How to Pick and Cook Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini flowers look fancy, but they're surprisingly easy to prepare at home.

Zucchini is a summer staple. Before you know it, the markets are flooded with more zucchinis than you have zucchini recipes for! With abundant zucchini plants come zucchini flowers, a rare find at the grocery store but one of our favorite seasonal delicacies. They really do taste like summer! These edible blossoms are one of the most fragile vegetables at the farmers market, but their delicate nature mirrors their soft, nuanced flavor, making them well worth it if you can find them.

What Are Zucchini Flowers?

Male And Female Flowers Zucchiniv_zaitsev/Getty Images

Zucchini flowers (also called zucchini blossoms) are the edible flowers of the zucchini plant. These bright orange-yellow flowers open up and bloom to allow bees to transfer the sticky pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. Once pollinated, the flowers close and a zucchini grows at the flower’s base.

The male flowers don’t produce any fruit, so they can be picked without sacrificing any zucchini. Zucchini flowers have a soft, delicate texture and a flavor that’s reminiscent of summer squash. They’re lightly sweet and perfect for being stuffed, battered and fried, although they can also be enjoyed raw or baked into zucchini bread or pizza. (Here are more surprising ways to cook with zucchini.)

If you have zucchini plants in your vegetable garden, take advantage of this seasonal delicacy by picking the flowers yourself. It’s best to pick the male flowers, which can’t produce fruit, unless you already have an abundance of zucchini. It’s easiest to identify them by distinguishing them from the female flowers’ swollen stems, which look like miniature zucchinis. Cut the flowers at the stem with scissors or a sharp paring knife, leaving about an inch of stem attached to the flower. Be sure to leave a few male flowers to pollinate the female flowers!

Where to Buy Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini flowers Naples, Italy October 23 2018 A box of fresh squash flowers in a local Italian marketPeter Bannan/Getty Images

Zucchini flowers wilt quickly after they’re picked, so it’s rare to find them in a grocery store. You may find them in upscale stores, but they’re more common at a farmers market. They’re usually available from late spring to early fall. Look for flowers that are tightly closed, and make plans to get them home and into the refrigerator as quickly as possible. It’s okay if the flowers are slightly wilted, but skip any zucchini blossoms that look limp and sad.

How to Cook Zucchini Flowers

Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with cream cheese, ricotta, tasty Italian dish summerMaria_Lapina/Getty Images

Zucchini flowers are usually stuffed or fried, although they can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. To prepare the zucchini flower, gently open the blossom and inspect the inside for bugs (it happens!). Remove the pistils and stamens by pulling them out or snapping them off with your fingers. We don’t recommend washing the flowers since they’re so delicate, but you can give them a quick rinse in cold water if you’re concerned. Be sure to shake off all the excess moisture.

From there, turn them into fried squash blossoms by dipping them into a batter and frying them in 375°F oil. You can also stuff the blossoms with goat cheese or seasoned ricotta cheese. It’s easiest to place any fillings in a piping bag and pipe it into the center of the blossom, stopping when the whole flower is filled. Stuffed squash blossoms can be enjoyed raw on a salad or as an appetizer, brushed with an egg wash and baked in a 350° oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or coated in breadcrumbs and sauteed.

We also love enjoying squash blossoms raw by julienning the flowers. Use them as a colorful garnish for your favorite salad recipe, add them to pizza (they’re especially good when combined with burrata) or toss them with pasta. They’re particularly tasty on a simple pasta dressed with olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. For a sweet treat, try making candied flowers.

How to Serve Zucchini Flowers

Fried zucchini flowers make an excellent first course. Serve these crispy flowers alongside crostini or vegetable crudites to create a beautiful appetizer platter. They taste great on their own, but you can also serve them with a mayonnaise-based sauce like remoulade.

Stuffed zucchini flowers are perfect when featured as a filling vegetarian main dish. They’re great alongside grains and vegetables, and stuffed flowers taste especially fantastic over a spring risotto. Don’t be afraid to float them on top of a pureed soup like zucchini bisque, either.

When in doubt, pair zucchini flowers alongside with any of our favorite zucchini recipes.

How to Store Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini flowers don’t have a long shelf life, so we recommend using them within 24 hours after they’re picked. Store them in the refrigerator by carefully placing them in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and packing them into an airtight bag. Be careful not to crush or press the flowers. They’ll last about a day in the crisper bin.

Tips for Cooking with Zucchini Flowers

How long after flowering do zucchini appear?

Summer squash grow quickly, so it doesn’t take long for them to appear after the flowers are pollinated. Most zucchini are ready to harvest between four and eight days after the flowers appear. They’ll continue to grow if not picked, so wait a little longer if you want larger zucchini.

Will zucchini grow if I pick the flowers?

Only female flowers produce zucchini, so it’s absolutely possible to grow zucchini in your garden even if you pick the flowers. Be sure to leave a few male flowers on the plant to pollinate the female flowers.

What do zucchini flowers taste like?

Zucchini flowers have a soft, tender texture and a slightly sweet flavor. They’re very mild, but taste like zucchini.

Are zucchini flowers good for you?

Zucchini flowers are full of vitamins and minerals. Like zucchini, they contain vitamin C, potassium, zinc and a small amount of calcium.

Can I eat zucchini flowers raw?

While most recipes call for frying or baking zucchini flowers, they’re safe to eat raw. Unless they’re stuffed with a soft cheese like goat cheese or ricotta, a whole, raw zucchini blossom is not very palatable. You can also cut them into small strips to use as garnish.

Popular Videos

Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.