Hearty and nourishing, this ground beef zucchini casserole is feel good comfort food your whole family will love. Deliciously cheesy, high protein and packed with healthy veggies.
Casseroles are scientifically proven to make weeknight meals easier. Okaaay, maybe not scientifically proven, but it's definitely the case in my household.
This ground beef zucchini casserole is full of wholesome ingredients, nutrition, and flavour. It's similar to a lasagna, and has the same baked cheesy topping. If you loved my Big Mac casserole, you NEED to make this recipe next!
No fuss, healthy, and only 30 minutes of prep? You'll want to make this for dinner this week.
Why This Dietitian Loves This Recipe
Let's talk about why I love this ground beef zucchini casserole.
- Balanced meal. Carbs, healthy fats and over 30g of protein per serving? This casserole checks all the nutrition boxes.
- Leftovers. Casseroles like this reheat beautifully, meaning you can batch prep them and have yummy meals for days.
- Gluten-free. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, making this recipe suitable for all my friends with Celiac or gluten intolerance.
- Olive oil
- Lean ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- Tomato sauce
- Dried oregano
- Garlic powder
- Italian seasoning
- Cottage cheese
- Mozzarella cheese
- Fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
Cook quinoa according to package instructions
In a large pan over medium-high heat, add ½ of the olive oil (1 tbsp). Once hot, add ground beef and yellow onions and cook until meat is no longer pink in colour and onions are fragrant and translucent, season with salt and pepper. Drain excess oil and add meat to the casserole dish. Set aside.
In the same pan (don’t clean it), add the remaining olive oil (1 tbsp). Once hot add sliced zucchini and additional salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the zucchini is soft.
To the casserole dish align with the meat- add cooked zucchini, spices, cottage cheese, sauce, cooked quinoa and half of the mozzarella cheese. Stir together using a spatula. Gently spread the contents into an even layer in the dish. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes, setting the oven to broil for the final 5 minutes to brown the cheese (25 on regular bake 5 on broil). Top with fresh basil and serve!
Substitutions and Variations
To make gluten-free: This recipe is naturally gluten-free.
To make dairy-free: Unfortunately I have not found a good dairy-free cottage cheese alternative. If you do, please let me know! In the meantime, a dairy-free ricotta substitute will work great!
To make vegetarian: Substitute the ground beef for your favourite plant-based ground meat alternative. Alternatively, you can tried crumbled tempeh or lentils (I have not tested these options).
Missing an ingredient? Try these:
- Ground beef: Swap for ground chicken, pork or turkey
- Cottage cheese: ricotta cheese
- Quinoa: Swap for orzo or rice
- Veggies: Add any veggies you have on hand for an extra boost. Bell peppers, frozen or fresh spinach, etc. all work!
- Casserole dish
- Large pan
This ground beef zucchini casserole can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. To reheat from frozen, defrost in the fridge overnight and reheat in the oven at 375F for about 20-25 minutes.
If you are having trouble mixing everything together, you can mix in a large mixing bowl prior to adding to the casserole dish. I just like avoiding additional dishes if it’s possible.
Some zucchini slices may be very large, so cut them into halves or quarters to help fit everything in the pan.
Frequently Asked Questions
I buy Victoria marinara sauce from Costco. Any sauce will work, however I aim for less than 5g of added sugar per serving.
This can be a great meal prep option. Once it’s done cooking, allow it to cool off, then wrap the baked casserole in plastic wrap followed by a layer of tin foil and freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat at 375F for about 20-25 minutes.
Yes, just prep the entire casserole, cover with foil and store in the fridge until it's ready to be cooked. Then, follow oven instructions as normal. If you want to make ahead for weeks in advance, follow the freezing instructions.
Yes you can! Depending on how large your zucchini is you MAY need to discard the inner core (where the large seeds are) as i find this part can become very very moist and will not taste good!
More Healthy Dinner Recipes
Love casseroles? Try these other easy weeknight dinners next:
PS. I love seeing my recipes in action! If you decide to make this ground beef zucchini casserole, don't forget to snap a photo and tag me on Instagram- @nourishedbynic or leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it!
Ground Beef Zucchini Casserole
- 1 cup dry quinoa cooked according to package instructions
- 2 tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup yellow cooking onion diced
- 6 zucchinis approx 2 lbs, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups low sugar tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup cottage cheese ricotta cheese will also work
- 2 cups mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 tablespoon parmesan cheese
- Fresh basil for topping
- Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions
- While the quinoa is cooking- In a large pan over medium-high heat, add ½ of the olive oil (1 tbsp). Once hot, add ground beef, garlic and yellow onions and cook until meat is no longer pink in colour and onions are fragrant and translucent, season with salt and pepper. Drain excess oil and add meat to the casserole dish. Set aside.
- In the same pan (don’t clean it), add the remaining olive oil (1 tbsp). Once hot add sliced zucchini and additional salt and pepper. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, until the zucchini is soft.
- To the casserole dish with the meat, add cooked zucchini, spices, cottage cheese, cooked quinoa, sauce and half of the mozzarella cheese. Stir together using a spatula. Gently spread the contents into an even layer in the dish. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes, setting the oven to broil for the final 5 minutes to brown the cheese (25 on regular bake, 5 on broil). Top with fresh basil and serve!