You are going to love our zucchini boats because they are filled with an earthy lentil tomato mixture that tastes so good you won't believe there's no meat in it.
They fall without doubt into the healthy comfort food category, are plenty nutritious, and are packed with wholesome plant-based protein.
Check out our Best Zucchini Recipes
Stuffed zucchini boats are one of those vegetable dishes that everyone likes, and are a great way to sneak more veggies into your diet.
Hollowed zucchini is the perfect vessel to host tasty fillings. Traditionally, stuffed zucchini fillings are made with meat and cheese mixtures, which are undoubtedly delicious, but not suitable for people on a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based diet.
Our challenge here was to create an original recipe with a filling that is as tasty, rich, and fulfilling as the meat-based one; but without meat.
The superstar ingredient we chose for this task is lentils. When supported by great sidekicks (chopped walnuts, tomato sauce, and soy sauce) lentils turn into an earthy, rich, and meaty mixture that makes for a great stuffed zucchini filling.
From our recipe, you can expect tender-crisp zucchini boats, with a wholesome, nutritious, and really tasty filling.
This recipe will satisfy your meatiest cravings and will make you feel awesome.
We make this recipe with zucchini squash. Medium-sized are best so that they can take some filling, but are not so big that they take too long to cook in the oven.
Most zucchini varieties are good for this recipe, including globe zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow squash, yellow zucchini, and grey zucchini.
We use lentils to replace the meat that is commonly used in stuffed zucchini boats (Italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey or chicken).
Canned lentils are the quickest. You can also use dry lentils and cook them yourself first. You can use any lentil variety for this recipe, but we do recommend green and brown lentils as they keep their shape well.
You can replace lentils with tempeh (see how to use it in this tempeh bolognese recipe), crumbled tofu (see how to use it in this tofu bolognese recipe), texturized vegetable protein (TVP), any vegan meat replacement, and even mushrooms (see how to use them in this mushroom bolognese recipe).
Walnuts are great in this mixture because they add heart-healthy fats, wholesome plant-based protein, and texture to our filling. Combined with the lentils, they make the filling earthy and meaty. If you are allergic to nuts you can simply leave them out.
Olive oil + Garlic + Onion
For a flavor base that will make the filling very tasty.
We use very little oil, however, If you are on an oil-free diet you can easily make this recipe without oil by gently frying the onion on low heat, in a dry pan, for a couple of minutes. Then add the garlic and the other ingredients. Onions contain natural oils that come out when heated.
Use soy sauce to add a touch of umami (savory taste), richness, and meatiness to this mixture. It helps create depth of flavor in meatless recipes. We use a reduced-sodium soy sauce.
Canned tomatoes are best for this stuffed zucchini recipe. We use crushed tomatoes. You can also use tomato puree or passata, diced tomatoes, or marinara sauce.
Italian seasoning is your best bet because it contains a mix of dried herbs that go well with the stuffed zucchini.
If you don't have Italian seasoning you can use dry oregano, dry thyme, dry basil leaves, or other dried herbs.
If you like this recipe a little spicy, you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes or chipotle powder (chipotle also adds some smokiness).
Salt + Pepper
To add flavor and make everything taste good.
If you are on a low sodium diet, you might consider replacing the salt with a potassium chloride salt substitute but talk to your doctor first.
Cheese is optional. We recommend parmesan or vegan parmesan cheese, mozzarella or vegan melty cheese, and cheddar or vegan cheddar cheese.
For a lighter option, you can make the stuffed zucchini boats without cheese, then drizzle them with yogurt or plant-based yogurt before serving them.
Yogurt adds freshness and moisture, and it's delicious on stuffed zucchini. Our favorite is unsweetened soy yogurt.
Sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley just before serving. You can also use any other fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, dill, mint, basil, and finely sliced spring onions.
We like to add a squeeze of lemon juice on top of our stuffed zucchini for an extra touch of freshness and acidity.
Step1: Make the boats
Wash and cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. You can keep the stem as it looks pretty.
Arrange the zucchini on a baking sheet or baking dish lined with parchment paper.
With a spoon, remove some of the flesh of the zucchini. It's easier if you hold the zucchini in your left hand and spoon out the flesh with your right hand.
Try not to remove too much flesh. The zucchini boats should be sturdy enough to hold the filling without collapsing.
Set the flesh of the zucchini aside to use for the filling. Your zucchini boats should look like those in the picture below.
Step 2: Make the filling
Preheat the oven to 390F or 200C.
Finely chop the onion, garlic, and zucchini flesh.
To a large skillet, warm up a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the onion and the garlic for a minute.
Add the chopped zucchini flesh to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
Drain the canned lentils, rinse them under running water, and add them to the pan.
Add chopped walnuts (not too chunky), soy sauce, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir, and simmer for 10 minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally.
After 10 minutes your filling should be rich, tasty, and thick. Taste and adjust for salt and spices.
Note: for extra loaded zucchini boats, you could add a handful of your favorite cheese or vegan cheese into the mixture before filling the zucchini.
Step 3: Fill and Bake
Arrange the lentil mixture in the zucchini boats with the help of a spoon. You should comfortably fill 3 medium-sized zucchini or 4 smaller ones.
Bake at 390°F or 200°C for 25 to 35 minutes. Take out of the oven and sprinkle with some grated parmesan or vegan cheese.
Pierce the zucchini with the tip of a knife to check for doneness.
Considerations: Baking time depends on zucchini size and on your taste. If you like tender-crisp zucchini, with some bite, then 25 minutes should be enough. For softer zucchini, bake a little longer.
