There is actually nothing that I despise more than throwing away food. Really, just ask my colleagues who laugh when I have a mini heart attack when perfectly good food is about to be tossed in the trash. If I’m that bad at work, where food surrounds me daily, and I don’t even purchase it with my own money, just image how uptight I am at home. It especially irks me at home because I have full authority over what I buy, and how I use it up. I’ve really thought about composting, but it somehow continues to fall back on my New Year’s resolution list every year. The best way I’ve found to solve this ongoing waste aggravation is to making it into a fun cooking challenge for myself by finding creative ways to use up my groceries. Zucchini is an incredibly versatile ingredient, and happens to be one of my favorite summer veggies as well. Make it sweet, make it savory, serve it hot, serve it cold—you name it, this veg can do it.
My love for zucchini wasn’t actually this intense though until the spiralizer came around. The spiralizer changed my life (I know that sounds extreme, but really…you should invest in one, if you haven’t already). Even though I love zucchini, sometimes I get a little too excited, and end up buying more than I was really planning to eat. I’m honestly a little embarrassed of how often I find myself with an abundance of this green beauty in my house with no real use or intention for it. That being the case, I’ve learned to be very inventive with zucchini.
If you happen to ever find yourself in the same position, here are 14 creative and delicious ways I’ve found to make the most of my over-eager zucchini purchasing:
Blend cooked zucchini with almonds, fresh herbs, and cheese to create a fresh alternative to your average pesto. It’s a great way to use up extra zucchini and gives you the perfect excuse for a DIY pizza or pasta night.
2. Make pickles.
Preserve extra zucchini by turning them into these gorgeous pickles. This will allow you to keep and eat on them longer, and gives you an extra boost of flavor for sandwiches and salads.
3. Make muffins.
Grate a zucchini and combine it with a handful of pantry staples, and you have light and fluffy muffins ready for the week. Grab one on your way out the door for breakfast or snack to enjoy later in the day.
Gazpacho is so wonderful in the summer because it requires zero cooking. Zero. Throw some zucchini along with other fresh produce in a blender, chill for an hour, and you have a gorgeous summer appetizer that’s ready for serving.
Potatoes aren’t the only produce prime for fries. In fact, we’ve found several veggies that work just as well. Here, zucchini gets coated, covered, and fried to perfection. Serve with a chipotle mayonnaise for an extra boost of flavor.
Swap out traditional noodles, for planks of zucchini in this vegetable-centric (and gluten-free) dish. Even if you’re not eating exclusively gluten-free, you’ll love making this fresh and fabulous alternative to the classic.
Give your veggie burger an upgrade with shredded zucchini, browned mushrooms, nuts, and spices. Add an extra hit of freshness on top with raw zucchini ribbons.
Either make your own dough from scratch, or start with a prepared pastry dough to speed up the process. Quiches can be a weekend treat, or made ahead for a quick and easy weekday breakfast. Throw extra zucchini into the mix to brighten up your morning routine.
Again–if you haven’t invested in a spiralizer, I highly suggest you do. At less than $40, this kitchen tool will do wonders for your weeknight meals. Here, we spiralized zucchini and squash to enjoy as a raw salad dressed with a bright vinaigrette, and topped with crunchy almonds and salty cheese.
10. Veg-up your dogs.
Grill up some zucchini, onions, and bell peppers to give your dogs a punch of vibrant crunch, flavor, nutrition, and color. You’ll love the addition of fresh veggies on your dog.
This moist and cake-like chocolate chip zucchini bread is the perfect way sneak in some veggies without anyone (especially any young, picky eaters) knowing the difference. Chances are, you’ll end up wanting to buy extra zucchini time and again just to whip up this decadent loaf.
If you’re a fan of Chicken Parmesan with traditional noodles, you’ll love this fresh version featuring “zoodles.” Put that spiralizer to good use again by making light and delicate zucchini noodles in this dish. Sauté them for two minutes with olive oil, herbs, and garlic.
13. Simply, grill them.
Grilled zucchini makes a delicious side to any main during the warm months. With over three different flavor combinations in this single recipe, you’ll be sure to find a way to incorporate this summer veg into your weeknight rotation.
Turn zucchini into crispy zucchini rounds with amaranth in the breading. It makes them amazingly crunchy without overpowering the vegetable. Warning: Once you start eating these, you probably won’t be able to stop.