Persian-Style Stuffed Zucchini Brings New Flavor to the Dinner Table


This flavorful, allergy-friendly dish was shared with us by award-winning chef Warda Bouguettaya of Warda Patisserie in Detroit, Michigan. She created it during her blogging days, but still crafts unique pastries and savory dishes for her bakery. Here she explains the inspiration behind this Persian stuffed zucchini.

Persian Stuffed Zucchini Recipe - dairy-free, gluten-free, allergy-friendly, with plant-based option

Persian-Style Stuffed Zucchini Brings New Flavor to the Dinner Table

I usually cook pilaf rice, but was intrigued this time by Chelo, the Iranian steamed rice. The traditional way of cooking Chelo is soaking the rice in salted water for a minimum of 2 hours, draining then cooking it in fresh water; and then “steaming” it for 40 min with some butter in a pan covered with a lid and a dishtowel. The corners of the dishtowel are then folded over the lid. The rice becomes soft and fluffy, never soggy and sticky.

This Persian stuffed zucchini uses a quicker method of cooking Chelo. Don’t skimp on the soaking time, though. A minimum of 30 min is required to soften the grains and improves the flavor of the finished dish. You can use either basmati rice or long grain rice.

Special Diet Notes: Persian Stuffed Zucchini

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and top food allergy-friendly. This recipe can also be made vegan and vegetarian. See the recipe introduction. If you want to add a protein, chickpeas go nicely with this dish.

Persian Stuffed Zucchini
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I use ground lamb to stay in the Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern theme, but you can use ground beef, ground turkey, or even no meat at all if you are a vegetarian. Please note that the Prep time is hands-on time only. Allow time for the rice to soak.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Persian
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus additional as needed
  • 6 ounces basmati rice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons dairy-free buttery spread
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ pound ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely minced
  • 1 turnip, diced
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 5 dried apricots, diced
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
  • 4 zucchini (Warda uses globe zucchini)
  1. Place the water and ½ teaspoon salt in a pan and pour in the rice. Set aside to soak for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. This step is crucial.
  2. After soaking, bring the water and rice to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Add the buttery spread to the rice. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and steam over a very low heat for about 30 minutes.
  3. While the rice is steaming, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the lamb and sauté quickly just to give it a nice color. Add the onion and turnip, and season with salt and black pepper. Pour in the stock, cover, and let it simmer until the meat is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
  4. Uncover the pan, add the apricots and raisins, and let the liquid reduce. Sprinkle some cilantro on top of the meat mixture, stir in the prepared rice.
  5. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  6. Cut the top or ends off the zucchini. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh out of the zucchini. Season the zucchini with salt and black pepper and set on a greased baking pan.
  7. Spoon the rice and meat mixture into the zucchini, and place the top on each, if using globe zucchini.
  8. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until the zucchini are tender when poked with a toothpick.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 stuffed zuchhini Calories: 444 Fat: 21.3g Saturated fat: 7.6g Carbohydrates: 47.5g Sugar: 7.7g Sodium: 504mg Fiber: 4g Protein: 15.7g

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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