Monday, August 27, 2012

Recipe for Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Chiles, Cheddar, and Cotija Cheese

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Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Green Chiles, and Cheese
Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Green Chiles, and Cheese for Meatless Monday!

My garden is still supplying me with zucchini at a pretty regular pace, so recently I decided a new version of stuffed zucchini should be on the menu.  I had some Cotija cheese that was left from a dish my brother Rand had made when he was visiting, so I guess that's what inspired me to go with a Mexican-themed version of stuffed zucchini this time.  If you're not familiar with it, Cotija is a type of hard, crumbly Mexican cheese.  It made a nice topping for these Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchinis with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Green Chiles, and Cheese, but if you don't have it you could use Parmesan, Feta, and or even a little more of the cheese blend that's used in the stuffing.

I used some of those adorable little round 8-Ball Zucchinis that I love so much, but if you don't have those, use a larger zucchini cut in chunks and then scooped out to make zucchini "cups."  The first time I made these the cheese got too brown and the zucchini wasn't quite as tender as I wanted it, so Jake and I came up with the idea of cooking the stuffed zucchinis covered for the first 20 minutes and then taking the foil off for another 30 minutes cooking time.  That time we thought they were perfect, and just right for a Meatless Monday meal!   (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index, and I'm also doing a meatless slow cooker recipe each Monday on Slow Cooker from Scratch.  For more Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly post spotlighting one of the fabulous meatless recipe ideas I find around the web.)

Drain a can of black beans into a colander, rinse with cold water, and let them drain while you prep the zucchini.

I used half 8-Ball Zucchinis (on the right) and half large zucchinis cut into 3 inch pieces (on the left).

Use a small sharp spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, leaving a thin layer of zucchini flesh next to the skin.  (I didn't use the zucchini pulp that I scooped out, but you could use it if you were short on rice.)

Thinly slice enough green onions to make one cup and drain a can of diced green chiles.

To make the filling, mix together cooked brown rice, sour cream, sliced green onions, black beans, low-fat Mexican cheese blend, and green chiles.  You can add a little Green Tabasco Sauce if you want to make it a bit spicier.  (We did.)

Use a spoon to fill with zucchini with the stuffing mixture, pressing it down so it's tightly filling the inside of the zucchini.

Cover the dish and bake the filled zucchinis for 20 minutes at 350F/180C.

Then remove the foil and use a spoon to press about a few teaspoons of Cotija cheese (or other cheese of your choice) on to the top of the zucchini.

Bake about 30 minutes more, or until the filling is bubbling hot and the cheese is nicely browned.  Serve hot.

Vegetarian Stuffed Zucchini with Brown Rice, Black Beans, Chiles, Cheddar, and Cotija Cheese
(Makes 6-8 servings; recipe created by Kalyn.)

8 small or 6 medium-sized 8-Ball zucchinis (or use larger long zucchinis, cut in 3 inch lengths and hollowed out to make zucchini "cups")
about 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese (or other grated cheese of your choice)

Stuffing Ingredients:
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles, drained (Anaheim chiles, not jalapenos)
2 cups cooked brown or white long-grain rice (use brown rice or Uncle Ben's Converted Rice for South Beach Diet)
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 cup low-fat Mexican 4-Cheese blend
1-2 T  Green Tabasco Sauce (optional; taste the filling and see if you'd like a little more heat)

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Spray a baking dish with olive oil or nonstick spray.  (Use a dish that holds the zucchini without letting them move around too much if you can.)

Drain the black beans into a colander placed in the sink and rinse with cold water until no more foam appears.  Let the beans drain while you prepare the zucchini.  If you don't have enough 8-Ball zucchini, cut a large long zucchini into 3 inch lengths.  Then use a melon baller or a sharp spoon to scoop out the inside of the zucchini, leaving a thin layer of flesh next to the skin.  Slice green onions and drain the can of diced green chiles.

Blot the beans dry with paper towels if they are still wet.  In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the black beans, sliced green onions, diced green chiles, cooked rice, sour cream, and low-fat cheese.  Gently mix to combine, then taste the mixture and see if you want to add the optional Green Tabasco Sauce. (We did, but we weren't making it for kids.)

Arrange the zucchini in the baking pan.  Use a spoon to fill each zucchini ball or cup with the stuffing mixture, pressing it down so the inside of the zucchini is tightly packed with stuffing.  Cover the dish and bake for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take zucchini out of the oven, remove the foil, and use a spoon to carefully press about 2 tsp. crumbled Cotija cheese (or other cheese of your choice) on to the top of each zucchini.  Put the zucchinis back into the oven and cook about 30 minutes more, or until zucchini is tender, stuffing is bubbling hot, and the cheese on top is nicely browned.  Serve hot.

These will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two and they can be reheated in the microwave or in a toaster oven.

Printer Friendly Recipe

South Beach Suggestions:
As long as you use brown rice or Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, light sour cream, and low-fat cheese, this recipe would be approved for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you. 

More Meatless Ideas with Zucchini:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Gluten-Free Quinoa and Vegetable Stuffed Zucchini from The WHOLE Gang
Val's Kid Friendly Broiled Zucchini with Cheese from Kalyn's Kitchen
Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant Parmesan from Cookin' Canuck
Zucchini Bake with Feta and Thyme from Kalyn's Kitchen
Zucchini Gratin from Gluten Free Goddess  
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and this blog earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!


  1. I love the idea of a Mexican themed stuffed zucchini! Plus cotija is one of my favorite cheeses! So tasty.

  2. Once again, I am envious of those eight-ball zucchini from your garden! And I love this filling. I'm thinking you could repurpose the filling into an egg casserole, too.

  3. I love how you cut your zucchini crosswise instead of lengthwise. Never tried Cotija cheese before but I've seen it at the store. Is it mild?

  4. This looks fabulous! I've never seen a Ball Zucchini before - what a great presentation!

  5. So happy that so people are liking this idea. This was my first time using Cotija cheese, which is mild but quite salty. I'd say it tastes a bit like Feta but not so creamy (although I think there is a creamy and a crumbly type of Cotija and we had the crumbly type.)

    For anyone who hasn't had them, I love, love, love the 8-Ball zucchinis. And they grow just as easily as the regular type.

  6. Oh yes yes yes! Indeed these must be made. Cotija is so wonderful and this is a good use for it.

    Erin -

  7. It looks very good!!! With healthy ingredients. I like it.

  8. I have never seen Eight-Ball Zucchini locally, but they are adorable. I agree with TW - great presentation! And Cotija cheese is new to me, too.

  9. This recipe is perfect - I have a ridiculous amount of zucchini from my garden to use up and would love to put it in a delicious and nutritious recipe. Thanks for the great idea!

  10. That's so awesome! I stumbled on your blog directly to another link and then when I clicked on the home page it was a yay! moment.

    I have too many zucchinis in my kitchen at the moment (impulse shopping at a farmer's market) and I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with them. :P

    At least I know what's for dinner! :)

    p.s. I only wish I had the 8-ball zucchinis, they look so adorable! :D

  11. Great choice of flavors for this, Kalyn -- and what a fabulous presentation from the typical boat I've made. Sound so tasty!

  12. Thanks everyone! I think the 8-Ball zucchinis are starting to be more widely available, at least in Utah. I've been growing them about 8 years now and am starting to see them in the market.

  13. Thank you Rand for leaving cojita in the fridge! What a great dish. My favorite flavors for sure!! And I love the 8-ball zucchini.

  14. Love the Southwest flavors. And these zucchini are just too cute! I can't believe they are from your garden. #jealous :)

  15. Thanks Kelley and Sandy. I do love those little round zucchinis!


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