Turkey Taco Zucchini Boats

Looking for an easy crowd-pleasing dinner to add to your rotation? Zucchini boats have long been a favorite of mine. Growing up, my mom made the best zucchini boats, but they were usually a side to whatever protein she was serving that night. With my penchant for all-in-one meals, I knew I wanted to try making zucchini boats, but turn them into the main dish. These taco zucchini boats ended up being the perfect weeknight dinner, and can work nicely as a meal all on their own, or with a side of rice, if you’re so inclined. These boats took a little experimenting to get right, but it’s a testament to their tastiness that I didn’t mind eating them for two weeks while I tweaked the recipe. I think you’ll love them too!

Zucchini Boats stuffed with taco-spiced ground turkey, and baked up in the oven for a perfect all-in-one meal!

There is no lack of zucchini boat recipes on the internet, and I started with a recipe from Skinnytaste, but found I could simplify the ingredient list a bit (win), and simplify the cooking instructions, while also making it leftover-friendly (double win). Here’s the thing. I love vegetables. Really! In fact, my friend and I just signed up for a fall farm share that I’m incredibly excited about. I’ll keep you updated on the veggie deliveries and hopefully I’ll find some fun new vegetables along the way. However, even with my love of vegetables, I will say that I hate mushy vegetables. I firmly believe that most people that think they don’t like a certain vegetable just haven’t had it cooked properly.

Why is this relevant? Well, overcooked zucchini falls in the camp of things that I don’t care for, so I played around with the cooking time and method to see if I could avoid that problem. Baking the zucchini boats for only 15-20 minutes gives them just the right texture, without any hint of mush. As an added bonus, if you’re saving some of these as leftovers for the week, they’ll also reheat well right in the microwave, without overcooking. Hallelujah!

Zucchini Boats stuffed with taco-spiced ground turkey, and baked up in the oven for a perfect all-in-one meal!

The prep for these boats does take a little bit of time, but you can do several of the steps concurrently, which helps make these an easy meal. First you’ll brown up some ground turkey (I used 99% fat free, but whatever you like best would be fine), toss in your spices and then let it all simmer with tomato sauce while you hollow out your zucchini boats. Use a small spoon to scoop out the insides, and make sure to save them! You’ll toss those in with your turkey filling so that you’re getting all that veggie goodness incorporated. Of course, they need to be topped with a little bit of cheese, because what are tacos without cheese? It goes without saying, but garnishing with a few slices of avocado would put these over the top. If you don’t have avocado, don’t skimp on cilantro and green onions for garnish. They give it the perfect flair.

Zucchini Boats stuffed with taco-spiced ground turkey, and baked up in the oven for a perfect all-in-one meal!

The recipe makes enough to serve four (two boats per person) but reheats nicely if you’re saving leftovers. When I made these for the second time, I decided to make the full pound of ground turkey, but only use half of it to stuff zucchini boats. I saved the other half to top baked sweet potatoes later in the week, which were equally delicious (in case you’re wondering, bake the sweet potatoes separately, top with meat, a sprinkling of cheese and other toppings, and you’ve got a round two meal ready to go!).

These will definitely be on my rotation again soon. Until then, I’ll be figuring out what to do with a weekly shipment of a likely absurd amount of vegetables. Wish me luck – I can’t wait!

Turkey Taco Zucchini Boats

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 4 (2 zucchini halves per serving)
Adapted from: Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Ingredients:

4 medium zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup tomato sauce, divided

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, minced

1 lb lean ground turkey

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp oregano

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup reduced fat Mexican blend shredded cheese

1/4 cup chopped scallions, for topping

1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for topping

Directions:

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until fragrant, and starting to get soft (2-3 minutes). Add the ground turkey and brown over medium heat, breaking up the turkey as it cooks. Once the turkey is browned and fully cooked, add spices, 1/2 cup tomato sauce and water. Turn the heat to low and let mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes (or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spread remaining 1/2 cup tomato sauce on the bottom of a large baking dish. Scoop out the insides of each zucchini half using a spoon. Roughly chop about 1/2 the scooped out zucchini flesh (toss the rest, or save for another recipe) and squeeze in a strainer or colander to remove some water. Toss in the frying pan with your turkey mixture and stir to combine.
Place each of your hollowed-out zucchini in the baking dish, and when your filling looks ready (i.e. not watery), turn the heat off, and scoop filling into each zucchini boat. Sprinkle each boat with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese.
Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes. I removed mine right at 15. The zucchini should be tender (pierced with a fork relatively easily), but not mushy. If you’ll be reheating leftovers, err on the side of less-cooked zucchini. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and cilantro (and maybe an extra sprinkle of cheese if you want). I also like to scoop up the tomato sauce from the bottom of the pan and drizzle it on top of the boats.
Serve immediately or store covered in the fridge. These re-heat well in the microwave for a quick lunch or dinner.