The Complete Guide to Preserving and Using Preserved Zucchini

how to freeze dehydrate zucchini use frozen dehydrated zucchini
You’ve made all your favorite zucchini recipes three times over. The kids, and even the chickens don’t want to look at another zucchini. And jokes about leaving bags of zucchini in unlocked cars at the local grocery store are no longer funny.

Wondering what to do with all that zucchini?
Do you want to know the best ways to preserve zucchini- and better yet…
What to do with it all after you’ve preserved it?
Do you need practical ways to use all your frozen, pickled and dehydrated zucchini?

That is why I have written this novel for you. Turns out, you can easily write a short book about zucchini. And I think I actually have. But I guess that just means I have lots of ideas for you…

General Zucchini Prep & Tips
Always rinse them- even if you don’t see any dirt, it’s still there.

At a certain size and age, the zucchini start to become spongy in the center and the seeds become prominent. This is always the case for me on the “ones that got away,” you know, the small zucchini you didn’t see that quadrupled in size overnight.

Later in the season, it seems that even the smaller zucchini get spongy in the center.

Get it out of there! Even if shredding the zucchini, this middle spongy part isn’t good eating. Unless you are a chicken, then coincidentally it is VERY good eating. You will be able to tell if your zucchini has this because: A. you will see larger seeds, and B. there will be a difference in the color from the center core to the outer flesh. I use a spoon to scrape out this middle spongy seedy part. It comes out easily and cleanly separates from the good outer flesh.
zucchini insides
3. Never peel a zucchini, that is where the nutrients are. If the skin has gotten tough, the zucchini is a great candidate for shredding. If you feel you want to peel it for other reasons, like blemishes or rotten spots: stop! That zucchini should not be preserved, but rather, eaten fresh.


Frozen Shredded Zucchini
Perhaps the most common and most useful form of frozen zucchini!

Preparing and Freezing Shredded Zucchini
Use a box grater or food processor to shred the zucchini. And if you’re prone to loosing parts of your knuckles in box-grater accidents, invest in one of these.

If you’ve cut your zucchini in half to remove the seeds, you will want to grate the zucchini with the skin-side down. Otherwise the skin doesn’t grate well and you will end up with a big flap of zucchini skin that doesn’t make it into your grated zucchini.
how to grate zucchini
Fill freezer bags full of shredded zucchini and freeze.

It’s really that simple; no blanching, no salting, no other prep needed. Some people will choose to do those things and swear by them, but I think they are absolutely not necessary. And plus, they’re a lot of extra work.

Unnecessary extra work? Not on this homestead.

I highly recommend measuring out the zucchini in each bag and labeling the bag with that amount. I like to put four cups in a quart freezer bag. If you have a specific recipe that you use frozen shredded zucchini for, consider measuring out the amount called for in the recipe- that way it is ready to go, and when you thaw it you’ll have exactly what you need.

Food saver, shmood saver. I just squeeze out as much air as possible and seal up the bag quickly. I like to spread the zucchini out in the bag as flat as possible. This makes them easier to store.

Consider freezing portions of zucchini in a silicon muffin pan to make pre-measured zucchini pucks. I like this idea because you can really pack the zucchini firmly into the muffin cups in ½ or 1 cup portions, freeze them, then pop them out and store them in a bag in the freezer. And you have small amounts of pre-portioned zucchini ready to go!

Don’t like to freeze things in plastic bags? Try these, my favorite containers for freezing everything from eggs, to soups and garden veggies! They are made for the freezer, are BPA free, quite affordable and reusable. I use these all the time and love them. I have the 16oz as well as the 32oz sizes. They don’t become brittle when cold, and they don’t take on odors or stains, even tomato-based things. I have frozen chili and marinara sauces with no problems.

Thawing Frozen Shredded Zucchini
To thaw, I dump the frozen zucchini into a colander in the sink and just let it thaw and drain until ready to use. I like removing it from the bag because I get the added benefit of evaporation.

