Sure, we’ve been enjoying gorgeous summer produce for a couple months now, but August is when local fruits and veggies really get bountiful, and none more so than zucchini. The summer squash is everywhere this time of year — at the farmers market, in your garden, heck, even in the break room at work accompanied by signs that say “free!”
We’re all about celebrating this veggie that’s packed with Vitamin C and rivals bananas when it comes to potassium content. As chef and registered dietitian Julie Harrington points out, zucchini is low in fat and sodium, but high in fiber and potassium — a power combination that keeps your blood pressure in check and promotes heart health.
“These properties help to maintain healthy blood circulation,” Harrington says. “Low sodium and high potassium help to maintain healthy blood pressure, while fiber, such as the polysaccharide in zucchini, lowers cholesterol levels.”
Plus, eating foods that are local and in season boasts plenty of extra benefits: You get great-tasting fruits and veggies and you’re going easy on Mother Earth because the produce isn’t being flown or trucked in from afar.
Ready to use up some of that zucchini? Here are 10 creative ways to make the most of the versatile squash.
1. Make this celebrity chef’s zucchini soup
If you’re making a veggie soup, you can spiralize some zucchinis and toss them in the soup as a supporting cast member. But, to really celebrate zucchini season, let them star as the main ingredient in your soup alongside fresh herbs.
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, well known for her appearances on Food Network, shared with us a zucchini and Parmigiano-Reggiano soup from her latest cookbook, “The Home Cook: Recipes to Know by Heart.” I tested the recipe with my own zucchini haul, and can promise you this: The soup tastes so decadent, you’ll be glad to eat (and slurp!) your veggies.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 bunches (about 12) scallions (green and white parts), sliced
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a string
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 5 medium zucchini (about 2 pounds), thinly sliced
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the scallions, thyme, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons white pepper. Add the zucchini and season again with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Add 2 cups water and simmer, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon, until the zucchini is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Discard the thyme and transfer the soup to a blender. Add the basil and puree until the soup is smooth. Taste for seasoning.
4. Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle liberally with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.
2. Use zucchini and carrots to make healthy fritters
Zucchinis and carrots team up to give fritters a healthy makeover in this recipe from Julie Harrington, a registered dietitian and chef introduced above. Pro tip: You can use a box grater to grate the veggies, which are then seasoned and cooked in a skillet. Her recipe makes eight fritters.
Get the full recipe on Harrington’s website.
3. Let zucchini star on your pizza
Make your own veggie lover’s pizza with this recipe from Harrington that uses up tomatoes, zucchini, and leeks and is complemented with fresh basil and a mozzarella glaze. To save some time, you can use pre-made whole-wheat pizza dough. The recipe serves four to six.
Get the full recipe online.
4. Make a skinny shrimp scampi
Shrimp scampi is certainly indulgent. For a lightened up, veggie-centric version, sub the pasta with spiralized zucchini and yellow squash, suggests Arlene Mobley, who creates recipes for her blog Flour on My Face. Here’s her recipe, which she created in collaboration with SeaPak.
- 3 small zucchini
- 3 small yellow squash
- 1 box SeaPak Shrimp Scampi
- Fresh Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh chopped parsley
- Lime wedges
1. Using a spiralizer, prepare the zucchini and yellow squash by cutting them into thick zoodles (about 4 cups of spiralized zucchini and squash).
2. Rinse the zoodled vegetables under cool water and drain well. Set aside.
3. Heat a large skillet on medium high.
4. Once hot add the SeaPak Shrimp Scampi to the pan. Sauté 5 minutes, occasionally tossing.
5. After 5 minutes, add the spiralized vegetables to the pan. Toss the vegetables and shrimp for 4 or 5 minutes to cook completely. (Be sure to follow the package recommended raw shrimp cooking time of 7-8 minutes, or check the shrimp with a digital thermometer. Shrimp is fully cooked when the center of the largest shrimp has reach 165 degrees.)
