Zucchini is such a versatile vegetable! I love using it in baked goods and one of my absolute favorites are these zucchini cookies! They are soft, moist, perfectly spiced, and topped with a creamy, tangy cream cheese frosting that makes them absolutely perfect!
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Zucchini, either you grow it in your garden, or you know someone who does! It is one of those summer veggies that everyone seems to have a surplus of and so they’re willing to share. So what to do with the abundance of zucchini this time of year ?? Make cookies!!
My husband thinks he hates zucchini, but if you put it in a delicous baked good he changes his tune! These cookies are one of my favorite ways to bake with zucchini, and even my picky hubby thinks they’re amazing!
These cookies remind me of carrot cake, they are soft zucchini cookies and have a hint of cinnamon and spice that gives them a delicious flavor. They are also a nice soft cookie that is a perfect cake like texture. By adding the cream cheese icing it takes them to the next level. This cream cheese frosting recipe is one of my favorites, it is the one I use for my carrot cake cookies and it goes so well with the flavor of these zucchini cookies too!
How to pick the perfect zucchini for baking-
Sometimes baking with fresh zucchini can be tricky, it is a veggie with a lot of water content so that can make your batter too liquidy and result in a less than perfect recipe. So starting with the perfect zucchini is key!
For baking I like to find small zucchini one that is about 8-10 inches long and not super big around. The bigger the zucchini the more water content they tend to have. They also get more, bigger, seeds when they are larger, and their skin tends to be thicker and bitter.
With a smaller zucchini you usually don’t have to peel it and you can grate the whole thing seeds and all. So if you can pick them early to keep them the perfect size that is ideal. Most zucchini you buy at the grocery store is a perfect size!
But what if you have a giant monster zucchini? We’ve all had that one in the garden that is hiding under a leaf that we don’t notice til it is the size of our arm. So if you’re starting with one of these there are a few things you can do to make it work! First you’ll want to cut it into quarters lengthwise (cut it in half first if it is really big) take a look at the skin and see if it is super thick, if it is you’re going to want to peel the zucchini before using. Next scoop out the seeds, you can usually use a spoon and just scrape out most of them, it doesn’t need to be perfect just get the majority of the seeds and pulp around them out. There are a couple of ways to combat the excess water. After shredding the zucchini wrap it in cheesecloth or paper towels and squeeze really firmly, this will press out a lot of the extra water. If it is a really big zucchini that seems crazy watery a great way to get rid of the excess is to place the shredded zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle it with salt, stir, and let it sit for about half an hour. The salt will pull out a ton of moisture, then you can squeeze it to rid it of the extra water. If you do this you’ll want to grate about 1 1/2 cups for every cup the recipe calls for because once it is drained there will be less. You’ll also want to adjust or omit the salt in the recipe because the zucchini will already be salted.
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Questions and tips for the perfect zucchini cookies-
Can I omit the raisins?
There seems to be great debate in the world of desserts and cookies as to the belonging of raisins. There are people who LOVE them and people who would rather not eat a cookie if it has raisins in it (my picky eater youngest son is one of them) so one of the big questions with these cookies is if you can leave them out? The answer is yes, absolutely leave them out. Or better yet, swap them out for chocolate chips, dried cranberries or your favorite nuts!
If you like raisins but want to add something else you can do that too! Just use half the amount of raisins and replace the other half with nuts, chocolate chips or what ever you’d like! These cookies are delicious without anything added and they are also a great base for any cookie add ins that you love!
Can I use an alternative to the frosting?
Ok I personally think that cream cheese icing makes everything better, but I know there are a lot of reasons why people would want to omit it. If cream cheese icing is not your thing or you don’t have time to make some there are a couple of things you can try instead!
You can leave the cookies naked! These cookies are delicious as they are! They are not super sweet so if that sounds perfect to you than leave them be. If you’re not sure than try one before you make the frosting and decide if you want to add it or not!
You can use store bought icing. If you’re in a time crunch but still want to frost your cookies you can grab a can of icing at the store. There are several brands that make a cream cheese icing so you can get a similar flavor to the homemade frosting without the task of making it.
You can dust them with powdered sugar . To add just a touch of sweetness and to make them pretty a dusting of powdered sugar is just the thing! Just place the cookies on a cooling rack with a baking sheet or wax paper under it and gently shake a sieve full of powdered sugar over the tops of your cookies. A sifter also works beautifully!
Can I use frozen zucchini– Often when I am shredding zucchini for a recipe I like to do extra while I have the cheese grater or food processor out so that next time I want to whip up one of my favorite zucchini recipes it can be done quickly! I like to shred the extra zucchinis and store it 2 cups at a time in the freezer. This works really well, when you are ready to use the extra grated zucchini you can thaw it, drain the excess water, and you’ll have about a cup of shredded zucchini that is perfect to use for almost any recipe. Freezing zucchini is a great way to be able to make delicious zucchini dishes long after zucchini season is over!
A few tips for successful baking-
-This recipe creates a fairly thick batter, it can be difficult for a hand held mixer to handle so it is best to use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or mix by hand once it is too thick for the mixer.
-Make sure to mix the dry ingredients well. Because this is a thick batter and you don’t want clumps of flour or baking soda in your cookies make sure to mix the dry ingredients well before you incorporate them. A whisk works beautifully, or you can use a sieve or sifter. You just want to make sure that everything is thoroughly mixed.
-Because this cookie dough is really sticky it is a great idea to line your cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner like a Silpat.
Here’s what you’ll need for these zucchini cookies-
½ Cup Shortening
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Shredded Zucchini
2 ¼ Cups All Purpose Flour
3 ½ tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 Cup Raisins
4 oz Cream Cheese (Softened)
½ Cup (one stick ) Butter (Softened)
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
¼ tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of salt
The first thing you want to do is get your oven preheated to 350, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
In a large mixing bowl cream together the brown sugar and shortening together using an electric mixer until nice and fluffy.
Add in the egg and vanilla and continue to mix at a low speed until well mixed
In a medium bowl combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix your dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk or sift together with a sifter or sieve.
Gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients mixing well after each addition.
Now mix in the zucchini, stir thoroughly until it is well incorporated throughout the batter. Once the zucchini is mixed in fold in the raisins stirring until they are evenly distributed.
Using a spoon or a dough scoop drop batter onto cookie sheet a couple of inches apart press them gently to flatten a little.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a light golden brown. Once the cookies are finished remove them from the baking sheet and allow to cool on a cooling rack. They need to be completely cooled before icing.
To make the frosting–
Make sure that your cream cheese and butter are softened to room temperature .
In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter. and cream cheese together until light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix again.
Now add in the powdered sugar a little at a time, mixing between each addition until it is all mixed in.
Once the icing is finished frost each of the cooled cookies with a nice layer of frosting.
If you are planning to store these cookies allow them to sit out until the frosting sets, it will get firm enough on top so that stacking the cookies in a container or plastic wrap touching the frosting won’t make a mess.
When you are ready to store the cookies place them in an airtight container with wax paper or parchment paper in between the layers.
Enjoy these sweet zucchini cookies with a cup of coffee or glass of milk!