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Kale has had its heyday. Cauliflower enjoyed its 15 minutes of fame. And while we love them both, we think it's time another veggie got its moment in the spotlight, and we can’t think of a better candidate than zucchini. It recently piqued the world’s attention with the introduction of spiralized “zoodles”, but that’s just one example of zucchini’s impressive versatility.

Given that it's also super nutritious—the summer squash boasts cancer-fighting antioxidants, manganese and potassium for nerve and brain health, immunity-boosting vitamin C, antibody-building vitamin B6, and skin-protecting lutein—you shouldn't hesitate to add it to recipes. Still, if its impressive nutritional profile doesn’t blow you away, perhaps these recipes will. Whether it’s rolled into meatballs, baked into potato tots, or blended into ice cream, there's way more to zucchini than noodles (though we included recipes for that too).

Breakfast

Beef Zucchini Hash
Photo: Hold the Grain

If you’re more of the savory breakfast type, this speedy skillet is a an easy detour from your usual omelet. The beef and eggs provide plenty of stick-to-your-ribs satiety while a generous two cups of chopped zucchini take the edge off all the richness. The dish may be ready in just 15 minutes, but the filling combination of protein and fiber from the meat and veggies will prevent any mindless snacking later in the morning.

Why make oatmeal when you can use oats to make cookies for breakfast? With just one-third of a cup of sugar in the entire batch, these have less sugar than most cereals or sweetened oatmeals out there. They're so good, go ahead and have them in the morning and as dessert.

If you really want to keep the veggies in these whole-grain pancakes hidden, remove the skins from the zucchini. We’d recommend keeping them on, though, as that’s where most of the squash’s fiber and eye-protecting antioxidants live. Plus there’s just something so pretty about the flecks of green peeking out from that fluffy, golden-brown stack.

Worried that gluten-free, low-fat, eggless baking yields cardboard-like results? Thanks to the moisture from the zucchini and ever-versatile Greek yogurt, these breakfast bakes stay fluffy even without the wheat or butter. Muffin tins allow for easy individual portions, but pour the batter in a cake tin to make breakfast really look like dessert!

Do away with the pie shell (store-bought versions can hide sneaky trans fats and who has the time to roll out a homemade one?) and let the veggies shine in this simple brunch favorite. Mushrooms and onions play supporting roles to the zucchini, and with feta lending a savory bite, you won’t miss the crust.

Zucchini oats, or “zoats” as they’re known in the blogosphere, are ever popular among health foodies. If you’ve never tried them, start with this pudding-like recipe with a tablespoon of cacao or cocoa powder to only mask the grated zucchini but also give you some flavanols that are beneficial for blood pressure and heart health.Effects of high flavanol dark chocolate on cardiovascular function and platelet aggregation. Rull G, Mohd-Zain ZN, Shiel J. Vascular pharmacology, 2015, Apr.;71():1879-3649. Chocolate may stand out as the major flavor here, but you can feel good knowing that with each sweet spoonful, you’re still getting in a half serving of veggies.

Sweetened with maple syrup plus a touch of cinnamon and vanilla, this is a truly healthy muffin recipe. Ready in just half an hour and perfectly portable, you can make a batch and freeze them so you can grab and go when you’re rushing out the door or sit down for a leisurely meal with coffee.

Sip your way to better skin with this zucchini bread smoothie—the veggie’s abundance of vitamin C is crucial for fighting wrinkles and dryness. Along with spinach and banana, this meal manages to pack in produce and still taste like dessert thanks to all the spices. Win win!

Zucchini Noodles

Roasted Corn and Zucchini Salad With Chili Lime Vinaigrette
Photo: With Salt and Wit

Teamed up with corn and red onions to be tossed in a zesty olive oil-based dressing, this gluten-free zoodle dish is practically a pasta salad, but since it isn’t doused in mayo, feel free to make it your contribution to your next outdoor gathering. Throw in some cotija cheese or omit it if you’ll be serving this to dairy-free friends—it’s just as scrumptious without.

Lasagna is up there on the list of comfort foods, so you may be wary of venturing away from Mom’s recipe. But this one proves that change really can be a good thing; baked to soft perfection between the classic layers of cheese, tomato sauce, and beef , zucchini mimics noodles so well that the swap may not even be noticeable—until you realize later that you’re not slumping over in a food coma.

Drenched in oil, salt, and sugar, restaurant versions of peanut noodles can be fat and sodium bombs.Fast-food and full-service restaurant consumption in relation to daily energy and nutrient intakes among US adult cancer survivors, 2003-2012. An R, Liu J. Nutrition and health, 2015, Aug.;():0260-1060. This one takes it easy on all three but still retains that must-have nutty flavor, using natural peanut butter and just a touch of sesame oil and soy sauce. Poured over thin strands of zucchini with red peppers tossed in for even more veggie action, these are peanut noodles you’ll want to be slurping on a daily basis.

With all the herbs and spices it requires, Thai food may seem daunting to make at home, but this recipe keeps things basic yet full of flavor, using ingredients that are easy to find at most mainstream grocery stores. Zucchini noodles soak in a simmering, iron-rich coconut milk base, while the lean protein from the chicken breast gives the meal some satiety. Warm, nourishing, and slightly rich, it’s practically a hug in a bowl, perfect for lazy nights in.

Widely available as preservative-filled junk food, packaged ramen as we know it has long suffered a dubious reputation. But this recipe may redeem that questionable rap, swapping the fried noodles out for zucchini spirals and dunking them in a fresh and fragrant broth of mushrooms, onions, and miso paste. It may not be the most authentic bowl of ramen out there, but it’s certainly one of the most nutritious.

Comprised of nothing but veggies tossed in herbs and olive oil for maximum nutrient absorption, this is really a colorful salad disguised as spaghetti thanks to the spiralized zucchini.Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans. Goltz SR, Campbell WW, Chitchumroonchokchai C. Molecular nutrition & food research, 2012, Oct.;56(6):1613-4133. The fresh corn and lightness of the “noodles” makes it an ideal dish for the summertime, but since it can be served hot, it’s also totally appropriate for when chillier weather sets in.

This may be one of the more time-consuming recipes here, but it’s still less work than having to knead dough and bust out a pasta-maker! Large peels of zucchini act as the raw version of ravioli, wrapping around a protein-rich filling of chicken, mascarpone cheese, and basil. Since it does take a few (worth it!) extra minutes to assemble this Paleo-friendly meal, call your friends and get them involved in dinner, or save it for a date night at home.

Replacing pasta with zucchini noodles is a popular choice when there’s a rich sauce involved. Even though this Alfredo is a vegan version, it's just as creamy thanks to the heart-healthy cashews and miso and nutritional yeast lend a cheesy, salty taste. For added freshness, sprinkle some chopped basil on top before serving.

Other Mains

Stuffed Zucchini Boats With Quinoa and Pine Nuts
Photo: A Spicy Perspective

Since it is 95 percent water, zucchini alone won’t make a satisfying meal. But it’s a different story when you remove the moisture in the middle and stuff it with a plant protein like quinoa along with veggies, Parmesan, and pine nuts, which may suppress appetite by boosting hormones that cause satiety. Plus the presentation is quite impressive yet super easy.

No food processor, no slow cooker, no immersion blender; this simple soup requires just a pot and eight ingredients. The zucchini is softly cooked, giving the dish a nice and chunky texture, while tomato paste and garlic amp up its Italian-inspired flavor and antioxidant profile. About 15 minutes are all you need before soup’s on!

Enchiladas are delicious, but they can also be meaty, cheese-laden, digestive nightmares. These use a modest amount of lower-lactose goat cheese, which tends to be easier on your system, while the black bean and zucchini filling stands in as a lighter alternative to beef. They may become your favorite recipe to enjoy Mexican food the lighter way.

Cauliflower pizza crust is so last week. We've moved on to using zucchini to make our low-carb pies. Two cups of the shredded stuff is mixed with a little flour, eggs, and cheese to bind it all together. Bake the crust on both sides to ensure it's crispy, then top as you wish.

It’s reminiscent of gratin, but with just a quarter of a cup of Parmesan, half a tablespoon of butter, and no cream in sight, this casserole can be filed under “everyday eats” rather than “reserve for special occasions.” With the lack of heavy ingredients clearing the way for zucchini to take center stage, you may gain a newfound appreciation for how it really doesn’t take much to elevate the veggie from simple to succulent.

A common ingredient in raw foods cuisine, zucchini steps in for rice in these no-cook, veggie-packed rolls. While plenty of carrot, cucumber, and radish provide that satisfying crunch, and a cashew filling plus slices of creamy avocado give it some healthy, unsaturated staying power to make them filling enough for lunch or a light dinner.

Why not add zucchini to this Middle Eastern fave? Be sure to really squeeze out the moisture so your falafel sticks together. Baking instead of the usual deep-frying method makes them that much more nutritionally appealing, while plenty of spices like cumin and coriander powder ensure that their flavor will be irresistible too.

Side Dishes

Zucchini Pizza Bites
Photo: The Comfort of Cooking

Little disks of zucchini replace a bready crust to sneak a little heart-strengthening potassium into your pizza, while classic toppings like marinara, mozzarella, and pepperoni make sure you’re satisfying a craving. Ready in less than 10 minutes and pretty darn adorable to boot, these bites are a no-brainer for a party appetizer.

It may take a while to bake these zucchini rounds to chip-like crispness, but we promise it’s for good reason. Not only are these three-ingredient veggies a lower-carb, heart-healthy alternative to your usual taters, you can customize them with spices of your choice—now we’d say that’s worth the wait!