If I am lazy, I just throw the whole thing- bag and all into the colander and let it thaw that way in the bag.

And if I am really, really lazy, I put the bag of frozen zucchini in the dish drying rack in the sink.
Homestead confessions…

If you didn’t plan ahead and need zucchini RIGHT NOW, you can quick thaw it. If it is in a freezer bag you can bring a pot of water to almost a boil (but not quite!) and pop the whole bag in the warm water for 10 minutes.

How Much Frozen Zucchini do I Use in a Recipe?
Many people ask if frozen zucchini should be used in the same amount that fresh zucchini is called for in a recipe. I think that this depends on your level of cooking experience and what you are making. Since I do a lot of cooking, I feel confident in altering the recipe as needed. If you aren’t comfortable with this, just follow the recipe as written and use the same amount of thawed zucchini that fresh is called for.

But really, just use your logic. When zucchini is thawed it looses volume, and if you squeeze out the water it looses moisture. Keep these things in mind when making your recipe.

And since you pre-measured the zucchini before you froze it, using that measurement (rather than measuring it after it has thawed) will give you the most accurate results.

What to do with Frozen Shredded Zucchini
Zucchini Bread| Obviously. Get creative and seek out a chocolate zucchini bread or blueberry zucchini bread recipe. Whole-grain, sprouted, paleo… there are lots of great recipes out there!

Italian Layered Casserole| Think lasagna-esque. In a casserole pan add cooked and drained ground turkey or pork sausage and then top that with a thick layer of shredded zucchini (really press as much water out as possible). Next, a layer of fried onions and bell peppers, as much marinara sauce as you like, and topped with cheese if you’re so inclined. Bake until bubbly and then top with fresh basil. Add any other ingredient layers you’d like!

Breakfast Casserole/Frittata| Eggs and zucchini are great friends. I think a frittata is one of the easiest and best things to make with zucchini. In a medium-sized oven proof skillet (like this one), sauté your veggies, then add in your precooked breakfast meat and brown it up slightly. Turn the heat off and add in beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper, add any cheeses you wish, and put it in a 350° F oven for about 20 minutes, or until the middle is set. Reheats beautifully too!

Try these Breakfast Casserole/Frittata flavor combinations:
ham + cheddar + zucchini
sun-dried tomato + zucchini + feta
zucchini + red onion + fresh garlic + basil
sautéed mushrooms + crispy salami + zucchini
red bell pepper + zucchini + onion

Savory Breads| We all think of sweet zucchini bread, but have you considered savory? Would you like to make zucchini dill scones in the middle of winter? Zucchini stuffing for Thanksgiving, zucchini and cheddar sourdough loaf, garlic zucchini biscuits, jalapeño and zucchini cornbread…

Fritters| You really, really have to squeeze the livin’ daylights out of the thawed zucchini in order to make good fritters, but it will be well worth it. This is usually just zucchini mixed with something to bind it together (like egg and some type of flour) plus whatever seasonings you like. Pan-fried until crispy and golden!

Outside the Box| Add shredded zucchini to meatloaf or chicken burgers. Stir it into spaghetti or alfredo sauce. Sneak it into chili for an extra vegetable boost, or any other soup for that matter. Add it to your taco meat or enchiladas. And my favorite: in pancakes or waffles!

Freezing the Finished Product: Another Option| Baked zucchini bread freezes wonderfully. So in the summer when you have a plethora of zucchini and also a overload of fresh eggs, make zucchini bread and freeze it! Make a dozen loaves if that’s what you’ll eat in a year.

To freeze the loaves I wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and then in freezer paper. I adore freezer paper, and buy it by the giant-roll full. I actually cut the loaves in half for freezing (because for just two people, I don’t usually want to thaw a whole loaf at a time).


Frozen Sliced Zucchini
Dear Mushy Zucchini-Lover: this is for you.

Some people swear by frozen sliced zucchini. I could take it or leave it- as I prefer my zucchini to still have some body to it, and I much prefer shredded for freezing.

And I’ll try not to let my shredded zucchini bias get in the way of giving you some good ideas for using frozen sliced zucchini.

The bottom line is that no matter how you prepare it, when you freeze zucchini it will thaw and be on the mushy side. It will still hold its shape, it will taste good and add volume to your meal. It will still have many of its vitamins and nutrients, and it might even remind you of summer. But, it will not be crisp. And if you’re okay with that, by all means go for it!

Preparing and Freezing Sliced Zucchini
Using young, tender squash that don’t have thick, hard skin is of utmost importance here. The skin should be so tender that you can easily pierce it with your fingernail. If the skin is tough, freezing seems to magnify the hard rubberyness of it, which really accentuates the mushy inside. It’s hard to eat and just not very good. If you have a huge, tough zucchini you are much better off shredding it.

Slice the zucchini how you normally would for eating. If you like it in small chunks, freeze it in small chunks. If you use half-moon slices, freeze it like that.

I like to make 1/2″ slices. If it is a small zucchini I will cut it as is, into circles. If it is a medium-sized zucchini I will cut in half lengthwise and then slice into half-moons.

Load the slices into freezer bags, squeeze out the air and seal.

Freeze in meal-sized portions, whatever amount your family will eat at a meal.

Alternately, you can freeze the zucchini slices individually on a baking sheet and then store them in a large bag so you can just take out a small amount at a time if that is what you need. If you do this, first line your baking sheet with wax or parchment paper, lest your zucchini freeze to the pan and make you angry.

What to do with Frozen Sliced Zucchini
Smoothies| Yep, and you won’t even notice it’s in there! Instead of ice cubes, use frozen zucchini.

Soups & Stews| You can throw the frozen chunks right into the soup and let them thaw that way. I make a hearty Italian soup with spicy sausage, onions, peppers, kale, green beans and zucchini in a light tomato-y broth. Chicken soup is also a good one for zucchini. Really, any soup or stew that you want to stretch or add extra veggies and nutrients to is a good candidate for frozen zucchini.

Stir Fry| Because of all the other textures and big flavor in an Asian stir-fry, I think that a-little-on-the-mushy-side zucchini fairs well in it.

Sautéed or Roasted| You can also prepare thawed sliced zucchini just like you might if it were fresh. For many people, that means just frying it up in a pan with a little oil, salt and pepper. Maybe a touch of garlic or some onions… An easy side dish for any meal.


Dehydrated Shredded Zucchini
My dehydrator
is probably my all-time favorite kitchen appliance. And it has really opened up my preserving world. I am certain that it has paid for itself time and time again and I can’t recommend one enough.

Preparing Shredded Zucchini for Dehydrating
Simply shred your zucchini using a box grater or food processor (see the “frozen shredded zucchini” section above for more in depth details, if needed).

If your dehydrator trays are stiff, rigid plastic- you should strongly consider using a fruit leather sheet. In my experience, the dried zucchini sticks to the trays and is really hard to remove if the trays are not flexible.

If your trays are flexible (like the ones in my Excalibur) I would recommend not using a leather sheet. The zucchini dehydrates faster on the mesh tray without a fruit leather liner, and the faster you can dehydrate it, the better the taste and quality.

Spread the shredded zucchini onto the trays- I shoot for between 1/2″ and 1″ thick.
zucchini on dehydrator
If you dehydrate on a low setting you can keep the zucchini “raw,” but it won’t last as long this way. If you dehydrate it on a higher “vegetable” setting, the added heat will inhibit the enzymes that will break down your zucchini and it will store much longer. The choice is yours…

In my dehydrator, several full trays of zucchini only takes 4-6 hours to completely dehydrate.

One other tip- sometimes my zucchini is done dehydrating at an inconvenient time, like right before bed or right before I am leaving the house for a while. If the dehydrated zucchini isn’t sealed up right away, it will suck some moisture back from the air. This is okay, but I prefer my dehydrated zucchini crispy. So, what do I do? Turn the machine off when it is done dehydrating, and if I can’t package the zucchini within 30-60 minutes, I turn the dehydrator on again for about 30 minutes right before I can package it, to crisp it up again.

