Zucchini boats are a tasty and healthy recipe to enjoy the wonderful flavor of zucchini. They are packed with a rich, savory filling made with lentils, tomatoes, herbs, and walnuts.
Our recipe contains no meat, and it’s suitable for most diets. Thanks to their robust flavor, you can serve them as a fulfilling meal or appetizer for most occasions.
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You’ll love these zucchini boats because they are easy to make, with simple ingredients, and have a rich and robust flavor without using meat.
The secret to the best zucchini boats is to use the scooped-out flesh of the zucchini as part of the stuffing.
To do so, it’s best to chop it up and cook it on a pan for a few minutes to remove excess moisture so that your boats won’t get wet and soggy.
We then add lentils, canned tomatoes, herbs, and walnuts to make a satisfying and flavorful filling with a beautiful texture.
And if you feel like something without tomatoes or lentils, you can make our quick and easy stuffed zucchini with ricotta and sun-dried tomato.
Ingredients & Substitutions
We make this recipe with zucchini squash (courgette in British English). Medium-sized is best to take some filling, but they are not so big that they take too long to cook in the oven.
Most zucchini varieties are suitable for this recipe, including globe zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow squash, yellow zucchini, and grey zucchini. Pick your favorite!
We use lentils to replace the meat commonly used in stuffed zucchini boats (Italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey or chicken).
Canned lentils are the quickest. However, you can also use dry lentils and cook them yourself first.
We recommend green and brown lentils as they keep their shape well.
You can replace lentils with beans, 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), vegan meat replacements, 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 hearty and meaty. But, of course, if you are allergic to nuts, you can leave them out.
Olive oil + Garlic + Onion
For a flavor base that will make the filling very tasty.
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.
Substitute tamari or coconut aminos to make the recipe gluten-free.
Canned tomatoes are best for this zucchini boat 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.
Substitute dry or fresh basil, thyme, oregano, or other dried herbs for Italian seasoning.
If you like this recipe a little spicy, 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. We use sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Cheese is optional. We recommend grated parmesan, a vegan parmesan cheese alternative, mozzarella cheese or vegan melty cheese, and cheddar or vegan 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 with this recipe.
Sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley just before serving. You can also use 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.
How to make zucchini boats
1. Make the boats
Wash and cut the zucchini in half lengthwise.
Scoop out some of the flesh of the zucchini and chop it finely with a knife or in a food processor. Also, finely chop onion and garlic.
Tip: It’s easiest 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.
2. Make the filling
Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C.
In a large skillet, warm up a tablespoon of olive oil and gently fry the onion for 3 minutes, then add garlic and chopped zucchini pulp and cook for 5 minutes.
Add drained and rinsed lentils, chopped walnuts, crushed tomatoes, herbs, soy sauce, salt, and black pepper.
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.
3. Fill and Bake
Fill the zucchini shells with the lentil mixture and arrange them on a baking tray or baking dish.
Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400°F or 200°C for about 25 minutes; sprinkle them with grated parmesan, and bake for 5 more minutes until the cheese melts.
Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or other fresh herbs and optionally a squeeze of lemon juice.
Note: Baking time depends on zucchini size and your taste. If you like tender-crisp zucchini with some bite, then 25 minutes is enough. For softer zucchini, bake a little longer.
We eat stuffed zucchini boats as a main, with a simple side salad or a serving of boiled rice.
Other 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 salad, or quinoa salad.
- 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 a tasty sauce like green goddess dressing, marinara sauce, vegan sour cream, chipotle sauce, tzatziki sauce, or tahini sauce.
Try out stuffed zucchini with ricotta (or non-dairy ricotta) and chopped sun-dried tomatoes for a delicious alternative to zucchini boats with lentils and tomatoes.
This recipe is even easier to make; it’s packed with flavor and light and is one of our favorite zucchini recipes.
Check out our stuffed zucchini recipe.
This Italian–inspired recipe for roasted zucchini is aromatic, juicy, and crispy.
It’s easy to make, and everyone at the table will love it.
Check out our roasted zucchini with breadcrumbs.
Add rice to the filling
Did you know 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 other vegetables.
You can also use other types of grains or pseudo-grains in the stuffing. For example, try quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and barley.
More stuffed vegetables
Make ahead: this is an excellent recipe to make ahead as the zucchini boats keep well for a few days and also reheat pretty well in the microwave. So you can use them for meal prep and putlocks.
Refrigerator: store them in the fridge for 3 – 4 days. Keep them on a serving plate wrapped in film or an airtight container.
Reheat them in the microwave for about 2 minutes or in a preheated oven at 400°F or 200°C for about 10 minutes. You can add some extra grated cheese on top before reheating.
Freezer: you can assemble and freeze the zucchini boats before baking them. They keep for about three months in the freezer. Thaw them in the refrigerator for a few hours, then bake.
Frozen and thawed zucchini boats will have a different texture than fresh-baked zucchini. That’s because freezing changes the structure of the zucchini, making it a little softer.
More veggie-based dinners
Get more wholesome dinner ideas from these veggie–packed recipes:
- Loaded smashed potatoes (potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, tahini dressing, etc.)
- Lentil vegetable soup (lentils, carrot, onion, cumin, garlic, spinach, vegetable broth, etc.)
- Chickpea stew with sweet potato (chickpeas, celery, garlic, ginger, sweet potato, cumin, etc.)
- Lentil carrot salad (canned lentils, carrots, parsley, cumin, shaved almonds, olive oil, etc.)
- Roasted carrots with toppings (carrots, parsley, cumin, mustard, tahini dressing, etc.)
- Whole roasted cauliflower (cauliflower, harissa, parsley, shaved almonds, chimichurri, etc.)
More zucchini recipes
Love these stuffed zucchini boats? Then you might also enjoy these easy zucchini recipes:
- Air fryer zucchini: the easiest way to make a quick side of juicy zucchini.
- Zucchini bread: brunch, breakfast, and snack-friendly; this zucchini bread is a wholesome and delicious sweet bread!
- Sautéed zucchini: a super simple recipe, ready in just 10 mins.
- Zucchini fritters: vegetarian and vegan family-friendly meal.
- 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.
For many more dinner ideas, check out our mains category page.
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic pressed or grated
- 1 can (15 oz) lentils
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 2 twists black pepper
- 4 tablespoons grated parmesan or non-dairy cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley optional
- ½ lemon optional
- Wash and cut 4 medium zucchini in half lengthwise.Scoop out some of the flesh of the zucchini and chop it finely with a knife or in a food processor. Also, finely chop onion and garlic.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F or 200°C.In a large skillet, warm up 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and gently fry 1 medium onion (chopped) for 3 minutes, then add 3 cloves garlic (grated) and chopped zucchini pulp and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add 1 can (15 oz) lentils (drained and rinsed), ½ cup walnuts (chopped), 1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 twists black pepper.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.
- Fill the zucchini shells with the lentil mixture and arrange them on a baking tray.Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400°F or 200°C for about 25 minutes; then sprinkle them with grated parmesan, and bake for 5 more minutes until the cheese melts.
- Garnish with freshly parsley or and a squeeze of lemon juice.
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