Summer is the time of year that people wonder what to do with all the zucchini they grew in their gardens. Oftentimes, the reason people feel they have too many zucchini is because they’re not sure what to do with it. Many people think zucchini is bland, flavorless, and boring. Nothing could be further from the truth. Zucchini actually has a mild flavor and that means it goes well with everything. It also means that it will take on the flavors that you add to it. When you look at it that way, zucchini is not bland; rather, it is a blank canvas on which to create edible masterpieces. Here’s all you ever wanted to know about zucchini.
1. Selection and Storage
While you can buy zucchini year-round, it is a summer squash, its peak season is May to August. There are many varieties of zucchini and they can range in color from green to almost black and in shape from long and skinny to big and thick. Be sure to buy zucchini that are firm, heavy, and on the small side. Zucchini are tastier when young but lose their flavor when they get too big. They should be free of cuts, bruises, or soft spots. The skin should be shiny and the stem should be attached. Generally, the thinner and darker zucchini have a richer flavor.
Store zucchini in a plastic bag and keep it in the refrigerator crisper drawer. It will last from three to five days depending on the vegetable. Once it starts to soften, use it up quick. Don’t wash the zucchini until you’re ready to cook with it. To freeze zucchini, blanch it first and then seal it in freezer bags for up to one year.
2. Health Benefits
Zucchini offer many health benefits. They are 95 percent water which means they are low in calories and a refreshing choice in the summer. Zucchini are packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, folate, protein, and fiber. They also have more potassium than bananas! These nutrients promote bone health, heart health, muscle growth, healthy weight, and aid in cancer prevention and maintain a healthy nervous system.
One of the most popular ways to use zucchini is to make zoodles or zucchini noodles. You could use a spiralizer but if you don’t have one, no worries. With a julienne peeler, you can quickly turn a zucchini into a pile of thin spaghetti-shaped strands. A regular peeler will give you wide shapes similar to pappardelle. You can eat your zucchini “pasta” raw topped with diced tomatoes and garlic or lightly cook them in a red pepper and garlic infused olive oil. Thin slices of zucchini can also replace the noodles to make a low-carb or carb-free veggie lasagna or rollatini. Try making your own zucchini “pasta” and make this Raw Zucchini Rollatini, Raw Zucchini Pad Thai, Summer Zoodle Glow Bowl With Creamy Avocado Lime Sauce, Raw Zucchini Marinara Pasta, Zucchini Lasagna with Pesto and Portobello Mushrooms, Rice Noodle Salad With Pineapple Thyme Dressing, and 10 Minute Raw Curry Zoodles.
4. Stuff ‘em
The shape of a zucchini is perfect for making edible boats. Just slice off the center piece of one side of the zucchini and carefully scoop out the flesh to make a boat. Then stuff the boat with whatever veggies and grains you love such as a sautéed mix of quinoa, the scooped out zucchini, sundried tomatoes, and chopped spinach. A stuffed zucchini boat makes a beautiful presentation and it’s super-fun to get to eat the container your dinner comes in. Try these Raw Zucchini Boats with Creamy Garlic Sauce, Zucchini Cannelloni, and Stuffed Zucchini with Middle Eastern and Sicilian Flavors.
Craving a burger? You can make veggie burgers out of any vegetable so, think about using zucchini. Not only does it add mild flavor but adding zucchini to the veggie mix ensures you’ll have a moist burger patty. Try these Chickpea and Zucchini Burgers, Zucchini Mushroom Veggie Burgers, Zucchini and Corn Veggie Burgers, Baked Zucchini and Amaranth Patties, and the Big Mac of veggie burgers, this Mushroom and Zucchini Burger with Radicchio Slaw. Get more burger tips in Make the Best Summer Burgers Ever.
6. Comforting Favorites
There are a lot of foods you may think twice before indulging in such as pizza, chips, and fries. But when you use zucchini in the recipes, those indulgent foods suddenly become a whole lot healthier. Make fries you can feel good about eating like these Zucchini Polenta Fries and these Zucchini Tater Tots. If you’re a potato chip lover, you’ll want to try these Panko-Crusted Zucchini Chips and these Raw Nacho Cheese Zucchini Chips.