It will come off of the trays in sort of a tangled, stuck together sheet. You can tear it apart with your hands. If you rehydrate it in water or throw it in soup it should come apart naturally.
what to do with dehydrate zucchini
You can use it dried, add it directly to whatever you are making and let it rehydrate that way, or rehydrate it in hot water first before using it.

How to Rehydrate Dehydrated Shredded Zucchini
I think that rehydrated zucchini ends up a little rubbery, which is fine for adding to things where it isn’t the star. I wouldn’t make a fritter or sautéed zucchini side dish with rehydrated zucchini.

To rehydrate, add the dehydrated zucchini to really hot or boiling water and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Give it a stir to make sure that all of the zucchini is submerged. Drain off any excess water.

What to do with Dehydrated Shredded Zucchini
Granola| This is my favorite. It is so unexpected, plus a great way to add more vegetables into your (or your kid’s) diet. My Grain-Free Zucchini Bread Granola has the equivalent of over 8 cups of fresh zucchini in it!

Soups & Stews| Shredded zucchini will rehydrate nicely in soup. After adding it, it needs at least 10 minutes to perk up.

Topping| Just… top things with it, dried that is! Don’t rehydrate it. Sprinkle on salads, on oatmeal, mashed potatoes, or yogurt. Anything you want. Versatile little thing, ain’t it.

In Baked Goods| I don’t mean in the same way you would use zucchini to make a sweet zucchini bread (frozen is much better for that). But rather, adding it in its dehydrated state as a seasoning and color or flavor addition… think of adding dehydrated zucchini in the same light that you would add chocolate chips, nuts, or herbs to a recipe. Zucchini chocolate chip cookies or whole wheat sandwich bread with little flecks of zucchini in it. If using in this way, I would recommend finely chopping the dehydrated zucchini first.

Outside the Box| A pizza topping! Nestled into the sauce, it will rehydrate as the pizza bakes. Add it directly to meatloaf, or rehydrate and add to taco meat or hamburgers.


Dehydrated Sliced Zucchini
Just as with freezing zucchini slices, you want to pick young tender ones for dehydrating slices also. Big zucchini have big seeds and tougher skin- use those for something else.

To slice, a mandolin is indispensable. Another one of my favorite kitchen tools. I like to slice the zucchini as thinly as possible so they end up crisp and not chewy.

In my opinion, dehydrated zucchini slices aren’t good for as many things as the other preservations methods are. Although there are a few unique things you can use your dehydrated zucchini slices for…

How to use Dehydrate Zucchini Slices
Snacking| Make super-healthy zucchini chips. Leave them plain or get creative. At the very least I would add a sprinkle of salt. If you want to “preserve” zucchini chips long-term, you should not use any kind of oil, as it will go rancid after a while. If you are just making a batch or two of chips for immediate eating, adding a little olive oil really makes these a lot tastier, plus helps the seasonings stick.

Slice the zucchini thinly and then place all the zucchini in a large bowl. Drizzle with the oil of your choice, add in the seasoning and then use your hands to make sure all the slices are separated and coated with oil and seasoning.

Zucchini Chip Flavor Ideas:
garlic + parmesan
italian herbs + garlic
ranch: onion + garlic + dill + parsley
cracked black pepper
chili powder + lime zest
cinnamon + maple
honey + vanilla

Healthy Low Carb Lasagna| In my opinion, rehydrated zucchini slices are a little bit rubbery. But, this makes them a good candidate for a lasagna noodle substitute. Unlike using fresh zucchini, the dehydrated slices won’t make your lasagna watery plus they hold their shape well. Consider slicing the zucchini lengthwise (instead of in circles) to make longer, noodle-like sheets. And do rehydrate them in water before you use them to make the lasagna.

