Southwestern Zucchini and Corn Bites with Avocado Ranch. No need to break out the fryer for this recipe– these bite-sized, veggie-loaded treats are baked until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
Have you ever been typing away at your computer, noticed a deep and urgent rumble in your stomach, and instantly knew, “I have the strongest craving for zucchini right now”? Okay, me neither.
I’m not passionate about zucchini. The sight of fresh summer squash at the farmer’s market doesn’t make my heart skip. I wouldn’t choose it over pizza or tacos. I wouldn’t brag about it to my friends. Usually.
But man, if something magical doesn’t happen when you shred zucchini and either fry it into fritters or bake it into bites. Suddenly it transforms into this delightfully crisp-edged snack with a surprisingly tender center and a very mild flavor that can be twisted with seasonings and sauces in any direction you can imagine.
Take, for example, Exhibit A: Zucchini, Feta, and Spinach Fritters with Garlic Tzatziki. That’s the Mediterranean spin.
Or Exhibit B: Cheesy Garlic Zucchini Bites. That’s the cheddar and dill-filled version.
Or, of course, Exhibit C: This recipe. Southwestern Zucchini and Corn Bites with Avocado Ranch. Thats… well, it’s right there in the name.
Like I said, I never really crave zucchini, but I do crave these bites, filled with monterrey jack cheese, fresh corn, and green onions, covered in cornmeal for extra crunch, and served with a side of herby, creamy, cooling avocado dip. So, in a round-about way, that’s kinda like craving zucchini. There is zucchini in there, after all.
And the guys are into these baked zucchini snacks, too, believe it or not. I hardly got the chance to taste-test because they ate the bites so quickly. In their defense, though, the Southwestern Zucchini and Corn Bites are extremely poppable. As in you just pop one into your mouth, and then the next… and then the next…
James calls these “Southwestern Falafel” because he says the combo of the cumin and the texture remind him of the little chickpea fritters. As a huge fan of falafel, I’ll say that I don’t really get the similarity here, but I’ll take it. Especially because I know he means it as a compliment. As if him asking, “So, you’re going to make these again soon, right?” half a dozen times that day wasn’t enough.
The answer to his (repeated), by the way, is yes. In fact, I’m planning to remake them soon and see how the do when frozen and reheated at a later date. I feel like they should fare pretty well, and there’s nothing I love more than a great make-ahead appetizer or snack that I can just heat up when friends pop over.
Poppable snacks to pop in the oven when my friends pop over. How fitting.
But the Avocado Ranch? That won’t freeze very well. I might just have to use that as an excuse to keep it on hand. It would also be amazing on tacos or tortilla chips, so it’s not like it will go to waste!
Or maybe I’ll just use the Avocado Ranch as an excuse to whip up another batch of Southwestern Zucchini and Corn Bites. Which I’ll then use as an excuse to make more Avocado Ranch. Which… uh, can you see we’re going ’round in circles here?
But really, who needs excuses? I have to remind myself that these are filled with vegetables, and they’re baked, not fried. (They also just happen to be gluten free!) I can make them as often as I want, no guilt necessary.
I can indulge in as much zucchini as I can handle.
I… am getting pretty hungry at the idea. My stomach feels like might growl in the next few minutes. Does that mean that I’m craving zucchini after all? Do I need to call up my mom friends and let them in on this miracle? Are Southwestern Zucchini and Corn Bites this the key to a picky child (or adult’s) heart?
I’m not sure, but it might just be.
For the Zucchini and Corn Bites:
- 2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed dry (from about 2 medium-sized zucchini)
- 1 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 cup shredded monterrey jack cheese
- 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
- 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 2 ears fresh corn)
- 2 large eggs
For the Avocado Ranch:
- 1 large avocado, peeled and pitted
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
- 1 (1 ounce) package dry ranch dressing mix
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, plus more to garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together the zucchini, cornmeal, cornstarch, seasonings, cheese, green onion, corn, and eggs until well-combined.
- One tablespoon at a time, press the zucchini mixture into small balls. Place onto the baking sheet and repeat until all of the zucchini mixture has been used up.
- Bake until browned and crisp, about 30 minutes, flipping and gently pressing with the bottom of a spatula halfway through.
- As the bites bake, combine all of the avocado ranch ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mash to break up the avocado. Then stir until mostly smooth and well-combined.
- Serve the zucchini bites warm with cilantro, to garnish, and avocado ranch to dip.