This Healthy Zucchini Bread will be your go-to when you need to use up all that summer zucchini in the best way for your body. It is dairy-free, gluten-free, and refined sugar-free, and instead loaded with heart-healthy, gut-glowing ingredients like oats, walnuts and anti-inflammatory spices like cinnamon and ginger, not to mention tons of delicious flavor. Shall we?
- What is Healthy Zucchini Bread?
- What Makes This Zucchini Bread Healthy
- Ingredients You Need for Healthy Zucchini Bread
- What Kind of Oats? Rolled Oats vs Oat Flour
- Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- How to Make Healthy Zucchini Bread
- Can You Bake Healthy Zucchini Bread in a Different Pan?
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- Advance Prep for Healthy Zucchini Bread
- Make-Ahead and Storage
- What Else to Serve with Healthy Zucchini Bread
- What to Do with All that Extra Zucchini
- Bake More Quick Breads
- Healthy Zucchini Bread Recipe, gluten-free and dairy-free
What is Healthy Zucchini Bread?
Healthy Zucchini Bread takes classic zucchini bread and tweaks it a little, making it into a good health-supporting powerhouse that is lower in fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free. Instead, the healthy version is loaded with fiber, omega 3s, protein, and anti-inflammatory compounds that promote and support your good health.
Zucchini Bread is a quick bread, similar to Banana Bread and Pumpkin Bread. But instead of the zucchini being mashed like the banana or pumpkin, it is shredded and mixed into the batter. Because of its high water content, zucchini adds moisture to the batter without additional fat or calories. The shreds also help hold the bread together.
What Makes This Zucchini Bread Healthy
This recipe is labeled "dairy-free" or "gluten-free," but that isn't what automatically makes it healthy. This Zucchini Bread includes health-supporting ingredients that we could all probably use a little more of like oats, walnuts, and avocado oil.
Oats. Oats are high in fiber, which we all know promotes good gut health. But it's the type of fiber, a soluble fiber called beta glucan, that's also particularly beneficial to heart health. Beta glucan can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes by lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels. In this recipe, blended oats replace plain refined flour. Oat themselves are naturally gluten-free, but because they are often processed in facilities that also process wheat, make sure to look for an oat product explicitly labeled "gluten-free."
Walnuts. Walnuts are blended into a coarse "flour" and replace refined white flour in this recipe. Studies have shown that nut consumption is associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Walnuts specifically have been shown to lower total cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and lower apoprotein B, a lipoprotein with increasing significance in the understanding of cardiovascular disease. (source: Harvard Health)
Avocado and Olive Oil. Avocado and olive oil are monounstaurated fats, or what we like to call "the good kind of fat." MUFAs, as they are sometimes referred to as, may lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and may improve blood sugar levels.
Maple Syrup. This recipe uses maple syrup, a vegan-suitable natural sweetener, that replaces refined white sugar. Though still "sugar," maple syrup has a lower glycemic index (GI) than white sugar, may provide antioxidant benefits from naturally occurring phenols, and because it tastes sweeter than refined white sugar, you can use a little less in certain recipes like this one. (source)
Zucchini. It's green and it's a vegetable, so it must be good for you! Which is mostly true, but in the case of this Healthy Zucchini Bread, or any zucchini-based baked good for that matter, the zucchini is mostly a good source of hydration and fiber.
This Healthy Zucchini Bread recipe as published is:
- vegan-adaptable, see Substitutions and Variations section below
- gluten-free (make sure to use certified gluten-free oats)
- refined sugar-free
Ingredients You Need for Healthy Zucchini Bread
- Maple syrup
- Vanilla extract
- Avocado or coconut oil
- Rolled oats which you will blend yourself, or you can just buy oat flour
- Walnuts, which you will blend
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cinnamon, ground
- Ginger, ground
- Nutmeg, ground
Optional Mix-In Ingredients
This recipe is the perfect place to add healthy mix-ins. After combining the wet and dry ingredients, fold into the batter up to 1½ cups of:
- fresh blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or chopped strawberries
- dark chocolate chips
- dark chocolate chunks
- additional coarsely chopped walnuts or other nuts
- dried fruit like dates or figs, also, only if you must
Fold the mix-ins into the finished batter right before pouring the batter to the pan. Note that the nutritional information per serving of the recipe will change slightly.
What Kind of Oats? Rolled Oats vs Oat Flour
Use organic rolled oats, which you will process into a fine "flour" in a high-powered blender or food processor. You can use regular or quick cooking rolled oats for this recipe. If you are baking gluten-free, read the packaging to make sure the oats are certified gluten-free. Oats themselves do not contain gluten, but might be processed in facilities that also process grains with gluten.
