I find myself with an abundance of tomatoes and zucchini each summer. There are only so many salads and sautéed zucchini I can eat before I start dreaming up new ways to enjoy them. These grilled zucchini boats are one of my favorite ways.
Zucchini halves are seeded then hollowed and filled with a caprese stuffing: a mixture of marinated tomatoes, fresh basil, cubed fresh mozzarella cheese, garlic, and Italian seasoning. The filled zucchinis are grilled until warmed through and the cheese is melted.
This recipe works wonderfully as a summer side dish paired with a protein or a grain salad. Leftovers reheat easily in the microwave and can be enjoyed on their own as a light, meatless lunch the next day.
It’s easy to scale this recipe if you’re entertaining dinner guests—just plan for additional zucchini and double or triple the ingredient amounts for the caprese filling as needed.
Tips for Making Zucchini Boats
I use medium-sized zucchini that are 8 to 10 inches long and 2 to 3 inches wide. Very thin zucchini won’t offer enough space to create a “boat” for the filling and anything bigger would be too large of a portion and require a longer cook time.
To hollow out the zucchini, use a metal spoon to carve around the seedy interior and scrape the seeds out. Save the scooped scraps for soups, vegetable sautés, or freeze them for smoothies.
I use a small paring knife to check the grilled zucchini for doneness. When I can easily pierce its skin with the tip of the knife, it’s done. Don’t overcook the zucchini—it will become too soft and will no longer hold its shape.
Swaps and Substitutions
This recipe is flexible, which is what makes it a favorite in my book. As long as you have the basic ingredients of zucchini, tomato, cheese, and basil this will be delicious. You can swap the tomatoes, adjust the cheese, and mix up your spices a bit. Here are a few tips to make this recipe work for you:
- Any firm tomato will work—small plum tomatoes like Romas or San Marzanos are my top picks since they are less watery and have fewer seeds than other varieties.
- Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. Neutral oils, like avocado oil or “light” olive oil won’t add much, if any, flavor.
- Fresh mozzarella is more flavorful, but pre-shredded mozzarella cheese can be used instead. It will save you some prep time since it doesn’t have to be diced and it will melt faster on the grill.
- If you don’t have Italian seasoning in your spice cupboard, use any combination of basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. You can even add a touch of sage or coriander for good measure.
Make It a Meal
These grilled zucchini boats make an excellent side dish for grilled steak, barbeque chicken, or your favorite kebabs.
If you don’t eat meat or are looking for a plant-based main dish, add 1 cup of a cooked grain, like white or brown rice, couscous, quinoa, farro, or barley, to the filling.
You’ll have some leftovers that can be served as a side or if you have more zucchini, make more boats! Alternatively, serve the zucchini boats over a scoop of cooked grains. You can also serve the stuffed zucchini boats cut up over freshly cooked pasta for an instant veggie and fresh tomato “sauce”.
Make the Zucchini Boats Ahead
The zucchini boats are best just off the grill, while the cheese is melted.
Store leftovers tightly covered in the refrigerator. The cheese and olive oil will solidify and will need to be reheated. Reheat them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes until warm.
More Zucchini Recipes to Enjoy This Summer
- Taco-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Zucchini Fritters
- Asian Zucchini Noodle Salad
- Easy Zucchini Bread
- Zucchini Lasagna Roll-Ups
Grilled Caprese-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2/3 cup (3 ounces) fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 5 to 6 large fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons, plus 2 to 3 leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 (8 to 10-inch) zucchinis
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Preheat the grill:
If using a gas grill heat it to 350°F. If using a charcoal grill you want it hot enough so you can hold your hand a couple of inches above the grate for 4 to 5 seconds.
Make the caprese stuffing:
In a medium bowl, add the tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella, parmesan, Italian seasoning, basil, 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to combine and set aside to marinate while preparing the zucchini.
Prepare the zucchini for the grill:
Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Do not trim the ends. Use a metal spoon to scoop out the seeds. Brush the hollowed-out zucchini with the remaining 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season them with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, if desired.
Grill the zucchini:
Place the zucchini halves cut side-down on the grill. Close the lid and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, checking them after 5 minutes, until browned and slightly softened. You do not want the zucchini to become too charred or overcooked.
Use tongs to transfer the zucchini onto a dish skin side-down.
Stuff the zucchini:
Fill each zucchini with the caprese stuffing.
Return the zucchini to the grill:
Using tongs transfer the stuffed zucchini back onto the grill, skin side-down. Close the lid and grill for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mozzarella is melted. Check for doneness after 5 minutes.
Drizzle the zucchini boats with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with additional fresh basil, if desired.