Cheesy beef zucchini casserole is a hearty dinner made with rice, beef, zucchini, and a flavorful cheese sauce. This casserole is filling, made from scratch, and feeds eight!
Casseroles are an efficient way to feed a big family or enjoy leftovers for a few days. You'll love this cheesy beef zucchini casserole because it's made with inexpensive pantry staples. Plus, it's creamy, flavorful, and filling!
This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked rice. Otherwise, simply cook up a batch of your favorite rice before beginning. It's also easy to customize with your favorite cheeses and ground meat (like ground turkey or ground pork).
Serve cheesy beef zucchini casserole for a weeknight meal for the family, or to meal prep for the week. This casserole also freezes well and reheats beautifully.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Butter - Can be substituted with olive oil.
- Onion and garlic - Add flavor to your casserole, I do not recommend omitting them. Garlic can be substituted with garlic powder if needed.
- Ground beef - You'll need one pound of ground beef for this recipe. This can be substituted with ground pork, ground turkey, or ground bison if desired.
- Flour - Thickens your cheese sauce, creating a roux with the butter and grease in the pan.
- Milk - Necessary to make your cheese sauce. I used whole milk, but 1% or skim milk will also work. Your sauce will be slightly thinner when using a lower fat milk.
- Seasoning - Salt, pepper, and paprika add flavor to your casserole. Add a dash of hot sauce for a little heat.
- Cheeses - Use your favorite cheeses in this casserole. I chose a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan cheese. Any melty, creamy cheeses work well here, like monterey jack, gruyere, or pepper jack cheese. I highly recommend shredding cheese fresh from a block. Pre-shredded cheeses are often coated in anti-clumping powders that can make your sauce grainy.
- Rice - This recipe calls for cooked rice, meaning it needs to be cooked before adding to your casserole. This is a great recipe for using leftover rice you may have on hand. Uncooked rice will not have enough liquid or baking time to cook in the casserole.
- Zucchini - About one medium zucchini (or 12 ounces) is needed for this recipe. Cube your zucchini into small, bite size pieces. Zucchini can be substituted with frozen peas/carrots/corn, or finely chopped broccoli.
Storage and reheating
Leftovers will keep in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator. Individual portions also reheat beautifully in the microwave.
Your assembled casserole (before baking) can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Allow casserole to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before baking as directed. Add ten minutes (or more) to baking time when warming a cold casserole.
What to serve with zucchini casserole
Cheesy beef zucchini casserole is hearty and filling on its own, but can be stretched to serve more by pairing with a side dish or two. Here are a few ideas:
- Side salad
- Garlic bread
- Corn on the cob
- Dinner rolls
- Green beans
- Roasted veggies
Cheesy Beef Zucchini Casserole
- 4 cups cooked rice, any variety
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 ounces ground beef
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3.5 cups whole milk
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 small zucchini, about 12 ounces, diced
- 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9x13 casserole dish and set aside.
- In a stock pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add onions and cook until they begin to brown around the edges, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Crumble beef into pan and sauté until browned and cooked through, stirring occasionally. Drain any excess grease from the pan, leaving a few tablespoons to make a roux in the next step.
- Add flour, tossing to coat beef and onions. Cook for one minute. Add milk to pot, whisking to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly. Add diced zucchini, parmesan cheese, and half of cheddar cheese. Stir and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until cheese has completely melted. Remove from heat.
- Add rice to cheese sauce, stirring to incorporate. Pour rice mixture into prepared casserole dish and spread into an even layer. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
- Bake, uncovered, for 16 to 18 minutes, or until cheese has melted across the top and casserole is hot in the center. Serve warm.
- Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.
- Casserole can also be frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze casserole whole, assemble casserole as directed. Before baking, cover tightly with a lid (or foil) and freeze. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking. Add 10 minutes or more to baking time to warm a cold casserole.
- Ground beef can be substituted with your favorite ground meat, like pork, turkey, or bison.
- Recipe must be prepared with cooked rice - recipe does not include enough liquid or cooking time to cook rice.