How to Cook Zucchini and Summer Squash

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

How to Cook Summer Squash and Zucchini / Katie Workman /

So, these vegetables aren’t necessarily unfamiliar, like kohlrabi or rutabagas…but when zucchinis 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 at the farmers market, practically free at the supermarket, omnipresent in your CSA at the end of the summer.

How to use it all and not feel like zucchini bread is coming out of your ears? (Not that there’s anything wrong with a plentitude of zucchini bread — and you probably have neighbors!) I have plenty of zucchini and summer squash recipes for you to explore.

Fresh Zucchini and Summer Squash piled on wood board.

What the heck do I do with all that zucchini? Here’s everything you need to know about how to cook zucchini!

Tweet This

What Are Summer Squash and Zucchini?

Technically they are in the fruit family, though they are most often treated as a vegetable. Summer squash can be green (known as zucchini or courgette throughout Europe), yellow (usually called summer squash or yellow zucchini), or striated.

Fresh zucchini and yellow summer squash in basket.

What Do Summer Squash and Zucchini Taste Like?

Very mild and delicate. The flavors of each variety are similar, with the yellow versions being a bit more bland in taste and sometimes a little less firm in texture.

How Big Do Summer Squash and Zucchini Get?

They range in size from babies the size of a finger to monster baseball bats. The longest zucchini measured 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).

Fresh summer squash and zucchini of various sizes.

How Do I Choose Zucchini and Summer Squash?

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 Do I Store Summer Squash and Zucchini?

They can be stored in the fridge for several days, depending on how firm they were when you picked or bought them.

How Do I Cook Summer Squash and Zucchini?

Summer squash (zucchini in particular) is used in many different cuisines, from the U.S. to Bulgaria to Egypt to Turkey and all throughout Europe.

The flavor is quite delicate, and therefore zucchini and summer squash take well to all kinds of preparations and seasonings since they are quite like a blank slate. They are usually simply cooked in some way — sautéed or steamed, sometimes fried, though they also can be stuffed and baked. Zucchini and summer squash can be used in soups, stews, and chilis, to easily add bulk and a boost of nutrition. Don’t peel them! The skin adds nice color to dishes.

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

They can also be used in raw preparations, like salads, 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.

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

What Do I 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.

Zucchini Squash Blossoms on teal table top.

Is Zucchini/Summer Squash Nutritious?

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

Whole Zucchini and Summer Squash on wood cutting board.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Recipes

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.
View Recipe

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.
View Recipe

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.
View Recipe

Baked Zucchini Chips and marinara on a white serving dish.
5 from 1 vote

Baked Zucchini Chips

This is a great way to introduce zucchini into the old repertoire, because most everything is better with a bit of crunch and a bit of cheese.
View Recipe

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.
View Recipe

Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad / Mia / Katie Workman /
5 from 2 votes

Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad

A great grain and vegetable salad for all kinds of occasions.
View Recipe

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.
View Recipe

Zoodle salad in bowl made with zucchini "noodles."
4.67 from 3 votes

Zoodle Salad with Scallion Vinaigrette

A very good reason to own a sprializer.
View Recipe

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 thing to nibble with cocktails before dinner. Enjoy on their own, or pair with a dipping sauce!
View Recipe

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.

You May Also Like:

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *