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Enchilada Zucchini

Updated: 8/14/21 2:02 amPublished: 6/14/19
By Catherine Newman

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 6 servings

Total carbohydrates: 12 grams per serving

Hands-on time: 30 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

This is a very vegetable-forward recipe, in that the zucchini are not even remotely disguised as something else. But they are luscious: rich with a saucy, spicy meat filling and cloaked in oozy cheese. And I, for one, love the festive little canoes of zucchini. But if the frankness of the presentation is going to be too much for your family or friends, you can layer this like a lasagna, slicing the zucchini into very thin lengthwise strips, roasting them while you make the filling, and then layering zucchini, sauce, and cheese in a greased casserole dish. Likewise, you can mix up the flavoring, veering it more towards Italy by substituting your favorite hearty meat sauce and mozzarella.


4 medium zucchini (about 7 or 8 inches long)

Olive oil or olive oil spray

Kosher salt

Garlic powder (optional)

1 pound ground beef

1 onion, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can enchilada sauce with no sugar added (the brand Hatch makes a good one)

1 ½ cups shredded cheese: cheddar, Jack, mozzarella, or a blend

Cilantro leaves for garnish

Sour cream for serving


1. Heat the oven to 375 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or oil it.

2. Prepare the zucchini: Cut them in half lengthwise, leaving the ends on so they’ll maintain their integrity in the oven. Use a melon baller or a nice sharp teaspoon to scoop out the seeds and insides, leaving about a ¼-inch shell (save the insides and chop them up to use in the filling). Spray or brush the inside of the zucchini with olive oil, then sprinkle them with salt and, if you like, garlic powder.

3. Put the zucchini cut-side down on the baking sheet and pop it in the oven while you prepare the filling. You want the squash to be tender but not falling apart; check them at 20 minutes by poking the tip of a sharp knife near the stem. Take them out of the oven when they’re ready and flip them over.

4. Meanwhile heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat (don't use a nonstick pan for this) and, when it’s hot enough that a drop of water sizzles and evaporates, crumble in the ground beef. Cook and stir the meat, breaking up clumps with a spatula, until it is just browning, around 2 minutes.

5. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and sauté until the onion is just about see-through, another 5 to 10 minutes (the fat from the meat will fry the onions nicely, so please don’t drain it).

6. Add the chopped zucchini innards stir until everything is nice and cooked, around another 5 minutes. Finally, add the enchilada sauce and stir and simmer another 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has cooked off. Now taste the filling: you want it to be a little too salty so that it can season the zucchini (this is like using deviled egg filling to season bland egg whites). Add more salt if it needs it.

7. Use a spoon to scoop the filling into the zucchini shells, and mound it up attractively but stop before it’s falling out all over the place (you will likely have some filling left over, which you can eat with a spoon or serve with the zucchini). Sprinkle on the cheese and pop the zucchini back in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the cheese is bubbling. Top with cilantro leaves and serve with a dollop of sour scream.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »