Oh Zucchini, How I Love Thee
There are so many great ways to enjoy zucchini … fried zucchini, baked zucchini. There’s zucchini latkes and zucchini pancakes, zucchini chips and zucchini fries. There’s even the fabulous zucchini-rice muffins and sausage zucchini bake!
While my family generally enjoys a good zucchini now and again, it’s hard to find uses for fresh zucchini when you’ve already exhausted your family’s patience – and Pinterest – trying to find yet another creative way to serve this super vegetable.
And that’s the tricky thing about zucchini… when it comes in season, it comes like a summer flood. Check out the pickings from my mom’s garden – and this was only all she could carry on her first trip!!
6 Ways to Use Zucchini When You Don’t Like The Taste
While zucchini is great in the summer, I easily get burned out after a few weeks. This desperation lead to a great discovery: zucchini disappears in spaghetti sauce. Yes, you read that right.
Zucchini disappears in spaghetti sauce.
When zucchini is finely shredded, it will almost “melt” into a cooking sauce – particularly a tomato sauce. The key is to shred it finely, using either a box grater or a food processor.
We discovered this beautiful secret while on a challenge to up our veggie intake. But the principle applies to more than just pasta sauce!
Take a look at these 6 uses:
- Add 1-1.5 cups to spaghetti sauce.
- Add 1 cup to the cheese mixture in lasagna (or to the sauce itself).
- Add 1/2 cup to ground beef, like when making “cheeseburger helper” (click here for the recipe from the eBook Better Than A Box!).
- Add two tablespoons to a smoothie.
- Add 1-1.5 cups to chili – including white chicken chili (did you know there are 4 different chili recipes available in the Everything Beans eBook?).
- Add 1/2 cup to stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage rolls, and other similar dishes.
If you notice, I use shredded zucchini in small amounts – sometimes as little as a few tablespoons! Which leads to a problem… how do you save time using shredded zucchini when you only use a small amount?
Please – don’t envision me huddled over a blender, carefully shaving off a few spoonfuls of zucchini into my mango-blueberry smoothie. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
The Power of Dehydration
Thanks to the wisdom of Wardeh from Traditional Cooking School, I discovered the secret of always having shredded zucchini instantly on hand — DEHYDRATION. Suddenly, 15 cups of shredded zucchini could be dehydrated down into a quart jar that was shelf-stable in my pantry.
No need to take up massive space in the freezer. No need for freezing and thawing. No need to store in ice cube trays. Want only a pinch of zucchini? No problem! Simply pull out a few tablespoons or half a cup and cook away!
Now you can enjoy the benefits of summer zucchini – even in the winter, when you’re ready for a splash of summer. Boom!
How do you dehydrate zucchini? It’s actually very easy:
- Shred the zucchini (we use a food processor). (found on Amazon)
- Spread 2-3 cups on a dehydrating tray. Make sure to lay down parchment paper or the solid tray that comes with your dehydrator.
- Dehydrate at 115*F if you want to preserve the raw enzymes; my dehydrator (found on Amazon) says to do vegetables at 125*F.
- Dehydrate until it is dry and crunchy (so no moisture remains). This may be a few hours, it may be longer — so many factors can influence this.
- Store in a sealed container, like a mason jar with screw-top lid.
Helpful Hint 1: When you’re adding dehydrated shredded zucchini to spaghetti sauce (or other sauce-focused dishes), it’s not even necessary to rehydrate the zucchini with water. You can toss in a few crunchy handfuls and it will soften as the sauce cooks.
Helpful Hint 2: If you plan to add it to a drier dish (like stuffed peppers), consider rehydrating it with warm water for a few minutes in a bowl so it doesn’t accidentally stay crunchy. Simply drain and toss it in your recipe!
Helpful Hint 3: If you’re worried about the zucchini being detectable, crush it in your hands before you dump it in the pot.
Helpful Hint 4: Can I share a secret? If you already have bags and bags of frozen shredded zucchini in your freezer, it’s not too late to dehydrate them! Simply thaw and drain – they’ll dehydrate perfectly!
4 Reasons Why I Prefer Dehydrating Zucchini
While I used to happily freeze my zucchini each summer, I have become a solid convert to dehydration.
- It doesn’t take up freezer space, allowing more room for me to make freezer meals!
- It doesn’t cost money to store. (It costs money to run the freezer and I can use that space for other things!)
- It is instantly ready to use. (I’m a little forgetful… anyone notice how frozen zucchini faintly resembles a cement block when you need to chisel out half a cup??)
- It takes up SO much less storage space. Waaaaaaaay less.
But What If I Don’t Have A Dehydrator?
Then go buy one. Now.
In all seriousness, dehydrators are amazing tools. You can often find them at garage sales for very cheap. During the summer, Aldi even offers an inexpensive dehydrator for sale. Try asking a friend if you can borrow theirs. And if you don’t have a dehydrator on hand, you could try using your oven on the lowest setting possible. Just be careful you don’t burn it!
And you could always freeze the zucchini in half cup portions and ice-cube tray portions. Or…you could get a dehydrator. (Seriously. Go now.)
(Want to learn how to dehydrate more than zucchini? Check out Traditional Cooking School’s excellent and comprehensive dehydration class!
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon and Traditional Cooking School from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.