If you’re new to gardening, you’ve probably researched when to plant squash, how to grow zucchini and which zucchini varieties to choose, only to hear jokes about locking your car doors while at church or you’ll find your vehicle stuffed with produce. Three times a year you might find offerings on your doorstep: May Day, the winter holidays, and zucchini season. Unless your garden suffers a tragedy, you’l soon need some easy zucchini recipes.
A very versatile food, all zucchini varieties can be harvested before the blossom even pollinates. Steamed baby fruit sit beautifully beside garlic-butter polenta and chicken parmesan. Young zucchini, about 8-12 inches long, have the most flavor. After that, the taste may decline but the versatility doesn’t. And even if you don’t see the dark green squash until they remind you of submarines, you can still use them as something other than baseball bats.
To harvest, either cut through the stem with garden pruners or gently twist the fruit in a continuous circle until the stem breaks and separates. Then use the easy zucchini recipes below.
Easy Zucchini Recipes for Soups and Sides
Spinach and Zucchini Soup: Garden veggies, a little oil, and a pinch of salt go into this easy Vegan delight.
Marinated Salad: Cook pasta such as macaroni or penne. Drain, cool, and toss with a little oil. Dice grilled or raw zucchini. Throw in some chopped fresh herbs, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and maybe thin slivers of salami. Toss with Italian salad dressing and serve lukewarm or cold.
Mama Ghannouj: Also called zucchini hummus, this easy zucchini recipe uses squash instead of eggplant or garbanzo beans. Tahini can be expensive as an initial purchase but a little goes a long way with Mediterranean dishes.
Zucchini Spears: Cut zucchini into equal-sized spears or sticks. In one bowl, mix panko crumbs or cornmeal with the seasoning mix of your choice, such as seasoned salt. In a second bowl, beat a couple eggs. Add a little flour to the third. Dip zucchini spears first into the flour, then into the egg, and finally roll them around in the panko. Place on an oiled baking sheet and bake at 350°F for about 25 minutes, until golden and crispy.
Zucchini Fritters: Follow this easy zucchini recipe, but make it healthier by baking them instead of frying. Oil a baking sheet. Drop large spoons full of batter onto the sheet then gently flatten. Bake at 400°F until the fritters begin to turn golden brown.
Sauteed Garlic Zucchini: Probably the simplest recipe aside from eating a zucchini stick, this one involves chopping or slicing the vegetable then sauteeing it with butter or oil and minced garlic. Top with fresh or dried herbs and sea salt.
Raw Zucchini-Tomato Pasta: Make zoodles (raw noodles) by running zucchini through a spiral cutter or simply by using a vegetable peeler to make long, thin slices. Raw marinara is simple: crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, salt, and fresh herbs. Top with a little cheese and serve unheated to take advantage of live enzymes.
Lightly Cooked Zucchini Noodles: While you cook pasta, shave zucchini with a vegetable peeler into thin noodles. Heat up your sauce at the same time. While the pasta is still boiling, toss the zucchini into the water and stir. Only wait a minute or two. Now drain both pasta and zucchini into a colander and lightly rinse with warm water. Top with pasta sauce.
Lasagna: Cut hundreds of calories and make lasagna grain-free by using zucchini instead of noodles. Cut zucchini lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick slabs. Brush both sides with oil and roast at 400°F until cooked all the way through but still holds its shape. Layer zucchini with ricotta cheese, sauce, and desired meat. Bake at 350°F for 30-60 minutes, depending on pan size, until the lasagna is heated through.
Quiche: Add cheese or leave it out. Add meat or make it vegetarian. For a crust-less quiche, grease a pie plate then sprinkle generously with cornmeal or flax seed and tilt the pan to completely coat it. Toss vegetables into the crust, sprinkle with desired cheese, then finish filling with the egg and dairy mixture.
Mini Pizzas: Cut large zucchini into ¼-inch-thick rounds. Brush oil on both sides and then broil or grill for two minutes. Spread with a spoonful of pizza sauce and top with mozzarella then broil for another couple minutes, being careful not to burn the cheese.
Zucchini Kebabs: If using wooden skewers, soak them for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Two hours is better. Alternate zucchini with peppers, pineapple chunks, small onions, meat, or marinated firm tofu. Broil or grill until the meat is cooked completely. Brush with teriyaki sauce or sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.
Zucchini Fajitas: A classic southwest dish turns vegetarian when you saute sliced zucchini instead of meat. Include red and green bell peppers and onions then sprinkle with lime juice, salt, and chili powder as it all cooks. Serve in warm flour or corn tortillas. To make this dish Vegan, top with guacamole instead of sour cream and be sure your tortillas don’t contain lard.
Zucchini Boats: If you didn’t check your garden for a couple days and your squash have grown to resemble a size 13 shoe, don’t despair. Slice them down the middle and scoop out those overgrown seeds. Fill with rice, cooked beef or chicken, chopped onions, almond or pecan gems, cubed cheese, fresh herbs, and maybe some dried cranberries. The combinations are vast. Bake at 350°F until zucchini is tender. Top with desired sauce such as ketchup, teriyaki, or a sweet chili sauce.
Zucchini Bread: This easy zucchini recipe uses less oil than most zucchini breads. To make it even healthier, replace the oil with applesauce. Switch out one cup of the cake flour for rolled oats. Add a couple tablespoons of flax or sunflower seeds. Trade the chocolate for nuts or dried fruit.
Zucchini Cookies: Not everything on the list is healthy, but you can justify this recipe because of the vegetables and protein-rich eggs. If you need another nutritional boost, substitute some of the flour for whole wheat or for rolled oats.
Waffles: This incredibly healthy recipe is easy. First, remove excess liquid by sprinkling zucchini with a teaspoon of kosher salt and draining in a colander for 30 minutes. Rinse, squeeze out as much water as possible. Then follow the directions.
Zucchini Cornbread: A favorite side dish to comforting soups just got healthier. Try this one with zucchini you have grated then frozen, then thawed and drained, for a wintertime treat.
Zucchini Pickles: This Ball canning book says, “Why confine pickling to cucumbers? Other vegetables make delicious pickles. Here’s a mustard pickles recipe you might enjoy. The brilliant colors produce pickles that are beautiful to look at, and their crisp texture and robust flavors make enjoyable treats.” The book’s recipe Pick-a-Vegetable dill pickles suggests using zucchini, mini carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, and green or yellow beans in place of cucumbers. The vinegar’s acidity is so high that switching out these vegetables is perfectly safe. Just be sure to cut the vegetables into similar widths so they cook evenly and don’t reduce the vinegar or sugar in the recipe.
Dehydrated Zucchini Chips: You wouldn’t consider zucchini to be a sweet food until you’ve condensed the sugars by removing the liquid. Thinly slice into coins about 1/8 inch thick then arrange in a single layer in a food dehydrator. Set dial to 135°F. If you start drying at night, you’ll have chips in the morning in time to pack for school lunches.
Chicken Food: If those dark green fruits hide under leaves and you don’t discover them until they’re as long as a baseball bat, they can still feed you in the form of eggs. Slice the zucchini lengthwise so chickens can eat the seeds first then move on through the flesh. If you don’t have chickens, find someone who does and offer to trade for fresh eggs.
Knowing how to harvest zucchini is just the beginning. Learning how to preserve zucchini and how to make delicious dinner recipes will ensure none goes to waste.
What’s your favorite easy zucchini recipe?