This brand is always reliable for certified gluten-free oats.
You can also skip a step in the recipe by buying oat flour.
Oats are available in a few different formats. Rolled, steel-cut, whole groat oats, quick-cooking, and instant oats are the most commonly available in grocery stores. This recipe uses rolled oats which are whole oats that have been "rolled" over and flattened, making them easier and faster to cook.
Steel-cut oats are whole oats that have been coarsely "cut" or chopped into smaller pieces for easier cooking. Steel-cut oats have great texture for a bowl of oatmeal, but are not ideal for this recipe, as they are difficult to process into oat flour in your home blender.
Do not use instant oats.
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
Zucchini. You need 2 gently packed cups shredded zucchini, about 2 medium sized zucchini. Because we are keeping the skins on, look for organically grown, or grown by a farmer or gardener whose practices you trust.
Oil. Use avocado oil, melted coconut oil or olive oil. I usually this brand of avocado oil (not organic) and this California-grown olive oil. While avocado oil is neutral in flavor, both coconut oil and olive oil have distinctive flavors, so the bread will taste and smell ever so faintly of those oils.
Walnuts. Use raw, organic walnut pieces. Since the walnuts will be blended, there is no need to pay for the luxury of whole walnut halves.
Maple Syrup. I use this organic maple syrup that is amber in color and more robust in flavor than lighter colored maple syrups.
Vanilla Extract. I use this brand of pure vanilla extract. Don't use imitation vanilla flavoring.
Cinnamon. Cinnamon is a common spice for baking, but is unfortunately overlooked as a superfood! Anything labeled "ground cinnamon" is fine for this recipe. If you want something fancy, look for "Ceylon" cinnamon, which has a more delicate, complex flavor.
Ginger. Ground ginger adds warmth, along with anti-inflammatory health benefits, to the Zucchini Bread. If you cannot find ground ginger, you can substitute up to double the amount of grated fresh ginger. You can also leave the ginger out completely.
Nutmeg. This spice (which is not a nut) is a main ingredient for the recipe, but if you don't have nutmeg on hand, don't worry about it. That being said, nutmeg is a great spice to add to any kind of cooked green vegetable. You want ground nutmeg, not the whole thing.
Salt. I use this kosher salt for almost every cooking application, as opposed to a finishing salt/garnish. If you only have regular table salt, use half the amount in the recipe.
All other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
How to Make Healthy Zucchini Bread
Blend the Oats and Walnuts
If you are starting with rolled oats, blend a little more than 1 cup of rolled oats in a high power blender until it becomes a coarse "flour." The oats will not become as fine as regular white flour, but get it as fine as you can. If you are starting with store-bought oat flour, you're ready to go.
Blend rolled oats in a high power blender or food processor until you get a fine powdery "flour." Transfer oat flour to a bowl. If you already have oat flour, skip straight to putting it in the bowl.
Add walnuts to blender or food processor along with a couple tablespoons of the blended oats or oat flour. Pulse until walnuts are a fine meal. Just make sure not to blend it all the way to the point of walnut butter! Transfer ground walnuts to same bowl with blended oats.
Make the Bread
Before you start on making the bread itself, place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 8½ x 4½-inch loaf with parchment paper and spray with baking spray.
Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the bowl with the blended oats and blended walnuts and whisk together until the dry ingredients are uniformly distributed. Set bowl aside.
Using a box grater, shred 2 medium zucchini onto a paper towel or clean dry kitchen towel. Gently squeeze the shredded zucchini in the paper towel or kitchen to drain off any excess liquid. You do not need to wring or squeeze too hard, just enough to release excess. Set shredded zucchini aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla until well combined.
Stir in shredded zucchini, breaking up any clumps.
Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until dry ingredients are uniformly incorporated into the zucchini mixture. This zucchini bread batter will be thick. Fold in any additional mix-ins like fresh berries or dark chocolate if using.
Scrape the batter into prepared 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan. Gently tap the pan against countertop to pop any large air bubbles. Garnish top with whole rolled oats and chopped walnuts.
Bake on middle rack at 350°F for 50-55 minutes, until wooden tester comes out clean. This Healthy Zucchini Bread doesn't rise quite as high as classic zucchini breads.
Cool bread in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully lift it out with the parchment paper and tip the bread onto its side. Let it cool on its side for 20 minutes to keep the center of the loaf high. You can return the zucchini bread onto its flat bottom and let the bread cool completely, a total cooling time of at least one hour, before cutting into it.