Fritters are always a favorite and zucchini is a great ingredient. Just grate the zucchini and squeeze out the liquid. You’ll love these Jalapeno Zucchini Fritters, Zucchini Chickpea Fritters, and Sesame Zucchini Fritters. Bet you never thought zucchini could substitute for meat! Well, it can because zucchini takes on the flavors you prepare it with. Try this BBQ Pulled Zucchini and this Zucchini Pepperoni Pizza and watch them disappear because they are sooo good!
7. Grilled and Roasted
If you’re firing up the grill for burgers, remember to save some room on there for the zucchini. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarter-inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and season with your favorite herbs and spices. Grill until tender, turning once half-way through. You can also grill zucchini indoors on a grill pan. These Grilled Zucchini with Herbed Crumbs are delicious. Zucchini are also great veggies to add to your kabobs in between the tofu and cherry tomatoes as in these Tofu Vegetable Kabobs with Peanut Sauce and Pineapple Island Kebabs. Roasting brings out the deepest flavors in any vegetable and zucchini is no exception. You’ll love this Miso-Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini and this Soufflé with Roasted Fennel, Zucchini, and Garlic.
8. Sauces and Cheeses
All types of squash, including zucchini, can be used to make cheese, cheese sauce, and other types of sauce. You’ll adore this Tofu in Creamy Zucchini and Mushroom Sauce. The zucchini and mushrooms are cooked slowly and languidly with vegan sour cream in a heavy-bottomed pan to produce a comforting stew-like consistency. Absolutely delicious!
In this Raw Mushroom Lasagna with Zucchini Cheese, shredded zucchini is seasoned with nutritional yeast to substitute for mozzarella shreds. Why have just one type of zucchini cheese when you can have two? This Sliceable Zucchini Cheese and Spreadable Tomato Nacho Cheese are both made with zucchini. The sliceable cheese is a beautiful pale green and it’s perfect for serving on crackers. The creamy orange nacho cheese will have you hoarding all the chips, crackers, and veggies you can find for dipping or you can use it for a mac and cheese sauce like in this Ultra-Cheesy Mac and Cheese. Zucchini is also the star ingredient in this Fat-Free ‘Cheese’ Sauce that you’ll want to pour over everything.
Don’t forget using your zucchini to make mouthwatering desserts! In baking, zucchini adds moisture to batters because of its high water content. That means you can use less or even no oil to make cakes and muffins. You really don’t taste the zucchini since it’s so mild but it adds moisture and nutrients so you can feel better about indulging in sweet treats. Some recipes to try include these Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins, Zucchini Blueberry Muffins, Zucchini Carrot Cupcakes with Avocado Icing, Zucchini Banana Cake, Zucchini Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Drizzle Icing, and no one will ever know there is zucchini in these Individual Chocolate Espresso Cakes.
Other desserts with zucchini in the mix include this Frozen Pina Colada Cake, Raw Chocolate Zucchini Bites, Maple Zucchini Doughnuts with Date Frosting, and summer wouldn’t be complete without these Mango Zucchini Bread Ice Cream Sandwiches.
10. More Ideas
By now, it should be obvious that there are endless ways to use zucchini. This Sweet Zucchini Relish goes perfectly with any dish while this Greek Zucchini Pie is a hearty and flavorful way to feed a crowd. Eat like a caveman with this Paleo Zucchini Bread and learn how to make Perfect Ratatouille and Ratatouille Pizza. Sandwich lovers will flip for this Vegan Muffuletta and Taco Tuesday can only get better with these Zucchini Spaghetti Tacos.
For even more recipes and ideas, see 10 Delicious Ways to Use All That Summer Zucchini, 10 Ways to Cook with Fresh Summer Squash, and 10 Zucchini-Filled Dishes for National Zucchini Day.
Zucchini has long been an under-appreciated vegetable but it’s time for zucchini to get the attention it deserves. Summer is the perfect time to try all the delicious and amazing recipes you can make with zucchini.
Lead image source: Summer Zoodle Glow Bowl With Creamy Avocado Lime Sauce