Zucchini is a classic overachiever: The plants are so productive that local farms and neighborhood gardeners are all but giving away zucchini in the height of the season (basically, right now).
Fortunately, zucchini is nutritious, delicious, and versatile enough to fit into any meal of the day. Here’s the scoop on the health benefits of zucchini and other types of summer squash, plus new ways to use these summer staples morning, noon, and night.
Zucchini is a summer child. You’ll usually start seeing these summer squashes around June through the end of August, though plants will keep producing until the weather cools.
Zucchini has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It’s rich in vitamins A, C, B6, and K, plus important minerals such as manganese, folate, copper, phosphorus, and thiamine.
By swapping zoodles (aka zucchini noodles) for pasta, you can cut carbs, stabilize blood sugar, and catch up on those recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies. Incorporating more zucchini into your diet may boost weight loss.
As a member of the cucurbit family (alongside cucumbers, melons, and winter squashes), zucchini is actually a type of summer squash — which is really a fruit! While most summer squashes are picked young, when they’re around 8 inches in length, zucchini can grow to more than 3 feet long.
The difference between zucchini and yellow summer squash is mainly in marketing. These squashes may be shaped a bit differently, but the flavor and health benefits are similar. Though zucchini often has thinner skin (also less waxy in texture) and smaller seeds, which some people prefer.
While most stores carry zucchini and yellow squash, heirloom varieties found at farmer’s markets can help keep things interesting during zucchini season. Here are a few of the more common varieties to look for:
Common varieties of zucchini and yellow squash
Pattypan squash resembles a UFO and comes in yellow, green, and variegated hues; its unusual shape makes this a favorite of kids and kids at heart. Since pattypan is a bit tougher than other summer squashes, it will hold up well when dishes call for longer cooking times, like in stews.
Cousa squash is a pea-green squash that’s chubbier than the typical zucchini, which makes it excellent for stuffing. You’ll often see this variety recommended in Middle Eastern recipes like this kousa mahshi.
Eight Ball zucchini are dark green, globe-shaped fruits. They’re super cute and also perfect for stuffing.
Black Beauty is a classic heirloom with large, cylindrical fruits that are super versatile and even freeze well, so you can enjoy a taste of summer year round.
Zephyr squash is easy to pick out at the market; its half-yellow, half-green appearance makes it another fun one for kids.
Once you’ve got your bumper crop of squash, there are so many ways to use it. I love a good frittata in summer, usually for breakfast though it’s also a great lunch or light supper served with a green salad.
I start with this basic frittata recipe and just mix and match flavors with what I’ve got on hand (currently, heaps of garden herbs and fresh feta). This zucchini corn tofu scramble is a great vegan breakfast alternative.
Roasted zucchini planks
Meal preppers, this one’s for you. Roasting concentrates the natural sweetness in zucchini. I slice zucchini or summer squash the long way (into planks rather than rounds) then build my own hummus-harissa-roasted veggie sandwich, but you can also serve roasted zucchini as a side dish, or put it on pizza — it’s really not picky.
- Brush your zucchini planks with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt and seasoning. I’m partial to mild herb blends, like herbs de Provence, but you could also use Italian seasoning, shichimi togarashi, lemon pepper, or this Ayurvedic summer balancing spice blend.
- Roast 425°F (218°C) for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet pan and flipping the zucchini halfway through baking. You want the zucchini to take on a bit of color and crisp around the edges. Don’t crowd the sheet pan or the veggies will steam and get soggy.
- Alternately, avoid heating up your home and grill your summer squash outside instead. Zucchini grills well over medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Keep planks thicker for grilling, so they don’t fall apart.
The Kitchn’s zucchini garlic soup is a magic recipe — the ingredients seem sparse, but it all comes together and tastes divine. I’ll make a big batch each summer when I’m overloaded with zucchini, then freeze the soup in quart-sized bags, and enjoy the taste of summer in February.
And when I’m lazy and want comfort food, I’ll do up a big dish of zucchini Parmesan — just like the eggplant version, but without all the tedious breading and frying — or make zucchini boats.
When you tire of savory zucchini recipes, sneak grated squash into desserts to gain all the nutritional benefits while satisfying a sweet tooth — zucchini bread, zucchini waffles, zucchini muffins, we love ’em all!
This zucchini bundt cake took home a county fair blue ribbon. It’s made with yogurt for extra moisture and looks fancy for bonus points.
Or try these zucchini fudgy brownies that prove vegans really can make brownies out of anything. They’re oil-free and loaded with plant-based pantry staples; perfect for that late-night snack craving.
While freshest after harvest, summer squash will tend to last a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, so you can buy (or grow!) in bulk. Work your way through these zucchini recipes, and find new favorite ways to use this summer staple.