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This zesty Stuffed Zucchini recipe is packed with Italian-inspired ingredients like Italian turkey sausage, tomatoes, and a shower of basil Parmesan breadcrumbs. It’s easy, quick, healthy, and, hands-down, one of my favorite zucchini boat recipes of all time.

Four stuffed zucchini with sausage in a baking dish

A Delicious Way to Use Zucchini

An overload of zucchini is a summer tradition that I look forward to with gusto.

I adore both the challenge of creating unique ways to prepare it (hello, Zucchini Casserole) and revisiting my absolute favorite zucchini recipes, like today’s stuffed zucchini. (Zucchini Fritters are next on my list.)

No matter your current zucchini supply situation, this easy stuffed zucchini has you covered.

  • Did you just harvest a bounty of zucchini from your own garden? Better plan on making a double batch (ditto goes for Blueberry Zucchini Bread).
  • Researching stuffed zucchini recipes in anticipation that you’ll be gifted a surplus of zucchini (again) from your mother-in-law? Your work here is done.
  • Simply need a healthy meal idea for dinner tonight using the fresh zucchini you pick up at the farmer’s market? Look no further (and consider Zucchini Pasta too)!

This healthy stuffed zucchini recipe is an affordable, satisfying dish that elevates the humble zucchini into a special meal for any occasion.

Stuffed zucchini without rice in a baking dish with fresh basil

5 Star Review

“Everyone in our family loves this recipe. The flavors are outstanding and the breadcrumbs were totally worth it. Looking forward to making this all summer”

— Evette —

Why I Love Stuffed Zucchini

While there are as many ways to stuff a zucchini (hello, Zucchini Pizza Boats), I love this particular recipe for a number of reasons.

  • It is jam-packed (literally) with Italian flavors like fresh basil, zesty Italian sausage, and Parmesan cheese (like my favorite Italian Stuffed Peppers)
  • The filling includes other summer produce heroes like tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • The topping is simply to die for—a mix of whole wheat breadcrumbs, olive oil, more fresh basil, and more Parmesan.

To summarize, these simple zucchini boats are hearty, full of summer flavors, and yet, light enough that you don’t feel like you’re overindulging yourself.

simple stuffed zucchini filling in a skillet with Italian sausage, red bell pepper, and onion

How to Make Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Cheesy, herby, and healthy, they’re a dream (zucchini) boat—pun intended.

With their combination of lean turkey sausage, veggies both inside and out, and whole grains, these healthy stuffed zucchini boats are an ideal all-in-one dinner (as are these Zucchini Enchiladas).

They also reheat beautifully the next day, so you can make a big batch to enjoy a few times throughout the week.


The Ingredients

  • Zucchini. Zucchini makes an ideal vessel for our scrumptious Italian-inspired ingredients (they also make great Zucchini Ravioli). Plus, it’s rich in Vitamin-A and antioxidants. The best part? There’s no need to peel the zucchini before eating it.
  • Italian Sausage. I used ground Italian turkey sausage, and it was ideal. Turkey is a lean protein, and the Italian herbs and spices added to the meat give stuffed zucchini recipes like this one (and these Grilled Stuffed Peppers) additional flavor.

Substitution Tip

You can also make this recipe with ground Italian chicken sausage or classic Italian pork sausage. Just note that the nutrition profile will change with these swaps.

  • Red Bell Pepper + Red Onion. For beautiful color, more veggies, and complexity.
  • Tomato Paste. Tomato paste imparts rich, deep flavor that tastes like you’ve been cooking away all day.
  • Basil. A touch of basil adds freshness and a taste of summer sunshine.

Market Swap

Don’t be afraid to add additional seasonal fresh herbs to this recipe. Fresh oregano or parsley would also be lovely in this dish.

  • Whole Wheat Bread + Parmesan. For our crispy breadcrumb topping. As the zucchini bakes, the breadcrumbs transform into a golden, toasty “lid” that I caught myself eating right off the top of the zucchini boats before I’d taken a real bite. (I also love the breadcrumb topping on this Air Fryer Zucchini!)

