Stuffed Zucchini

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Transform one of the most prolific summer vegetables into a healthy dinner recipe: Stuffed Zucchini. Filled with ground beef, rice, and plenty of cheese, this zucchini recipe makes it fun to eat your veggies.

Stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet.

Similar to Stuffed Peppers but assembled inside one of summer’s most common vegetables, zucchini, this plant-forward dinner recipe will lure even the pickiest of eaters to the table.

Ground beef, rice, tomato sauce, and plenty of cheese make these taste more like lasagna than a ho-hum healthy recipe. Whether you have a surplus from your garden or simply bought too much at the farmers market or grocery store, this is one of my best zucchini recipes to put the mild veggie to work.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for stuffed zucchini.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Zucchini: Try to buy zucchini that are evenly sized. If you can only find zucchini that are lop-sided, don’t worry. Just trim off a thin layer of the bottom with a sharp knife to make them stand up. If you can’t find or don’t love zucchini, try this same technique with yellow squash.
  • Ground beef: I prefer 80% fat and 20% lean for the best flavor, but choose your personal preference of fat content. (See “Recipe FAQs” for alternative protein options.)
  • Cooked rice: Steam a package of instant rice in the microwave or on the stovetop. Or try my Baked Rice or Homemade Brown Rice if you have time.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and flesh from the zucchini halves, ensuring to not pierce the sides of the zucchini and leaving a 1/4-inch thick wall. Finely chop the zucchini flesh.
Someone scooping out the inside of a zucchini with a spoon.
  1. In a large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add chopped zucchini and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Onion being cooked in a silver skillet.
  1. Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes, breaking up any large clumps. Stir in tomato sauce, parsley, and cooked rice, bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
Filling for stuffed zucchini.
  1. Place zucchini halves cut side-up on the prepared baking sheet. Evenly divide the beef mixture between the zucchini shells. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoon each mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
Stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet before being baked.
  1. Bake until golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.
Stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: My Stuffed Zucchini recipe makes 8 halves total, four servings of two stuffed halves each. Each portion includes 4 ounces of beef and ¼ cup of rice, which I find to make for a filling yet healthy dinner idea.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Up to 2 or 3 days in advance, make the filling and stuff the zucchini, but don’t sprinkle on the cheese. Wrap the baking dish with foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready for dinner, sprinkle on the cheese and bake at 450 degrees zucchini is tender, cheese is bubbling and browning, and filling reaches 165 degrees on a digital thermometer.
  • Freezer: Assemble stuffed, unbaked zucchini and freeze in an airtight container up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake as directed. 
Three stuffed zucchini on a plate.

Recipe FAQs

Do I have to use beef in this Stuffed Zucchini recipe?

Feel free to substitute ground turkey, ground chicken, crumbled Italian sausage, plant-based meat crumbles, or even black beans, if desired. It’s also great with just the rice and cheese (but more suitable as a side dish).

Stuffed Bell Peppers

These classic Stuffed Bell Peppers are filled with beef, rice, and tomatoes, and they taste better than you remember. Assemble them a day or two ahead for a quick 30-minute meal during the week. I…

1 hour 20 minutes
View Recipe

More stuffed dinner ideas

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Stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet.

Stuffed Zucchini

Transform one of the most prolific summer vegetables into a healthy dinner recipe: Stuffed Zucchini. Filled with ground beef, rice, and plenty of cheese, this zucchini recipe makes it fun to eat your veggies.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings (2 halves each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 506
5 from 5 votes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and flesh from the zucchini halves, ensuring to not pierce the sides of the zucchini and leaving a 1/4-inch thick wall. Finely chop the zucchini flesh.
  • In a large skillet or Dutch oven, over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add chopped zucchini and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add ground beef and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes, breaking up any large clumps. Stir in tomato sauce, parsley, and cooked rice, bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper (I like 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper).
  • Place zucchini halves cut side-up on the prepared baking sheet. Evenly divide the beef mixture between the zucchini shells. Sprinkle each half with 1 tablespoon each mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.
  • Bake until golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Notes

  1. Zucchini: Try to buy zucchini that are evenly sized. If you can only find zucchini that are lop-sided, don’t worry. Just trim off a thin layer of the bottom with a sharp knife to make them stand up. If you can’t find or don’t love zucchini, try this same technique with yellow squash.
  2. Ground beef: I prefer 80% fat and 20% lean for the best flavor, but choose your personal preference of fat content. (See “Recipe FAQs” for alternative protein options.)
  3. Cooked rice: Steam a package of instant rice in the microwave or on the stovetop. Or try my Baked Rice or Homemade Brown Rice if you have time.
  4. Yield: My Stuffed Zucchini recipe makes 8 halves total, four servings of two stuffed halves each. Each portion includes 4 ounces of beef and ¼ cup of rice, which I find to make for a filling yet healthy dinner idea.
  5. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  6. Make ahead: Up to 2 or 3 days in advance, make the filling and stuff the zucchini, but don’t sprinkle on the cheese. Wrap the baking dish with foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready for dinner, sprinkle on the cheese and bake at 450 degrees zucchini is tender, cheese is bubbling and browning, and filling reaches 165 degrees on a digital thermometer.
  7. Freezer: Assemble stuffed, unbaked zucchini and freeze in an airtight container up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bake as directed. 

Nutrition

Serving: 2halvesCalories: 506kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 31gFat: 33gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 100mgSodium: 383mgPotassium: 900mgFiber: 3gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 670IUVitamin C: 38mgCalcium: 282mgIron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @culinaryhill on Instagram so we can admire your masterpiece! #culinaryhill
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Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.

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Comments

  1. I filled my extra large zucchini with creamy Parmesan polenta and topped with boiled mushroom in tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella then broiled until the cheese melted and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. I parboiled the zucchini beforehand. All good!

  2. Oh man these were good! Thank you for helping me turn the zucchini from my husband’s garden into a delicious meal for our family. Mmmm5 stars

  3. I love this recipe! Trying to find delicious meal recipes for zucchini is challenging. This one is a regular. Yummy!

  4. I made this with ground chicken breast and used 90 second organic rice. This is now one of my favorite recipes, especially when zucchini is abundant from the garden.