6. Transfer the fully cooked zucchini shrimp scampi to a serving bowl and sprinkle with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
5. Eat zucchini in a frittata or omelette
Zucchini is also a perfect veggie for breakfast. My favorite way to use up zucchini is to spiralize it and then toss it into an omelette or a frittata. In addition to tasting great, the green ribbons make your breakfast Instagram-worthy.
Get recipe inspiration here: This lightened-up tomato and zucchini frittata recipe from Skinnytaste uses a mix of eggs and egg whites, and gets a flavor boost from onions and asiago cheese.
6. Use zucchinis as a “taco shell”
One of my favorite healthy ways to enjoy #TacoTuesday is by subbing zucchini for taco shells. Slice a zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the middle to create a zucchini boat. You can use the flesh from the zucchini in your taco mix. I love loading these zucchini tacos up with beans, seasoned ground turkey or beef, diced onions, and sprinkling cheese over the top. The crunch of these tacos comes courtesy of the squash, but of course you could bake them, too.
Erin Clifford, a Chicago-based holistic wellness coach, shared with us her recipe for turkey and quinoa stuffed zucchini boats, which serves four.
- 4 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 pound ground turkey breast
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
- 1/4 cup red bell peppers, diced
- 1/4 cup white button mushrooms, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Use a teaspoon spoon to scoop out the flesh of each zucchini and place them in a greased (use olive oil or cooking spray) 9-by-13 inch casserole dish.
3. Heat a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season turkey with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Sauté until cooked through. Drain excess liquid.
4. Heat a small skillet with the remaining olive oil and sauté onions, red peppers, and mushrooms until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute (until fragrant).
5. Combine turkey, vegetable mixture, 1 cup tomato sauce, and quinoa in a mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Fill each zucchini boat evenly with the stuffing and sprinkle each with Parmesan cheese.
7. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted and zucchini boats are cooked through.
7. Bake these zucchini bites that your kids will love
As a mom with limited creative time in the kitchen, B.A. Saeed, a certified wellness coach with the International Association of Wellness Professionals, says she uses up her extra zucchini by making cheesy baked bites.
Her directions are simple.
Slice your zucchini, put some salt on either side to leech the water out (they’re packed with H20!), towel dry, and place on a baking sheet, sprinkled with some Parmesan or any other firm cheese. Bake your bites for 10 to 15 minutes and you’re done!
8. Try a Greek zucchini sandwich
Growing tired of your same ol’ turkey sandwich? Take a lead from Louie Alexakis, the chef and owner of Greek restaurant Avli, located in Winnetka and soon to be Lincoln Park. Of course, you can get the zucchini and eggplant sandwich from his restaurant. But if you can’t get enough and want to make a dupe at home, chargrill the zucchini, and serve it with some carmelized onions, eggplant, arugula, and feta cheese on top of a ciabatta bun.
9. Enjoy a decadent chocolate zucchini dessert
Zucchini as a treat? Absolutely, proves Cynthia O’Connor O’Hara, aka The Harried Housewife, a food and lifestyle writer and recipe developer. Her recipe doubles down on chocolate, with cocoa powder and chocolate chips. A surprise ingredient: coffee granules.
Find the full recipe online.
10. Donate some of your zucchini haul
Got oodles of zucchini? Donate it to a local food pantry. “We encourage gardeners who run out of recipes and places to store their fresh produce to bring it down to one of the 8,305 food pantries across the United States that would eagerly accept it,” says Jamie McCarthy, a marketing and communications coordinator with AmpleHarvest.org. You can find your nearest pantry online.
More from Make It Better:
- 9 Can’t-Miss Chicago Food and Drink Tours
- 6 Pantry Staples That Will Elevate Your Cooking to the Next Level
- Quickles: 8 Must-Try Recipes for Quick-Pickled Vegetables and Fruits
Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness, and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.