Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Cilantro Lime Shrimp are the best of summer in one bite!

These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are loaded with juicy, fiesta seasoned shrimp, sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers, punchy red onions, spicy jalapenos all tossed with fresh lime juice and zesty cilantro.  They are quick, easy, tangy, bright, refreshing, guilt-free, low-carb, and a healthier dinner the whole family will love!  These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are the ideal use of summer zucchini but can also be made year-round – and you are going to want to make them year-round!   I’ve also included lots of fun zucchini boat recipe variations, so read on!

ZUCCHINI BOAT RECIPE VIDEO

side view of baked zucchini boat recipe in a white 9x13 baking dish

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ZUCCHINI BOATS

This Zucchini Boat recipe is one of my favorite ways to devour zucchini – and everything else.  And if you have a bounty from your garden, you’ll be amazed at how many ways you can stuff zucchini boats!  

The method for making zucchini boats is super simple – just hollow out the zucchini, bake it for 25 minutes, and you have the joy of tender, roasted zucchini in every bite. 

Since the zucchini are already cooked, you can stuff your zucchini boats with practically anything and devour or stuff, cover in a blanket of cheese, pop back in the oven to melt and then devour.  You can stuff zucchini boats with Bolognese and cheese, taco meat and cheese, kung pao chicken/your favorite stir fry, etc.  But before you explore these other zucchini boat recipes, I HIGHLY suggest kicking it off with these Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Cilantro Lime Shrimp!

ZUCCHINI BOAT RECIPE

This Zucchini Boat recipe is fresh, vibrant, happy perfection – and SO simple.  While the zucchini bakes, simply toss the shrimp with fiesta seasonings and cook.  Next, sauté onions, corn, zucchini, jalapenos, bell peppers, tomatoes, and garlic.  Add shrimp back to pan along with lime juice and cilantro and pile the filling into the zucchini boats.  Garnish with Cotija cheese and cilantro and EAT!

You even prep the zucchini boats and filling earlier in the day, refrigerate and just pop in the oven to warm when ready to eat (full make ahead instructions below). 

top up close view of easy stuffed zucchini boats

STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOAT INGREDIENTS

This Stuffed Zucchini Boats recipe looks like it has a lot of ingredients, but most of them are just veggies or seasonings.  It’s actually super quick with minimal hand’s on time. You will need:

  • Zucchini: you will need 3-4 zucchini depending on the size. I actually used 3 ½ zucchini.  Look for zucchini that is short enough to fit into your 9×13 pan.
  • Shrimp:  1-pound medium shrimp that is uncooked, peeled and deveined.  I like to purchase my shrimp at Costco because it comes completely prepared and just ready to thaw and cook – saves tons of time!  
  • Veggies:  corn from one ear sweet corn, 1-2 jalapeños, Roma tomato, orange bell pepper.  This symphony of veggies keeps the zucchini boats light and fresh with just the right amount of crunch.  I though about adding black beans but I didn’t want to distract from the crunchy freshness – I think its perfect in its simplicity, but feel free to customize to suite your tastes.
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats recipe by cooking vegetables in a skillet
  • Seasonings:  we are going with a fiesta flair in this Stuffed Zucchini Boat recipe.  You will need chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  • Aromatics:  one red onion and garlic enliven the zucchini boats.
  • Cilantro:  adds a tangy, zesty flair.  If you don’t love cilantro, you can omit it.
  • Lime juice:  you can use fresh or bottled.  It gives the Stuffed Zucchini Boats a bright fresh, tangy, vibrant finish.

HOW TO MAKE STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOATS

You are going to LOVE how easy this Zucchini Boat recipe is!  To make:

Step 1:  Cut Zucchini

  • Trim the ends of the zucchini.
  • Slice zucchini in half horizontally. 
  • Score zucchini ¼ inches from the edges with a knife then scoop out flesh using a teaspoon or melon baller, leaving ¼” shell all the way around to create a “boat.” 
  • Reserve ½ cup chopped flesh to use later and save the rest for another use.
showing how to make zucchini boats by scooping out inside of zucchini with a measuring spoon

Step 2:  Roast Zucchini

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place zucchini boats in baking dish and coat well with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with freshly cracked salt and pepper. 
  • Cover with foil and bake zucchini for 25 minutes.
showing how to make zucchini boats by lining zucchini boats in a 9x13 baking dish
showing how to make zucchini boats by roasting in the oven until tender

Step 3:  Cook Shrimp

  • Add shrimp to a bowl along with seasonings. Let rest while you prep your veggies.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add shrimp in a single layer and let cook 2-3 minutes per side, just until opaque and cooked through.
  • Remove to a plate and chop off tails once cool enough to handle.
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats by tossing shrimp filling with spices
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats by cooking shrimp

Step 4:  Sauté Veggies & Combine

  • To the now empty pan (don’t clean), heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. 
  • Add onions, corn, zucchini and jalapenos and cook for 2 minutes.  Add bell peppers, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook and additional 2 minutes or until veggies reach desired crisp tenderness.  Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats by sauteing corn, bell peppers, onion, jalapeno together for the zucchini boat filling

Step 5:  Combine

  • Add shrimp back to pan along with lime juice and cilantro.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats by stirring shrimp, cilantro and vegetables together to make filling
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boat recipe by adding cilantro and lime juice to filling

Step 4:  Combine & Serve

  • Divide shrimp mixture between zucchini boats and garnish with Cotija cheese and additional cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Zucchini Boat Recipe Tips

  • Score zucchini.  I like to score the zucchini first before I scoop out the flesh.  This creates a nice barrier of protective flesh and a nice path for the scooper.
  • Don’t scoop too much. Leave a nice boarder around the zucchini otherwise the boat will become too flimsy and won’t be able to hold the filling.
  • Be gentle.  A small measuring spoon or melon baller works great to scoop out the inside of the zucchini.  The first couple scoops will take a little finessing so be careful not to press too hard or you can actually break the zucchini.  After you’ve “cracked” into the flesh, you’ll be able to scoop right along your score lines.
  • Even zucchini.  If your zucchini halves don’t lie flat, you can slice a thin portion from the bottom so they lie flat.  The zucchini boats don’t need to be perfect, just flat enough so they will comfortably hold the filling.
  • Zucchini filling.  After you scoop out the zucchini, you will be left with all sorts of sizes.  Make sure to chop it into uniform pieces before adding to the sautéed veggies.
  • Leftover filling.  Some of the zucchini filling will be used in the stuffed zucchini boats but you won’t use all of it. The leftover zucchini can be sautéed with some butter/olive oil and Parmesan or added to pastas, stir fries, soups etc.  It is also delicious fresh in salads, pasta salads, wraps and sandwiches.
  • How to defrost shrimp: The easiest way to defrost shrimp is in the refrigerator overnight BUT if you forget, or need to make this Zucchini Boat recipe NOW, then place the frozen shrimp in a colander then place the colander in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold tap water and let it sit for 10 minutes.   After 10 minutes, replace the water with new cold tap water and submerge the shrimp again.  Let shrimp sit an additional 10- 20 minutes.  If the shrimp isn’t completely defrosted, then repeat.
  • Pat shrimp dry.  Dry shrimp with paper towels so the seasonings will stick better and the shrimp will sear.
  • Cook shrimp with tails on.  I recommend cooking your shrimp with the tails on because the tail shells contain flavor that seeps out and we get more robust shrimp flavor. Once your shrimp is cooked and resting, then remove the tails.  
  • Cook until tender.  The zucchini boat cooking time will depend on the size and thickens of the zucchini. You want to easily be able to pierce it with a fork but you don’t want it overcooked and too soft. 
  • Season to taste.  I like to season the filling with a little extra salt and pepper.  You may also want additional lime juice or cayenne pepper – the end flavor is up to you!
  • Multi-task.  You can have these Stuffed Zucchini Boats on your table in just over 30 minutes IF you multitask.  Prepare the zucchini and pop it in the oven – while it’s in the oven, chop the veggies, cook the shrimp and sauté the veggies – which can all be easily accomplished while the zucchini is roasting. When the zucchini comes out of the oven – just stuff and eat!
showing how to make stuffed zucchini boats recipe by filling baked zucchini with filling

What to Serve with Stuffed Zucchini Boats?

These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are loaded with deliciousness and can be a meal on their own with just some rice and fruit.  They are also delicious with:

STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOAT RECIPE VARIATIONS

There are so many ways to mix up Stuffed Zucchini Boats!  You can make Mexican Zucchini Boats, Italian Zucchini Boats, Asian Zucchini Boats as well as use all sorts of proteins.  Here are a few recipe ideas:   

  • Zucchini Pizza Boats:  fill zucchini boats with pizza sauce/seasoned marinara and top with mozzarella, Parmesan and pepperoni (and your favorite toppings: cooked sausage, bell peppers, olives, etc.) and bake until tender.
  • Sausage Zucchini Boats: fill zucchini boats with sausage Bolognese and top with mozzarella and bake.  Garnish with fresh basil. 
  • Zucchini Taco Boats:  fill with saucy seasoned taco meat and top with cheese and bake. Garnish with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream or avocado crema.
  • Turkey Zucchini Boats:  use my turkey taco filling, top with cheese and bake.  Garnish with lettuce, tomatoes/pico de gallo, avocado, sour cream.
  • Zucchini Enchilada Boats: combine shredded rotisserie chicken and enchilada sauce and stuff in zucchini boats.  Top with cheese and bake.  Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, hot sauce, etc.
  • Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats:  stuff with buffalo chicken mixed with cream cheese, blue cheese dressing and hot sauce (like my filling in my Buffalo Chicken Pull Apart Bread).  Top with cheese and bake.
  • Zucchini Lasagna Boats:  layer with ricotta followed by Bolognese, and top with Mozzarella, & Parmesan. 
  • Chicken Parmesan Zucchini Boats:  mix chicken with seasoned marinara and Parmesan cheese. Top with mozzarella, additional Parmesan cheese and bake.
  • Zucchini Burrito Boats:  use my beef, bean, burrito, cheese filling, top with more cheese and bake. Top with sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, salsa and cilantro.
  • Chicken Zucchini Boats:  toss chicken in pesto, cream cheese and chopped broccoli.  Top with mozzarella cheese and bake.
  • Mexican Zucchini Boats:  mix taco meat with some tomato sauce, green chiles, black beans, and corn. Top with sharp cheddar and bake.  Garnish with corn salsa and/or sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, olives and cilantro.
  • Asian Zucchini Boats: Bake zucchini boats then fill with any of my Asian recipes such as Kung Pao Shrimp, filling from Lettuce Wraps or Egg Rolls, Cashew chicken, Korean Ground Beef, etc.
  • Vegetarian Zucchini Boats: sauté onion with desired veggies such as broccoli, bell peppers, carrots, spinach and mix with 2 cups cooked grains such as brown rice or quinoa.  Top with cheese and bake. 
baked zucchini boats lined n a row in a 9x13 baking dish

Do you eat the skin on zucchini boats?

Yes, please do!  The skin of zucchini is not tough or bitter like slicing cucumbers and softens to the point it is barely noticeable once baked.

Zucchini is highly nutritious but it is 95 percent water by weight.  Most of the water is found in the zucchini flesh which means the skin is where most of the nutrients are found. The skin is a rich source of antioxidant carotenoids, including lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.

How many servings are Stuffed Zucchini Boats?

You will be able to fit between three and four sliced zucchinis in your baking dish.  If you use three zucchinis, it will make 6 zucchini boats; if you use four zucchinis, it will make 8 zucchini boats.  Most individuals can eat two zucchini boat halves, so it serves around 4 people. 

HOW TO REHEAT ZUCCHINI BOATS?

Zucchini Boats reheat nicely but take care not to over-heat or else the shrimp can become rubbery.  You also might want to garnish with additional lime juice as it will mellow upon refrigeration.

  • Microwave:  place stuffed zucchini boat(s) on a microwave safe plate and heat for about 1 minute, then at 15 second intervals, if needed, until warmed through.  
  • Oven:  place stuffed zucchini on a baking sheet, cover with foil and baked at 300 degrees F for approximately 10 minutes. 

CAN YOU MAKE ZUCCHINI BOATS AHEAD OF TIME?