Because this Healthy Zucchini Bread is made with oat flour and ground walnuts, both of which won't be totally obvious when you slice the bread, garnishing the top of the bread with whole rolled oats and walnuts is a great way of "labeling" what it is, especially if there are more than one or two people who graze through the kitchen!
Can You Bake Healthy Zucchini Bread in a Different Pan?
This Healthy Zucchini Bread is slightly more delicate than regular quick breads, so using different size and shape pans is not recommended. However, there are a couple of cases where a different pan would work:
- Muffin Pan— Yes! This Zucchini Bread recipe fits perfectly in a regular 12-count muffin tin and makes perfect muffins. Grease and flour the muffin tin or line with paper liners. Divide batter evenly among cups. Bake the muffins for 16-18 minutes.
- Different Size Loaf Pan— Though a regular quick bread can make the jump from an 8½x4½-inch loaf pan up to a 9x5-inch pan, this healthy Zucchini Bread will be too small in volume for the larger loaf pan. You can size down to two much smaller mini loaf pans.
- 9-inch Round Pan— Yes! A 9-inch round pan has similar capacity to a 8½x4½-inch loaf pan. The batter will spread out more, so you will need to decrease the baking time. Start checking the Zucchini Bread for done-ness at 30 minutes. The photo above shows the Healthy Zucchini Bread baked in a 9-inch round.
- 8-inch Round Cake Pan— No. This Healthy Zucchini Bread will not fit in an 8-inch round cake pan.
Substitutions and Variations
When it comes to this Healthy version of Zucchini Bread though, try to stick as closely as possible to the ingredients and ratios as ingredients like oats, walnuts, and maple syrup require some degree of consistency. That being said, there are some substitutions you can make:
- Oat Flour- If you want to skip the step of blending oats into your own oat flour, you can buy and use a commercial oat flour.
- Almond Flour and Other Alt- Flours - Substitute up to 100% of the walnuts in this recipe with alternative flours like almond flour, cassava flour, or coconut flour.
- Regular Wheat Flour - If you are not gluten-free, you can substitute up to half of the oats to add slightly more texture to the final product. If you want to substitute out all the oat flour, try this Easy Zucchini Bread recipe, which is designed for regular flour, instead!
- Sweetener—Substitute maple syrup with honey 1 for 1.
- Reduced Sugar—You can absolutely reduce the total amount of sugar in the recipe to ¾ cup, or even ½ cup! Any less than that, however, and you will compromise the structural integrity of the bread, as the maple syrup is not just for sweetness, but moisture and texture.
- Other Oil — You can technically use any other oil for this recipe, though the point is to keep the ingredients as nutrient-dense as possible.
Modifications for Dietary Needs
- Gluten-free - As presented, this Healthy Zucchini Bread recipe is gluten-free if you use gluten-free oats. To make sure this Healthy Zucchini Bread gluten-free, look for certified gluten-free labeling on oats! This brand is always reliable for certified gluten-free grains.
- Vegan - To make this recipe vegan, use an appropriate plant-based egg substitute or a flax egg, which is made with ground flax seeds and water. I would not leave the egg -based ingredient out completely.
Variations with Mix-In Ingredients
As noted above, additional nutrient-dense mix-in ingredients at the end are great for customizing your Healthy Zucchini Bread. Add up to 1 cup of any of the following into the batter at the end, with the understanding that additions will change the nutritional profile of the final recipe. Just fold into the final batter until well incorporated:
- fresh berries or other chopped fresh fruit
- dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate chunks
- chopped toasted nuts of any kind like almonds, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts
- chopped dried fruit like dried cranberries, dated, dried figs, dried plums or raisins
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, in the case of baked goods, and this Zucchini Bread in particular, you do need a couple of baking-specific tools. I'm also including a few tools that might help make the process even easier than it already is to get from farm to fork:
- Box Grater to shred the zucchini!
- Glass mixing bowls.
