The Best Zucchini Bread of Your Life!
All the tips and tricks you need to make the BEST Zucchini Bread recipe of your life! This easy bread bakes up moist, tender, and super flavorful! Easily turn it into chocolate chip zucchini bread, or add nuts!
I’m sitting here working on this zucchini bread post and Eric (who is still working from home #covid) walks in to change his shirt. He was wearing a pink button up shirt, and he proceeded to change into another pink button up shirt.
I said, “I’m sorry, did you just change from a pink button up shirt…into another pink button up shirt?” Long silence. I’m laughing. He looks up.
“Did you just say something?” I realize he was purposefully ignoring me. “Yes, I asked why you changed from a pink…”
“I HEARD YOU. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt. A white shirt with purple stripes on it. [They are not. They are pink].
He continued defiantly, “THIS one has short sleeves. THIS one is linen. Perfect for SUMMER because it’s HOT outside.”
Uh huh. A few minutes go by and I’m continuing my work, chuckling still. Then I heard something and looked up.
“Are you STEAMING YOUR SHIRT?”
“Of course. It’s new, and it’s got all those new-shirt-wrinkles in it.”
This, for our Friday afternoon at home, where we will see no one but each other and various neighborhood children.
He’s confused because I’m still laughing.
“You’re not writing about this are you? Why are you still laughing? I won’t approve this one!”
Well friends, guess what, he did. And now you know that you can show up at my house anytime day or night and Eric is going to be PRESSED AND READY. He even wears a collared shirt to bed. Not really, I’m kidding, but it is true that he wore a collared shirt with a classy sweater over the top when I went in to the hospital to have our son, and the nurses nicknamed him “Dapper Dad.” Oh Eric, how I love you!
Is summer in full swing in your neck of the woods? I know it’s summertime when traffic on these Rhubarb Shortbread Bars starts going crazy. Bring on the summer bounty!
Have you planted any zucchini? Do you have a ton?? I am what you might call “gardening challenged” so I usually don’t bother. Even zucchini, globally known as the easiest vegetable to grow, has proven too difficult for us. Thank you, farmers of America, for being good at your jobs so that I can make this zucchini bread!
If you have never taken a glorious bite of warm, buttered zucchini bread, you are missing out on one of life’s greatest pleasures. Zucchini bread is a quick bread, meaning it has no yeast and is leavened with baking soda or baking powder (kind of like a muffin, but in loaf shape). It is made with grated zucchini and is usually spiced with cinnamon.
My mom has been making zucchini bread for as long as I can remember. She has a recipe in the family recipe book that she gave all of us kids when we left for college. The title reads, “Zucchini Bread Recipe (you can’t taste the zucchini, I swear!)” Which begs the question…
Why even bake with zucchini?
I mean if you can’t taste it, what’s the point in adding it to your quick bread?? It’s a valid question. The answer is moisture and texture. And abundance, if we’re being honest, right? Who here is looking for a zucchini bread recipe because you have a bajillion zucchini in your garden and don’t know what to do with it all??
Zucchini is mostly water, so it brings tons of moisture to baked goods. Not just any moisture though: flavorless moisture that is basically calorie free. You really can’t taste the zucchini in zucchini bread, just the same way your carrot cake doesn’t really taste like carrots. All you taste is moist delicious cake, and moist delicious zucchini bread!
How to make the best Zucchini Bread
There are so many things to consider when making zucchini bread. I tested a whole bunch of different variations of several recipes to see what I liked best. Here are some of the conclusions I came to that help us get to the very best bread!
1. A mix of granulated sugar and brown sugar. Many classic zucchini bread recipes call for only white sugar. I found that I like to use a mix of both white and brown to bring in that carmel-y flavor, and of course the extra moistness that brown sugar brings! This does make the bread a bit darker, but I didn’t hear any complaints from my testers.
2. What spices should we add for flavor? Cinnamon is standard. I tested several spice mixes and landed on a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom. I’m a cardamom lover and add it to almost any recipe that has cinnamon (like this Apple Pie), but you can totally skip it if you want. Don’t leave out the nutmeg though! It really rounds out the flavor of this zucchini bread.