TIP!

The recipe does make what will seem like a lot of breadcrumb topping but trust me, you are going to want it all.

The Directions

How do you scoop out zucchini on a cutting board
  1. Prepare the zucchini boat shells, and place them in a baking dish.

How to Hollow Out Zucchini for Zucchini Boats

After cutting each zucchini in half lengthwise, you hollow out zucchini as follows by removing both the seeds and center flesh.

  • I like to use the tip of a small spoon or a melon baller to first remove the seeds and discard them. Earlier in the season, small zucchini may have very few seeds, while larger, later season zucchini may have many.
  • Once the seeds are discarded, scoop out the center flesh. This I reserve for the zucchini filling.
  • I use two fingers to grip the top of the zucchini while I scoop out the flesh. When scooping, be sure to apply enough pressure to remove the flesh but not enough to cut through the bottom.
Italian sausage and peppers cooking in a skillet
  1. Brown the sausage, onion, and bell pepper in a skillet. Add the spices.
A skillet with sauteed Italian sausage and peppers
  1. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste, and add the scooped zucchini flesh.
A food processor with basil Parmesan breadcrumbs
  1. Prepare the Parmesan basil breadcrumb topping in a food processor.
stuffed zucchini recipes with Italian sausage and tomatoes
  1. Stir half of the breadcrumbs into the sausage mixture. Mound the zucchini shells with the sausage filling, topping each one with the remaining breadcrumbs. Bake zucchini boats at 425 degrees F for 13 to 15 minutes. ENJOY!

Dietary Notes

  • To Make Gluten Free. Use gluten-free bread for your breadcrumb topping.
  • To Make Dairy Free. Omit the Parmesan, or use nutritional yeast instead.
  • To Make Vegetarian. For vegetarian stuffed zucchini, omit the ground turkey. Take a note from my Mushroom Tacos, and try mushroom-stuffed zucchini as a “meaty” substitute.
  • To Make Vegan. Follow both the vegetarian and dairy-free adaptations above.
Italian turkey sausage filling being added to healthy stuffed zucchini

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Store leftover stuffed zucchini in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • To Reheat. Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish in the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.

Can You Freeze Stuffed Zucchini?

I do not recommend freezing stuffed zucchini recipes, as the zucchini will likely become mushy. Enjoy the leftovers within a few days, or give them to friends.

Italian stuffed zucchini halves in a white baking dish

What to Serve with Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed zucchini is a great standalone meal.

It’s also great when paired with one (or more) of these tasty dishes.

  • Skillet. A high-quality skillet is an essential tool in my kitchen.
  • Spatula. I use this basic spatula ALL the time.
  • Extra Large Cutting Board. The extra space is so helpful when preparing the zucchini for this recipe.
  • Melon Baller. The perfect tool for hollowing out the zucchini.

Embrace your zucchini surplus this year, and make this the first of many stuffed zucchini recipes you make this season on repeat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is My Baked Zucchini Mushy?

Mushy baked zucchini is often overcooked. Keep an eye on your stuffed zucchini as it bakes, and remove once it is heated through and fork tender.

Do You Peel Zucchini Before Using?

No! While some recipes will suggest peeling zucchini, you typically do not want to peel a zucchini that you intend to stuff. The skin will help the zucchini retain a boat-like shape as it bakes. Plus, there are wonderful nutrients in the zucchini skin.

Can I Make Stuffed Zucchini with an Oversized Zucchini?

Sure! While I find zucchini that are closer to 5 to 6 inches in length best in terms of taste, texture, and size (they fit in most baking dishes), you could also make an oversized stuffed zucchini boat with this recipe too. Note that you may have to experiment with the cook time and filling amount.

Stuffed Zucchini

4.71 from 41 votes
Baked stuffed zucchini boats with Italian sausage, tomatoes and crispy Parmesan topping. A simple, healthy, and flavorful low carb dinner!

