Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Our favorite summer dinner! Stuffed zucchini are perfect for using up garden fresh zucchini and they are SO tasty! These easy, healthy zucchini boats are packed with lean Italian turkey sausage, veggies and plenty of cheese, and then baked to perfection. This dinner always gets rave reviews from family and friends!
Zucchini is about to be in full swing and I cannot wait! I’ve got big plans for using this bountiful fruit in everything from pizza to muffins. To start, I’m highlighting zucchini in one of my favorite veggie-packed meals on Kim’s Cravings – these flavorful stuffed zucchini boats. They include a tasty Italian turkey sausage filling, mozzarella and toasty breadcrumbs.
Overall, this recipe is pretty simple to make and omg, it’ll make you WANT to eat zucchini. Maybe even two. I think it may have something to do with all that melty cheese and the crispy breadcrumbs. Just a thought.
If ever there was a recipe to make you swoon with delight, it probably would be this one. Give this stuffed zucchini recipe a try, friends. You won’t be sorry.
Kid tip – Call these stuffed zucchinis, zucchini boats and let the kiddos pick them up and eat them with their hands! They won’t even notice that they’re eating a meal loaded with vegetable goodness. 😉
You don’t need much to make this dish. Zucchini (of course), the filling and some seasonings all come together to create a great dinner! Here’s what’s in this zucchini boat recipe:
- Zucchini. The star of the show! You’ll need 4 medium zucchinis. Make sure they are similar in size for even cooking. You can sub with yellow squash, if desired.
- Olive oil. To cook the veggies and the turkey sausage.
- Italian turkey sausage. I like using Italian turkey sausage for tons of delicious flavor, but you can sub with regular ground turkey sausage and then add extra seasoning. I would add about 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder and salt.
- Onion, garlic, basil, salt & pepper. A must for amazing flavor.
- Diced tomatoes. This recipe calls for a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes. You’ll add the tomatoes with the juices.
- Mozzarella cheese. Can’t go wrong with gooey cheese, but feel free to leave it out to keep this recipe dairy free.
- Panko breadcrumbs. Adds a nice crispiness to the tops of the zucchini. To keep this meal gluten free, be sure to use gluten free breadcrumbs.
how to scoop out zucchini
Before stuffing the zucchini, you need to make room for the delicious Italian sausage filling by scooping the pulp and seeds out of the zucchinis. If a visual of the process helps, check out this YouTube video.
- Choose medium-sized zucchini that are firm, unblemished, and ripe. An overripe zucchini will be mushy and harder to get the pulp scooped out. Extra large zucchini will have a tough skin that tastes bitter, so medium zucchini that have a soft skin are what we want.
- Leave the skin on the zucchini. It gives the stuffed zucchini structure and once cooked, you won’t even notice it.
- Cut the zucchini in half, lengthwise. This is easy to do with a sharp knife. You can cut the top stem and the bottom off, if you’d like.
- Use a spoon to scoop the flesh and seeds from the zucchini. You can discard the zucchini flesh and seeds or freeze it and add it to smoothies for an extra nutritional boost.
how to make this recipe
Making zucchini that is stuffed with deliciousness is really easy! There are only two main components to zucchini boats: the zucchini and the stuffing. Here’s a quick rundown of the process, but for full, printable instructions, reference the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Prep and pre-cook the zucchini. See above for prepping the zucchini. Then, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt & pepper and bake the zucchini cut-side up for about 10 minutes on a baking sheet.
- Make the stuffing. Cook the sausage and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once cooked, add the garlic, tomatoes and basil to the mixture and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and mix in the cheese.
- Stuff the zucchini. Spoon the filling into each zucchini boat. Top each with extra cheese and a sprinkling of Panko breadcrumbs.
- Bake the stuffed zucchini. Return the zucchini to the oven and bake uncovered for about 10 minutes and until the zucchini is tender and the cheese is melty. Garnish with fresh herbs, if desired and enjoy!
tips for recipe success
This zucchini recipe really is easy, but here are some tips to make sure your dish is awesome every single time!
