I like all the additions, so it could go well 🙂

    • Christy says:

      Marta, you will have to try the chocolate zuchini cake! It’s the best, super-moist, chocolate cake I’ve had! AND, you can’t taste the zuchini. 🙂

  44. Sheila says:

    I’m joining you with the happy dance only because my husband has already left for work. 🙂 I will need to learn the I Told You So Happy dance very soon!

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