Zucchini Flour| After you have dehydrated zucchini slices, you can turn them into a powder, or flour by whizzing them up in a high-speed blender. You will likely need to have a fairly good blender to do this. As far as what to do with zucchini flour… well, you’re a little on your own there. I would feel comfortable subbing 1/4 of the flour called for in a recipe with zucchini flour. Maybe a tad more, depending on what it is.


Pickled Zucchini
You can pickle zucchini just like you would cucumbers, green beans, okra, or anything else…

Ideas for Making Zucchini Pickles
They can be “refrigerator pickled,” or “canned.”

Zucchini pickles can be cut into spears or slices. If you want them to look fancy, consider a crinkle cutter!

They can be sweet, like a “bread & butter” pickle, or really lip-puckering, eye-squinting sour.

Consider these flavoring options:
classic dill and garlic
fresh basil and onion
mustard seed and turmeric
spicy red pepper and onion

How to Use Zucchini Pickles
Zucchini pickles are great served with hamburgers or bratwursts.

Use them on a relish tray and impress your holiday guests.

As an afternoon pick-me-up or lunchtime sandwich accompaniment.

Um, homemade tartar sauce with finely chopped zucchini pickles….

In the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever made.


Fermented Zucchini
Fermenting is the process of adding specific bacteria cultures (or using those that naturally occur) to a food and allowing these good bacteria to grow. As these good bacteria multiply, they create an environment that won’t allow bad bacteria to grow, thus preserving the food.

The big benefit is that when you eat these fermented foods, you get an incredible dose of good bacteria to your digestive system along with your zucchini.

The vessel you make your ferment in and the way that you cover it can have an impact on the quality of your finished product, whether fermenting zucchini or any other vegetable. People have been fermenting foods for centuries without any special gadgets or containers. However, there is one special gadget I will highly recommend.

This nifty gadget turns your mason jar into a fermenter! These provide an airtight seal on any wide mouth mason jar, but allow fermentation gasses to escape, and prevent air and bacteria from entering your jar and spoiling your goods.

You can use a mason jar with a regular plastic lid, or a glass clamp-top jar… you just have to remember to “burp it,” that is, to let the gasses out every day, so your jar doesn’t explode. Some people simply cover their jars with a towel clamped with a rubber band, but this can let bacteria in and it is more likely that your zucchini will turn moldy with this method.

By the way, don’t be intimidated- fermenting is actually really simple and easy!
And zucchini is a great candidate for fermentation.

Simple Fermented Zucchini Slices
4 small to medium sized zucchini
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tbs whey*
1-2 cups filtered water*

Wash the zucchini well, and then slice to your desired thickness and layer the slices in a jar.

In a small bowl combine the sea salt, whey and 1 cup of water. Pour the mixture over the sliced zucchini in the jar. Add more water to the jar until the zucchini slices are covered with liquid and the jar is full.

Cover the jar and store in a dark, cool place; allow it to sit for several days.

When the zucchini has reached your desired level of fermentedness (usually between days 3-6), store in the fridge to greatly stop the process and preserve it.

*I always find whey in my yogurt container. It is the liquid that sits on top, or forms in the dips left after you’ve scooped some yogurt out of the container. Use high-quality plain yogurt. If you don’t see much whey, try eating a few spoonfuls of yogurt, stirring the yogurt all around in the container and then letting it sit for a few hours- that should get you some.

Or, try this method from Instructables.

*Chlorinated water will kill the good bacteria we are trying to breed, don’t use it.

Zucchini Kraut
shredded zucchini
sea salt

This is about as easy as it gets.

In a jar, layer 1/2 cup of shredded zucchini followed by a light sprinkle of salt. Repeat this until the jar is full except for the top two inches.

Cover the jar and store in a dark, cool place; allow it to sit for several days.

Taste every day until the zucchini reaches your desired fermentation level.

Once it is perfect, store in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation and enjoy for weeks.

