How to Cook Zucchini

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How to Cook Summer Squash and Zucchini / Katie Workman /

When zucchini come into season, they hit like a vegetal tsunami, bursting from the garden by the dozen (“wait, there were only about 6 of those when I went to bed last night!”), piled high at the farmers market, practically free at the supermarket, omnipresent in your CSA at the end of the summer.

How can we use it all without feeling like zucchini bread is coming out of our ears? Not that there’s anything wrong with a plentitude of zucchini bread — and you probably have neighbors! I have plenty of zucchini recipes for you to explore. Also know that summer squash can be cooked in the same way as zucchini, so feel free to swap in summer squash in any of these recipes.

Fresh Zucchini and Summer Squash piled on wood board.

How to Cook Zucchini: Everything you need to know about how to buying, stroing, preparing and cooking zucchini!

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What is Zucchini?

Technically zucchini are in the fruit family, though they are most often treated as a vegetable. They are called courgette throughout Europe. The yellow version is usually known as summer squash. You also might see striated summer squash.

Zucchini is used in many different cuisines, from the U.S. to Bulgaria to Egypt to Turkey and all throughout Europe.

Fresh zucchini and yellow summer squash in basket.

What Does Zucchini Taste Like?

Very mild and delicate. Zucchini have a high water content, making their flavor very subtle. When you cook them, you will notice that they lose a lot of water and shrink in size, making the flavor a bit more vegetal in flavor, but still fairly delicate in taste.


What is the difference between zucchini and summer squash?

The taste of each variety are similar, with the yellow versions being a bit more bland in flavor and sometimes a little less firm in texture. In most recipes, you can swap out one for the other without too much variation..

How big does zucchini get?

They range in size from babies the size of a finger to monster baseball bats. The longest zucchini clocked in at 8 ft 3.3 inches, grown by Mr. Giovanni Batista Scozzafava in Niagara Falls, Ontario, measured on August 28, 2014 (talk about a lot of zucchini bread). Zucchini grow pretty quickly — often, you can see that they get bigger overnight! They will continue to grow until you pick them (or a frost comes).

Is zucchini nutritious?

Zucchini and summer squash have a nice amount of folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C, and they are extremely low in calories

Fresh summer squash and zucchini of various sizes.

How to Choose Zucchini

Choose squash between 6 and 8 inches long, no more than 2 inches in diameter, firm to the touch, with smooth, taut skin.

The smaller squash tends to be less mealy and/or fibrous and more flavorful. However, the larger ones can be shredded and used in recipes like zucchini bread or hollowed out and stuffed. You may need to discard the spongy core of a very large squash and just use the outer portion of the squash — and the skin.

Wood board with pile of various summer squash and zucchini.

How to Store Zucchini

They can be stored in the fridge for several days, depending on how firm they were when you picked or bought them. Once they start to feel soft or mushy to the touch, it’s probably time to compost them.

How to Cook Zucchini

Its flavor is quite delicate, and therefore zucchini takes well to all kinds of preparations and seasonings since they are quite like a blank slate. It is usually simply cooked in some way — sautéed or steamed, sometimes fried, though they also can be stuffed and baked. Zucchini can be used in soups, stews, chilis, and pastas to easily add bulk and a boost of nutrition.

Sautéed Corn and Zucchini in Lemony Browned Butter piled in serving bowl with spoons.

Zucchini can also be used in raw preparations, like this Tomao, Zucchini, and Bulgur Salad, as uncooked squash is nicely crunchy, especially when they are on the smaller side.

It’s worth mentioning that the popularity of the spiralizer has put zucchini into the spotlight, with noodles (or zoodles) made from zucchini being used in place of pasta, either raw or lightly cooked. You can even buy pre-spiralized zoodles in lots of markets. You could substitute zoodles for pasta in almost any dish — they would be great with Marinara Sauce, Alfredo Sauce, or Puttanesca Sauce.

In any preparation, the smooth, brightly colored skin is usually left on, as it’s fully edible and quite pretty.

Zucchini Squash Blossoms on teal table top.

What to Do With Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini and summer squash put forth a flower on each end of the vegetable, which is also edible. The squash blossoms are often stuffed and fried, and they are delicious. For more information on cooking squash blossoms, see How to Cook Squash Blossoms!

Whole Zucchini and Summer Squash on wood cutting board.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Recipes

There is life beyond zucchini bread! You can switch between zucchini and summer squash in any of these recipes.

Beef Teriyaki, peppers, and zucchini on skewers.
5 from 1 vote

Beef Teriyaki Kebabs with Peppers and Zucchini

Truly, there are few things teriyaki sauce doesn’t work on.
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Vegetarian Greek Pasta Salad in serving platter on table.
5 from 5 votes

Vegetarian Greek Pasta

Feta, zucchini, and tomato are classic Greek ingredients, and they come together in this pasta like they've know each other forever.
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Zucchini Gratin in white serving dish.
5 from 1 vote

Baby Zucchini Gratin

15 minutes into the oven, and 45 minutes of hands off time. This simple, cheesy gratin turns anything into a seriously classy meal.
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Baked Zucchini Chips in serving dish with marinara.
5 from 1 vote

Baked Zucchini Chips

Breaded zucchini slices are a great way to introduce zucchini into the old repertoire because almost everything is better with a bit of crunch and a bit of cheese.
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White serving plate of Zucchini Ribbon Salad on a wooden table.
5 from 1 vote

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

The perfectly pretty salad to make with those perfectly pretty zucchini.
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Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad in bowl with spoon.
5 from 2 votes

Tomato, Zucchini, and Bulgur Salad

A great grain and vegetable salad for all kinds of occasions.
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Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
5 from 2 votes

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Easy and moist, this quick bread is the perfect thing to make as summer turns into fall.
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Fried zucchini fritti on wood serving tray with lemons and marinara.
5 from 2 votes

Zucchini Fritti

Crispy and hard to stop eating, these little fried sticks of zucchini are best enjoyed hot right from the stove and the perfect nibble with cocktails before dinner. Enjoy on their own or pair with a dipping sauce!
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Mediterranean Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops
4.98 from 39 votes

Mediterranean-Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

These slowly cooked Mediterranian-style lamb chops are fall apart tender and nestled into a lovely vegetable-studded red wine and tomato sauce.
View Recipe

Still getting yourself up to speed on different produce? Aren’t we all!

About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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