Cheesy, eggy, crispy, and chewy... fritters are just so fun to eat (and say!). This zucchini-based rendition cuts down on the ladlefuls of oil soaked up by your run-of-the-mill recipe without compromising any of the texture or flavor. You’ll still get all the garlicky, Parmesan-flecked savory crunch in these mini-pancakes, with none of the grease.

Bursting with cheesy, herby flavor, this Italian-inspired side proves that eating your vegetables doesn’t have to mean steaming them to limp mush or boring mixed greens. Not only does a Parmesan crust make just about anything more appetizing, but with the tomatoes’ lycopene, garlic’s sulfur compounds, and zucchini’s antioxidants, it’s boasts a trifecta of cancer-fighting properties.Lycopene - antioxidant with radioprotective and anticancer properties. A review. Gajowik A, Dobrzyńska MM. Roczniki Państwowego Zakładu Higieny, 2015, Jun.;65(4):0035-7715. The analysis of onion and garlic. Lanzotti V. Journal of chromatography. A, 2006, Jan.;1112(1-2):0021-9673.

Made in mini muffin tins, these two-bite nibbles couldn’t be easier to whip up. Unlike the freezer-section packages made with disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate (say what?), this recipe is all about real food, from the shredded zucchini and potatoes to the cornmeal and cheddar. Serve them up as a healthier alternative to traditional tots or hash browns along with brunch or simply as a savory snack.

Give your zucchini an Eastern flair with easy-to-find, Asian-inspired ingredients. A few dollops of sriracha make it spicy enough to rev your metabolism, while a squeeze of honey cuts through the heat for more modest palates. If you had any lingering doubts that zucchini was boring, this dish should extinguish them once and for all.

Breadcrumbs and Parmesan lend that all-important crunch factor to these zucchini “fries”, while Italian seasoning and garlic powder give them a flavor boost that you won’t find in any fast-food chain. A trip to the oven bakes them up to be golden-brown and just as addictive as regular fries without any worrying over ingredients like dimethylpolysiloxane (we don't think that grows on trees) and “natural beef flavor” lurking in them.

Desserts

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Photo: The Fit Housewife

Dark, moist, and unabashedly chocolatey, even we had to do a double take to believe that there are two zucchinis in this cake. It gets even better: a batter with half whole-wheat flour ups the fiber content, with Greek yogurt joining the party to cut down on the oil. There’s even an optional glaze should you decide to give it an ultimate chocolate finish!

They resemble the classic buttery, sugar-ed up blondies so closely that only the little flecks of zucchini here and there would give away the healthy swaps in these bars. Using cholesterol-lowering all-natural nut butter and the green veggie to replace some of the fat while adding fiber, the results are just as ooey-gooey as the originals but score way better when it comes to nutrition.

Featuring an entire cup of zucchini but not a single hint of dairy, this vegan and raw cheesecake will blow you mind in more ways than one. The crust is made of pecans while the silken chocolate filling has a cashew base so you get some iron for a healthy metabolism. How could you not go nuts for it?

If you’re looking to get a little experimental in the kitchen, start with dessert—this dessert, to be specific! From the black beans and zucchini replacing the flour to the use of dates and coconut sugar as unrefined sweeteners, there’s little that’s conventional about these wheat-free, butter-less cookies. But one bite of the end product, and you’ll be so glad you ventured off the beaten path!

At first glance, it’s impossible to tell that this crumble-topped treat is made with anything other than apples. But a closer look reveals that the “fruit” underneath is actually four cups of zucchini! Soaking up the flavors of the cinnamon, lemon juice, and vanilla sugar, the vegetable is baked until mouthwateringly tender, while the oat mixture on top is fortified with flaxseed and whole-wheat pastry flour to up the fiber.

No dessert list would be complete without a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and this one goes above and beyond the norm, packing in the whole grain benefits of oatmeal, cholesterol-lowering qualities of coconut flakes, and vitamin C (which plays a role in immunity) of zucchini.The cholesterol-lowering effect of coconut flakes in humans with moderately raised serum cholesterol. Trinidad TP, Loyola AS, Mallillin AC. Journal of medicinal food, 2004, Oct.;7(2):1096-620X. This makes a big batch, but the blogger assures us that they’re even delicious straight from the freezer!

It’s not every day that your ice cream scoop comes with cardiovascular benefits and eye-protecting potential, but thanks to the oats and the lutein-rich zucchini in this frozen concoction, that’s exactly what you get.Fruits and vegetables that are sources for lutein and zeaxanthin: the macular pigment in human eyes. Sommerburg O, Keunen JE, Bird AC. The British journal of ophthalmology, 1998, Dec.;82(8):0007-1161. Plus, with just a little more than one tablespoon of sugar per serving and no need for an ice-cream machine to make it, Ben and Jerry may just have to take a backseat.

One glimpse of these brownies in their close-up might make you drop everything and run to the kitchen—you can practically taste the fudginess right off the screen! The best part is knowing that even brownies made with whole-wheat flour, applesauce, and of course, plenty of zucchini, can yield such rich and gooey results. This is healthy baking at its finest.

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