3. Moisten the bread with a combination of oil and butter. Two of my biggest issues with quick bread are dryness and lack of flavor. Many recipes call for just oil or just butter. Oil makes cakes and bread supremely moist (it it 100% fat; butter is about 80% fat). But butter brings that rich flavor we all love. Solution? Use both! Ultimate moist texture and delicious buttery flavor. We’re also adding in a little sour cream for moisture!
4. Mix ins. Do you add chocolate chips to your zucchini bread? Nuts? I love it both ways (but not combined.) The photos today show one batch with chocolate chips and one batch with walnuts. If you add chocolate chips, your bread is going to feel more like a slice of cake (no complaints here). If you add nuts, it’s going to taste more like a traditional quick bread.
5. The squeeze. Texture is everything for me when it comes to zucchini bread. The secret to getting the right texture is squeezing some of the water out of the shredded zucchini before adding it to your bread. Squeezing is kind of annoying, I know. Blotting with a paper towel achieves almost the same effect and is easier. More on that below.
How to grate zucchini
A regular old box grater works just fine. No need to peel it first.
Pro tip: don’t chop off the little knobby end. Use it as a handle! Then you don’t accidentally grate your fingers. (Been there!) Or you can use the grating tool on a food processor. Either way works great!
You are going to want 12 ounces of zucchini for this recipe. That’s about 2 cups. Make sure you pack the zucchini into the measuring cup if you are not weighing it. If you have huge zucchini with seeds in it, scrape out and discard the seeds before grating.
Should you squeeze water out of zucchini for zucchini bread?
To squeeze or not to squeeze, that is the question. The answer is maybe, maybe not; it depends entirely on what texture you prefer in your zucchini bread.
I tested it both ways, all things being equal except I squeezed one and didn’t squeeze the other. Both resultant breads were delicious, but the one that hadn’t been squeezed had my least favorite quick bread quality: gumminess.
All that moisture from the zucchini gets baked into the bread. The edges don’t get as crispy, and it has a heavier weight.
The squozen bread, on the other hand, is light and airy. It is fluffy, and, well, bread-like, with perfectly crispy edges. The ultimate goal for a quick bread, right? The bread was not dry at all. I definitely recommend blotting or squeezing liquid out of your zucchini before adding it to your bread!
(Last year I did a bunch of testing with banana bread. I found that the main thing that defines good banana bread vs. bad banana bread is a gummy texture. The trick is to not add too much banana. You can read all about it on my Banana Bread post. For zucchini, the amount that you add is not as important as making sure you blot or squeeze out some of the liquid.)
Here’s how I like to blot shredded zucchini. Layer it between two paper towels and press until both towels are wet. Blotting and squeezing are both effective ways of removing excess moisture from zucchini!
Finish mixing the batter
Even if you skip blotting or squeezing the zucchini, there is still one thing you can do to help absorb some of the moisture from the zucchini:
Toss your zucchini into your flour mixture and stir it up. The flour will absorb some of the liquid. This is a must for improved texture! I always toss with the flour whether or not I squeeze/blot.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Do not over mix your batter. This will make the finished bread tough instead of soft and tender.
You can stop here, or add in some chocolate chips or toasted walnuts.
Don’t forget to sprinkle the top of your bread with a little somethin somethin. For the chocolate chip bread, I sprinkled on mini chips. For the walnut bread, I sprinkled on raw sugar.
Why does zucchini bread crack on top?
Quick bread like zucchini bread and banana bread often come out of the oven with a big crack down the center of the top of the bread.
Don’t panic! This is a good thing! Quick breads crack as steam from the bread escapes from the center. The other reason is because the edges of the bread set faster than the center, so as the unbaked center rises, the edges pull on the top of the loaf, resulting in a crack. A crack is a sign of a well baked loaf, because it means that the bread has risen properly. The center will be fluffy and tender instead of dense. Embrace it!
How do I know when Zucchini bread is done?
There is nothing sadder than slicing into your loaf of bread to find that it’s raw in the middle. Usually zucchini bread takes about an hour to bake, but sometimes it takes even longer.
