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Zucchini vs. Cucumbers -- What's the Difference?

These lookalike veggies have very different uses and flavors.

<p>Mikroman6/Getty Images</p>

Mikroman6/Getty Images

Zucchini and cucumbers share a lot of similiarities—they're usually harvested in the summer, they're both long veggies with rounded edges, and they have bright green skins.

But there are ways to tell the two of them apart without tasting them—or accidentally making cucumber bread instead of zucchini bread.

What Are the Similarities Between Cucumbers and Zucchini?

Cucumbers and zucchini have a lot of things in common, beyond their appearance. They both come from the same family—Cucurbits—which includes many other types of squash, pumpkins, gourds, and even melons. They're both officially fruits, but they get lumped in with the veggies. And they both have a dark green skin and a creamy white interior.

Both cucumber and zucchini have a mild flavor, with zucchini coming in a bit sweeter than cucumber.

Related: 6 Health Benefits of Zucchini, Plus Tasty Recipes to Try This Zuke Season

Pro tip: If you're looking for a healthier alternative to pasta, either cucumber or zucchini can be used to create noodles.

What's the Difference Between Cucumbers and Zucchini?

There are a few giveaways to help you tell zucchini and cucumber apart at the farmer's market or supermarket. Zucchini has a thick, woody stem at the top, and a slightly soft (and often speckled) skin. Cucumbers usually have a waxier and harder skin, and often a bumpier texture.

When you cut them open, you'll get a better sense of the differences. Cucumbers have a crispy and cool texture and more prominent seeds (other than a few seedless varieties), while zucchini can be a bit more spongy and has subtle seeds.

But the biggest difference is in how these two veggies are used in recipes. Generally, zucchini is served cooked, and cucumbers are served raw—though there are a few dishes for each that buck that rule.

Can You Substitute Cucumbers and Zucchini for Each Other?

In most cases, zucchini and cucumbers don't substitute for each other well—especially as cucumbers are best served raw, and zucchini are most often cooked. They can be swapped for each other in raw dishes—such as using thinly sliced zucchini in lieu of cucumbers in a salad, or shredded cucumber for shredded zucchini in a poke bowl.

They'll have slightly different flavors and textures, but the recipe should still be a success.

How to Store Cucumbers and Zucchini

Cucumbers and zucchini can last for more than a week in the fridge, especially if you store them appropriately.

For cucumbers, warp the cucumber in plastic wrap, then in an airtight container to help it stay crisp.

Zucchini can be kept in the crisper drawer in a paper bag to help reduce the moisture that can turn your zucchini into mush in your fridge.

Recipes That Can Use Either Cucumbers or Zucchini

There are some recipes that could work equally well for using cucumbers or zucchini. (In general, salads are the way to go.) Here are a few to try:

Smashed Cucumber Salad With Spicy Feta and Olives

Jennifer Causey
Jennifer Causey

You can use zucchini in lieu of cucumber for this Greek-style salad. You may want to slice the zucchini slightly thinner for the salad than you would slice the cucumber.

Smashed Cucumber Salad With Spicy Feta and Olives

Related: 16 Zucchini Recipes to Add More Green to Your Plate

Japanese-Style Shrimp Salad

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Thinly sliced zucchini can be a perfect swap in for the cucumbers in this fast-and-easy dinner salad that's perfect for hot summer nights.

Japanese-Style Shrimp Salad

Related: 21 Simple Summer Salad Recipes With the Season's Best Ingredients

Zucchini and Bean Salad With Bulgur

Marcus Nilsson
Marcus Nilsson

Marinating thinly sliced zucchini in salad dressing for about 10 minutes before serving lets it soak in the flavor and soften up. (You can do the same thing with the cucumber if you're using that in lieu of the zucchini.)

Zucchini and Bean Salad With Bulgur

Lemony Pasta Salad With Cucumber

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Sliced zucchini works just as beautifully with lemon, feta, and red pepper flakes as sliced cucumbers.

Lemony Pasta Salad With Cucumber

Zucchini Tzatziki Slaw

Greg DuPree
Greg DuPree

Shredded cucumber can sub in for zucchini in this cool and refreshing side salad. (You'll want to pat the shredded cucumber dry to help the salad stay crispy.)

Zucchini Tzatziki Slaw

Orzo-Cucumber Salad

Raymond Hom
Raymond Hom

For this easy and light main course salad, you can opt for chopped zucchini in lieu of cucumbers.

Orzo-Cucumber Salad

Indian-Spiced Shrimp With Cucumber Salad

Caitlin Bensel
Caitlin Bensel

The fresh cucumber or zucchini salad is the perfect foil for the shrimp—which is slathered in a spicy combo of cumin, coriander, cayenne, and fresh ginger.

Indian-Spiced Shrimp With Cucumber Salad

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