Mexican Zucchini Boats

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Mexican ground turkey enchilada stuffed zucchini boats bursting with flavor and tons of good-for-you ingredients! Recipe from chelseasmessyapron.com

Healthy, flavor-packed Mexican Zucchini Boats burst with robustly seasoned ground turkey, enchilada sauce, black beans, corn, and other veggies.

Looking for more zucchini boat variations? Try these Italian-inspired zucchini boats next!

Overhead view of a pan full of Mexican Zucchini Boats.

Mexican Zucchini Boats

While the concept of replacing carbs with veggies is exciting if you are watching your carb intake, I am not one to think the flavor tradeoff is worth it. I love enchiladas, I love tortillas, and there are few things that can convince me otherwise. 

These Mexican Zucchini Boats though, are one of those things. While I’d never truly give up enchiladas with tortillas, I’m convinced I could eat these just as often. This is not one of those recipes where you’re feeling the sacrifice of carbs and eating it in the name of weight loss or health; it’s legitimately delectable. No sacrificing flavor here!

The zucchini is perfectly crisp-tender, the filling explodes with flavor, and the melty cheddar on top pulls everything together just right.

Process shots: Select similar-sized zucchini; cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds and most of the flesh with a small measuring spoon.

The Zucchini

As I mentioned, the zucchini is perfectly crisp-tender in these Mexican Zucchini Boats. Crisp-tender means it’s been cooked all the way through, but still has some “snap” to it. It is tender in the way that a knife can easily sink through it, but crisp meaning the zucchini still has structure and a slight crunch. 

Since there are few things worse than mushy zucchini, you can rest assured, this recipe will not deliver that. To ensure crisp-tender zucchini, look out for a few things:

  • Aim for even-sized zucchini. The bake time on these Mexican Zucchini Boats can be tricky if the zucchini are all different sizes. While it’s hard to control what comes out of your garden, if you’re buying zucchini for this recipe, take an extra minute to select four equal-sized smallish zucchinis.
  • Don’t over-crowd the zucchini. All the zucchini halves may not fit in one pan, so you might need two separate pans. Avoid crowding the zucchini together, so they can get more of a roasting (instead of steaming) effect from being baked.
  • Use fresh zucchini. If the zucchini feels overly soft, it’s not a great candidate for zucchini boats. Zucchini should be firm.

Do You Eat The Skin On Mexican Zucchini Boats?

Yes! The skin on properly cleaned zucchini is perfectly fine to eat, and it actually has a lot of nutritional benefits!

Large zucchini typically have tougher skins with a slightly bitter taste to them, which is why I recommend small-to-medium veggies for this recipe.

Using the Leftover Zucchini Pulp

To make Mexican Zucchini Boats, we scoop out the inside pulp with a metal (or sharp) 1-teaspoon measuring spoon. I’ve found this pulp makes the zucchini boats too wet and takes away from the flavor. 

While the pulp can be discarded, there are so many ways to use it so it doesn’t go to waste. Here’s a great forum on ways to use the pulp. I love adding it to omelets the next morning or blending it in this green smoothie recipe (adds nutrients without any strong detectable flavor).

Process shots: brown onion in olive oil; add garlic; continue sautéing and add seasonings and ground turkey; brown and crumble the ground turkey; add in crushed tomatoes and enchilada sauce; simmer to blend flavors; add corn, black beans and cilantro.

Mexican Zucchini Boats Seasoning blend

The seasoning in these Mexican Zucchini Boats is my go-to for Mexican-flavored ground turkey. You may recognize it from these turkey tacos or turkey taco salad — we’re obsessed with it.

In fact, if you’re hesitant about ground turkey, I can confirm that my husband, friends, and family members have all been completely convinced I’ve made ground beef, not ground turkey, because of this seasoning blend (the beef bouillon is the “secret” for making it taste more like beef!).

One way to speed up the cooking time for Mexican Zucchini Boats is to make this seasoning blend ahead of time. I often get out all the seasonings and make 10+ seasoning packets at a time. It makes dinner prep go so much quicker! 

Process shots: Once the filling is finished cooking, season the zucchini with oil, salt and pepper; bake; then fill with ground turkey mixture; add cheese and bake.

Mexican Zucchini Boat Tips

  • A little bit of cilantro and lime juice add a lot of zing to this dish! Both ingredients add freshness and liveliness, as well as balancing the spices. The acid from the lime makes all the other flavors sing.
  • We love fire-roasted crushed tomatoes; they add a great smokiness and extra flavor without any extra work on your part. Our favorite is Muir Glen® (not sponsored)
  • Freshly grate the cheese if you can. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating (to keep it from clumping) that resists melting and tends to make these Mexican Zucchini Boats greasy. If you have a food processor with a grating attachment, you can have what you need in a flash!
  • I recommend ground turkey that is sold in a carton, rather than in a chub (the plastic tube).  Chub-style ground turkey tends to be overly watery and less flavorful.

