What’s The Difference: Cucumber vs. Zucchini

These two vegetables are commonly mistaken for each other!

We know this has happened to you: you grab what you thought was cucumber only to discover it’s not a cucumber at all! It’s another vegetable altogether. It’s a zucchini.  

It happens and it’s not just you! These two vegetables, the cucumber and the zucchini (which are actually fruits), are commonly mistaken for the other. Both are part of the same scientific family which might explain why both look so similar. Here are the differences between the cucumber and the zucchini, so you can pick the right one that you need for your recipe: 

1 Both are gourds but the zucchini is specifically a summer squash. 

Both are part of the Cucurbitaceae gourd family but while both are gourds, the zucchini is a squash like the pumpkin. Also known as “courgette” in other countries, the zucchini commonly has a dark green rind with yellow stripes but some varieties can be a paler green with fewer yellow stripes. It’s cylindrical like a cucumber but with a smoother skin that is tapered, smaller near the stem, and more bulbous at the end. The flowers of the zucchini are also commonly eaten, deep-fried in a light batter. 

The cucumber is best eaten raw.
Photo by Shutterstock

2 The cucumber is commonly eaten raw. The zucchini is best cooked. 

The cucumber is best eaten raw. The cucumber has a juicy crisp texture with high water content. It has a subtle flavor that is a wonderful complement to many dishes, especially when combined with other stronger flavored ingredients in salads. Its rough, dark green rind and thin white seeds are both edible. The more mature the cucumber, however, the more bitter the seeds can taste and the tougher the rind, so both can be removed if desired.  


The zucchini meanwhile is best cooked. That’s because the zucchini can taste a little bitter when raw. It’s fabulous when grilled but easily mixes with stir-fries and can also be deep-fried as well in a light batter. Similar to the eggplant, its spongy texture has a tendency to absorb oil and other liquids it’s in so using dry cooking methods for the zucchini is best. 

The zucchini is tender and completely edible!
Photo by Shutterstock

3 The zucchini is fleshy and has a soft rind. The cucumber is juicy with a tougher rind.  

Most gourds, like the zucchini, are usually harvested young so that the rind is still tender and edible. Both the seeds and the tender rind are edible and do not require to be removed since the zucchini is still tender. The flesh of the zucchini is spongy and when cooked, tastes sweeter and emphasizes its mild fresh flavor.  


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