Cucumber vs. Zucchini: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie

Cucumber and zucchini are alike in many ways. They are both gourds with dark green colors, pale flesh, and a cylindrical shape. They are 95% water. And they are both fruits. That’s right! We consider and cook them as veggies. However, they are fruits in botanical terms because their plants flower and they have seeds.

Cucumber and zucchini are likewise different in a number of ways.

What’s the difference between cucumber and zucchini? The main difference between cucumber and zucchini is the taste. The taste of cucumber is a bit sweet, and it is mild to the tongue. Fresh cucumbers are crisp, cool, and juicy. They are very refreshing to eat, particularly when raw. As for zucchini, it is also mild to the tongue and slightly sweet, but it is bitter. And it doesn’t taste as great as cucumbers when raw. Also, zucchini becomes more sweet as you heat or cook it.

What are Other Differences Between Cucumber and Zucchini?

There are other differences between cucumber and zucchini. Firstly, cucumber can be eaten raw, and it’s actually best to eat it that way. Zucchinis need to be cooked. While you can choose to have them raw, they taste best when heated, boiled, or cooked in some form.

Cucumbers may also be cooked, but they wilt when heated. Just be careful not to overcook them, so they don’t lose that crisp taste and bite.

Secondly, they differ in plant families. Cucumbers belong to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae (Cucumis Sativus). This is the same botanical family as melons, watermelons, cantaloupes. On the other hand, Zucchini belongs to the family Cucurbita (Cucurbita Pepo). This is the same family that pumpkins and squashes belong to.

Thirdly, they differ in appearance, including colors. Most cucumbers and zucchinis are dark green. But you can also find white, yellow, and orange cucumbers. Meanwhile, zucchinis may be solid green or with yellowish or light green stripes. Golden zucchinis are deep yellow or sometimes orange.

Some cucumbers are oval, short, and round in shape. The skins can be smooth or rough. And they can be thick or thin. Slicing cucumbers like Dasher, Slicemaster, and Comet are thick-skinned. Pickling cucumbers like Royal, Pioneer, and Calypso are smaller and thin-skinned. Thick-skinned cucumbers have more seeds than thin-skinned ones.

Fourthly, cucumber seeds are pale green and clearly visible in the center. But Zucchini seeds are creamy white. They are smaller and blends in the flesh.

Fifthly, Zucchini comes out from the plant stems. Their plants are bush-like. They don’t vine out. But cucumbers hang from stems. They are viney.

Lastly, zucchini flowers are edible, and there are many ways to cook them in a dish. But cucumber flowers are not edible. We should mention that a zucchini with its flowers attached means it’s fresh, young, and sweeter in flavor.

Can You Substitute Cucumber for Zucchini in Recipes?

No, you can’t really substitute cucumber for zucchini. Cucumbers are usually served raw, while zucchinis are cooked. In saying that, however, there are dishes that you can use cucumber in place of zucchini, particularly in salads and stir fries, where you cook cucumbers lightly.

You may also use cucumber as a substitute for zucchini in soups and stews. Keep in mind that you will lose the bitter flavor zucchinis bring into a dish.

When Should You Use Cucumber?

You should definitely use cucumber fresh. Chop it up or slice it. Cucumbers add juiciness to your fresh sandwiches. Mix it in your raw vegetable salads, with tomatoes and avocados. It is also a yummy addition to your seafood salad.

Sprinkle some salt and pepper on cucumber slices, and you already have a side dish to pair with your meat. You may also put it in some vinegar or vinegar-oil blend.

When you eat them raw, you don’t need to remove the seeds. Research indicates they help lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol.

Lightly cook cucumbers. You can add them to your stir fry Asian vegetables. You can drop the slices near the end of cooking.

Have cucumber water regularly. It is very refreshing and detoxifying.

Cucumber is also popular to have fermented, pickled, or canned. Sometimes, they are called gherkins in stores.

It’s easy to make your own cucumber pickles. Here’s how:

  1. Slice some pickling cucumbers and onions. Use more or fewer onions according to your taste.
  2. Submerge it in a water-vinegar mix. You may use apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar, and even rice wine. Use 2 parts water and 1 part vinegar. Or make it more sour as you wish.
  3. Sweeten with some sugar if you like.
  4. Add some jalapeños or green/red pepper if you want it spicy.
  5. Store in the refrigerator for at least a day. Then serve with your grilled meat or other dishes whenever you like.

When Should You Use Zucchini?

Zucchini or courgette (in French) is usually eaten cooked. Cooking releases more of its sweetness. Zucchini also mixes well with other roasted, baked, sautéed, stir-fried, or steamed vegetables. Chop some of them up with peppers, pumpkins, eggplants, and potatoes.

Zucchini is a popular ingredient for ratatouille. You can also use it to make some baked zucchini or fritters.

Some use raw zucchini as a pasta or noodle substitute. They are cut into strips or spiraled then cooked. You can also make them into crispy zucchini chips or use them as filling for quesadillas.

You can also use mature zucchini to bake sweet breads and cakes.

The flowers are edible, and they taste delicious when dipped in batter and deep fried. There are also stuffed zucchini flower recipes you can try using meat, cheese, and other vegetables as stuffing.

Final Thoughts

  • Cucumber is a bit sweet, crisp, cool, and juicy.
  • Zucchini is slightly sweet and a bit bitter.
  • Cucumber is best eaten raw, while zucchini is best eaten when cooked.
  • Cooking zucchini makes it more sweet.
  • Zucchini flowers are edible, while cucumber flowers are not.
  • Cucumber belongs to the gourd family Cucurbitaceae (Cucumis Sativus), along with melons, watermelons, and cantaloupes.
  • Zucchini belongs to the gourd family Cucurbita (Cucurbita Pepo), along with pumpkins and squashes.

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