Set the oven to the broiler function and gratin for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or other fresh herbs, and optionally a squeeze of lemon juice on top.
Eat with a fork and knife. You can safely eat the skin of the zucchini boats, and discard the stem.
We eat stuffed zucchini boats as a main, with a simple side salad, easy cauliflower rice, or a serving of boiled rice (other grain).
Other great side dishes that go well with zucchini boats are:
- A fresh salad such as this easy tomato-cucumber salad, vegetable couscous, or panzanella salad.
- Pair with healthy grains and serve with a 5-min couscous bowl, barley, or quinoa.
- Serve with bread such as garlic bread or tomato bruschetta.
- A serving of veggies such as grilled asparagus, grilled eggplant, or any of these vibrant vegetable sides.
- Drizzle with creamy sauce and enjoy a creamy green goddess dressing, chipotle sauce, or tahini sauce on top of your zucchini dinner.
Substitute yogurt for cheese
If you want to make lighter zucchini boats you could leave out the cheese and replace it with unsweetened plant-based yogurt or regular yogurt.
You can simply drizzle the yogurt on top of the zucchini boats just before serving them.
For something a little tangier, try serving stuffed zucchini with our tzatziki recipe. The rich lentil-tomato mixture is a match made in heaven with tangy, zesty, and refreshing tzatziki sauce.
Add rice to the stuffing
Did you know that you can add boiled rice to the stuffing to make an even more complete meal?
All you have to do is add 1 cup of boiled rice (whole grain rice is best) to the cooked lentil-tomato mix, stir well, and use it to stuff zucchini boats or any other vegetables.
You can also use other types of grains or pseudo-grains in the stuffing. Try quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and barley.
Stuff a different veggie
The same lentil mixture (or grain + lentil mixture) is delicious to fill other veggies too. Try bell peppers, mushrooms, or even tomatoes.
Check out our stuffed bell peppers recipe for more inspiration.
More zucchini recipes
If you're loving these stuffed zucchini boats, you might also enjoy our other zucchini recipes:
- Roasted zucchini easy baked zucchini in 2 ways that you can serve as a flavorful side or appetizer.
- Air fryer zucchini is the easiest way to make a quick side of juicy zucchini.
- Sauteed zucchini: a super simple and basic recipe, ready in just 10 mins.
- Zucchini frittata: an egg-free frittata perfect for brunch, and lunch.
- Zucchini pesto: a vibrant green sauce with plenty of good fats and vitamins. A great addition to vegan pasta and vegan salads.
- Zucchini risotto: a creamy and indulgent dinner idea, and a great way to sneak in veggies.
- Zucchini soup: A green and vibrant soup with aromatic and bold flavor.
- Tofu soup: a veggie-packed easy dinner with tofu and noodles.
Store zucchini boats in the fridge for up to 3 - 4 days. Keep them on a serving plate wrapped in film, or in a big enough airtight container.
Reheat them in the microwave for about 2 minutes or in a preheated oven at 390°F or 200°C for about 10 minutes. You can add some extra grated cheese on top before reheating.
You can assemble and freeze the zucchini boats before baking them. They keep for about 3 monhts in the freezer. Thaw them in the refrigerator for a few hours, then bake.
However, frozen and thawed zucchini boats will have a different texture than fresh-baked zucchini. That's because freezing changes the molecular structure of the zucchini, making it softer and generally mushier.
For many more dinner ideas, check out our mains category page.
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 can (15 oz) lentils
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- ½ cup parmesan or vegan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- ½ lemon optional
Step 1: Make the boats
- Wash and cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. You can keep the stem as it looks pretty.Arrange the zucchini on a baking sheet or dish lined with parchment paper.
- With a spoon, remove some of the flesh of the zucchini. It's easier if you hold the zucchini in your left hand and spoon out the flesh with your right hand.Try not to remove too much flesh. The zucchini boats should be sturdy enough to hold the filling without collapsing.
- Set the flesh of the zucchini aside to use for the filling. Your zucchini boats should look like those in the picture below.
Step 2: Make the filling
- Preheat the oven to 390F or 200C.Finely chop the onion, garlic, and zucchini flesh.
- To a large skillet, warm up a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the onion and the garlic for a minute. Next, add the chopped zucchini flesh to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Drain the canned lentils, rinse them under running water, and add them to the pan.Add chopped walnuts (not too chunky), soy sauce, crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir, and simmer for 10 minutes on medium to low heat, stirring occasionally.
- After 10 minutes, your filling should be tasty and thick. Taste and adjust for salt and spices.Note: for extra loaded zucchini boats, you could add a handful of your favorite cheese or vegan cheese into the mixture before filling the zucchini.
Step 3: Fill and Bake
- Arrange the lentil mixture in the zucchini boats with the help of a spoon. You should comfortably fill three medium-sized zucchini or four smaller ones.
- Bake at 390°F or 200°C for 25 to 35 minutes. Pierce the zucchini with the tip of a knife to check for doneness. The blade should slide in without too much pressure. Considerations: Baking time depends on zucchini size and your taste. If you like tender-crisp zucchini with some bite, then 25 minutes should be enough. For softer zucchini, bake a little longer.
- Take out of the oven and sprinkle with some grated parmesan or vegan cheese. Set the oven to the broiler function and gratin the zucchini boats for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
- Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or other fresh herbs, and optionally a squeeze of lemon juice on top.Eat with a fork and knife. You can safely eat the skin of the zucchini boats and discard the stem.
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