Zucchini is the most widely available of summer squashes, a perennial favorite that's almost inescapable at the peak of its season. Nonetheless, you might occasionally find yourself without one as you begin preparing a favorite dish. On those occasions, your refrigerator, garden or local market can furnish a number of perfectly appropriate substitutes.
Other Summer Squash
Other summer squashes are the most direct substitutes for zucchini, in texture and taste. Canary yellow straight-neck and crookneck squashes can be used in exactly the same ways as zucchini. Smaller, rounder globe zucchini or decorative scalloped pattypans are very similar, and can be sliced or hollowed out and stuffed. Chayote squash, a Latin favorite, can also be substituted although its tougher skin must be peeled away before you slice and prepare the flesh.
Eggplant is similar in texture to zucchini, though slightly more flavorful. Slender or egg-shaped Asian eggplants can be substituted directly for zucchini in your favorite recipes. Larger bell-shaped European eggplants have a tougher skin, which might need to be removed for some recipes. Large eggplants are sometimes bitter, and benefit from being salted for 20 minutes before cooking. It absorbs more oil than zucchini does when it's fried, and benefits from being breaded beforehand.
If you like zucchini as a raw vegetable, another potential substitute is cucumbers. Cucumbers have a similar appearance and texture, though they're juicier and have a very different taste. Although cucumbers are almost always eaten raw or pickled in the United States, the French repertoire includes cooked cucumber dishes. Try them as a zucchini substitute in baked dishes or casseroles, where their similar appearance and texture will be emphasized.