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4 whole zucchini (about 5 to 6 inches long)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian turkey sausage casings removed
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 large red bell pepper diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 slices whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan plus additional for serving

Instructions
 

  • Place a rack in the upper third of your oven. Preheat to 425°F.
  • Halve the zucchini lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard the seeds. Then, scoop out the soft center flesh to create shallow zucchini “shells,” with walls about 1/2 inch thick, reserving the center flesh. Arrange the zucchini shells in a baking dish. Roughly chop the center flesh and set it aside.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the sausage, onion, and bell pepper. Using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, break apart the sausage, sautéing it together with the vegetables, until the onions are soft and the sausage is browned and fully cooked, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  • Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook 1 additional minute, until tomato paste is broken down and incorporated. Add in the reserved zucchini flesh and heat through for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes as desired.
  • Toast the bread slices, then tear them into large pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the basil and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Pulse until the bread is broken into large crumbs. Add the Parmesan and pulse just until incorporated, 2 or 3 times.
  • Fold half of the basil breadcrumbs into the sausage mixture. With a small spoon, mound the sausage stuffing into the shells, then sprinkle the tops of the stuffed zucchini with the remaining breadcrumbs. Roast in oven until the zucchini is heated through and the breadcrumbs are golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Enjoy immediately.

Video

Notes

  • TO STORE: Store leftovers in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • TO REHEAT: Rewarm stuffed zucchini in a casserole dish the oven at 350 degrees F until warmed through. If the breadcrumbs start to brown too much, loosely tent the dish with foil. You can also reheat this recipe in the microwave.
  • TIP: Grate cheese the easy way! Before starting the recipe, grate an entire wedge of Parmesan cheese right in your food processor. Cut the wedge into chunks, place them in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, then pulse until ground. Measure out and set aside the 1/2 cup needed for the recipe. Store the remainder in your refrigerator for weeks. You’ll always have fresh Parm on hand! Then proceed with making the stuffed zucchini, no need to wash the processor bowl in between.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 321kcalCarbohydrates: 18gProtein: 18gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 34mgFiber: 4gSugar: 7g

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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4.71 from 41 votes (19 ratings without comment)

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46 Comments

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  1. Hi Erin, I am one of your newer followers, joining in from Germany. I have an ingredient related question: What is Italian turkey sausage? I live (comparatively) close to Italy (much closer than the US, anyway), but I never came across one :-) We have a fantastic Italian delicatessen here and I would like to ask them, but I am not sure what to ask for. Is it a smoked kind of sausage, is it like Salsiccia (it’s rather greasy, though, not lean)?
    Thanks so much, this all looks terrific!
    Sophie

    1. Hi Sophia! Great question. It’s essentially turkey sausage with Italian spices added. I think you could make your own by adding things like red pepper flakes, Italian herbs, garlic, and fennel seeds. I hope that helps!

  2. Perfect for summer! I tried it yesterday and turned out really delicious. Thanks for sharing this.5 stars

    1. Christine, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for giving it a try and reporting back.

  3. These were wonderful! I made them pretty much exactly as in the recipe, though I found they needed a longer baking time (personal preference, I like my zucchini a bit softer). They are so flavorful, yet not too filling, and really showcased the flavour of the zucchini. I have a mountain of zucchini from my garden, and this recipe is perfect to eat it up! I love your recipes, Erin.5 stars

    1. Kim, I’m so glad to hear you loved this recipe! Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to leave this awesome review!

  4. Loved these zucchini boats! I had to tweak things because I searched for a recipe last second using the ingredients I had on hand (Diestel Italian ground turkey, one 4 by 6 inch freshly picked zucchini, mushroom spaghetti sauce; had no red pepper, mushrooms, garlic , fresh parsley or breadcrumbs), but it turned out to be delicious  anyway and I will absolutely make this again! Thank you – this is going in my regular rotation for sure. Can’t wait to try it as written next time…5 stars

    1. Maila, thank you so much for giving this recipe a try and sharing your tweaks! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  5. 4 year old: “I like them! They are cute!”
    1 year old: “mmmmmm”
    Dad/husband: “Oh MAN!!!”

    This was a super tasty and healthy dinner that every.single.person in my family loved – it will become a regular in our summer rotation!! I was able to prep everything the night before and when I got home tonight I put the pre-stuffed zucchini in the oven for 15 minutes and dinner was done by the time I set the table! Thanks for yet another winner, Erin! (ps – don’t tell but I cheated and used store bought breadcrumbs!)5 stars

    1. Rachel, I am SO THRILLED you all enjoyed this so much! Your comments make my day <3 Thanks so much for sharing this (and your secret is safe with me;-) )

  6. Great tasting. My young adult son even really liked it (“either this is really good or I’m really hungry” & took 2nds) – even better than a cheesesteak styled stuffed zucchini boat I recently made.5 stars

  7. Another winner from Erin!  I made this recently and it was so delicious.  Sausage was a nice change for us…..definitely going into dinner rotation.  I’d post a photo here, but I don’t think I can.  5 stars

  8. These are fantastic. So easy to make and very flavorful. I made ours with Italian Chicken Sausage as that is what our market had. I did need to bake them for half an hour so the zucchini was cooked, but a little al dente which was perfect. Highly recommend!5 stars

  9. I got a zucchini and a yellow squash in a produce box I purchased from a restaurant supplier in this crazy time of staying home. (Keeps me from going to the insane grocery store). I used this recipe to fill them both and my husband loved it after our bike ride this evening. Can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. I didn’t have sausage, but I just put a bunch of yummy Italian spices in some ground turkey meat and it was great. I also didn’t have a bell pepper so I used a green jalapeno. And I was in a hurry so I just used canned bread crumbs and a tub of Parmesan cheese from the fridge. Delicious.

    These are the times when you open the fridge and look what’s there, then google some ingredients to see what is possible. :)5 stars

  10. Everyone in our family loves this recipe. The flavors are outstanding and the breadcrumbs were totally worth it. THANK YOU! Looking forward to making this all summer5 stars

  11. SO GOOD! I have a 4 year old who eats everything and a husband who is SO picky, but both guys gobbled this up!!! :o) :o) :o) I need to work on my zucchini scooping technique, but the sausage filling covered up my lack of skill. Delicious! Thank you, Erin!5 stars

  12. This was Amazing!!!! Thank you so much!  My friend gave me some huge zucchini from her garden.  I cooked maybe double the time recommended.  It was probably one of my favorite new recipes.  Thank you 5 stars

  13. This is a wonderful tasty recipe. I added double the garlic and double the black pepper for more flavor. Black pepper and garlic makes just about everything taste better. I also had some somewhat stale French bread in the fridge so I used that instead of the wheat bread. I love that you toast the bread first.  Very healthy! I will make again. 5 stars

  14. Made these with ground Turkey and added a bit of fresh spinach! These are truly delicious! Thank you for the recipe!5 stars

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the recipe, Christopher! Thank you for sharing this kind review!

  15. I made these for dinner for the first time last night and they are definitely going on the rotation! I was a little skeptical to make the breadcrumb mixture but it’s totally worth it over store bought breadcrumbs!5 stars

  16. Best way to use up the most squash! Substituted with yellow summer squash and turned out excellent. Also used Italian sausage instead of turkey sausage. Yum!5 stars

  17. I made this for dinner tonight and it was very tasty. There are only two of us and I had only 1 yellow squash and half a zucchini. I found that here is no way the recipe can be done in 13-25 minutes in the oven. If the instructions were to parboil the zucchini first until still firm but not soft and then stuff and bake the zucchini, it could have been done in 13-15 minutes.4 stars

    1. Hi Sharon! So glad you enjoyed the zucchini! I’m sorry you had issue with the timing. It has worked well for myself (and others) so I wish it would of been a hit for you too!

  18. Absolutely love this recipe. My husband loves it too which amazed me because he is not a veggie person at all.5 stars