Friday, July 25, 2014

Sloppy Joe Zucchini Boats (Or Yellow Squash)

It's Zucchini Season here, and from the looks of my Pinterest feed, I'm not alone. Everywhere I look, friends are sharing and pinning creative recipes to use up all those green things that are filling my fridge.

I'm using all my creative resources to put it to use before it spoils. And I've been busy. I grated and froze zucchini for bread and muffins. I sliced and blanched yellow squash to freeze. We've grilled and sauteed squash for a dinner side dish. I tried my hand at freezing a zucchini lasagna. This weekend, I'll make a Zucchini Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Icing. And the other night for dinner, we had these Sloppy Joe Zucchini Boats.

I have tried several recipes for zucchini boats and they were prepared in two basic ways:
  • Hollow out the raw zucchini, fill, and bake. The zucchini seemed tough and wasn't quite cooked enough using this method
  • Boil the zucchini, remove the (HOT) zucchini pulp, fill, and bake. Can I tell you how much of a pain it is to scoop out the just-boiled zucchini without burning yourself? Not fun!
So I came up with a happy medium. I hollowed out the raw zucchini and then boiled it. The only thing you have to worry about with this method is breaking the sides when you remove them from the water. I've found if you leave a generous margin (about a half-inch), this isn't really an issue.

Then it came time to fill it. There are so many good options out there - Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean... I decided to go with Sloppy Joe. Who doesn't love a "big, gooey, messy burger"?
(Bonus points if you can tell me where that quote is from. Triple bonus points if you don't judge me for remembering it.)

Anywho, without further ado, here is a super-yummy way to use up your zucchini and summer squash!

Sloppy Joe Zucchini Boats


  • 4 Medium Zucchini and/or Yellow Squash
  • 1 lb ground meat (I used a combination of turkey and venison)
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • optional: 1/3 cup each diced celery and green pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) grated cheddar


  1. Set a stock pot of water to boil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Slice the zucchini and/or squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds, leaving roughly 1/2 inch at the edges. Cut larger zucchini in half if necessary to fit in the stock pot.
  3. Reserve 1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped zucchini pulp to stir into the meat. I used the parts with small seeds or no seeds because I didn't want Kiddo to be deterred from eating the meat because he could see the seeds. (Baby Steps. Literally.)
  4. Once the water is boiling, gently place the zucchini in the water and let boil for 8-10 minutes.
  5. While the zucchini is boiling, brown the meat with the diced onion, zucchini pulp, and optional celery and pepper. Once the meat is fully browned, stir in the the water, ketchup, Worcestershire, and hot sauce. Allow to simmer for about 8 minutes. 
  6. While the meat is simmering, remove the squash from the boiling water carefully using tongs and arrange them in a 13x9 casserole dish.
  7. When the meat is finished simmering, fill each zucchini with the meat mixture and top with cheese. Pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

To Prepare Ahead:

This recipe is a bit labor-intensive, at least for moms of small children like me. Dinner time can be the witching hour (which is why it's often screen time or play-with-daddy time at our house). I prefer, when possible, to make things in advance so I can just pop them in the oven at dinner time without any major prep or clean-up. Here's how to do it:
  1. Follow steps 1-5, minus heating the oven. 
  2. You can optionally stop the zucchini from cooking by plunging it in ice water for a few minutes before placing them in the casserole dish (which is what did this time since I was also blanching some sliced yellow squash for the freezer) or you can follow step #6 to the letter.
  3. Fill the boats and let them sit to cool for about 20 minutes before covering and refrigerating until ready to use. (This is within the USDA food safety guidelines, but you could certainly put the casserole in the fridge right away).
  4. About 30 minutes before you're ready to eat, place your uncovered casserole dish in a cold oven and heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. After 15-20 minutes, carefully remove the casserole dish from the oven and top the zucchini boats with cheese. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted.

The Verdict:

These Zucchini Boats were delicious and surprisingly filling. We all enjoyed this meal.
Let me rephrase that statement so you can see how exciting it is: Kiddo really liked this! He's not the pickiest kid on the planet, but he's always shied away from zucchini and squash. (Unless, of course it was in bread or muffin form.) But on Sunday, he ate the small pieces of grilled yellow squash we gave him to try after he asked for some (who is this child?).
So it wasn't a hard sell to put some "cheesy meat" on one part of his plate and some cut-up squash next to it. Granted, he mostly filled up on the oven fries I made to go with the meal, but he ate the entire portion he was served! I consider that a victory in patience and perseverance. Raising a good eater isn't always easy!

So, are you inundated with Zucchini like I am? What do you make with it? I'm all ears for new ideas!


  1. Yum! I need to make these! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by, B!
      I just checked out your blog and your sunroom looks fabulous! What a transformation!

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