 

Zucchini Relish
I’ll be honest- I haven’t had a lot of experience with relishes of any kind. I guess I’ve never been a relish-kinda-girl. But after researching recipes, I think I just might become a relish-lover!

Try these:

Spicy Zucchini Relish by Taste of Home
This is a single batch recipe, meant to be stored in the fridge and eaten fresh. It doesn’t contain added sugar, but does contain habanero peppers, which you could leave out or swap for something else! Use arrowroot in place of the cornstarch, if desired.

Zucchini Relish by Lindsey’s Luscious
This is a slightly sweet relish, but with much less sugar than a lot of zucchini relish recipes call for. It is loaded with flavor by the addition of onion, carrot, red bell pepper, and hot peppers. This recipe makes 5 pints and is water bath canned for preservation.

How to Use Zucchini Relish
Of course, on hot dogs or other sausages.

Mixed into tuna salad for sandwiches or on top of greens.

In potato salad, macaroni salad, or in egg salad or deviled egg filling.

On top of grilled chicken or roast beef.

 

 

Want More Preserving?

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Comments

  1. says

    Lots of great tips. I just freeze zucchini after shredded it or I will also slice it very thin and freeze it. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays.

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      I don’t have a tried and true exact recipe… but if I were making it, I would do the following:

      In a 8X8 or 9X9 square baking pan, put the following layers, starting at the bottom of the pan: 1-2 pounds cooked and brown italian pork sausage > 4-6 cups of thawed, very well drained (water squeezed out with a tea towel) zucchini > 1 large green bell pepper and 1 medium onion, cut into bite-sized pieces and sautéed until almost soft, seasoned with pinch of salt > 1/2 to 3/4 jar of your favorite marinara sauce > 2-3 cups cheese- mozzarella and parmesan or any Italian blend. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly.

      Hope that helps!
      Crystal

  2. Chris G says

    How do you store your dehydrated zucchini? I have put them in the freezer in bags after dehydrating (primarily for storage space reasons). Will glass jars work?
    Thanks for the great ideas :)

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      I usually store my dehydrate zucchini in gallon zip-top freezer bags. Then I store all of my dehydrated goods in a big rubbermaid tote (so critters won’t get it). Glass jars are great if you’ve got the room for them! :)

  3. Pat says

    So much helpful info. Thank you! My current zucchini favorite….zucchini latkes. I normally do onion and cheddar cheese ones but will be trying some of the add in combos mentioned elsewhere in your article. Since I need to keep the latkes as low carb as possible, I sub coconut flour for regular flour. Since coconut flour requires more liquid, it gives me both an added benefit…another egg added for more protein, and an added perk. Unlike with fritters, there’s no need to squeeze out the extra liquid from the zucchini!

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      That sounds great! I love using coconut flour- glad to know it works well for latkes, thanks!

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      If you have a grater blade/insert- definitely! If not, and you are thinking of just pulsing the zucchini to chop it up, I don’t think that will turn out as well… it is really hard to control the particle size and some will end up big and some way to small and mushy. -Crystal

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      I can’t say for sure if that would work or not, sorry! It might, but I but fresh is better in the case of relish.

  4. says

    Thank you so much! My freezer is full of raspberries and pears and apples and lavender tea (I make lavendar syrup from it) plus all the other things we use a freezer for, and now I have TONS of zuchinni. I think its time to buy a dehydrator, and I will def. try the relish and craut. Thanks again!

  5. Mandy says

    We love making zuchinni lasagna, and was wondering if you had any specific tips for freezing zuchinni lasagna slices. Thanks

    • crystal@wholefedhomestead says

      Hi Mandy- Make sure they have very tender skin, and if they don’t I would peel them first. I think I would freeze them individually on a parchment-lined baking pan, and then after they are frozen place them into a gallon freezer bag for storage. I might make them a little thicker to account for the extra water loss and make sure they hold their shape. Make sure you really let them drain well when thawed.

      I bet that a layer of shredded zucchini would also be good in a zucchini lasagna!

      Hope that helps! -Crystal

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