Zucchini Boats are pretty quick to make, but if you want to prep some of it advance, you have a few options:

  • Zucchini:  you can prep the zucchini by creating the zucchini boats and either storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator or continuing to bake for 20 minutes (not the full 25).  When ready to serve, continue to bake until tender, that way they are nice and warm.
  • Shrimp:  prep shrimp by either cleaning it or defrosting it, patting dry and tossing it with the spices, and refrigerating. You may also cook it in advance, but freshly cooked shrimp is always best.   
  • Veggies:  You can chop the veggies beforehand and then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You can also saute them, but this only takes a couple minutes, so I recommend completing this step fresh.
  • Everything:  If you need to prep the Stuffed Zucchini Boats in their entirety, then just take care to store the filling and the zucchini separate containers in the refrigerator.  Assemble when ready to serve and bake until warmed through.
up close of stuffed zucchini boats

CAN YOU FREEZE STUFFED ZUCCHINI BOATS?

I do not recommend freezing zucchini boats.  Zucchini releases a lot of water so it becomes mushy when frozen and thawed.  When freezing zucchini, it is best to freeze shredded zucchini, or blanched sliced zucchini. 

IS ZUCCHINI HEALTHY?

Zucchini is low in carbohydrates and low in calories (20 calories per cup), but high in fiber and filling.  One cup of raw chopped zucchini with skin contains 37 percent of the daily value for vitamin C, 10 percent of vitamin B-6 and potassium.  It also contains vitamin K and riboflavin. Zucchini can help lower blood pressure, help protects against inflammation, aids in digestion, is beneficial for eye function, can help prevent cardiovascular disease, and can improve thyroid function.

a plate showing how to serve stuffed zucchini boats

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Stuffed Zucchini Boats

Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Cilantro Lime Shrimp are the best of summer in one bite! These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are loaded with juicy, fiesta seasoned shrimp, sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers, punchy red onions, spicy jalapenos all tossed with fresh lime juice and zesty cilantro. They are quick, easy, tangy, bright, refreshing, guilt-free, low-carb, and a healthier dinner the whole family will love! These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are the ideal use of summer zucchini but can also be made year-round – and you are going to want to make them year-round! I’ve also included lots of fun zucchini boat recipe variations, so read on! v
Servings: 4 -6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

For the Zucchini

  • 3-4 medium zucchini ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • Freshly cracked salt and pepper

For the Shrimp

  • 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp EACH paprika, dried oregano, garlic powder
  • salt and pepper

For the Veggies

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini from removed flesh in instructions
  • corn from one ear sweet corn
  • 1-2 jalapenos seeded, deveined, minced
  • 1 Roma tomato seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
  • 2-3 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice or to taste or to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons minced cilantro
  • Cotija cheese optional for garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice in half horizontally. Score zucchini ¼ inches from the edges with a knife then scoop out flesh using a teaspoon or melon baller, leaving 1/4” shell all the way around to create a “boat.” Reserve ½ cup chopped flesh to use later and save the rest for another use.
  • Place zucchini boats in baking dish and coat well with the olive oil. Sprinkle with freshly cracked salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake zucchini for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, add all of the Shrimp Ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine. Let sit while you chop your veggies.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in a single layer and cook 2-3 minutes per side, just until opaque and cooked through. Remove to a plate and chop off tails once cool enough to handle.
  • To the now empty pan (don’t clean), heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add onions, corn, zucchini and jalapenos and cook for 2 minutes. Add bell peppers, tomatoes, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook an additional 2 minutes or until veggies reach desired crisp tenderness. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds.
  • Add shrimp back to pan along with lime juice and cilantro. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide shrimp mixture between zucchini boats and garnish with Cotija cheese and additional cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.

Video

Notes

Don’t miss the “how to make” recipe video at the top of the post!

Recipe Tips

  • Score zucchini.  I like to score the zucchini first before I scoop out the flesh.  This creates a nice barrier of protective flesh and a nice path for the scooper.
  • Don’t scoop too much. Leave a nice boarder around the zucchini otherwise the boat will become too flimsy and won’t be able to hold the filling.
  • Be gentle.  A small measuring spoon or melon baller works great to scoop out the inside of the zucchini.  The first couple scoops will take a little finessing so be careful not to press too hard or you can actually break the zucchini.  After you’ve “cracked” into the flesh, you’ll be able to scoop right along your score lines.
  • Even zucchini.  If your zucchini halves don’t lie flat, you can slice a thin portion from the bottom so they lie flat.  The zucchini boats don’t need to be perfect, just flat enough so they will comfortably hold the filling.
  • Zucchini filling.  After you scoop out the zucchini, you will be left with all sorts of sizes.  Make sure to chop it into uniform pieces before adding to the sautéed veggies.
  • Leftover filling.  Some of the zucchini filling will be used in the stuffed zucchini boats but you won’t use all of it. The leftover zucchini can be sautéed with some butter/olive oil and Parmesan or added to pastas, stir fries, soups etc.  It is also delicious fresh in salads, pasta salads, wraps and sandwiches.
  • How to defrost shrimp: The easiest way to defrost shrimp is in the refrigerator overnight BUT if you forget, or need to make this Zucchini Boat recipe NOW, then place the frozen shrimp in a colander then place the colander in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold tap water and let it sit for 10 minutes.   After 10 minutes, replace the water with new cold tap water and submerge the shrimp again.  Let shrimp sit an additional 10- 20 minutes.  If the shrimp isn’t completely defrosted, then repeat.
  • Pat shrimp dry.  Dry shrimp with paper towels so the seasonings will stick better and the shrimp will sear.
  • Cook shrimp with tails on.  I recommend cooking your shrimp with the tails on because the tail shells contain flavor that seeps out and we get more robust shrimp flavor. Once your shrimp is cooked and resting, then remove the tails.  
  • Cook until tender.  The zucchini boat cooking time will depend on the size and thickens of the zucchini. You want to easily be able to pierce it with a fork but you don’t want it overcooked and too soft. 
  • Season to taste.  I like to season the filling with a little extra salt and pepper.  You may also want additional lime juice or cayenne pepper – the end flavor is up to you!
  • Multi-task.  You can have these Stuffed Zucchini Boats on your table in just over 30 minutes IF you multitask.  Prepare the zucchini and pop it in the oven – while it’s in the oven, chop the veggies, cook the shrimp and sauté the veggies – which can all be easily accomplished while the zucchini is roasting. When the zucchini comes out of the oven – just stuff and eat!

MAKE AHEAD 

Zucchini Boats are pretty quick to make, but if you want to prep some of it advance, you have a few options:
  • Zucchini:  you can prep the zucchini by creating the zucchini boats and either storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator or continuing to bake for 20 minutes (not the full 25).  When ready to serve, continue to bake until tender, that way they are nice and warm.
  • Shrimp:  prep shrimp by either cleaning it or defrosting it, patting dry and tossing it with the spices, and refrigerating. You may also cook it in advance, but freshly cooked shrimp is always best.   
  • Veggies:  You can chop the veggies beforehand and then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You can also saute them, but this only takes a couple minutes, so I recommend completing this step fresh.
  • Everything:  If you need to prep the Stuffed Zucchini Boats in their entirety, then just take care to store the filling and the zucchini separate containers in the refrigerator.  Assemble when ready to serve and bake until warmed through.

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7 Comments

  1. Diana Hobbs says

    These look really good except that I don’t like shrimp. Do you think these would work well with a different meat? And if so, which meat would you substitute?

    • Jen says

      Absolutely! You can use chopped chicken, ground turkey or ground beef.

      • Diana Hobbs says

        Thanks, I’ll try that!

  2. kimberly says

    This was really really good. I used 2 tomatoes instead of 1 since I skipped the bell peppers as I don’t like them. Otherwise I was pretty faithful to the recipe and it was absolutely delicious.

    • Jen says

      Thank you Kimberly, I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  3. Wendy says

    Loved the boats, but not in love with how the zucchini boats turned out mushy after baking them. What’s the secret to NOT having mushy zucchini??

    • Jen says

      hmmm, not sure why they were mushy – definitely shouldn’t have been. Make sure the zucchini is very fresh and try baking them less time.