5 Ways to Use Zucchini

By: Alison Cooper

Got a bumper crop of zucchini? Share this versatile veggie with your family, friends and co-workers. See more vegetable pictures.
©iStockphoto.com/Jamie Farrant

Zucchini -- and many other types of squash -- is native to Central America, but we can thank the Italians for popularizing the veggie we know and love today. They coined a name (zucchini means "little squash") for this new food, which was brought to Italy by New World explorers and quickly incorporated into all sorts of dishes.

Zucchini spread to cuisines all over the world and for good reason. It's incredibly versatile, easy to cook and packs a big punch, nutrition-wise: A medium zucchini has only 25 calories and more potassium than a banana. It's also a great source of folates, vitamin A and manganese. And if you're a gardener, you know that zucchini is extremely prolific -- sometimes you can't use all your zucchini harvest no matter how hard you try!


Whether you get your "little squash" from the grocery store, farmers market or your own garden, we have five great ideas for you, including a few tricks to get this nutritious veggie into your kids' diet. Click to the next page for our first delicious idea.

5: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini bread is a tried-and-true way to get extra veggies into your diet.
Zucchini bread is a tried-and-true way to get extra veggies into your diet.

Zucchini bread is a time-honored secret of moms who use a bit of trickery to sneak nutrition into their picky little eaters' diets. If you peel the zucchini before shredding it (though we don't recommend that because the peel is chock full of vitamins and minerals), little eyes won't be able to detect even a hint of green in this yummy, cakelike treat. To increase the health factor, this recipe uses whole wheat flour and substitutes yogurt for oil; zucchini bread is so delicious, no one will suspect it's full of goodness.


4: Zucchini "Pasta"

If you're looking for a way to break out of the traditional spaghetti or mac and cheese routine -- or if you've been avoiding carbs for health reasons -- give zucchini "pasta" a shot. Use a vegetable peeler or mandolin to cut the zucchini vertically into long, thin ribbons. Sauté the strips for just a few minutes and serve with your choice of pasta sauce and toppings.

This ribbon technique works equally well on cucumbers, carrots and large yellow summer squash -- simply toss the long strands of veggies and your favorite dressing together for a twist on a cold "pasta" salad.


3: Stuffed Boats

Let your little ones help in the kitchen by scraping out the seeds and stuffing the zucchinis.
Let your little ones help in the kitchen by scraping out the seeds and stuffing the zucchinis.
©iStockphoto.com/Julija Sapic

Here's yet another method to use zucchini to trick your kids into eating healthy -- boats! Cut your zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Then fill the shells with your favorite veggie or meat mixture (we like this recipe that features Italian sausage), top with cheese and bake until bubbly. Voilá! A nutritious meal even the pickiest child couldn't resist.


2: Pickled Zucchini

Zucchinis are often confused for cucumbers at first sight, so it stands to reason that they (along with plenty of other vegetables) are delicious when pickled. There's virtually no cooking involved -- just slice the zucchini, mix up a pickling liquid and add in a few herbs. Sounds good, right? This recipe walks you through the entire process.


1: Fried Zucchini Flowers

Trim the stems of zucchini flowers to about half an inch before cooking.
Trim the stems of zucchini flowers to about half an inch before cooking.

Bright yellow-orange zucchini flowers are beautiful but can be intimidating -- cooking and eating flowers isn't something that most of us do on a regular basis, after all. But they're delicious and versatile and actually easy to prepare. One of the simplest ways is to fry them in a light batter. Just whisk together flour and cold water to the consistency of heavy cream, thinly coat the flowers in the mixture, then fry them in hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes until light brown and crispy.

When selecting zucchini flowers (if you don't grow your own zucchini, the flowers are often available from produce vendors at farmers markets), it's best to pick closed blooms because they're less likely to have bugs in them -- but always check before you cook, of course!


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Food. "Zucchini." (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.food.com/library/zucchini-316
  • Food Channel. "Top 10 Zucchini Fun Facts." July 12, 2009. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.foodchannel.com/articles/article/top-10-zucchini-fun-facts/
  • Guinness Book of World Records. "Heaviest Zucchini Courgette." (Oct. 24, 2011) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-11000/heaviest-zucchini-courgette/
  • Los Angeles Times. "Zucchini Flowers: How to choose, store and prepare." May 29, 2009. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-fo-zucchini-flowers-s,0,351065.story
  • Parsons, Russ. "In season: Zucchini blossoms." Los Angeles Times. June 18, 2008. (Oct. 24, 2011) http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-market18-2008jun18,0,6822548.story
  • Shulman, Martha Rose. "Zucchini 'Pasta.'" Aug. 22, 2008. (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/23/health/22recipehealth.html
  • The World's Healthiest Foods. "Squash, Summer." (Oct. 17, 2011) http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=62