Eating Better: Zucchini Recipes You’ll Actually Love

It’s an old farm joke that you can’t leave your car unlocked during the summer or you’ll come back to find it loaded with your neighbor’s excess zucchini. While that’s an exaggeration, they’re not kidding about how fast the green summer squash grows. SFGate revealed zucchini can grow at a rate of one inch per day, making them ready for harvest four to eight days after the flowers blossom. While farmers could let them grow larger, it would be a complete waste. Once the squash get too big, they become overly seedy and sort of bitter.

One of the best things about those mountains of zucchini at the store is the price. So much supply means these veggies are about the cheapest product you can get during the summer. If your strategy to eat healthy and save money led you to purchase a bit more than you anticipated, we’ve got you covered. These six recipes are so delicious, you might end up heading back for more zucchini pretty soon.

1. Breakfast Tacos with Charred Zucchini and Red Pepper

Source: iStock

Zucchini and peppers | iStock.com

If you typically stick with fruit in the morning and save vegetables for later in the day, you’re missing out on some great morning meals. These zucchini and egg stuffed tacos from Serious Eats are a satisfying way to start your day. Finishing these filled tortillas with some avocado, cotija cheese, and salsa verde makes them even better.

The key to getting perfectly cooked squash is working with a hot pan and letting the veggies cook undisturbed. Once you’ve thoroughly preheated the skillet, add the veggies, and then leave them alone. Tossing them around too much will prevent them from browning as quickly, so you’ll end up with mushy squash. Be patient and let the zucchini get some color, toss a bit, and let the rest char.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup homemade salsa verde or purchased salsa verde
  • 4 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Cotija or feta cheese
  • Sour cream or crema
  • Lime wedges

Directions: Heat oil in a medium nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add zucchini and pepper, shake into a single layer. Without moving, cook vegetables until charred on first side, about 3 minutes. Toss, and cook until charred all over, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a bowl, and set aside. Wipe out skillet.

Melt butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add eggs, and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer wet, but still moist, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a plate.

Spread salsa over tortillas, and divide eggs among them. Top with charred zucchini mixture. Serve with avocado, cheese, sour cream, and lime wedges.

2. Zucchini Chips

zucchini thin chips

Zucchini chips | iStock.com

Kale chips might be all the rage, but zucchini is just as capable of turning into a crispy snack. Table for Two’s squash chips are as good as anything out of a bag, but they have the same crazy list of ingredients. This recipe contains only olive oil, salt, and zucchini, so you can feel good about eating them by the handful.

Start by thinly slicing the zucchini, then blotting the coins dry with paper towels. Line the slices on baking sheets, brush with oil, then sprinkle with salt. Bake them low and slow for about 2 hours, and the chips are ready to go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher sat

Directions: Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice zucchini thinly using a mandolin or a sharp knife.

Place zucchini rounds on paper towels, and press another layer of paper towels on top to remove excess moisture.

Arrange slices on baking sheets in a single layer. Using a pastry brush, brush olive oil over each slice. Lightly sprinkle with salt.

Bake 2 hours, or until chips have lightly browned and turned crisp. Let cool, and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

3. Zucchini Parmesan

zucchini, tomato sauce, basil

Zucchini Parmesan | iStock.com

Some people love eggplant. Everyone else hates it. If you find yourself in the latter group, you’ll love this twist on an Italian-American classic from The New York Times. Layers of zucchini alternate with a fragrant tomato basil sauce for a recipe that tastes much more complicated than it is. A dusting of Parmesan is a delicious finishing touch. If you can’t find good tomatoes in your area, this recipe will also work using ones from a can.

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 2 to 2½ pounds ripe tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper
  • ⅛ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 basil sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Assembly

  • 2 to 2¼ pounds zucchini
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions: If using a food mill, quarter tomatoes. If not, peel, seed, and chop tomatoes.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium heat, and add onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar, and basil sprigs. Increase heat to medium high to bring to a bubble, then reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until tomatoes are reduced and just begin to stick to pan, 15 to 25 minutes. Remove basil sprigs. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Trim ends form zucchini and cut in half crosswise. Cut halved zucchini into slices ¼- to ⅓-inch in thickness. Season both sides of zucchini sheets with salt and pepper. Toss with 2 tablespoons oil, and arrange on sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle with pepper flakes, and roast 12 minutes, until lightly browned and tender. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

If using a food mill, pass sauce through using medium blade. Otherwise, pulse sauce in a food processor until mostly smooth. Stir in chopped basil.

Oil a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil. Spread ¼ cup tomato sauce over bottom. Top with one third of zucchini, one third of remaining sauce, then ¼ cup Parmesan. Repeat layers two more times. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.

4. Sautéed Zucchini with Chorizo, Cilantro, and Lime

Source: iStock

Dicing chorizo | iStock.com

Side dishes are usually afterthoughts, thrown together at the last minute. Instead of suffering through another mound of steamed vegetables, make The Kitchn’s flavor-packed zucchini and chorizo recipe. The smokey sausage gives this dish just enough heft while lime juice and cilantro offer some brightness. This sauté goes great alongside just about any protein. You can also turn it into a meal by topping with some poached or fried eggs.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces Spanish chorizo, cut into ⅓-inch cubes
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut into ¾-inch cubes
  • 1 lime, zested, and juiced
  • ½ cup loosely packed cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Salt

Directions: Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large skillet. Add chorizo, and cook until fat renders and chorizo starts to crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and leave rendered fat in skillet.

Add zucchini to skillet, and increase heat to medium. Cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and just soft, about 10 minutes. Add lime juice, zest, cilantro, and chorizo. Season with salt, and serve.

5. Zucchini, Corn, and Basil Fusilli with Bacon

pasta, bacon, vegetables

Summer pasta with zucchini |  iStock.com

Stores are brimming with both zucchini and corn right now, so it makes perfect sense to combine them in one meal. Epicurious’ summer vegetable pasta gets tons of flavor with only a handful of ingredients. It’s also absurdly easy. Just toss the veggies right into the pasta pot as the noodles finish cooking, then toss everything together with some crisped bacon and purchased pesto.

Ingredients:

  • 6 bacon slices
  • 1 pound fusilli
  • 3 ears of corn, kernels removed
  • 1½ pounds zucchini, chopped into ½-inch pices
  • 1 (5- to 7-ounce) container basil pesto
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Directions: Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels, and wipe skillet clean.

Cook fusilli in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of cooking water, then add vegetables to same pot. Cook, partially covered, 2 minutes. Drain.

Add pasta and vegetables to skillet. Add pesto and ¼ cup cooking water. Toss, and season with salt. Moisten with additional pasta water, if needed. Top with bacon. Season with pepper, and serve.

6. Zucchini Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

zucchini cake

Zucchini cake | iStock.com

For the record, this cake from Food.com tastes nothing like vegetables. The zucchini is more for texture than anything else. The grated squash keeps the cake super moist, but all you’ll taste is sweet cinnamon and tangy cream cheese frosting. Don’t worry if you’re no master baker, because this cake is one of the easiest you’ll ever make.

Ingredients:

 Cake

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts, plus more

Frosting

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add oil and eggs, and mix to combine. Fold in zucchini and walnuts.

Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely.

Beat cream cheese, butter, milk, and vanilla with an electric mixture until smooth. Add powdered sugar, and beat to combine. Frost cake, sprinkle with additional walnuts, and serve.

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