Stuffed zucchini, Middle Eastern style! In this recipe, the humble zucchini act as vessels for a special stuffing of spiced rice and ground beef with tomatoes and fresh herbs. See my step-by-step tutorial for foolproof, and absolutely delicious results!

Stuffed Zucchini with rice and meat in a tomato sauce

When nostalgia takes me back to certain foods and flavors, sometimes all I have to help me is my memory to try and recreate foods I love.

But today is one of those very infrequent and fortune times when my mom happens to be right here in my kitchen! And with her help, I was able to recreate the stuffed zucchini of my childhood.

Meat, rice and tomato-stuffed zucchini plated to be served

You already know how much I adore zucchini-- sauteed in a skillet; in the form of a boat topped with tomato and feta; or these light Baked Zucchini Sticks. Whatever way zucchini is served, I love it!

But today's stuffed zucchini is kind of a big deal recipe; it's the stuff for special dinners and Middle Eastern banquets.

First, the zucchini are hollowed out using a vegetable corer like this one. Then they are filled with a hearty, spiced filling of rice and ground beef or lamb. Finally, the stuffed zucchini are cooked in red sauce until the filling is cooked through the zucchini is perfectly tender.

It may seem labor intensive, but these stuffed zucchini are easier to prepare than you think. And the result is worth every effort!

Here is the step-by-step tutorial for Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini

(scroll down for the print-friendly recipe) 
In a large bowl, combine the stuffing ingredients of rice, ground beef, fresh parsley, dill, diced tomatoes, water, olive oil and spices. Mix by hand to combine.

Contents of stuffing added to a bowl

Stuffing contents mixed together in a bowl

Now, remove the tops of  3 tomatoes and remove the core to hollow out the tomatoes making room for the stuffing. Do this using a corer like this one; a melon baller or even a spoon may work here.
With a knife, remove the very top of the zucchini, then cut each zucchini in half to make shorter zucchini for stuffing. Now you need to hollow out the zucchini to make room for the stuffing. Insert your corer about ¾ of the way into the zucchini, making sure not to poke the bottoms. Twist the corer and pull out the zucchini cores or hearts. Do this a few times, and gently scrape the sides of the zucchini until you have hollowed each out making room for the stuffing. You'll want to leave about ¼ inch rim of zucchini.

Zucchini centers carved out to allow for stuffing to be added

Lightly oil the bottom of a large deep cooking pan like this one. Slice the remaining tomato and spread over the bottom of the pan. Now add the onion slices and the cores (or hearts) of the zucchini. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

Zucchini insides, tomato and onion in a pan

Now, using your hands, gently stuff the hollowed tomatoes with the rice stuffing. Then loosely stuff the zucchini with the rice stuffing about ¾ of the way (do not over-stuff or crowd the rice stuffing in the zucchini or it will not fully cook. Remember, rice needs room to expand as it cooks).
Arrange the stuffed tomatoes somewhat in the center of the cooking pan, then add the zucchini (stuffed side up) around them. Tilt the zucchini a little, this helps them cook nicely through using less liquid (it also allows the lid to close nicely on the pan). Now add the tomato sauce and water. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Stuffed Zucchini and tomatoes in a skillet

Place the pan on the stove and cook on medium-high heat until the liquid starts boiling. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for for 50 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the rice stuffing is fully cooked.Transfer to a serving platter or individual bowls. Top with the sauce from the cooking pan. Enjoy!

 

Stuffed Zucchini with tomato sauce added to skillet

You may also like:  Greek stuffed peppers or stuffed tomatoes.

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Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini | The Mediterranean Dish. See my step-by-step tutorial for foolproof results! Here zucchini are cored and stuffed with a special filling of spiced rice and beef with tomatoes and fresh herbs. Delicious! TheMediterraneanDish.com

Middle Eastern Stuffed Zucchini Recipe


Description

Middle Eastern stuffed zucchini recipe with a spiced rice and meat filling, cooked in red sauce. A must-try!


Ingredients

Scale

For stuffing

  • ½ cup long-grain rice, rinsed well
  • ½ lb lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion, shredded
  • packed cup chopped parsley
  • packed cup chopped dill
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomato with juice
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tbsp Private Reserve extra virgin olive oil
  • Scant 1 tsp allspice
  • Scant 1 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

For Zucchini 

  • 4 large and very firm tomatoes, divided (3 to be cored and stuffed, and 1 to be sliced)
  • 1 small onion, sliced into rounds
  • 2 ½ lb Medium-sized zucchini or Middle Eastern zucchini (about 8 or so zucchini), lightly peeled
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
  • ¾ cup water

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the stuffing ingredients of rice, ground beef, shredded onion, fresh parsley, dill, diced tomatoes, water, olive oil, allspice, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Mix by hand to combine.
  2. Now, remove the top of 3 tomatoes and remove the core to hollow out the tomatoes making room for the stuffing. Do this using a corer like this one.
  3. With a knife, remove the very top of the zucchini, then cut each zucchini in half to make shorter zucchini for stuffing. Now you need to hollow out the zucchini to make room for the stuffing.
  4. Insert your corer about ¾ of the way into the zucchini, making sure not to poke the bottoms. Twist the corer and pull out the zucchini cores or hearts. Do this a few times, and gently scrape the sides of the zucchini until you have hollowed each out making room for the stuffing. You'll want to leave about ¼ inch rim of zucchini.
  5. Lightly oil the bottom of a large deep cooking pan like this one. Slice the remaining tomato and spread over the bottom of the pan. Now add the onion slices and the cores or hearts of the zucchini. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
  6. Now, using your hands, gently stuff the hollowed tomatoes with the rice stuffing. Then loosely stuff the zucchini with the rice stuffing about ¾ of the way (do not over-stuff or crowd the rice stuffing in the zucchini or it will not cook well).
  7. Arrange the stuffed tomatoes in the center of the cooking pan, then add the stuffed zucchini (stuffed side up) around them. Tilt the zucchini a little, this helps them cook nicely through using less liquid.
  8. Now add the tomato sauce and water. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Place the pan on the stove and cook on medium-high heat until the liquid starts boiling. Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for for 50 minutes until the zucchini is tender and the rice stuffing is fully cooked.
  10. Transfer to a serving platter or individual bowls. Top with the sauce from the cooking pan. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Recommended for this Recipe: Our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives!)
  • Visit our store to browse our spices, olive oils and bundles!
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 50 mins
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

Keywords: Middle Eastern Zucchini, Stuffed Zucchini, Zucchini with meat stuffing,

Pin this recipe to try!

Close-up of zucchini stuffed with rice, meat and topped with tomato sauce

More stuffed vegetable recipes: 

Easy Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Eggplant Boats with Ground Beef and Pine Nuts

Vegan Stuffed Cabbage Roll

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. I assume you mean a half cup cooked rice? Why is there water in the hamburger mixture. It led me to think it might be uncooked rice...

  2. Hi Suzy,Love your recipes! Making the Kousa Mahshi at the moment and I have stuffing left. Could I freeze it to use another time? Thanks!

  3. For anyone who doesn't have an apple corer - I used a steak knife to cut a little hole into the top of the zucchini, then the butt end of a butter knife I found that has a bit of a pointed handle! It works really well also if you are working with the smaller type of zucchini that this is traditionally made with! Hope it can help someone 🙂

  4. Hi, love this recipe as is, but I just got a Pressure cooker and I would like to try to make this recipe in it. How can I
    copy this in a Pressure cooker? Your Middle Eastern Recipes are really Delicious. Thank you in advance!
    Roz Mermelstein

    1. Hi, Roz. Thank you for your kind words! I think this could easily be made in an instant pot...I personally have not tried it, though, so can't tell you from experience. If you do give it a try that way, we'd love to hear your feedback!

  5. You seem to have 1 can of tomato and water twice in the recipe. Once as diced tomatoes and another time as tomato sauce. This may be the reason this one lady had too much sauce. Which one is correct? Can you also use tomato paste and water?

    1. Hi, Randa! Both are correct. The diced tomatoes/water are used in the stuffing, while the tomato sauce/water is used in the sauce (outside of the zucchini). I recommend sticking with tomato sauce/water vs. tomato paste. Hope that helps!

    1. You can freeze fully cooked stuffed zucchini, Rachel. Thaw in the freezer overnight and warm up in a medium-heated oven, covered.

  6. I made this recipe and am blown away with the results, as I have also been with about 6 other recipes of yours I have tried. The flavors brought out from your herbs, spices and seasoning combinations is far above being spot-on and I am so glad I came across you on Pinterest; I will be coming to you for more with confidence and excitement. This Stuffed Zucchini is so fantastic with the allspice and dill flavors, which I admit I was alittle doubtful about. I am in love! Your Med. Tuna Salad is the best, the lemon rice and zucchini boats plus others have been amazing, delicious and so satisfying. Right On!!! 🙂

  7. I’m just curious if this can be made ‘unstuffed’ to make it a little bit easier overall. What are your thoughts on this?

  8. Delish. I made the filling and cored the zucchini separately, in advance. Then, when I had time, I put them together. It really was very simple and the result is a light, delicious meal which I served with homemade flat breads and a big Greek salad.

    1. You can skip the stuffed tomatoes, I do like the flavor and variety it adds, but the recipe will work with all zucchini

  9. Hi Suzy! Hi yank you got your amazing recipes! I cooked several for my husband as he observes Ramadan and great food is making it special. Not sure what I did wrong with this particular recipe (followed it exactly), but ended up with too much liquid and the vegetables were literally drained in it and boiling even on low setting. I had to literally remove at least 2 cups of liquid during the cooking process and rice turned out super sticky. What went wrong?!! Thank you

    1. Hey Lena, thanks so much for sharing. I am so glad you're enjoying the recipes here. I'm sorry you had an issue with this recipe, but I am not sure what might have gone wrong in your case. I haven't had this issue myself. Did you use a deep cooking pan? Maybe in your case you might use less liquid.

  10. Can I substitute the parsley? I have fresh cilantro or dried parsley. Which would work best?
    Thank you!

    1. Honestly, either would work just fine in a pinch. The cilantro would change the taste a bit, but if you like cilantro, then no worries there! Enjoy!

  11. Getting ready to stuff my yellow squash and only had 80% lean ground beef so I will use it. I usually use tomato juice rather than sauce and just a pinch of cinnamon to the meat/rice mixture. Why the cinnamon? It's the way my Lebanese mother made koosa. Like your recipes.