The Real Difference Between Summer Squash And Zucchini

Summer squash and zucchini get used pretty interchangeably in recipes — if you've scoured the supermarket shelves for zucchini before only to come up empty, you might've just tossed a summer squash in your cart instead, figuring they're the same thing. But while these end-of-summer veggies have plenty of similarities (and yes, you can definitely sub in summer squash noodles for your zoodles), they're not technically the same.

The most obvious difference you'll notice as you're strolling through the farmers market is their color. Summer squash skin is usually a rich yellow, while many zucchini (which are also technically a type of squash) have dark green skin, sometimes flecked with small white spots or yellowish stripes. But this is where it gets a little confusing, because not all zucchini are green. 

According to The Kitchn, some varieties of zucchini also have yellow skin. Called gold zucchini, they have the same flavor as the green ones you're used to seeing, but with bright yellow-orange skin. You probably won't see this variety at the grocery store, but it might pop up at the occasional farmers market (and you can grow it yourself).

Other differences between zucchini and summer squash

Color is usually the most noticeable distinction between zucchini and summer squash, but if you look a little closer, you can also spot differences in shape. According to Food Network, zucchini usually have a straight, even shape, while summer squash is thicker and wider near the bottom, then narrows at the top. Even if you end up with zucchini and summer squash that are similar shades, laying them next to each other should make it easy to tell them apart. Slicing into them might also give you a clue — according to The Kitchn, summer squash can also have a few more seeds than zucchini.

Luckily, while the two are different on the outside, they're almost identical on the inside, so you can go right ahead and swap summer squash and zucchini in the kitchen. Both have the same mild flavor and slightly firm texture, so you'll never taste the difference. You can even use summer squash in desserts and breads just like zucchini. Many recipes will include a little of each just to make your plate more colorful and appetizing, but if you're having trouble hunting one down, it won't affect the flavor at all to just use the other. 

Of course, both veggies are also known to grow like wild, so if anything, you'll probably find the opposite of a shortage. If you grow it yourself or accept any from a neighbor, you might need to figure out what to do with all your extra zucchini.