Editors' Picks

Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter

July 24, 2013

Every week -- often with your help -- Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A simple preparation turns zucchini into the best version of itself: butter.

Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter from Food52

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We've turned bananas into ice cream, white chocolate into caramel, cauliflower into steak -- for our next bit of alchemy: zucchini will become butter! Or at least convincingly butter-like.

Zucchini butter is simpler than you'd ever think, and tastes richer than any vegetable has a right to. The technique comes via The Kitchn from a caterer in Los Angeles named Jennie Cook (also known, incidentally, for her Funny Cake).

It's barely a recipe at all, but a concept you'll find yourself returning to as your counter keeps piling up with summer squash. I'm sharing it with you now, while squash is still new and you still find little crooknecks and pattypans and their cousins with equally cute names irresistible.

Whenever you come home with a bundle of squash, this is the best, purest way you can distill it. (And then in about a month, when we're overrun, it will still be a happy way to dispense with lots of them at once.)

Here's how you make butter out of squash: Take a little olive oil or butter (or both), melt in some minced shallot or garlic (or both), then dump in a lot of grated squash. You can pre-salt and wring it out it if you want to, but it's really not necessary.

It turns out zucchini wants to be butter. Grated fine, it cooks down quickly, pooling into a soft, freckly green pile. (Food52er inpatskitchen, who first tipped me off to zucchini butter, does the same trick with radishes.)

More: Another place to put grated summer squash? In Summer Weekend Pasta, with corn and basil.

If it sticks to the bottom of the pan, that's actually great. You can keep deglazing with a little water, scraping up the stuck-on bits as you splash it in. You might end up with something a bit more caramelly brown than what you see in the photos here, and it will rock your world.

How to use it? Spread it on toast in place of actual butter. Cake a thick layer in a sandwich with salted tomatoes or soft cheese. Sauce a grilled pizza. Consider it a side dish. Or just eat a big heap of it, right out of the pan, like we did.

Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter from Food52

Jennie Cook's Zucchini Butter

From Jennie Cook by way of The Kitchn

Makes about 2 cups

2 pounds zucchini or assorted summer squash (feel free to use less or add extra -- cooking times will vary)
1/4 cup olive oil or butter
2 minced shallots, garlic, or combination of both
Salt and pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Susan D. July 16, 2023
I just got an email today that Kristen is leaving, and I have enjoyed all her demo/vodeos... especially when she like all of us had to move to making do from home during the pandemic. Best adventures to whatever is up next for you Kristen...You make the simplest of dishes sound so amazing!

So upon reading the note I saw this recipe (which I'd never come across before). My friend had taught me to make zucchini this way after she had lived in Italy for a number of months.
I loved its simplicity and ease of being able to modify it, especially once I couldn't eat onlons or garlic anymore. I've always used it as a side dish and never thought of it as a "butter"... but I could see the appeal to place it on a slice of toast. Especially since my British mother placed canned beans and spaghetti on toast for me as a child. Not sure I can refer to it as Zucchini Butter, but I do love it as a change of pace. So many options with this recipe.
pamelalee August 18, 2016
This is delicious! I can’t believe I’ve been carrying on to my husband about this simple recipe for two days now. I used shallots, 1 Tbs. butter and the rest olive oil, and served it over pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese.
Cheri M. September 7, 2015
Zucchini butter on zucchini bread the idea is crazy! These vegatables are taking over the world, but they are good for you. Sounds amazing
Lily C. August 13, 2014
Just made this, delicious by itself, but even better when made into pesto! Blend it together to make it smoother with plenty of basil, some nutritional yeast (or cheese) and some pine nuts, and it's a gorgeous vegan pesto.
Carolyn C. June 22, 2014
Thanks for the reminder about this! Loved it last year but had forgotten about it.
Turbeville G. September 27, 2013
Any tips on how to reheat? I want to make it ahead of time and spread it on baked chicken.
Loreleis August 27, 2013
Very yummy!Thank you Kristen.
dymnyno August 14, 2013
Fresh is always best! Given the abundance of zucchini why would you want to preserve it?
Magdalene August 13, 2013
Has anyone tried canning this?
I am just about to make zucchini relish and can it, and would like to try this insetad.
Betsey W. August 10, 2013
This is really delicious! I also added smoked sea salt to it with fantastic results.
Cynthia M. August 10, 2013
Does anybody know if you can freeze this successfully?
Elizabeth August 18, 2013
Hi there! I've been looking around and this website says it freezes for up to a year: http://www.mrswages.com/page/Zucchini_Butter.aspx?nt=619.

I'm going to put it in jars and put it next to my freezer jam!
Joyce P. August 7, 2013
This is so good! I've been telling many people about it and is always a hit!
Joyce P.
SusanR July 31, 2013
Okay, there is one issue with this recipe. My husband wants to eat it by the bucket! Seriously delicious and simple. Thanks!
Kathryn L. July 30, 2013
Discovered how great this recipe tastes the year we were inundated with giant zucs although never called it zucchini butter before. Thanks for reminding me of just how much I loved it!
taylor.troxell July 28, 2013
Zozo July 27, 2013
I love doing this with leeks in winter, but zucc butter sounds freaking awesome!
alene C. July 26, 2013
there's not a time of day that i can't eat zucchini butter. it hits whatever spot i need
Chilled O. July 26, 2013
such a good idea!!!!!!!
Chrisp July 25, 2013
I use this mush to make a tasty omelette when I don't have time to make a "real dinner".
A T. July 25, 2013
This looks amazing. This is definitely going to be on the menu for the next dinner party, or drinks night! Can't wait to try it.