Food & Drink

A Week’s Worth of Zucchini Recipes

Five dishes that celebrate summer’s bounty

Photo: Phillip Rhodes

Go searching for zucchini in Southern cookbooks well into the twentieth century and you’ll probably come up empty-handed. You might see “Italian green squash” here or there, but you won’t find much that anyone did with it. Books written before the 1950s usually don’t have zucchini bread, zucchini pickles, or even zucchini fritters.

That’s because zucchini is a garden latecomer that followed quite a journey here. Squashes are all native to the Americas, of course, a major part of the native-Americans diet. Columbus and the explorers who followed him took squash seeds back to Europe, but they mistook them for melons.

Several hundred years passed before Italian gardeners came up with a squash that was long and green, with tender orange blossoms suitable for stuffing. The Italian word for squash was zucca, so this new version was zucchini, for little squashes. As zucchini spread—and if you’ve grown it, you know it’s going to spread—it changed names: courgette in France, marrow in England.

Americans had to wait for zucchini to make the trip back. It returned with Italian immigrants, mostly in California. While some accounts place American zucchini here in the 1920s, it was apparently a little earlier: Botanist David Fairchild mentions seeing it in Santa Barbara in 1896, grown by Dr. Francesco Franceshi. As late at the 1940s, women’s magazines were still calling zucchini “Italian green squash” and treating it as a novelty.

But once zucchini reached the South, it found its ideal home: Hot, damp summers and lots of backyard gardens. The squash is so prolific, it seems almost desperate to reproduce itself. Southern cooks were soon finding long lists of ways to keep up with the stuff. With zucchini season in full swing, we’re giving you a whole week of ways to use the one of the South’s favorite—and most prolific—vegetables.

Zucchini Bread

A potluck classic with a Southern touch

Makes 1 loaf, about 12 slices.


    • About 2 teaspoons shortening

    • 2 small or one medium zucchini

    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    • 1 egg, beaten

    • 1 cup sugar

    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted lightly and coarsely chopped

Who knows what motivated a cook to come up with the idea of grating zucchini and folding it into a quick batter? Probably the same motivation that led to another Southern favorite—carrot cake. But it works, with the watery squash adding moisture and turning so tender it almost disappears into the bread, resulting in a texture between muffin and cake. We’ll spare you the even stranger idea of zucchini chocolate cake—Google it, it’s out there—but zucchini bread has been a regular as a teacher gift, a potluck offering, and a welcome-to-the-neighborhood present for about as long as people have been overwhelmed by a garden full of zucchini. We adapted this version from the hundreds of recipes out there. To give it a Southern touch, don’t skip the chopped pecans.

See more summer zucchini recipes


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and around the bottom edge of an 8-inch loaf pan with shortening, leaving the upper edges uncoated so the batter has something to cling to as it bakes.

  2. Trim the ends of the zucchini but leave the peel on. Grate on the large holes of a box grater; you should have 1 to 1 1/2 cups zucchini. Squeeze some of the water out, but don’t squeeze it completely dry.

  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg. Set aside.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Stir in the zucchini.

  5. Add the zucchini mixture to the flour mixture and fold lightly until all the flour is moistened but the batter is still a little lumpy.

  6. Spread in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until pulling away from the edges a bit and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen and turn out on to a rack to cool completely.

Baked Zucchini Wedges

The pizza of vegetable dishes

Serves 6 to 8


    • 1 tablespoon coconut, vegetable, or olive oil

    • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour

    • 3 eggs

    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    • 1 cup panko-style bread crumbs

    • 1 teaspoon onion powder

    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

    • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Sooner or later, you’re going to want to get zucchini into the mouths of babes. Those babes would be your children: The vegetable haters, the ones who treat all things green with suspicion. You could fry it, of course. But that turns nice, nutritious vegetables into fattening fried food—a Faustian bargain, at best.

Here’s what you need: Baked zucchini wedges, from Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways by North Carolina-based author (and mother of four) Jennifer Brulé. Coated with a breading that has a little cheese flavor, just enough seasoning to be interesting, and a crisp texture that doesn’t require frying, they’re sort of like the pizza of vegetable dishes. The hardest part about this recipe is grating a cup of Parmesan cheese. Don’t resort to pre-grated Parmesan—it’s won’t melt and crispen up as well.

