These low-carb ground beef zucchini boats are surprisingly filling and are as good as a bacon cheeseburger! They’re loaded with cheese and all the flavors of your favorite burger, and will easily calm your craving for one – without the bun!
Talk about your ideal dog days of summer recipes.
First of all, can we address the fact that August is already almost half over? School is back in session, and to my delight (and likely your chagrin) – all the pumpkin things are showing up in stores.
In spite of all that, I’m still enjoying all the summer stuff we should be enjoying. From the safety and comfort of our air conditioned house, because it’s still 635 degrees outside.
Funny story about cheeseburgers: The Hubs is a burger FREAK. He loves beef of all sorts, but burgers are by far his favorite meal – and he can make a pretty mean one.
Since moving, he and I have packed on that new house honeymoon weight, and are now in panic-mode trying to shed those pounds. We’re not on a diet exactly, but we’ve been using food as a motivator to work out more often so we can indulge. Right now, his goal is a big, juicy cheat-burger when he loses another 10 pounds.
It’s been a shaky three weeks, and now that burger is 16 pounds away.
In support of his goal, I’ve avoided burgers myself. Which sucks, because I’m a burger lover, too. So when the idea for these Bacon Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats popped into my head – it was the perfect workaround to calm our cravings while we anticipate the real deal.
Honestly, these remind me of super cheesy sloppy joes, thanks to the cheddar bechamel the beef is swimming in. And there is nothing wrong with that.
The fun thing about these low carb zucchini boats is that they’re just as customizable as an actual burger. Meaning if you’re not a fan of tomato or pickle, you can swap them out for whatever burger toppings you prefer. I’m thinking mushrooms and avocado might be the next combo we try.
Just don’t skip the bacon.
Ingredients to grab for these cheesy ground beef zucchini boats
- Zucchini – the vessel! Try to find smaller ones for easy serving sizes
- Ground beef – pick your type, just drain out any excess grease after browning it
- Bacon – it’s not a bacon cheeseburger without bacon!
- More veggies – onion, tomato, dill pickle…think burger toppings! Use anything you like, and substitute out anything you don’t!
- Shredded cheese – I like to use cheddar, but use anything you have on hand or prefer
- Olive oil
- Worcestershire sauce
- Seasonings – garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes
And for the cheddar cheese sauce…
- Butter – salted or unsalted is fine
- All-purpose flour – to make the roux that thickens the sauce
- Milk – any type
- Dijon mustard
- Shredded cheddar cheese – again, any cheese works
How to make stuffed ground beef zucchini boats
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Wash the zucchini and slice them in half lengthwise. Use a metal teaspoon or small melon baller to scoop out the innards, leaving a 1/4-inch rim around the inside of each zucchini. Reserve 1/2 cup of the zucchini innards, pressing out the water between paper towels.
- Place the hollowed zucchini inside a sprayed casserole dish, then brush some oil on the inside of the zucchini.
- Saute the onions in a skillet until they’re soft. Add the ground beef and reserved zucchini innards, sprinkle on the mixture with seasonings, and cook until there is no pink left. Drain off excess grease, and stir in the diced tomatoes and pickles.
- While the beef is browning, make your cheese sauce by melting butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute, creating a thick pasty roux. Whisk in milk and Dijon mustard and simmer it until it’s smooth. Stir in the shredded cheese until melted, then stir the cheese sauce into the cooked meat mixture.
- Spoon the mixture into the hollowed zucchini, then sprinkle the tops with the chopped bacon and remaining cheese.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is melted. Garnish with ketchup and mustard if desired. If you like your zucchini extra soft, simply cover the casserole dish after the first 15 minutes and continue baking for a total of 30 minutes.
- Leftovers? Store any remaining zucchini boats in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Meat substitutes: if you don’t care for ground beef, you can substitute it out for ground chicken, turkey, pork, or even Italian sausage. To make it vegetarian, grab your favorite plant-based meat and go to town!
- Cheese please! Cheddar is my fave, but feel free to use Monterey Jack, colby, pepper jack, or your preferred cheese.
- No zucchini? You can also make this recipe with yellow squash or small eggplant.
- The flavor combos are endless!
- Make it Mexican by adding black beans, corn, and diced green chilies, and top it with avocado & hot sauce.
- Make it Italian by swapping the cheese sauce for marinara and topping it with mozzarella and Parm.
- Make it Asian by adding diced mushrooms and broccoli, a little soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce.
- Make it Vegan by swapping out the ground beef, bacon, and cheese with plant-based alternatives.
Can you freeze zucchini boats?
Zucchini is a very watery vegetable, meaning it will retain that water in the freezer and be very mushy upon thawing, so I wouldn’t recommend preparing these for freezing. The meat mixture can, however, be prepared ahead and frozen for 1-2 months.
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Bacon Cheeseburger Zucchini Boats
- 3-4 small zucchini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ½ small onion chopped
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes optional
- ½ cup tomato diced
- ¼ cup dill pickle diced
- 2 slices cooked bacon chopped
- ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ½ tablespoon unsalted butter
- ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash the zucchini and slice them in half lengthwise. Scoop out all the seeds leaving a 1/4-inch rim around the inside of each zucchini. Reserve 1/2 cup of the zucchini innards, pressing out the water between paper towels.
- Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil on the inside of a casserole dish, and place the hollowed zucchini inside. Brush the remaining oil on the inside of the zucchini. Set aside.
- In a medium skillet set over medium heat, heat the last tablespoon of oil and saute the onions for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add the ground beef and reserved zucchini innards. Season with garlic & onion powders, salt, and peppers. Brown the ground beef, then remove from heat and drain off excess grease. Stir in diced tomatoes and pickles.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in milk and Dijon mustard, and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir in the cheddar cheese, whisking until melted. Remove from heat and stir the cheese sauce into the ground meat.
- Spoon the meat into the zucchini boats, then sprinkle the tops with the chopped bacon and remaining cheese.
- Bake 15-20 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted, or up to 30 minutes for extra soft zucchini. Garnish with ketchup and mustard if desired.