This stuffed zucchini recipe is my take on Kousa Mahshi, a popular Middle Eastern dish. It’s savory, filling, and the perfect dish to serve to a large group!
I’ve already shared recipes such as my Greek stuffed peppers and Gemistsa (Greek stuffed vegetables), so today I’ve decided to share my take on a popular stuffed zucchini recipe! Kousa Mahshi, which translates as stuffed zucchini in Arabic, is a dish seen throughout the Middle East.
My Kousa Mahshi recipe features ground meat, rice, and plenty of delicious herbs and spices to finish things off. Everything is packed into the center of hollowed out squash, then braised in a tomato sauce to create perfectly tender stuffed squash.
Serve this dish up as a hearty weeknight dinner, or make a large batch for your next get-together. No matter how you serve it, it’s sure to please!
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Mexican Squash - It wouldn’t be stuffed squash without the vegetable. You can also feel free to use zucchini here — both work great. Typically called Mexican Squash in U.S. markets, it's green speckled with white.
- Large Tomato - Use the tomato of your choosing. You’ll use it to plug the ends of your squash to help the filling stay in.
- Rice - Opt for long-grain white rice for your filling. Make sure to rinse it before cooking!
- Ground Meat - Choose between ground beef or lamb. Either one works wonderfully.
- Onion - Yellow onion will add extra flavor to your meat of choice.
- Passata - You can also use pureed tomatoes. This is the base of the sauce that you’ll braise your stuffed squash in.
- Chicken Broth - This is also needed for the tomato-based sauce! It adds even more flavor.
- Garlic - Minced garlic is another key ingredient for the braising sauce.
- Mint Leaves - You’ll need mint to cook your meat. You can also use it along with the tomatoes to plug your squash.
- Olive Oil - To cook the meat and prepare the sauce.
- Lemon Juice - For even more added flavor in the sauce.
- Spices - You’ll need a few specific spices for this dish:
- Kosher Salt
- My homemade Lebanese 7 spice blend
- Black Pepper
- Turmeric Powder
HOW TO MAKE STUFFED ZUCCHINI
1. Prep the Ingredients. Rinse your rice. After draining, place it in a bowl and cover with water, allowing it to soak for at least 30 minutes. Then, trim the ends of each zucchini or squash and set them aside. Remove the flesh from the vegetables using an apple corer or similar tool. Make sure to leave a ⅓-inch ring on the inside of each zucchini. Next, cut the ends off of the large tomato and take out all of the seeds. Cut circular pieces of the tomato to use as a plug for the ends of each squash.
2. Make the Filling. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and cook for about 3 minutes before adding your ground meat of choice (lamb or beef). As it cooks, break it up with a wooden spoon. Now it’s time to add some spices: salt, Lebanese 7 spice blend, pepper, and chopped mint leaves. Sauté the filling until it’s browned. Remove from heat and add the rice to the meat.
3. Make the Sauce. Using a large, deep pot (or a Dutch oven), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add your garlic and cook for about 2 minutes. Pour in the passata or pureed tomatoes along with your chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, then lower the temperature to allow it to simmer as you stuff the vegetables.
4. Assemble. Make sure that you have a tomato piece that’s acting as a plug. Using your hands, stuff each zucchini with the meat and rice filling. Leave a bit of space at the top, and plug the other end with chopped mint or another piece of tomato. Place each zucchini in the pot with the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Allow it to cook, covered, for 25 minutes.
5. Serve. Remove the stuffed squash from the pot and sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve with your tomato sauce, and enjoy!
Is Kousa Mahshi Vegetarian?
While my stuffed zucchini recipe does have meat in it, some versions of stuffed squash are vegetarian. Instead of ground meat, they feature a mixture of rice, chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion.
What Are the Best Zucchinis For Kousa Mahshi?
I like using Mexican squash or regular zucchinis for my take on this dish. You want to go with ones that are medium-sized, as they’ll hold the filling the best! If the squash is too large or too small, it won’t hold the rice and ground meat well and your whole dish could fall apart.
Can I Freeze Stuffed Zucchini?
Yes! After you’ve let your dish cool completely, place the squash (plus the tomato sauce) in an airtight container. You can keep it in the freezer for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy, let it thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat it with the sauce in the oven at 350°F until warmed through.
Stuffed Zucchini (Kousa Mahshi)
- 8 Mexican squash or zucchini
- 1 large tomato
- mint leaves
- ¾ cup long-grain white rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup yellow onion diced
- ½ lb ground beef or lamb 90/10
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 10 mint leaves chopped
- 3 cups passata or pureed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cups chicken broth
- 1 lemon juiced
- Rinse and drain rice in colander, transfer to a bowl and cover with water. Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
- Trim the ends of the zucchini and set aside. Starting from the one cut end, use an apple or zucchini corer and carefully insert, twist and scoop out zucchini flesh (save for other use), leaving about ⅓-inch ring.
- Trim ends from tomato and remove all seeds. Cut flesh into circle pieces to plug the ends of the zucchini. Set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering and add onion. Cook 3 minutes, then add ground beef, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. Add the salt, Lebanese 7 spice, pepper and chopped mint leaves. Sauté until browned, about 8 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Drain the rice and add to ground beef mixture, stirring to combine.
- In a large, deep pot or Dutch oven heat the oil over medium heat. Stir in garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add the passata or pureed tomatoes and chicken stock (or water). Bring to boil, turn heat to low and simmer while you stuff the zucchini.
- Insert a tomato piece into the end on one side of a cored zucchini, acting as a plug. Then use your hands to stuff the zucchini with meat/rice filling, leaving about an ¼ inch near the top for the cooked rice/meat mixture to expand. Plug the top with several mint leaves or another tomato plug. Repeat with all zucchini.
- Arrange the stuffed squash cut side up in the large pot or lay down and stack. If tomato broth doesn't cover the zucchini add just enough water to cover.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low. Simmer, covered until rice is cooked through and squash is tender, about 45 minutes.
- Carefully remove stuffed zucchini from pot. Stir through lemon juice and serve tomato sauce poured over Kousa Mahshi.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.