Turn bland zucchini into a crave-worthy meal with this easy vegan recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Boats. This is the BEST plant-based filling EVER, with delicious meaty texture and tons of umami taste. Stuffed zucchini is topped with marinara sauce and baked to perfection.
Finally, a delicious plant-based meal that everyone can rally around and praise. This tasty vegan main course is so satisfying, even meat eaters will be wowed. Hubby actually said, “this tastes like meat” and it’s really good! Two thumbs up and a 10!! High praise indeed.
If you’re tired of making different meals for your family, you’ve gotta try this easy recipe. Meat eaters will love it, it’s perfect for the vegetarians and the vegan’s too. If anyone is Paleo or doing Whole30 or has gone gluten-free…you’re covered, this one is compliant for all of the above!!
Vegan stuffed zucchini boats are made with simple, whole foods, the hands on time is about 15 minutes and then it goes into the oven to let the magic happen.
Bam….done. Dinner on the table. You can even make it ahead and bake when you’re ready. What? Yes! It’s nutritious, delicious and MEAL PREP FRIENDLY.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Zucchini: These are low in calories, high in vitamin A and antioxidants. Zucchini is easy to digest and make the perfect vessel to stuff. Look for zucchini that is firm and without nicks. Zucchini that is similar in size will cook more evenly. You could also use yellow summer squash—look for yellow squash that resembles the shape of zucchini, rather than pear shaped, it will have less seeds.
- Mushrooms: The plant-based kitchen super star, providing that meaty, umami texture and taste. Mushrooms are also high in B vitamins and are anti-inflammatory. If you don’t do mushrooms, cooked lentils can be subbed.
- Onions: Use any color, but know that the yellow onions have a bit more nutrition in them. If cutting onions causes your eyes to tear, try keeping a lit candle near your cutting board while you’re chopping them. It works great for me. You can substitute shallots, scallions or leeks to still get the flavor, and many of these allium vegetables contain similar anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Bell Pepper: Use whatever color you have. I prefer red or yellow, they taste sweeter to me. Green peppers are favored by a lot of people in Italian dishes, but I find them a bit bitter. Bell peppers contribute a significant amount of vitamin C to this recipe.
- Walnuts: Hello plant-based Omega 3s. Walnuts also provide some of that perfect meaty texture that makes this vegan recipe so satisfying. You could substitute any nut in this recipe or use sunflower or pumpkin seeds. You’ll want to finely chop, but not turn these into a powder.
- Spices: A combination of italian seasonings plus onion and garlic powder add to the authentic flavor. YUM.
- Tamari: A little goes a long way! I use wheat free tamari to get the perfect umami experience in the final dish. You could also use coconut aminos for a soy free recipe.
- Nutritional Yeast: This adds more than just B12 to the recipe. It gives just a hint of a cheese flavor, that’s not overpowering. Just skip the “nooch” if you don’t have any.
- Marinara Sauce: Use your favorite. Read labels to be sure your marinara doesn’t have any ingredients you’re not interested in. Look for glass jars and no added sugar. Organic tomatoes is a plus too. When I have time, I make homemade roasted sauce.
How to make THE BEST Vegan Stuffed Zucchini
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides. A grapefruit spoon makes this easier to do. Set the pulp aside, as this will be roughly chopped and added to the filling.
Place the empty zucchini boats on top of a thin layer of marinara sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Place in a preheated 375 oven to par-bake while you make the filling.
Prep all ingredients to have on hand. You can chop the walnuts by hand, or use a spice grinder to finish the task more quickly. Either way, you’ll want to create small pieces, but not so fine that it turns into powder.
Make the meaty vegan filling in a few easy steps.
- Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and swirl in 1 Tablespoon olive oil or 2 Tablespoons water. Then add in the onions and mushrooms to saute.
- Add in Italian spices, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and white pepper. Stir and cook as vegetables begin to release their juices.
- Stir in small diced bell peppers and roughly chopped zucchini pulp.
- Cook, stirring occasionally as vegetables become tender.
- Finely chopped walnuts and tamari are added at the end and stirred in well.
- Cook, stirring for another 2 minutes. Your mixture will resemble cooked ground beef in color and texture.
After 10 minutes, take zucchini boats out of oven. Fill with meaty vegan filling. Spoon on more marinara sauce. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and fresh herbs. Bake for 30 minutes. It really is that easy!
Why you’ll love these Vegan Zucchini Boats
- Insanely delish. Flavorful and texture perfect.
- Easy to make with whole, real food.
- EVERYONE can enjoy….they’re vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, whole30 and paleo compliant too.
- Super nutritious….a meal you can feel good about eating…oh, and you’ll still feel good AFTER you’ve eaten these.
- MEAL PREP FRIENDLY: make part or all of this in advance….do it when YOUR schedule allows.
- Too much zucchini? THIS is the tastiest way to use it.
- Light…and also satisfying. YES….this is a hard working main dish recipe.
Debra’s Pro Tips:
- Load ’em up!! Use all of the filling you have, distributed evenly in your boats.
- There’s no shame in buying sauce from a jar. Read the label to find one with high quality ingredients. I use Raos (not sponsored) sauce when I don’t have time to make my own.
- MEAL PREP: make when you have time, reheat when you don’t!
- If you have any fresh herbs, sprinkle on top for a pop of color and flavor. I have a pot of oregano growing on the windowsill in my kitchen….easy to maintain and you’ll use it often!
- Leftovers make an amazingly easy and tasty breakfast. Been there, done that…OFTEN!
- Share, share, share….these are PERFECT to send to a friend who has had a baby, is grieving or just needs a caring, nurturing gesture. They’re nutritious and so easy to reheat.
Serve with a simple salad for a delicious dinner
Oh….you still have more zucchini? Try one of these:
What’s for dinner tonight? Meaty, vegan filled zucchini boats, topped with marinara sauce and baked to perfection.
- 4 medium sized zucchini
- 1 small onion, small dice
- 6-oz. baby bella or crimini mushrooms, small dice
- 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 red bell pepper, small dice
- 3/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped*
- 1 Tablespoon low sodium tamari
- 3/4 cup marinara sauce, divided
- 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
- Preheat oven to 375
- Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides*, leaving no more than 1/4" at the edges to be the "boats" you will stuff. Set aside the zucchini insides to roughly chop and include in the stuffing. You will have about 3/4 cup zucchini pulp.
- Spread 1/4 cup marinara sauce onto the bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish. Place empty zucchini boats onto sauce and place in the oven to prebake for 10 minutes so begin the softening process.
- Prep ingredients: small dice onion, mushrooms and red pepper. I used my spice grinder to chop the walnuts, but you could also use a knife. You want something that's a bit larger than already ground walnuts (walnut meal), but smaller than pea sized pieces. They don't have to be perfectly uniform in size, but pieces that are too large will be crunchy in the final product.
- Heat a heavy skillet (I like to use cast iron) over medium heat. Swirl in olive oil (for oil-free, use 2 Tablespoons water) and then saute onions and mushrooms for a couple minutes. Sprinkle on salt, pepper, italian seasoning, garlic powder and onion powder and continue to cook for about 3 minutes, as onions and mushrooms release their juices.
- Add chopped zucchini pulp and red peppers and cook mixture, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. If pan becomes too dry, add 1 Tablespoon water, and continue cooking.
- Stir in walnuts and tamari and cook for another 2 minutes. Everything should be soft.
- Remove zucchini boats from oven. Evenly distribute filling into zucchini cavities. Pile it on. Use up all the filling you have. Spoon 1 Tablespoon marinara sauce on top of each stuffed zucchini boat. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and top with fresh herbs* if desired. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and zucchini boats are tender.
- Serve warm. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheated in a 350 oven for 15 minutes, or until heated through.
ZUCCHINI: I use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the insides....SO EASY!
WALNUTS: I used my spice grinder, but you could also do this by hand. Be sure to finely chop, so there aren't any large pieces.
MEAL PREP: Stuffing can be made in advance and stored in the fridge in a covered container before filling zucchini and baking. Par-bake empty zucchini boats and store separately. Fill and bake the zucchini boats within 2-3 days. Stuffed and fully cooked zucchini boats will last in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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Pyrex Basics 3 Quart Glass Oblong Baking Dish with Red Plastic Lid -13.2 INCH x 8.9inch x 2 inch
Hiware 4-piece Grapefruit Spoons, Stainless Steel
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone
SHARDOR Coffee Grinder Electric, Spice Grinder Electric, Grinder for Spices and Seeds with 2 Removable Stainless Steel Bowls, Black
Serving Size2 boats
Amount Per Serving Calories 228Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 12gCholesterol 1mgSodium 716mgCarbohydrates 19gFiber 6gSugar 10gProtein 9g
The nutrition calculations were done using online tools. To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in any given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients you used. You are ultimately responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information is accurate, complete and useful.