The secret ingredient in these easy to make Vegetarian Taco Zucchini Boats is the seasoned cauliflower walnut filling. The crumbles are so hearty and delicious, you won’t miss the meat.
Zucchini is a nutritious and versatile vegetable that offers a range of health benefits. Some of the key benefits of consuming zucchini include:
- Nutrient-rich: Zucchini is low in calories and carbohydrates but rich in essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, and folate. These nutrients are important for maintaining overall health and supporting various bodily functions.
- Weight management: Due to its low calorie and high fiber content, zucchini can be beneficial for those trying to manage their weight. The fiber helps you feel full for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
- Digestive health: Zucchini contains dietary fiber, which supports healthy digestion by promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.
- Heart health: The potassium content in zucchini is beneficial for heart health. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Antioxidant properties: Zucchini is a good source of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta-carotene, which help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body. This may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of chronic diseases.
- Eye health: Zucchini contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential for eye health and may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Hydration: Zucchini has a high water content (over 90%), which can contribute to overall hydration, especially in hot weather.
- Immune support: The vitamin C in zucchini can boost the immune system and help the body defend against infections.
- Healthy skin: The combination of vitamins A and C, along with other nutrients, can contribute to healthy skin by promoting collagen production and protecting against damage from free radicals.
- Anti-inflammatory properties: Zucchini contains certain compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects, which can be beneficial for people with inflammatory conditions.
To reap these health benefits, you can enjoy zucchini in various ways, such as raw in salads, grilled, sautéed, roasted, or used in soups and stews. Remember that maintaining a balanced and varied diet, including a wide range of fruits and vegetables, is crucial for overall health and well-being.
When selecting zucchini at the grocery store or farmer’s market, follow these tips to pick the best ones:
- Size: Choose zucchini that are small to medium in size, about 6 to 8 inches long. Smaller zucchini tend to be more tender and flavorful than larger ones.
- Color: Look for zucchini with a vibrant dark green color. Avoid zucchini that has blemishes, soft spots, or discoloration, as these may indicate spoilage.
- Texture: The skin of the zucchini should be smooth and shiny. Avoid zucchini with wrinkled or dull skin, as this could be a sign of age or poor quality.
- Weight: Pick up the zucchini and feel its weight. It should feel heavy for its size, indicating that it is fresh and full of moisture.
- Firmness: Gently squeeze the zucchini. It should be firm but not too hard. Avoid zucchini that feels mushy or has a lot of give, as it may be overripe.
- Stem end: Check the stem end of the zucchini. It should be fresh-looking and not wilted or dried out.
- Organic or pesticide-free options: If possible, choose organic zucchini or those labeled as pesticide-free to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.
Remember that zucchini is best consumed soon after purchase for optimal freshness and flavor. If you have a garden and grow zucchini yourself, harvest them when they reach the desired size, typically around 6 to 8 inches in length. Overgrown zucchini can become tough and less flavorful.
The secret ingredient to making these Vegetarian Taco Zucchini Boats is the cauliflower walnut crumbles. The crumbles are hearty and can be seasoned to adapt into any dish like this Simple and Hearty Vegetarian Chili.
I also use them as a hearty base for the Vegan version of these Zucchini Boats with Cashew Sour Cream.
Here I used a homemade taco seasoning to flavor the cauliflower meat for the Vegetarian Taco Zucchini Boats.
The key to scooping the flesh out of the zucchini is to leave enough of barrier on the zucchini boat to hold the rest of the ingredients. Don’t throw the zucchini meat out though – there are many ways to make use of it:
- Stir-fries: Slice or dice zucchini and add it to stir-fries with other vegetables and protein sources like tofu, chicken, or shrimp.
- Zucchini Noodles: Use a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler to create zucchini noodles, also known as “zoodles.” You can use these as a healthy and low-carb alternative to traditional pasta in various dishes.
- Fritters: Grate zucchini and mix it with eggs, flour, herbs, and spices to make zucchini fritters. Pan-fry them until golden brown for a tasty appetizer or snack.
- Grilled or Roasted: Cut zucchini into slices or spears, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill or roast until tender. Grilling or roasting enhances its natural flavor.
- Zucchini Soup: Blend cooked zucchini with broth, onions, garlic, and herbs to make a creamy and comforting zucchini soup.
- Zucchini Pancakes: Grate zucchini and mix it with pancake batter for a nutritious twist on traditional pancakes.
- Zucchini Sauté: Sauté zucchini slices with onions, garlic, and cherry tomatoes for a quick and flavorful side dish.
- Zucchini Ratatouille: Combine zucchini with other vegetables like eggplant, bell peppers, and tomatoes to make a delicious and colorful ratatouille.
- Stuffed Zucchini: Hollow out zucchini halves and stuff them with a mixture of cooked ground meat, rice or quinoa, vegetables, and spices. Bake until the filling is cooked through.
- Zucchini Frittata: Sauté sliced zucchini with onions and bell peppers, then mix with beaten eggs and cheese to make a zucchini frittata.
- Zucchini Salsa: Finely dice zucchini and mix it with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, and spices to create a refreshing zucchini salsa.
Cotija cheese is a popular Mexican cheese that originated in the town of Cotija in the state of Michoacán, Mexico. It is a hard, crumbly, and salty cheese made from cow’s milk and is named after its town of origin.
In Mexican cuisine, cotija cheese is commonly used as a finishing garnish for various dishes. It is sprinkled on top of tacos, tostadas, salads, soups, and grilled corn (elote) to add a burst of flavor and a pleasant, salty contrast. The crumbly texture allows it to be easily grated or crumbled over dishes.
I added diced tomatoes and a diced orange bell pepper for color as well as a texture. The Vegetarian Taco Zucchini Boats were then topped off with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of parsley (although you could go a step further and swap out the parsley with cilantro).
For the "meat"
- 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 2 cups raw walnuts
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
For the boats
- 4 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 large orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup cotija cheese crumbles
- plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream), for garnish
- fresh parsley, lightly chopped, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 350° and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a spoon, gently scrape out the meat of the zucchini, enough to create a "boat". Place the zucchini in a baking dish and set aside.
- Add the cauliflower and walnuts to a food proccessor and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Do not over pulse as you do not want to the cauliflower to liquify. Use a spatula to move some of the larger pieces of cauliflower down towards the blade in between pulses.
- Throw the crumbled mixture into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano to the cauliflower mixture and stir to blend well (I find using my hands is best).
- Pour the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and spread into an even layer.
- Bake both the zucchini and cauliflower meat for 40 minutes, stirring the cauliflower mixture halfway through. The meat should be golden brown, not burnt.
- On your serving platter, line up the zucchini boats and top with the cauliflower meat.
- Sprinkle the diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and cojita cheese crumbles over the zucchini boats.
- Add a few small dollops of the Greek yogurt onto each of the boats and sprinkle the parsley over top.
- Serve immediately.