Served raw, zucchini is a pretty boring, tasteless vegetable. But cooked correctly, zucchini opens up a bright, bold world of mouthwatering flavor. This garden-fresh glory has the power to take on tons of flavor, playing a leading role in primavera pastas, hearty casseroles, and even moist chocolate cake. Don’t believe me? Check out our most-loved zucchini recipes. But what’s the secret to cooking up a great-tasting storm of summer squash? Taste of Home Test Cook Matthew Haas gives his expert tips for how to cook zucchini.
1. Select the right squash.
Whether you plan on purchasing zucchini from the farmers market or corner store, the best flavor comes from the freshest ingredients. Look for zucchini that’s firm to the touch and has smooth, blemish-free skin. Beware of large, super-sized zucchini, as they can have bland flavor and woody texture. Experiment with different varieties like yellow zucchini, pattypan and Eight Ball squash-they all cook up the same way as the usual zucchini.
Test Kitchen tip: To save time, skip the peeler. Zucchini skin is safe to eat and almost flavorless. Just be sure to give the veggies a thorough rinse before chopping.
2. Oil ’em up.
If you plan to prepare your zucchini using some form of heat, your best bet is to toss them in oil before you begin. In most cases, olive oil, butter or vegetable oil will work fine. A thin layer of oil helps zucchini cook for a host of reasons: It prevents zucchini from sticking to your cooking tools, it speeds up browning, and it helps seasonings stick.
3. Go crazy with flavors.
Speaking of seasonings, due to its mild flavor, zucchini makes a great base for piling on herbs and spices. Test out flavors from your spice rack like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and garlic as you cook. Prefer it plain? A dash of salt and pepper is all it takes to help a zucchini’s natural flavors shine.
Test Kitchen tip: Use a sprinkle of smoked paprika and cayenne for a smoky, spicy kick.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get cooking. Our Test Kitchen covers their favorite ways to cook zucchini. Pick your favorite method and follow the step-by-step directions below. Just be warned, once you try your finished dish, you’ll be wanting to eat zucchini every morning, noon and night!
On the Stove
Need to cook your zucchini quick? A skillet on the stovetop is the way to go. Sauteed zucchini works well in pasta dishes and stir-frys
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Saute the zucchini
Add oil and butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Then pile in the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
Test Kitchen tip: You can use oil, butter, or a combination of the two. Note that butter has a lower smoke point than most oils, so it may burn faster under high heat.
Step 2: Add the seasonings
Add in the minced garlic, salt and pepper. Stir for a minute longer, then remove from heat and serve.
Test Kitchen tip: Keep a careful eye on the garlic as it can burn rather quickly. Try to pull the skillet off the stove as soon as you see the garlic start to turn brown.
In the Oven
An oven bake gives zucchini an extra-crisp texture, perfect when you want to make a savory, stand-alone side.
2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch slices (they can also be quartered lengthwise, then halved crosswise for zucchini “fries”)
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
Step 1: Prepare the zucchini
In a medium-sized bowl, coat the zucchini in melted butter. Add in the oregano, salt and pepper and give a toss to coat.
Step 2: Arrange and add cheese
On a greased baking sheet, arrange a single layer of zucchini rounds. Next, give the zukes a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese-seriously, add on as much as you please. (OK-If you’re dairy-free, the cheese is optional.)
Test Kitchen tip: For even cooking, make sure the zucchini is spread evenly and no pieces are overlapping one another.
Step 3: Get baking
Crank the oven up to 350° and bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know the dish is done when the zucchini turns golden brown.
Test Kitchen tip: If you’re in the mood for roasted zucchini, bump up the oven to 425°. This gives the zucchini a richer, deeper brown and preserves some of the vegetable’s crisp texture. Keep an eye on the oven though, to ensure your veggies don’t burn.
On the Grill
Ready to get fired up? Grilled zucchini is an easy side for your next backyard cookout. (Just like these recipes!)
6 small zucchini, halved
1 tablespoon oil
Step 1: Add oil
In a small dish, drizzle the zucchini with oil.
Test Kitchen tip: The oil helps prevent the zucchini from sticking-no need to grease the grill rack!
Step 2: Grill, flip, and grill some more
Get grilling. Fire up the grill to medium heat, then place the zucchini on the grates. Grill, covered, for 4-5 minutes. Then carefully flip the zucchini using a pair of long-handled tongs. Grill for 4-5 minutes longer. Remove your veg and serve alongside some hearty burgers and brats.
Any way you cook ’em, zucchini are a staple in our hearts (and our dinner menus!) For more tasty ideas, check out our favorite zucchini recipes, here.