- Parchment paper to line the pan
- 8½x4½-inch Loaf Pan
- Wire cooling rack
- Bread knife
- Glass storage container with airtight lids
Advance Prep for Healthy Zucchini Bread
There are a few steps you can do in advance to make this recipe a little faster when you actually intend to bake off a loaf Healthy Zucchini Bread:
- Blend oats into oat flour in advance, store in air-tight container, in the freezer for long-term storage
- Blend walnuts into walnut flour in advance, store in air-tight container, in the freezer for long-term storage
You can shred the zucchini up to 1 day in advance. Follow these guidelines:
- Zucchini will release a lot of water after it's shredded, so shred the zucchini on the large holes of the box grater to reduce the exposed surface area
- Store pre-shredded zucchini in an air-tight container in the refrigerator
- Discard any liquid that the zucchini releases before using in the recipe
- Let refrigerated pre-shredded zucchini come to room temperature.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Healthy Zucchini Bread, like all quick breads and muffins, is perfect for making ahead and eating over the next few days or freezing and re-heating. In fact, toward the end of the summer when zucchini is overflowing in the garden or at the markets, it's worthwhile to make two loaves at once if the oven's going to be turned on anyway. You can eat one loaf now and freeze one for later.
To store Healthy Zucchini Bread, first cool bread completely. Like completely. At least one hour, maybe two. Then to store:
1-2 Days. Store zucchini bread, as a loaf or sliced into individual servings, at room temperature in an air-tight container on the countertop for up to one day, maybe two days as long as it's not too hot and humid in the house.
Up to 5 Days. Store zucchini bread, as a loaf or sliced into individual servings, for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Up to 3 Months. Slice bread into individual servings. Wrap each slice in a piece of parchment paper to protect from freezer burn and to keep slices from sticking together. Place slices in an air-tight zipper-top bag and remove as much as air as possible. Remove individual slices from freezer, unwrap parchment paper, and re-heat in a toaster oven (best option). You can also microwave the frozen zucchini bread, but the texture will be slightly sticky.
What Else to Serve with Healthy Zucchini Bread
A generous slice of Healthy Zucchini Bread by itself is a perfect light breakfast or snack! If you like to make it a little more of an occasion, here are some great suggestions for what and how else to serve with Healthy Zucchini Bread:
- Slather a slice, toasted or not, with a plant-based cream cheese; a whipped version is key as zucchini bread is tender so you want something that spread onto it gently
- Spread a slice with nut butter
Yes, leave the skin on for Zucchini Bread! The green skin is where much of the zucchini's nutritional benefits like fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C are.
No, you do not remove the seeds from zucchini for Zucchini Bread. The seeds are very soft and virtually flavorless, and will shred along with the rest of the zucchini.
How fine the zucchini shreds are is personal preference. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater, which will make for bigger green flecks in your Zucchini Bread. If you prefer a more subtle zucchini presence in your bread, grate on the smaller holes. Slightly more water will be released when grating on the smaller holes—just discard any excess water. The finely shredded zucchini will blend more seamlessly into the texture of the bread.
One medium sized zucchini usually render one lightly packed cup of shredded zucchini that hasn't been squeezed and drained.
What to Do with All that Extra Zucchini
If you're here because you're looking to cook with a glut of zucchini, I got you. Try these recipes, both sweet and savory:
- Easy Zucchini Bread made in one bowl, one pan
- Zucchini Muffins
- Roasted Zucchini, Thomas Keller's method, my miso glaze
- Pistachio Pesto Pasta with Zucchini, Spinach and Feta
- Green Shakshuka with Kale and Zucchini
- Roasted Zucchini Spread aka "Zucchini Ghanoush"
- Zucchini Parm, no breading, no frying
- Top a bowl of Salmon Bibimbap
Bake More Quick Breads
- Classic Banana Bread, an easy, basic recipe
- Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
- Banana Bread adapted from Cook's Illustrated
- Strawberry Buttermilk Banana Bread
- Pumpkin Bread
- Cranberry Bread
Healthy Zucchini Bread Recipe, gluten-free and dairy-free
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup maple syrup
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups shredded zucchini from 2 medium zucchini, about 12 ounces.
- 2 cups rolled oats blended into flour, or use 2 cups oat flour
- 1 cup walnuts finely ground
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- optional: 1 cup toasted walnuts or dried fruit or chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with baking spray and line with parchment paper.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, maple syrup, oil, and vanilla extract until well incorporated. Add shredded zucchini, and stir in, making sure to break apart any clumps of zucchini.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together blended oats, ground walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until dry ingredients are just incorporated. Fold in any optional mix-ins like fresh fruit, chocolate chips, or dried fruit.
- Pour zucchini bread batter into loaf pan. Gently tap against countertop to get rid of any large air bubbles. Garnish with rolled oats and additional chopped walnuts. Bake for 55 minutes until wooden tester comes out clean.
- Cool Healthy Zucchini Bread in pan for 10 minutes. Using the parchment paper, carefully lift the bread out of the pan and onto a cooling rack. Cool bread COMPLETELY before slicing.