Beef Rice Zucchini Skillet

5 from 1 vote
45 minutes
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This budget-friendly Mexican-inspired zucchini and ground beef recipe is a one-pot meal that comforts and satisfies. Perfect for busy weeknights when you need a quick and delicious dinner in under an hour! My Corn Casserole is perfect on the side!

Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon.

Why This Recipe is a Keeper!

This Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet is an easy, cheesy, Mexican-inspired, budget-friendly, comforting dish perfect for a cozy weeknight meal any time of the year.

In summer, it’s a delicious way to turn a garden bounty of zucchini into a quick stovetop meal that won’t heat up your kitchen.

In fall and winter, because good zucchini is available year-round, it’s an easy, hearty skillet meal that warms and comforts you from the inside out without breaking the bank.

This Beef Rice and Zucchini Skillet recipe is:

  • Easy! Everything gets cooked up in one skillet.
  • Budget-friendly! Ground beef is still a relatively affordable protein. This recipe uses only one pound and because of the rice and zucchini, you get a lot of bang for your buck.
  • Pantry-friendly! Rice, your favorite salsa, beef broth and chili powder are all things you probably already have on hand.
  • Versatile! Turn it into a great, freezer-friendly zucchini ground beef casserole!
  • Downright delicious and a meal your whole family will love!
Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon scooping some up.

How to Make a Zucchini Ground Beef Recipe:

Recipe Ingredients:

Here’s everything you’ll need to make this zucchini and ground beef recipe, along with how to prep the ingredients. The quantities for each ingredient are on the recipe card below.

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions:

  • Red Bell Pepper: You can use any sweet pepper such as yellow or orange. Green bell pepper also works in this ground beef zucchini recipe as will Poblanos for a real Mexican-inspired kick.
  • Ground Beef: I used a very lean farm-raised ground beef. If your budget allows, I highly recommend using good-quality lean ground beef, so your money doesn’t drain away in the form of fat. You can also use ground turkey or chicken.
  • Salsa: Use your favorite salsa–homemade or purchased.
  • Chili Powder: Chili powder blends ground, dried chiles such as New Mexico, Ancho, or Cascabel and assorted spices like cumin, oregano and paprika. The flavor profile can differ depending on the specific blend. Taco seasoning is a great substitute.
  • Converted Rice: Also called “parboiled,” the rice is steamed before the husks are removed which causes the grains to absorb the nutrients from the husk. It is then dried. Because of that process, converted rice is actually more nutritious than regular white rice and so much easier to cook. Make it low-carb with cauliflower rice.
  • Beef Broth: Water, chicken broth or vegetable broth can also be used.
  • Mexican Blend Cheese: Use this pre-shredded cheese combination for ease and to save time, but of course, you can shred your own if you prefer. Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack are great substitutes.

Step-By-Step Instructions:

  • Gather and prep all the ingredients.
  • Heat the oil in a large nonstick or enameled cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until it softens.
Cooked onions in white enamel cast iron skillet.
  • Add the red bell pepper and beef.
  • Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it browns until it’s no longer pink.
  • Drain off any excess grease if necessary.
Cooked ground beef, red bell pepper and onions in white enamel cast iron skillet.
  • Add the zucchini and garlic. Stir to distribute it evenly in the skillet.
Cooked ground beef, red bell pepper and onions with zucchini added in white enamel cast iron skillet.
  • Add the beef broth, salsa, chili powder and salt.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 18 minutes.
Rice, salsa and spices added to beef and vegetables in white enamel cast iron skillet.
  • Turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.
Everything cooked in white enamel cast iron skillet before cheese is added.
  • Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until melted. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste and black pepper to taste.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.

A delicious, easy, cheesy, hearty one-skillet meal that really satisfies!

Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon.

Chef Tips and Tricks:

  • If your zucchini is large with a seedy center, I advise removing it so you don’t have seeds in your zucchini and ground beef recipe.
  • Turn this Beef Rice Zucchini Skillet into a casserole. To do that:
    • Don’t add the cheese while it’s still hot.
    • Transfer to a casserole or baking dish and let cool, then add 1 cup of cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.
    • Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. When ready to bake, place in a 350-degree oven and heat through. Uncover during the last 10-15 minutes for the cheese to melt and lightly brown.

Money-Saving Tip:

  • This zucchini and ground beef is already budget-friendly! If you have any tips to share, please let me know in the comments!
Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon scooping some up.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I make this Beef Rice and Zucchini Skillet recipe with cauliflower rice?

Absolutely! Riced cauliflower can be used. Reduce the amount of beef broth to 1/2 cup. Keep the salsa amount the same. Cover and cook the zucchini for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, add the cauliflower rice and cook for 4 to 5 minutes more.

Can you make this zucchini and ground beef recipe ahead of time?

You can, but making it a zucchini ground beef casserole would be better. See my Tips and Tricks above for how to do that.

Can this Beef Rice and Zucchini Skillet be frozen?

Leftovers can be frozen for 1-2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator. Reheat in the oven or microwave. The zucchini may soften more, but the beef and rice help texturally.

Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon.

Storage:

  • Makes great leftovers! Store all leftovers in the refrigerator.

Serve with:

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Beef Zucchini Rice Skillet in white enamel cast iron skillet on white piece of wood with serving spoon.

Beef Rice Zucchini Skillet

5 from 1 vote

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By: Carol | From A Chef’s Kitchen
This budget-friendly Mexican-inspired zucchini and ground beef recipe is a one-pot meal that comforts and satisfies. Perfect for busy weeknights when you need a quick and delicious dinner in under an hour!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Beef
Cuisine Southwestern / Mexican
Servings 6
Calories 390 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion - chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper - or yellow
  • 1 pound lean ground beef - or turkey
  • 3 medium zucchini - quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 4 cloves garlic - minced
  • 2 cups beef broth - or water
  • 1 cup salsa - your favorite, hot or mild
  • 1 cup converted (parboiled) - rice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper - to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese - divided

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a large nonstick or enameled cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 4-5 minutes or until it begins to soften.
  • Add the red bell pepper and beef. Cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as it browns until it's no longer pink. Drain off any excess grease if necessary.
  • Add the zucchini and garlic and stir to distribute it evenly in the skillet.
  • Add the beef broth, salsa, chili powder and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-18 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let stand for 5 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked.
  • Add 1 cup of the cheese and stir until melted. Taste for seasoning and add more salt to taste and black pepper to taste.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve.

Recipe Notes

SUBSTITUTES:
  • Use plain green bell pepper, Poblanos, or any sweet bell pepper.
  • You can also use ground turkey or chicken.
  • Taco seasoning can replace chili powder.
  • Water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth can be used in place of beef broth.
  • Make it low-carb with cauliflower rice.
  • Use shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack in place of the Mexican blend cheese.
TO MAKE INTO A ZUCCHINI GROUND BEEF CASSEROLE:
  • Don’t add the cheese while it’s still hot.
  • Transfer to a casserole or baking dish, let cool, then add 1 cup of cheese. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate. When ready to bake, place in a 350-degree oven and heat through. Uncover during the last 10-15 minutes for the cheese to melt and lightly brown.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY:
  • Can be frozen for 1-2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the oven or microwave.
  • The zucchini may soften more, but the beef and rice help texturally.

    Nutrition

    Serving: 1 | Calories: 390kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 1.27mg | Potassium: 837mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1.585IU | Vitamin C: 46mg | Calcium: 384mg | Iron: 3mg

    These are estimated values generated from a nutritional database using unbranded products. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

    Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment, star rating or post your photo on Instagram and tag @fromachefskitchen.
    5 from 1 vote

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    One Comment

    1. 5 stars
      I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as we did! Would be delicious with cabbage, too. It’s an easy weeknight dinner that’s perfect all year round.