Toss a small cup of ranch dressing on the side and these zucchini wedges are hard to resist—golden brown with no hot oil required.

See more summer zucchini recipes


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

  2. Using a paper towel, grease a sheet pan with the oil.

  3. Trim off both ends of each zucchini, then cut each one in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again to form thick wedges. (If you want them long and thin, you could cut them in half lengthwise once more.) Cut each wedge into 3- to 4-inch-long segments.

  4. Place the flour in a pie plate. In a second pie plate, beat the eggs. In a third, combine the Parmesan, bread crumbs, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper flakes, salt and Italian seasoning.

  5. Working in batches, toss 4 to 6 wedges at a time into the flour, shake off the excess, dip them in beaten egg to coat (use a fork or your fingers to turn them), then into the breadcrumb mixture. (To keep from gunking your fingers up with large amounts of dough, try to remember to use one hand in the flour and bread crumbs and the other hand with the egg. In restaurant kitchens, it’s called “Standard Breading Procedure.”)

  6. Place each coated wedge on one flat side on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, flip the wedges over to the other flat side and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until brown. Serve hot.

From Learn to Cook 25 Southern Classics 3 Ways by Jennifer Brulé

Golden Zucchini Pickles

The simple snack you’ll be munching on all summer

Makes 2 pints


  • Golden Zucchini and Turmeric Pickles

    • 1 pound golden zucchini, washed, trimmed, and sliced in rounds less than 1/4 inch thick

    • 1 medium red onion, trimmed, peeled, and very thinly sliced

    • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

    • 2 cups apple cider vinegar

    • 1 cup sugar

    • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

    • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, slightly crushed

    • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

Who wants to wrestle with canning in a hot summer kitchen? Refrigerator pickles, on the other hand, are fast to make and keep for weeks, getting brighter and juicier as the days go by. At Charlotte, North Carolina’s Haberdish, with a textile-mill theme and home-cooking style, simple pickles are always on the menu. One of the summertime regulars: These bright yellow zucchini pickles, given even more color with turmeric. Haberdish’s sous chef Kelly Williams got turned on to the cooking of the late Judy Rodgers by Joe and Katy Kindred of Kindred Restaurant in nearby Davidson. Rodgers’s San Francisco, California, restaurant, Zuni Café, helped pioneer the farm-to-table movement. In this recipe, Rodgers used zucchini. But Williams switched to golden zucchini, with its bright yellow skin, to pair perfectly with the turmeric-colored brining liquid. The result is solid gold.

See more summer zucchini recipes


  1. Combine zucchini and onion in a large bowl. Add salt; toss to combine. Add a few ice cubes and enough cold water to cover, stirring until the salt dissolves. Let stand at room temperature until the zucchini is salty and softened, about 1 hour.

  2. Drain well and dry thoroughly between two dish towels or spin a few handfuls at a time in a salad spinner. (It needs to be very dry—too much water will thin the flavor.)

  3. Rinse and dry the bowl. Return the zucchini and onion to the bowl and set aside.

  4. In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, mustard, mustard seeds, and turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer for 3 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand until just warm to the touch.

  5. Pour the cooled brine over the zucchini and onions, stirring to combine. Transfer to sterilized jars, pouring the brine into the jars. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days before serving. Will keep about 3 months in the refrigerator.

From Kelly Williams of Haberdish in Charlotte, adapted from a recipe by the late Judy Rogers of Zuni Café.

“Tastes Like Apple” Zucchini Pie

Okay, just trust us on this one

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie


    • 4 to 6 larger zucchini

    • 2 quarts water

    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    • 1/8 teaspoon salt

    • 1 3/4 cups sugar

    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

    • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar

    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

    • 5 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into pieces, divided

The problem with zucchini is how fast they grow. Leave your garden unintended for a beach trip and you’ll come back to find those green batons have morphed into baseball bats.

