Grilled Zucchini Boats with Lemony Tabbouleh

published Jul 28, 2022
Lemony Beef Tabbouleh Zucchini Boat Recipe
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Lemony beef tabbouleh zucchini boats
Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall; Food Stylist: Kat Boytsova

When zucchini makes its entrance at the farmers market, it does so en masse; tables are loaded up with the mild, green squash as far as the eye can see. If you happen to grow it in your garden, you know that zucchini is one of summer’s most prolific crops. Fortunately, its versatility means you can transform the humble member of the cucurbita family (aka squash and pumpkin) into all sorts of deliciousness, from bread to soup and, of course, zoodles.

For this recipe, I combined two of my favorite summer dishes in one: grilled zucchini and tabbouleh. The tender grilled zucchini boat holds a tangy, bright, lemony tabbouleh enhanced with spiced ground beef and is served warm. To pull everything together and bring in a bit of creaminess, I added a simple yogurt sauce that can be drizzled on top or smeared on the bottom of the plate for dragging each bite through.

Almost all of the steps of this recipe can be done in advance, making this a great option for summer entertaining. Serve with hummus and baba ghanoush with warm pita for dipping, and round out the meal with a big summer salad. For non-meat eaters, feel free to omit the beef or swap it for your favorite meat substitute.

The insides of the zucchini are set aside in this recipe, but don’t even think of discarding them. Instead, save them for muffins or smoothies, or make a riff on this zucchini butter

Credit: Photo: Kelly Marshall; Food Stylist: Kat Boytsova

If You Make These Zucchini Boats, a Few Tips

  • Dry the zucchini. Pat dry the zucchini before grilling to achieve the best grill marks.
  • Love your leftovers. After filling the zucchini, store any extra tabbouleh in the fridge, and enjoy cold with hummus and pita for a quick lunch.
  • Swap out the spice. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend that combines ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and chile peppers. If you don’t have any on hand, combine your favorite warm spices and dried chiles (Aleppo, paprika, etc.) to make your own blend.

Lemony Beef Tabbouleh Zucchini Boat Recipe

Prep time 50 minutes to 1 hour

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 1/2 cup

    bulgur wheat

  • 1/2 cup

    boiling water

  • 2

    medium lemons

  • 1

    small plum tomato

  • 1

    medium Persian cucumber

  • 1

    medium scallion

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh mint

  • 4 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 1 3/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cardamom

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 1 clove


  • 6

    medium zucchini (about 8 ounces each)

  • 8 ounces

    lean ground beef or plant-based ground beef substitute

  • 2 tablespoons

    ras el hanout

  • 1/4 cup

    plain Greek yogurt


  1. Place 1/2 cup bulgur wheat in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under running water for about 30 seconds. Place in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water, cover, and let sit until fluffy, 15 minutes to 1 hour.

  2. Meanwhile, juice 2 medium lemons until you have 3 tablespoons juice. Cut the remaining lemons into wedges for serving.

  3. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl as it is completed: Quarter and remove the seeds from 1 small plum tomato; very finely chop (about 3/4 cup). Trim and very finely chop 1 medium Persian cucumber. Finely chop 1 medium scallion (2 to 3 tablespoons). Pick the leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh parsley and finely chop until you have about 1/2 cup. Pick the leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh mint and finely chop until you have about 1/4 cup.

  4. Add the bulgur, 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper to the vegetables and herbs and toss to combine.

  5. Heat and outdoor grill to medium-high heat (about 375ºF). Meanwhile, mince 1 garlic clove. Cut 6 medium zucchini in half lengthwise, no need to trim the ends. Using a small spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell to form zucchini boats. Discard the flesh or reserve for another use, such as adding to smoothies. Sprinkle the cut sides with 3/4 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat until shimmering (you can also do this on the grill in an oven safe frying pan). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 8 ounces lean ground beef, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons ras el hanout. Cook, breaking up the meat into bite-sized pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add to the bulgur mixture and stir to combine.

  7. While the beef is cooking, place the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/4 cup plain yogurt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

  8. When the grill is ready, pat the zucchini dry with paper towels. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and rub it on to coat. Place cut-side down on the grill and grill uncovered until grill marks form on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook until grill marks form on the second side and the zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes more.

  9. Transfer to a serving platter cut-side up and season lightly with kosher salt. Fill with the ground beef-tabbouleh mixture. Dollop with the yogurt sauce and serve with the lemon wedges.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The tabbouleh can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Roasting: Instead of grilling, the zucchini can be roasted cut-side down in a 400ºF oven for 15 minutes.

Use the insides of the zucchini to make zucchini dip or zucchini butter.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.