Zucchini bread is kind of tricky because there are so many variables, like the type of pan you’re using, the temperature of your oven, the level of moisture in your bread.
My favorite method for testing doneness is a regular old toothpick. Poke it deep into the center of your bread. If it comes out with any wet batter, add another 4-5 minutes to your bake time. You might have to repeat this process several times! (Especially since every time you open your oven to check, you’re lowering the temperature.) Don’t take your bread out until there is no batter on the toothpick. If the top of your bread is over browning, cover it with foil.
The only thing you need to worry about is if you added chocolate chips to your bread. Poke it in a few places to make sure it’s just chocolate on the toothpick, not wet batter. Zucchini bread is quite moist because of all the liquid from the zucchini, so I always err on the side of over baking slightly rather than risking a raw center (I will happily eat over baked bread. I will throw raw bread directly in the trash.)
Pro tip: I tried baking this using the convection setting on my oven and I found that it had absolutely no effect. Usually convection helps bake things faster, but zucchini bread is so dense that even if that oven air is being fanned around, it’s going to take just as long.
How long does it take for zucchini bread to cool?
I like to wait about 15-30 minutes before slicing into my zucchini bread. If you do it too early your bread can collapse.
Take the pan out of the oven and immediately set on a cooling rack so the bottom of the bread can start cooling. After 15-30 minutes, remove from the pan. If you have lined the pan with parchment paper or foil, you can lift the bread out of the pan easily. If not, gently flip the bread over into your hand (or on a plate), remove the pan, and set the bread on a cooling rack.
Cool zucchini bread on its side for crispier edges
We all know the best part of zucchini bread is the crispy crackly top. The other 3 edges tend to get soggy pretty fast. The faster you take it out of the pan, the crispier your edges will be, but another trick is to cool bread on it’s side (on a cooling rack, once you’ve removed it from the pan). The bottom of the bread is the hottest part, and cooling on it’s side can help the bread cool down faster, resulting in crispier edges. This can also help prevent your bread from falling in the center (although you shouldn’t have a problem at all with today’s recipe.)
Once the bread is completely cool (okay well, maybe not ALLL the way cool), use a sharp serrated knife and use a sawing motion to slice the bread.
Can you freeze zucchini bread?
Yes! Bread freezes beautifully and zucchini bread is no exception. Make sure that it is completely cool, then wrap the entire loaf in plastic. Stick it in ziplock bag and store in the freezer. Or to stash individual slices, wrap each cooled slice in plastic wrap, and store them all in a large ziplock. Then you can have a pre-portioned slice as a little breakfast gift to yourself anytime you want! Let thaw (still wrapped) at room temperature on the counter.
If you are in a hurry you can try heating it up in the microwave at a lower power level, or using the defrost button. Once thaw, we love to toast individual slices of zucchini bread to get them nice and toasty on the edges. And then of course…
Butter your zucchini bread
Because it’s bread. And butter goes on bread. I feel a little silly adding this here, but one of my food blogger friends (hi Dorothy) posted on Instagram recently about buttering zucchini bread, and someone commented that they had never thought to try it with butter. This blew my mind, because of COURSE you butter zucchini bread, and I just want to make sure that if there is even a tiny tiny percentage of you out there who don’t know about slathering massive thick slices of zucchini bread with copious soft, melty butter…
then I need to educate you. I just want you to live your best life here guys. Buttered zucchini bread forever!
More quick bread recipes you will love!
- Moist Banana Bread with Sour Cream << this has quickly become one of the most popular recipes on my site since posting last year!
- Glazed Lemon Bread Recipe << This bread does not skimp on the lemon flavor.
- Peach Pull-Apart Bread with Caramel Sauce << with caramel sauce? I mean come on.
- Maple Cinnamon Quick Bread << this has little pockets of cinnamon sugar
- Plum Bread from Like Mother Life Daughter
More breakfast ideas!
- Raspberry Lemon Glazed Muffins << the best way to use fresh berries
- The Best Scone Recipe I’ve Ever Made << for real though. Say goodbye to sad dry Starbucks scones.
- Bran Muffins with Butter Molasses Glaze << you might think bran muffins sound boring. You’re wrong.
- Cinnamon Roll Quick Bread from Tastes of Lizzy T
- Shortcut Zucchini Muffins from Amanda’s Cooking
More Zucchini recipes! (savory ideas)
- Zucchini Pizza Bites << these are so tasty!
- Cauliflower Rice Skillet with Zucchini and Kielbasa << a great low carb meal!
- Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats << who can say no to buffalo chicken?
- Creamy Zucchini Soup with Popcorn Garnish << don’t knock it til you try it. It’s delish.
Zucchini Bread Recipe
- 2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom, optional
- 2 cups shredded zucchini, 12 ounces, about 2 zucchini
- 1/2 cup butter, (1 stick) melted
- 1/4 cup neutral oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, light olive oil, etc
- 3/4 cup brown sugar*, packed
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup chocolate chips, I used half mini, half dark chocolate chopped
- 3/4 cup toasted walnuts, or pecans
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar, or granulated sugar, to top bread
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line one 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, or grease well with nonstick spray.
- If you plan to add nuts to your bread, toast them now. Spread about 3/4 cup chopped nuts on a dry baking sheet. Toast at 350 for about 5 minutes. Stir the nuts and continue baking in 2 minute intervals, stirring every time, until the nuts are browned and very fragrant.** Set aside to cool.
- Mix the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients: 2 cups all purpose flour (spooned and leveled), 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom. Whisk together and set aside.
- Mix the wet ingredients. Add 1/2 cup butter (1 stick) to a large microwave safe bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave.
- Add 1/4 cup oil, 3/4 cup brown sugar*, 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk together until combined.
- Shred the zucchini. Shred your zucchini using the side of your box grater with the largest holes. (Don't chop off the knobby end of your zucchini; use it as a handle!) You can also use the grating tool on a food processor to shred your zucchini. You need 12 ounces of zucchini. If you don't have a scale, measure out 2 cups, making sure to pack it in so you get the full amount. Usually this is about 2 smallish-medium zucchini.***
- Blot/ Squeeze the zucchini. Once your zucchini is grated, take the time to blot it on a paper towel, or squeeze it out. I like to lay a few paper towels on the counter, spread out the zucchini, then top with another layer of paper towels and press it down until both paper towels are soaked. Blotting your zucchini will keep your bread from being gummy. If you skip this step, you are still going to get great zucchini bread. I prefer the texture when the zucchini is blotted or squeezed.
- Add the zucchini to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix only until just combined.
- If you plan to add (1 cup) chocolate chips*** or (3/4 cup) nuts, add them to the batter before the flour is even all the way mixed in, see photos. Then stir together with a spatula with as few strokes as possible. Over mixing the batter will result in tough bread.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Top your loaf with 1 tablespoon raw or granulated sugar, or a scatter of chocolate chips (or both! But use sparingly, if you add too much it will weigh down your loaf so that it doesn't rise well.)
- Bake the bread in the center of the oven at 350 for about 60 minutes. The bread is done when a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out with no batter on it. You may need to bake the bread for up to 70 or even 80 minutes, so prepare to be patient. Do not take it out of the oven until a toothpick comes out clean. (Be sure that you're not seeing chocolate if you used chocolate chips) Cover your bread with foil as it finishes baking if it is getting over browned.
- Let your bread cool in the pan set on a wire rack for 15 minutes. At this point, if you used parchment paper, lift your bread out of the pan and let finish cooling on a wire rack. If you didn't use parchment paper, let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Then flip the bread into your hand or a plate, then transfer back to the cooling rack. Let finish cooling on it's side for extra crispy edges.
- Store zucchini bread in a sealed container on the counter for up to 5 days.
- Freezer instructions: Make sure that your bread is completely cool, then wrap the entire loaf in plastic. Stick it in ziplock bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Or to stash individual slices, wrap each cooled slice in plastic wrap, and store them all in a large ziplock. Let thaw (still wrapped) at room temperature on the counter. If you are in a hurry you can try heating it up in the microwave at a lower power level, or using the defrost button. Once thaw, we love to toast individual slices of zucchini bread to get them nice and toasty on the edges. And then slather in butter of course.
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