Overhead view of the finished Mexican Zucchini Boats.

Mexican Zucchini Boats Storage

This recipe is best eaten right after baking. Baked zucchini doesn’t store especially well; it tends to get soggy and a bit mushy.

If you’d like to only eat a few zucchini boats at a time, I recommend storing the zucchini separate from the meat and baking only the amount you need for each meal.

Freezing

This recipe also isn’t a great candidate for freezing. Again, the zucchini gets overly mushy and wet when frozen and thawed. That said, the meat filling on this recipe does store and freeze well.

Although I don’t recommend freezing this recipe in its entirety, the ground turkey filling can be frozen for 2-3 months. 

  • Pack the completely cooled filling (without cheese) into a heavy-duty freezer-safe bag or container, leaving space for the sauce to expand once it’s frozen.
  • Thaw the filling in the fridge overnight and then reheat on the stovetop over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Fill the zucchini halves, add cheese, and bake.

QUICK TIP

As this recipe is written, I would say it is very mild. That is assuming you use McCormick® chili powder and Old El Paso® mild red enchilada sauce, since both are very mild. If you’d like to increase the heat, add in a diced jalapeño, some fire-roasted diced green chiles, and/or use a medium to hot enchilada sauce

More ways to use up zucchini

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Mexican Zucchini Boats

5 from 3 votes
Healthy and flavor-packed Mexican Zucchini Boats are loaded with robustly-seasoned ground turkey, enchilada sauce, black beans, corn, and other veggies.
Print Recipe

Mexican Zucchini Boats

5 from 3 votes
Healthy and flavor-packed Mexican Zucchini Boats are loaded with robustly-seasoned ground turkey, enchilada sauce, black beans, corn, and other veggies.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword Mexican Zucchini Boats
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Calories 348kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 medium-sized zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound lean (90/10) ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion (~1/2 of 1 onion)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (~2 cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (McCormick is very mild)
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes (we love Muir Glen)
  • 1 can (10 ounces) mild enchilada sauce (I use Old El Paso; it is mild)
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 3/4 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated
  • Optional: fresh lime juice, additional cilantro

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch and an 8x8, or 9x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside. Use the size pan that will hold the zucchini halves without crowding.
  • ZUCCHINIS: Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon or 1-teaspoon measuring spoon to carefully scoop the flesh out, leaving a good border along the edges of the zucchini. Place the zucchini halves in the prepared baking dishes (See Note 1) and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over them. Rub the oil into the zucchinis and add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper (the filling is salted, so just a pinch here!). Bake for 5 minutes, remove and set aside.
  • GROUND TURKEY: While the zucchini bakes, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet, add the diced onion, and cook 3-5 minutes or until onion is beginning to become translucent. Add in the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Move everything to the sides and add ground turkey to the middle of the pan. Using a wooden spoon, cook and stir, breaking up the turkey into small crumbles, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain off any liquid if needed.
  • FILLING: Add in the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes and enchilada sauce. Stir, bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes. Stir in the frozen corn, black beans, and cilantro. Mix until combined.
  • FILL ZUCCHINI SHELLS: Spoon the meat mixture evenly into the zucchini shells; it should fill 10 medium-sized zucchini halves (See Note 2). Add the grated cheese evenly on top.
  • BAKE: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until zucchini is crisp-tender (it should still have a bite to it, and not be mushy!) and cheese is melted. If desired, add additional fresh cilantro and fresh lime juice. Enjoy immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Don't crowd the zucchini in the pans; when in doubt, it's better to use 2 pans! 
Note 2: Depending on the size of your zucchini and how much you load them up, you may have leftover filling. We love any leftover filling in a lettuce wrap, in burrito form, or loaded on a bed of romaine for a delicious taco salad!

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 348kcal | Carbohydrates: 13.6g | Protein: 27.5g | Fat: 20.7g | Cholesterol: 77.9mg | Sodium: 558.8mg | Fiber: 3.4g | Sugar: 3.9g

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    In the process of making this for dinner tonight. I love all the spices you use in your dishes, so much flavor. I have been following your site and using your recipes for almost a year, my husband loves every dish I made of yours, thank you!!!!!

    1. Awe you made my day, thank you Cindy!! 🙂 So thrilled to hear that and I hope you LOVE these zucchini boats!

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