Hubs insisted we grow summer squash in our garden, but the only problem is…I don’t know how to cook it—at least, not well. My attempts in the past have led to squishy squash—and ain’t nobody got time for that. Today hubs brought in our first bounty—four crooknecks and one zucchini, so I got to work researching how best to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
First of all, there are many types of squash and many varieties of summer squash. Or as a farmer might say, “many different cultivars of a few different species of edible plant.” Surprisingly, squash isn’t actually a vegetable. Instead, it’s classified as a “pepo,” which is a many-seeded berry with a hard rind. Other members of this species include cucumbers, gourds, cantaloupes, and watermelons. What separates summer squash from its butternut squash and pumpkin cousins? Well, they’re in season in the summer for starters. While many varieties of summer squash are similar, they do vary a bit in texture and flavor.
Today, we’re focusing on yellow summer squash with some zucchini thrown in here and there. Crookneck squash are usually yellow, with a bulbous bottom and thin, curved top. Many times they are warty and bumpy, but some are smooth like zucchini. According to the Modern Farmer, “crookneck falls on the tougher side of the summer squash spectrum and is also pretty bland.” He notes that it may be tempting to pick up the baseball-bat sized zuchs at the farmer’s market, but the smaller, firmer ones have more flavor.
How to turn tough and bland into tender and tasty? This versatile non-vegetable can be sauteed, turned into a casserole, roasted, fried, baked—it’s basically the Bubba Gump shrimp of the garden. Here are the best yellow summer squash recipes the internet has to offer.
It turns out, the key to making sure your summer squash doesn’t turn out squishy is letting it stand for half an hour in between slicing and sauteing. Start by slicing ¼-½ inch coins using a mandoline or knife, then place the squash in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and do something else for 30 minutes. Then, rinse the slices and pat dry. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high then add squash. One squash per person ought to do it, but be sure not to crowd the skillet or it won’t cook evenly. Flip after about five minutes, when they are nice and golden brown, then let cook for an additional three or so minutes on the other side.
Of course, there are many variations on this theme. Bev’s Sauteed Yellow Squash makes four servings. This highly rated recipe swaps butter for oil and adds onion. It also takes longer to cook on a lower heat setting.
Loaves and Dishes recipe for stove top summer squash uses both vegetable oil and unsalted butter. It keeps the onion and ups the ante with garlic.
Looking for more of a hands-off cooking technique? Roasting is the way to go. It takes a little longer, but that yummy caramelization is well worth the wait. The key to avoiding soggy squash here is to limit the amount of olive oil to one tablespoon per pound of squash. First, preheat the oven to roast at 425 degrees. Leaving the skin on, cube the squash into bite-size chunks. Place on an aluminum foil-covered sheet pan or shallow roasting pan, then drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. You can experiment with different spice blends—Better Homes & Gardens suggests trying Trader Joe’s elote seasoning mix. Roast uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until squash is tender and browned.
Crafty Cooking Mama brightens up her roasted recipe with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. She seasons her one-inch pieces with 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder and paprika in addition to salt and pepper. Her version is lower and slower—she roasts on 400 for 45-60 minutes.
Looking for something a little crispier? Try these Parmesan Squash Chips by Delish.
Technically Five Heart Home’s Baked Parmesan Yellow Squash Rounds roasts the squash rounds at 425, but whether you want to call them baked or roasted, these babies are delish! And all you need is squash and parmesan! Again, squishy squash is avoided by washing and drying the slices before baking. Such a game-changer! Prefer spears? Try A Sweet Pea Chef’s recipe for Parmesan Baked Squash And Zucchini Spears. Her seasoning mix of dried thyme, dried oregano, and garlic powder pairs perfectly with the parmesan.
Grilling is a simple yet sensational way to prepare your summer squash. Heat grill to medium, then slice the squash into ¾- to 1-inch coins and skewer. Or cut the squash in half lengthwise into ¼-inch planks. Brush with a marinade, or hit it with the old EVOO, S&P combo before grilling uncovered for 10 minutes until tender, turning once. Country Living’s Grilled Summer Squash with Lemon-Scallion Dressing is sweet and spicy with a delicious duo of honey and jalapeño.
A classic Southern Squash Casserole combines butter, Ritz crackers, and sharp cheddar cheese, so you know it’s going to be good. Here is a healthier version that includes zucchini and uses parmesan and panko instead.
For tender squash in five minutes flat, simply steam on the stove top. This is a good way to prep your summer squash for soups, stir-fries, or pasta dishes. Put your steamer basket in a saucepan with some water then add ¼- to ½-inch coin slices and steam for 3-5 minutes until just tender. Be sure to season afterward!
I watched all 13 minutes of The Hillbilly Kitchen video detailing the easy way to make a 100-year-old recipe for fried squash so you didn’t have to. You’re welcome. To fry up two squashes, add a quarter cup of cornmeal (two tablespoons for each squash), a couple teaspoons of sugar, and some salt and pepper to a quart-sized Ziplock bag. Slice your summer squash into ¼ inch coins (the thinner, the crispier). The Hillbilly Kitchen’s secret to not squishy squash is letting the squash soak up the breading for 15 minutes. Heat a quarter-inch of oil in a skillet on medium (little lower if using a cast-iron skillet), then carefully place your breaded coins in a single layer. Fry for three to four minutes on each side until crisp. Instead of draining them on paper towels, which can stick to the breading, drain them on a cooling rack. These babies are best served hot and don’t stay that way for long, so go ahead and serve them up or keep them in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.
If you own an air fryer, try a Taste of Home’s recipe for Breaded Air-Fryer Summer Squash.
There are a lot of recipes for summer squash soups and chowders out there, but Rachel Ray’s Yellow Squash Soup with Parm & Herbs recipe doesn’t use a bazillion ingredients and is ready in just 15 minutes!