Meet Your Ingredients: Zucchini

Meet Your Ingredients: Zucchini

A summer-staple, zucchini can be used in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. Get all you need to know about this summer squash. 

About zucchini 

Originally from northern Italy, its thought that zucchini was made popular in America by Italian immigrants. 

While the US, Australia, Sweden, Germany, and some parts of Canada refer to it as “zucchini,” in other parts of the world you may hear it called “courgette.”

Regardless of what you call it, zucchini is a summer-staple vegetable that’s gotten even more popular thanks to low-carb diet recipes such as zoodles, zucchini pizza crust and zucchini boats. 

Nutrition benefits of zucchini 

Zucchini is a good source of many vitamins and minerals, while being low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. 

One cup of cooked zucchini provides: 

  • 17 calories
  • <1 gram fat
  • 1 gram protein
  • 3 grams carb
  • 1 gram fiber and sugar
  • 40% of your daily needs for vitamin A
  • 10-16% of your daily needs for manganese, vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. 

They’re also a good source of antioxidants, specifically carotenoids, which can help with eye, skin, and heart health. 

How to select zucchini 

In general, smaller zucchini will have a better flavor; however regardless of size, look for ones that are firm, free of bruising, a vibrant green color, and a good chunk of the stem still in tact. 

What’s the difference between zucchini and yellow squash? 

Piled zucchini and yellow squash

Both zucchini and yellow squash are considered summer squashes as, you guessed it, they are in season during the summer. 

They both also have a very mild flavor, soft texture, and a slight sweetness. The main differences are simply the color and shape. 

Zucchinis are usually green and have a straight shape. Yellow squash on the other hand tends to have a fat bottom that tapers towards the neck. 

The bottom line: in most recipes you can sub one out for the other as long as color doesn’t matter. The one exception would be zucchini boats, which wouldn’t work quite as well with shape of yellow squash. 

How to store zucchini 

To store, keep zucchini whole and unwashed. Keep them in a plastic bag with one end open to allow for circulation, and pop that bag in the crisper drawer of your fridge. Stored properly, zucchini can keep for up to 2 weeks; however, the skin will start to shrivel over time. 

How to blanch zucchini for long-term storage

If you have a large batch of zucchini from a CSA box that you know you won’t go through, you can also blanch them and store in the freezer. 

To do this, simply slice the zucchini into ½-inch rounds and place in a pot of boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes (or until slightly tender).  Drain and then place zucchini slices in a bowl of ice water. 

Once cool, pat dry and place blanched zucchini slices in freezer bags. Blanched zucchini slices should last for about 3 months in the freezer. 

How to use zucchini in cooking/baking

Healthy homemade meat sauce over zucchini noodles

Due to its mild flavor, zucchini is a highly versatile ingredient. These are just some of my favorite ways to use it: 

  • Slice and saute with spices or marinades to add to grain bowls or stir-frys
  • Cut into slices or french-fry-shapes, toss with parmesan cheese, oil, and lemon juice, then roast for a delicious snack or side dish
  • Chop and add to baked pastas, casseroles, and sheet pan dinners
  • Spiralize to use as a noodle replacement
  • Cut in half and stuffed for zucchini boats
  • Shredded and added to pancakes, waffles, quick breads, muffins, and other desserts 

Removing moisture from zucchini

As zucchini has a high water content, most recipes work best if you get some of that moisture out before cooking or baking. 

For sweet dishes where zucchini is shredded, simply squeeze the shredded zucchini with clean paper towels a few times . You can also place it in a sieve and use the back of a spoon to squeeze out the extra moisture. 

For savory dishes, slice the zucchini and place on a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle salt over the slices and let them sit for 15 minutes. This will help draw some of the moisture out. After 15 minutes, press with a paper towel and then continue with your recipe.

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About Kelli McGrane Headshot

I’m Kelli MS, RD, and my mission is to prove that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Follow along to learn more about food and cooking, with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

About Kelli McGrane Headshot

Welcome to The Healthy Toast!

Hi, I’m Kelli McGrane MS, RD! My mission is to show you that eating healthier doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. I believe getting to know your food is the first step to a healthy relationship with it. Follow along in my journey to learn all I can about ingredients and cooking with an emphasis on breakfast and sweet treats!

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