31 Days of Vegetables

Zucchini: The Best Ways to Pick It, Cook It, and Eat It

updated Jul 20, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Which vegetable is the ultimate sign of summer? Corn, tomatoes… or zucchini? That bouncing green vegetable, piled up at markets and creeping over your neighbor’s fence could really be the most iconic sign of summer’s hot, lush abundance. I mean, once zucchini starts it takes the first frost to stop it. It’s the plant that keeps on giving, and giving, and giving… and we’re not mad about it. If you’re super into zucchini this summer, or have a generous neighbor with a runaway garden, this is for you. Here’s how to pick, chop, zoodle, and eat your way to zucchini bliss this summer.

The Zucchini Top 5

Five top clicks for the courgette-obsessed.

  1. The top zucchini recipe on Pinterest.
  2. Meghan Markle’s 3-ingredient zucchini pasta sauce. (Yes, we tried it!)
  3. What to do with a really massive zucchini.
  4. The absolute cutest way to eat zucchini for breakfast.
  5. The 5 recipes that made me love zucchini at last.

Zucchini Nutrition

In 100g of sliced zucchini (about 3/4 cup) there are 17 calories and 29% of your Vitamin C. Zucchini is primarily water (95%) and is relatively low in carbs with about 2.1g of net carbs in 100g of zucchini.

What’s the Difference Between a Zucchini and a Cucumber?

Zucchini and cucumber are two vegetables that are closely related botanically, and they look and sometimes taste similar. They both are about 95% water, and have similar nutritional values. However, cucumbers are crisper and sweeter in their taste, with a watery texture that is more refreshing. Zucchini usually has a more bitter flavor when uncooked and a drier texture with a thicker skin. Either can be eaten raw, but we usually prefer zucchini cooked or spiralized.

How to Choose the Best Zucchini

While it’s fun to talk about monster zucchini (and to watch them grow in the garden) the best zucchini are small. Pick or choose them small (about 6 inches or under) and grill them or roast them. As zucchini get larger they get more bitter and tough. Eat ’em young!

How to Store Zucchini

Zucchini are thin-skinned and perishable. They are fine on the countertop at room temperature for a few days, but for longer storage stash them in the refrigerator. Make sure they are perfectly dry so they don’t rot. Stored in the fridge, they will last up to 10 days.

Can Dogs Eat Zucchini?

Yes, zucchini is a good garden treat for your pup, according to the American Kennel Club. Unseasoned zucchini is a good snack in moderation. As always, if you have questions about feeding human food to your dog, talk to your veterinarian.

Can You Eat Zucchini Raw?

Yes! Zucchini is just fine raw, although larger specimens may taste a little bitter. In fact, people really love raw zoodles, or raw zucchini noodles. Learn how to make them here:

The Best Ways to Cook Zucchini

In terms of cooking zucchini, they are great cut on the bias and sautéed until tender, or lightly roasted with olive oil at 400F until browned. You can also grill zucchini, which is a wonderful way to enjoy them. Here are more basic tips and recipes for cooking zucchini:

Plus, grilling instructions…

How to Freeze Zucchini

Zucchini is a great vegetable to freeze. First quickly blanch the vegetables to prevent them from getting mushy in the freezer, then plunge in ice water and freeze quickly in a single layer. Then transfer to bags and freeze for up to a few months. 

The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Zucchini

If you have leftover zucchini, freeze it as seen above, and save for use later in soups or stews, or in zucchini bread.

Plus, recipes to inspire you…

Our Top 20 Zucchini Recipes

Twenty recipes to actually make a dent in all that zucchini this summer. Start with zucchini bread, and move on to this amazing zucchini butter.

What’s your favorite recipe or use for zucchini? Any favorite way to cook it?

31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days. How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!