The really big zucchini aren’t easy to use: Once they get longer than your hand, they also become tough. The really big ones are best for the compost bin. But if you wind up with a pile of large zucchini, not monsters, it’s time to pull out the Mock Apple Pie.

America has a long history with fake pies, most stemming from the desperation of the Depression: There’s the Mock Apple Pie from the back of the Ritz Cracker box, where a hot syrup is poured over crumbled Ritz crackers in a pie shell. There’s the kidney bean version of pecan pie, where the cheap beans take on the crunchiness of nuts.

Zucchini versions of apple pie, like this one from Dori Sanders, the novelist and cookbook author from Filbert, South Carolina, fall into that same category. During World War II, apples got expensive. Transporting fruit from one area of the country to another wasn’t easy to do when rail transportation and gasoline were saved for the troops. Zucchini were easy to grow in victory gardens, and they came into season long before apples were on the trees.

Why revisit a pie like this today? Well, it does give us some appreciation of how people dealt with scarcity. But it’s also a good pie. It’s not as sweet as a real apple pie, and has a more complex flavor. Zucchini, even peeled, keep a hint of green at the edges, looking a lot like Granny Smith slices.

See more summer zucchini recipes


  1. Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler, removing all the green skin. Cut in half lengthwise. Use the edge of a spoon to scrape out the seeds from the center, then cut each piece in half lengthwise again, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. You’ll need about 6 cups of sliced zucchini.

  2. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add the zucchini, reduce the heat to medium and cook briefly, about 3 to 4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Drain well in a colander, then place in a mixing bowl with lemon juice and salt.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cream of tartar, flour, and cornstarch. Mix well. Add to the zucchini and mix well.

  4. Heat oven to 400 degrees.

  5. Line the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with crust. Dump the zucchini mixture, juices and all, into the crust, and dot with 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into small bits. Cover with the top crust, turning the edges under and crimping.  Cut several vents in the top with the tip of a sharp knife, then scatter the remaining pieces of butter over the crust.

  6. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until golden-brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

From From Dori Sanders’ Country Cooking

Southern-Style Two-Squash Casserole

Sometimes two squashes—zucchini and crookneck—are better than one

Serves 4 to 6


    • 2 pounds crookneck (yellow) squash, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices

    • 1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

    • 6 tablespoons butter, divided

    • 1 large onion, diced

    • 1 large green pepper, cored and diced

    • 1 cup sour cream

    • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

    • Dora's Savannah Seasoning, about 1 tablespoon or to taste (see note)

    • 1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

    • 1/2 cup canned fried onions, crushed

Where to start with a bumper zucchini crop? With a Southern classic—squash casserole. Savannah, Georgia’s Dora Charles, author of A Real Southern Cook In Her Savannah Kitchen, discovered that two squashes, zucchini and good ol’ yellow crookneck, are definitely better than one.

Using both zucchini and yellow squash gives this version of the classic more color, texture, and flavor. If the yellow squash are large at the bottom, cut the necks into rounds, but cut the bulbous bottoms in half or quarters before you slice them, to keep the sizes more uniform. Mixing crushed fried onions into the Ritz cracker topping is a genius move; it adds even more crunch and flavor.

See more summer zucchini recipes


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Put the squash and zucchini in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer just a few minutes, until the squash is tender. Drain well and let it cool, then dry the squash between two towels or paper towels. (It’s important to drain and pat the squash dry, so the casserole isn’t too soupy.)

  3. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, 6-7 minutes.

  4. Scrape the onions and peppers into a large mixing bowl. Add the squashes, sour cream, cheese, and seasoning and stir to mix well. Spread in a 9-by-7-inch or 8-inch-square casserole dish.

  5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, fried onions, and butter and mix well. Sprinkle over the casserole and bake until golden brown and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

  6. Dora’s Savannah Seasoning: 1/3 cup Lawry’s seasoned salt, 1/4 cup salt, 2 scant teaspoons garlic powder and 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper. This will make more than you’ll need, but it’s a handy all-purpose seasoning to keep around.

From A Real Southern Cook In Her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles