Anyone who enjoys food and cooking knows that summer offers the finest ingredients. Maybe I’m just biased towards summer in general, (sun and water baby for life), but I love how all the colorful fruits, veggies, and herbs come together to make any dish packed with fresh, unique flavors throughout these warmer months. With Fall right around the corner, I encourage you to take advantage of all the summer ingredients you can get your hands on, starting with these ‘green’ no-guilt enchilada stuffed zucchini boats. As a born-and-raised Texan, I could eat Mexican food for every meal, every day, for the rest of my life if it didn’t mean my blood would literally turn into chile con queso—amongst other side effects of the Tex-Mex greasy goodness that tease me daily from just about every corner in Austin.
With these stuffed enchilada boats, I can satisfy my cravings without the post-meal carb crash, use all my favorite seasonal ingredients, and have leftovers for days. The filling can easily be altered to fit your individual taste preferences or dietary restrictions, too. Read on to say hello to your favorite new weeknight recipe—and tomorrow’s tasty lunch, if your willpower is strong enough to not eat every last bite.
photos by Ashleigh Amoroso
Summer is the perfect time to savor just-harvested zucchini (did I mention I loveee summer?) Peak season for these nutrient-packed green beauties is June through late August, but you may see zucchini in markets in some regions year-round. “Due to its high water percentage, zucchini is low in calories, carbs and sugars, but high in essential nutrients like potassium, manganese, and antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin A”, according to Dr. Axe.
To make your meals more filling with little extra calories and carbs, zucchinis are the way to go. They pair great with other colorful ingredients such as corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and fresh herbs.
I love to use them in a variety of different recipes: a healthy raw snack, dip, side dish, or even vegetarian entrée. Because of it’s high water content, it doesn’t require much cooking; raw, it adds nice texture to a salad or crudités plate.
Since I try my best to eat clean and healthy throughout the week, lean ground turkey is my go-to substitute for recipes that call for ground beef. Just remember that it cooks relatively quickly, so always sauté your vegetables or other ingredients that take a bit longer before adding the ground turkey.
Some people say that by picking turkey, you lose the taste and it sometimes becomes flavorless. I find that to be false, especially when using it in sauces, soups, tacos, or casseroles. Of course, seasoning is always necessary for ground meats, but if you’re like me and cautious about sodium intake, there are great low-sodium seasonings to choose from, such as cumin and chili powder.
If you’d rather not have a crisp, roasted zucchini as the base for the boat, skip placing them in the oven (or cut the cooking time in half) while you sauté the veggies and meat. The zucchinis will still need to be heated for a few minutes after they’re stuffed, but the finished dish will result in boats that are more on the raw side.
I like to sauté the vegetables and spices first, while the zucchinis are baking in the oven. After 1-2 minutes, add the ground turkey and sauce to the veggie/spice combo on the stove, and remove the zucchinis. Once the veggies, ground meat, sauce, spices, and herbs are cooked to perfection, it’s time for the fun part: stuffing the boats.
I love to use cotija cheese on any Mexican-inspired dish. I find it blends so well with the flavors and spices typically used in these recipes, and just marries everything together really nicely—not to mention the chunky texture of cotija cheese makes for a beautiful presentation of the completed dish overall. For a healthier alternative, try using low-fat mozzarella or low-fat feta. If your kosher, vegan, or lactose, have no fear—they’re still just as delicious with no cheese at all. Cilantro and lime add the perfect finishing touches—per usual!
To prepare your plate, I find it’s easiest to separate one zucchini from the middle with a spatula, and spoon it out that way. Be sure to catch any stuffing or sauce that may have fallen out and drizzle it on top, or to the side.
Dig in and enjoy your no-guilt green enchiladas!
- 3 and 1/4 pounds (6-8 total) medium sized zucchinis
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. lean ground turkey
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 2 cans (10 ounces) red enchilada sauce
- 1 cup diced tomatoes (optional to add green chilis to the tomatoes for extra spice)
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika (optional for added spice)
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- Green onions, chopped
- 1 cup of cotija cheese (or another cheese of preference)
- Fresh lime wedges, and sour cream (or non-fat plain greek yogurt for topping)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Remove the top and bottoms of the zucchinis and slice in half. Using a sharp spoon, scoop out the centers of the zucchinis into a bowl, leaving about a half to a quarter of an inch rim and bottom. (Save the zucchini insides for stuffing.)
- Drizzle olive oil over the zucchinis. Add salt and pepper. Rub all over. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until the zucchinis are crisp and tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the zucchinis cook, sauté the garlic and onion in a skillet for 1 minute. Add the ground turkey and cook until tender and meat is browned through.
- Add 1.5 cans of enchilada sauce to the ground turkey mixture along with the tomatoes, corn, black beans, cumin, paprika (optional), finely chopped cilantro, and a few teaspoons of lime juice. (Save the rest of the enchilada sauce for drizzling around the zucchinis once they're stuffed.)
- Mix well and then add in the scooped out section of the zucchini (this is optional to not waste food and have a stronger zucchini flavor, but feel free to also leave them out. If you add them, give them a quick coarse chop before).
- Mix together and generously pack in the skillet mixture into the cooked zucchinis.
- Pour the reserved enchilada sauce around the zucchinis to give them more flavor.
- Bake for another 5 minutes, remove, and top with the cheese. Bake for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
- Top with optional toppings and garnishes of choice: additional cilantro, green onion, lime juice, sour cream or non-fat greek yogurt, guac or chopped avocados, and diced roma tomatoes.
- Enjoy immediately. (Save any leftovers for a burrito or taco salad tomorrow!)