Stuffed zucchini flowers or blossoms are a vegan summer delight filled with rice, herbs and vegetables
Our gardens grow an abundance of zucchini. This is not necessarily the result of amazing gardening skills (although our parents can grow pretty much anything that can be planted); it is simply a testament to the un-finickiness of zucchini plants. And so, in the summer zucchini takes over our fridges and counters. Thankfully, we have many delicious ways of using them up, like making zucchini chips, or cooking them on the grill.
A happy consequence of having so much zucchini is that we also end up with lovely zucchini blossoms or flowers. Growing up this was a common summer ingredient in our parents’ kitchen. Imagine our surprise when, a few years back, we were having dinner at a particularly chic downtown restaurant and the menu featured a dish made with zucchini flowers. There it was, listed between foie gras and fancy oysters. We took note of the price and choked a little on our aperitifs. It seems that the zucchini flowers we always assumed were everyday fare were in fact a delicacy. There was a fortune in our garden!
Through further research (we were very intrigued), we discovered that zucchini flowers or blossoms are enjoyed in many different ways. They are sometimes served uncooked in salads, stuffed with cheese and deep-fried, or even grilled. All of these ways sound lovely, but our parents have always only served them one way…stuffed with herbs and rice, making them a wonderful vegan meal. Since the blossoms are not readily available year round, these stuffed flowers are our parents’ limited edition version of yemista.
How to pick and store zucchini blossoms
Although we are referring to these edible flowers as zucchini flowers or blossoms, they can actually be found on several summer squash plants, zucchini being the most popular. Zucchini blossoms must be picked in the early morning, when they are fully open; by mid-morning they will already be closed tight. Pick them gently off of the zucchini plant and use a spoon to carefully remove and discard the inner stem. You can store them for a few days in the refrigerator, but keep in mind that the fresher they are, the better they are. Zucchini flowers do not keep well for longer than 2 – 3 days. In order to store them, stack or pack them together and place them in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure your container is solid so that they don’t get squished by anything else in your fridge, like your 20 zucchini.
Where can I find zucchini flowers?
If you don’t grow your own zucchini, you can try finding zucchini flowers at a farmers market or speciality grocer. Because you may not know when they were picked, it is best to use them the day they are bought.
Alternatively, don’t be shy to ask any gardening friends if they have zucchini blossoms to share. Not everyone uses this precious ingredient and so they may be happy to pass them on to you.
How much filling should I use for my stuffed zucchini flowers?
When you stuff your zucchini flowers keep in mind that the rice will expand as it cooks. For this reason, and because the zucchini flowers are quite delicate, you don’t want to overstuff them. Loosely fill your blossoms with the rice and herb mixture and then fold the petals over to keep the filling in place. Although the amount may vary depending upon the size of each flower, we usually use one tablespoon of filling for each blossom. When you place your stuffed blossoms in the baking pan, fit them in closely together (but do not pack them in too tightly); this will help keep them closed.
What rice do I need for my stuffed zucchini flowers?
This recipe calls for long grain rice. As we mentioned in our post for rice with vegetables, it is a good idea to soak your uncooked rice for a few hours (or even overnight) before cooking it. Otherwise, you can rinse your rice thoroughly before adding it to the pot.
Our parents use their homemade tomato sauce for this recipe (and most recipes). If you have homemade sauce, great! If you do not, simply purchase the best quality tomato sauce you can find. Alternatively, for the filling, you can substitute an equal amount of grated fresh tomato. Peel your tomato first, remove the seeds and then grate the flesh until you get 1 1/2 cups of grated tomato.
Looking for more zucchini recipes? We have these we think you’ll love:
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Stuffed zucchini flowers
- 30-40 zucchini blossoms
For the filling:
- 1/2 cup Greek olive oil
- 1 cup chopped, white part of spring onion
- 5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups long grain rice
- 1 cup chopped fresh mint
- 2 ½ cups chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 cups chopped, greens of spring onion
- 2 cups loosely packed grated zucchini, unpeeled
- 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
For the baking pan:
- 1 tbsp Greek olive oil
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add 1/2 cup of olive oil, the chopped onion (only the white part) and garlic. Cook the onion and garlic for 3 – 5 minutes, until softened, stirring constantly so that the garlic does not burn.1/2 cup Greek olive oil, 5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped, 1 cup chopped, white part of spring onion
- Rinse the rice and add it to the pot. Mix well. Add the mint, parsley, green part of the onions, grated zucchini, tomato sauce, salt, pepper and mix well. Remove from heat.1 ½ cups long grain rice, 1 cup chopped fresh mint, 2 ½ cups chopped flat leaf parsley, 2 cups chopped, greens of spring onion, 2 cups loosely packed grated zucchini, unpeeled, 1 ½ cups tomato sauce, 3/4 tbsp salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Add one tablespoon of Greek olive oil to your baking pan and use that to grease the bottom. Set aside.1 tbsp Greek olive oil
- Fill your flowers. Gently take one flower at a time and add about 1 tablespoon of filling to each flower. The exact amount of filling will depend upon the size of your zucchini blossoms. Fold the petals over the filling to fully enclose it, and place the stuffed blossoms into the baking pan. Repeat until you have used up all of your filling, or all of your zucchini blossoms. Watch video here.
- Mix together the vegetable oil, tomato sauce, water and salt. Pour this mixture into the baking pan, over the stuffed zucchini flowers. The liquid should come half way up the flowers. If it does not, add more water until it does.1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 ½ cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 cup tomato sauce
- Bake uncovered for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Test for doneness.
- Allow to cool and enjoy.