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How to Cook Zucchini

Created December 8, 2016
5-Ingredient Cheesy Zucchini Bake
Knowing how to cook zucchini and what to make with it can be challenging. We break down everything you need to know to transform this understated veg into delicious family-approved recipes.


If you saw it in the grocery store or at the farmers’ market, you might glance over it. But don’t look past perhaps the most versatile squash: the zucchini. Not only can you enjoy it roasted, sautéed and grilled, but zucchini can be used as a topping for pizza, or as the crust for the pizza itself! It can be rolled into zucchini lasagna roll-ups or spiralized into spaghetti “noodles” to replace the pasta, and it can be made into fries or baked into a cheesy casserole. And it doesn’t even stop there. Ever heard of zucchini tots?

Oven-Fried Zucchini Tots

This small green (or yellow) squash can be used in so many dishes that we thought we’d pull together a guide to cooking it. From over-the-top zucchini pizzas and flatbreads to the more humble sautéed zucchini with garlic, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about this tasty vegetable. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even convince you to eat it for breakfast or dessert!

What is Zucchini?

Zucchini is a squash that’s most commonly green or yellow with smooth, thin skin. It’s a summer squash, along with yellow squash, pattypan squash, crookneck squash and a few other varietals, which are at their peak during the summer months. There are even more obscure types of zucchini, such as romanesco zucchini, which has striped ridges and a different flavor, but the primary type found in your local grocery store is green zucchini squash.

There is one important note to be made about what zucchini is not. Yellow zucchini is not yellow squash. Sometimes the two are used interchangeably, but while yellow zucchini is technically a type of squash that is yellow, yellow squash is actually a different vegetable. Although they look similar, you can tell them apart by their shape: yellow squash tapers toward the neck and can sometimes have a curved neck. Yellow zucchini has a mostly uniform shape throughout, just like green zucchini.

Fun fact: The British call zucchinis courgettes.

What to Make with Zucchini

Zucchini is great because it can be used in so many different flavor profiles. It’s fairly bland on its own, so it lends itself to strong complementary flavors such as garlic and fresh herbs (oregano, basil, dill, rosemary). Its relative blandness is also perfect for sneaking vegetables into desserts like zucchini bread, muffins or cookies. Zucchini’s high water content helps keep baked goods moist.

Double-Chocolate Zucchini Cookies

Zucchini is also a lovely addition to breakfast tacos or egg dishes such as frittatas and quiches. It works well in mixed vegetable dishes, soups, as a topping on flatbread or pizza—in fact, it’s hard to find recipes this vegetable doesn’t work well in.

Italian Zucchini Crescent Pie

Grilling zucchini is a nice way to cook it during the warmer months and the vegetable benefits from that smoky char that comes from the grill. I love to serve grilled zucchini at room temperature, topped with a yummy sauce like chimichurri or pesto. Grilled zucchini also makes a great addition to a sandwich.

Grilled Zucchini and Tomatoes

A fun way to eat this veggie is by spiralizing it into spaghetti-like zucchini noodles. In order to do this you’ll need a spiralizer, a tool that comes in many different styles and sizes. Once you have the tool, it’s incredibly easy to make spiralized zucchini noodles and top them with your favorite pasta sauces and seasonings. They can be eaten raw, or briefly sautéed or steamed, which only takes about five minutes.

My favorite way to cook zucchini is a very simple recipe, requiring just four ingredients you probably already have on hand: olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Here’s how to do it.

How to Make Sautéed Zucchini

Sauteed Zucchini

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add zucchini, salt and pepper. Cook 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until zucchini is golden brown and tender.

That’s it! It’s really that simple. Once the zucchini is golden brown and tender, serve it up with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese if your heart so desires. It’s an incredibly easy side dish the whole family will love.

But if they don’t and you still want to squeeze in some extra vegetables, there are all kinds of other delicious ways to use zucchini.

How to Store Leftover Zucchini

As with any cooked food, the USDA recommends that leftovers be cooled rapidly and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days, or in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

When reheating leftover cooked zucchini, your best bet for a good texture will be to sauté it on the stovetop. No need to add extra oil, just cook it in a sauté pan until it’s warmed through.

Looking for ways to use up leftover cooked zucchini? Stir it into soups or stews, toss it into a salad or pasta dish, or bake it into an egg casserole.