My mom used to have a garden full of zucchini. Every other day she’d go out to water and check on her produce, only to find that a few more zucchini had grown and overpopulated her garden. At one point, it got so out of control that she had zucchini the size of her arm. Not a joke. We’d laugh about it and try to think of all the zucchini recipes we could make together, which is where all of these amazing zucchini recipes came to be!
We used to LOVE making various types of stuffed zucchini, so I thought why not put a healthy stuffed zucchini recipe on the blog that was full of summer flavor? I created these pesto chicken stuffed zucchini a few years back and everyone became obsessed. They’re absolutely bursting with fresh garden herbs, gorgeous summer tomatoes, tender chicken, and plenty of CHEESE.
This recipe is the perfect way to use up leftover chicken and is so easy to customize. Your new fav weeknight dinner!
Ingredients in pesto chicken stuffed zucchini
I love how many fresh ingredients these healthy pesto chicken zucchini boats have. If you have a garden with tomatoes and/or zucchini, get ready for a new amazing way to use them up! Here’s everything you’ll need:
- Zucchini: the star of these amazing boats! Be sure to look for zucchini that is similar in size.
- Chicken: feel free to cook your chicken however you want before shredding it, or even use a rotisserie chicken.
- Cherry tomatoes: for juicy bites to pair with the chicken, pesto and layers of cheese.
- Cheese: nothing better than layers of cheese and pesto. I like to use shredded mozzarella cheese but feel free to use your favorite dairy free cheese if you’d like. I also like to top the boats with a sprinkle of parmesan.
- Homemade pesto: I know it’s an extra step, but this homemade pesto is SO DELISH. It’s made with cilantro, cashews (instead of pine nuts), jalapeño for a kick of heat, garlic, lime juice, a little avocado or olive oil, salt & pepper. You’ll also need a little water to thin it to your liking.
Our fav ways to cook & shred chicken
These zucchini boats are the perfect way to use up cooked, shredded chicken — even rotisserie chicken! Learn all of our best ways to cook chicken here, and different ways to shred it here.
Easy ingredient swaps
Looking to customize these pesto chicken stuffed zucchini? Here’s what I can recommend for swaps:
- For the pesto: feel free to swap the cashews for pine nuts, walnuts, or pistachios, or keep it nut free by using sunflower seeds. You can also swap the cilantro for basil if you don’t love cilantro like I do. Alternatively, you can use 3/4 cup of your favorite store-bought pesto!
- To make vegetarian: simply use 1 can of white beans, 1 1/2 cup of cooked quinoa, or 1 block of cooked, cubed tofu in place of the chicken.
- To make dairy free: use your favorite dairy free cheese shreds and a dairy free pesto of choices (mine is dairy free!)
How to make homemade pesto
These easy pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boats use one of my favorite homemade pesto recipes that you can make right at home (skip the bottled stuff!) It’s slightly spicy and uses fresh cilantro for a unique flavor you’ll absolutely love.
To make it you’ll simply add your cilantro, cashews, jalapeño, garlic cloves, lime juice, olive oil, water and salt and pepper to the bowl of your food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides and processing again, if necessary.
Tips for making zucchini boats
- Make sure to choose zucchini that are all smaller and similar in size so that they fit in your pan and cook in the same amount of time.
- Scoop out the insides of your zucchini with a spoon (as shown in the video below) and make sure to leave a 1/4 inch rim so that the filling stays inside the zucchini.
- Be sure not to scoop your zucchini halves too deep — otherwise, the filling may fall out of the bottom once the zucchini boats have cooked.
Reuse the zucchini pulp
After scooping out your zucchini boats, you can save the zucchini pulp for smoothies! It’s nutritious and incredibly delicious. Here’s what I suggest: Add zucchini pulp to a freezer safe container. Add to smoothies when you want a little nutritional or fiber boost. No need to thaw!
How to grill pesto chicken stuffed zucchini
- Pre-grill your zucchini. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat or 400 degrees F. After brushing your zucchini with olive oil, place the zucchini flesh-side down on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes until nice grill marks appear.
- Stuff each zucchini boat. Remove zucchini from the grill and transfer to a baking sheet, flesh side up. Evenly divide the pesto chicken mixture between the zucchini and top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan.
- Grill them up. Add the baking sheet to the grill, close the lid, and cook for about 5-10 minutes more until the cheese is melty and bubbling.
- Garnish & serve. Once done, sprinkle tops with extra cilantro, and cherry tomatoes and serve!
Meal prep these chicken pesto zucchini boats
This pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boat recipe makes the perfect healthy leftovers and is perfect for meal prep.
- First, make and bake your pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boats.
- Allow the zucchini boats to cool completely, then place two of them in a meal prep container.
- Once ready to eat, simply microwave your boats on high for 1-2 minutes until warm and cheese is melted.
How to store zucchini boats
Store these easy pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boats in meal prep containers in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, simply place two zucchini boats on a plate and microwave them until they’re heated through.
More zucchini recipes you’ll love
Get all of my zucchini recipes here!
I hope you love these easy, healthy pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boats! If you make them be sure to leave a comment & a rating so I know how you liked it. You can also share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #ambitiouskitchen. Enjoy, xo!
Pesto Chicken Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Savory pesto chicken stuffed zucchini boats with a homemade cashew jalapeño pesto and layers of mozzarella cheese. These easy, healthy pesto chicken zucchini boats are fun and easy to make and pack tons of delicious protein. The perfect dinner for using up fresh zucchini!
- For the pesto:
- 3/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup cashews (raw or roasted is fine)
- 1 jalapeno, seeds removed
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 3 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons water, to thin pesto
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the zucchini boats:
- Olive oil
- 4 medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise (look for zucchini that is similar in size)
- 3/4 pound (about 2 cups) cooked shredded chicken breast (can also be from a rotisserie chicken)
- ½ cup roughly chopped cherry tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- Optional: ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- To garnish:
- Extra cilantro and quartered cherry tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with olive oil.
Make the pesto: add all pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor: cilantro, cashews, jalapeño, garlic cloves, lime juice, olive oil, water and salt and pepper. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides and processing again, if necessary.
Transfer pesto to a large bowl and stir in the shredded chicken, chopped cherry tomatoes and ½ cup mozzarella cheese (we’re reserving the rest of the cheese for topping).
Using a spoon, scoop centers from zucchini while leaving a 1/4-inch rim to create boats. Place zucchini in the greased pan; they should snuggle pretty tightly in there, but if you can’t fit them all in, you can use two pans. Brush zucchini with a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon or so) and season with salt and pepper. You can also simply spray them with an all natural oil-only cooking spray.
Spoon pesto chicken mixture evenly into zucchini boats. Top each with 1 1/2 tablespoons of mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.
Cover with foil, and bake for 35-45 minutes or until cheese has melted and zucchini is tender. Once done, sprinkle the tops with cilantro and extra cherry tomatoes before serving. Serves 4; 2 boats per person.
To make vegetarian: sub chickpeas, cooked quinoa or even tofu for the chicken.
See the full post for ways to customize these zucchini boats and how to cook them on the grill!
Serving: 2zucchini boatsCalories: 405kcalCarbohydrates: 15.7gProtein: 31.6gFat: 25.4gSaturated Fat: 6.5gFiber: 5gSugar: 5.6g