Zucchini Boats

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Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchinis and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.

We are obsessed with Zucchini Boats! Next time try these Mexican zucchini boats.

Overhead image of the zucchini boats fresh out of the oven

Zucchini Boats

When asked what type of recipes you wanted to see this year, low-carb meals was the resounding number 1 request. So I’ve worked hard to bring you some of the best low-carb meals I’ve ever had, and loved every minute of it (which is no small feat coming from this self-proclaimed carb-a-holic)!

As a quick re-cap, these unstuffed peppers, this turkey taco skillet, this egg roll in a bowl, and this ground turkey sweet potato skillet have been the most-popular low-carb recipes shared this year. And I have to admit, I didn’t miss the carbs one bit in those meals. Zucchini Boats are another one to add to the favorites list — they are low carb heaven.

They’re also insanely tasty — a meal no one in my family could get enough of!

Process shots: sauté onion and garlic; add sausage; brown and crumble; measure seasonings; add seasonings, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce to the pan.

Zucchini Boat tips

  • Don’t forget the fresh herbs; they cut through the richness of the sausage and cheese, while adding a burst of freshness.
  • For the marinara sauce, I highly recommend Rao’s® marinara sauce: (not sponsored). This marinara has a deep, intense flavor, tastes homemade and is thick and hearty. A good marinara sauce makes a huge difference in this recipe.
  • Freshly grate the cheese if you’re able. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating (to keep it from clumping) that resists melting or can make the Zucchini Boats greasy. If you have a food processor, many come with an attachment that will grate the cheese in a flash!

Zucchini

Aim for even-sized zucchini. The bake time on these 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 grab four equal-sized smallish zucchinis.

QUICK TIP

If the zucchini halves don’t all fit in the 9×13-inch pan, grab another smaller pan like an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan to add the leftover zucchinis and sauce that didn’t fit.

Process shots: sauté sausage and seasonings; add marinara sauce and simmer; prep the zucchini; stuff zucchini with meat mixture; top with Cheddar cheese; bake.

Do you eat the skin on Zucchini Boats?

Before starting this recipe, wash, scrub, and dry the zucchini. The skin on properly cleaned zucchinis are perfectly fine to eat, and they actually have a lot of nutritional benefits!

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

Variations

  • Heat: for spicier Zucchini Boats, opt for hot Italian sausage or add a few red pepper flakes.
  • Different meat: If you’d rather not use sausage, try lean ground beef or ground turkey instead. You will likely want to increase spices with beef or ground turkey since they have less flavor than ground sausage.
  • Vegetarian Zucchini Boats: Make this recipe exactly the same, but replace the sausage with 2 cups of a cooked and seasoned grain (such as brown rice, white rice, or quinoa), add in 1 large diced carrot and 1-2 diced sweet bell peppers (along with the onion). Top with extra-sharp Cheddar cheese and enjoy!

Overhead view of the baked Zucchini Boats, with melted cheese.

Can you freeze Zucchini Boats?

Zucchini Boats don’t freeze or thaw well; the zucchini gets exceptionally mushy once thawed. So, while I wouldn’t recommend freezing this recipe as a whole, the meat filling mixture 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 Zucchini Boats, add cheese, and bake.

More recipes using zucchini 

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Zucchini Boats

5 from 6 votes
Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchini and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.
Print Recipe

Zucchini Boats

5 from 6 votes
Easy, loaded Zucchini Boats start with hollowed-out zucchini and are filled with a flavor-packed marinara and sausage filling. Zucchini Boats are topped with melty Cheddar cheese and baked to tender perfection.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Zucchini Boats
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 584kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (165g) finely diced yellow onion ~1 large onion or 2 small ones
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic ~3-4 cloves
  • 1 pound (16 oz.) mild (or hot) Italian sausage
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
  • salt and pepper to taste (I use 1/2 teaspoon of each)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups (496g) good-quality marinara sauce (We're obsessed with Raos Marinara in this recipe!)
  • 4 small to medium-sized zucchini
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (135g) freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh parsley, for garnish, optional

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  • ZUCCHINIS: Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Use a small spoon to carefully scoop the flesh out of the zucchini, leaving a good border along the edges of the zucchini. Place the zucchini halves in the prepared baking dish (See Note 1) and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the zucchinis. Rub the oil into the zucchini and add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper (the filling is salted, so just a pinch here!). Bake for 5 minutes and remove.
  • SAUSAGE MIXTURE: Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and cook, 3-5 minutes or until onion is beginning to become translucent. Add in the garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Move onion and garlic to edges and add sausage to the middle of the pan. Cook and stir, breaking up with a wooden spoon into small crumbles, until cooked through and no longer pink, about 5-7 minutes. Drain off any grease if needed.
  • SAUSAGE MIXTURE CONT.: Add all the seasonings (oregano, thyme, Italian seasoning, beef bouillon powder, and salt and pepper to taste), tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Stir, cooking over medium heat, for 1 minute or until very fragrant. Add in the marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • FILL ZUCCHINI SHELLS: Spoon the meat mixture evenly into the zucchini shells, it should fill 8 medium-sized zucchini halves. Add the freshly grated cheese evenly on top.
  • BAKE: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until zucchini is crisp tender (it should still have a bite too it, not be mushy!) and cheese is melted. If desired, add fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If all the zucchini won't fit into one pan, no worries! Either fit zucchini along the sides of the pan or use another pan such as an 8x8 or 9x9 pan to hold the overflow.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 584kcal | Carbohydrates: 20.3g | Protein: 25.7g | Cholesterol: 112.7mg | Sodium: 1551mg | Fiber: 3.7g | Sugar: 10.2g

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Look at all those amazing colors! Sounds absolutely delicious and I feel healthier just looking at it 🙂

  2. Those boats are great. Looking forward to trying this recipe. Your pictures are GREAT! Love this post 😉

  3. I love how versatile Zucchini is. You can make bread, sauté it, make these boats…endless. These are super healthy Chelsea, that’s my favorite part! Creative way to use the Zucchini! have you ever made little pizzas using Zucchini as the crust? SO good! I particularly love using fresh herbs this time of year to top off dishes…thanks for sharing 😀 Enjoy the weekend ahead!

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