- Use similar-sized zucchini. For even baking, it’s best if all of the zucchini are the same size.
- Scooping the zucchini. Be careful not to scoop your zucchini halves too deep. Leave about a 1/4 inch rim. If you go too deep, the filling may fall out of the bottom, once the zucchini boats have cooked.
- Pre-cook zucchini. Don’t forget to cook the zucchini halves for about 10 minutes before adding the filling. This will ensure the veggie turns out nice and tender.
This recipe is fabulous as-is, but feel free to customize the ingredients to your tastes and use what you have available.
- Protein. You can sub the Italian turkey sausage for pork sausage or any ground meat.
- Vegetables. Feel free to add other veggies to the mix, such as bell peppers, spinach, or even broccoli.
- Cheese. We love using mozzarella cheese for this recipe, but any favorite cheese variety will work. Parmesan cheese, fontina or provolone are all great choices.
- Taco boats. Use taco seasoning to flavor ground beef, leave out the basil and use a Mexican cheese blend.
frequently asked questions
Can you eat the skin on zucchini?
You can definitely eat the skin and there’s no need to peel zucchini! You will want to ensure that it has been washed and dried before starting the recipe. The skin on zucchinis actually have a lot of nutritional benefits!
It is worth mentioning that sometimes larger zucchini have tougher skins with a slightly bitter taste, which is why I recommend medium-sized zucchini for this recipe.
Is stuffed zucchini healthy?
Zucchini is nutrient-rich, low calorie, low carb, and high in fiber. Stuffing them with a healthy filling, like high-protein lean turkey sausage and tomatoes makes for a great well-balanced, satisfying meal!
Can you freeze stuffed zucchini?
I don’t recommend freezing these. The zucchini gets mushy once thawed. However, if you just want to freeze the meat filling mixture, that totally works.
- Place the completely cooled filling (without cheese) into a freezer-safe bag or container, leaving space for the sauce to expand once it’s frozen. Freeze for 2-3 months.
- Thaw the filling in the fridge, overnight, and then reheat on the stovetop over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cheese as directed in the recipe.
- Fill pre-cooked zucchini boats, add cheese and breadcrumbs, and bake.
Stuffed zucchini boats are great on their own, but you can also serve them with a variety of side dishes! We love them served with my favorite Italian salad and crusty garlic bread! They’re great with a side of pasta too! You could also whip up a simple green salad. Just toss mixed greens with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Feel free to add toppings to your salad such as red onion, cherry tomatoes, and croutons. Here are a few of our other favorite sides:
storing and reheating leftovers
Store leftover stuffed zucchini boats in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. The flavors intensify over time and these taste even better the next day, making them great for meal prep! To reheat, simply place your zucchini boat on a plate and microwave them until they’re heated through. You could also rewarm them in the oven at 350ºF for about 8-10 minutes.
My entire family loved these Italian sausage-stuffed zucchini boats. With zucchini season just around the corner (this summer), you’ll have to give this tasty weeknight dinner a try! And when you do, let me know what you think in the comments below.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 4 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pound lean Italian turkey (or chicken) sausage
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes , (I like to use fire roasted)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for top
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- fresh basil for garnish, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scoop the seeds and some of the very soft flesh, but not all of the flesh out of each zucchini (see this video for a visual), then drizzle with a little oil, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then put on a baking sheet cut-side up and bake for 10-15 minutes.
- Heat about 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the sausage and onion; cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is crumbly and fully cooked, and the onion is translucent, about 5-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes, basil, and salt to the sausage. Mix well. Let the flavors come together over medium to medium-high heat for a few minutes.
- Turn off the stove and add 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese to the sausage filling. Toss together so it’s incorporated well.
- Take the zucchini out of the oven, and fill each zucchini with the sausage/cheese mixture. Top each zucchini boat with an extra sprinkling of cheese, and about 1 teaspoon of panko breadcrumbs.
- Return to oven and bake uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes or until zucchini is tender and cheese is melted. Serve immediately and enjoy!