They say bacon is what the majority of vegetarians miss most. Not for me. One of the things I do miss most, though, is seafood. While I’m not exactly tempted to run out and stuff my face with fried fish, I do miss the whole … subculture that goes along with eating seafood. Cracking crab feasts atop newspaper-lined picnic tables; sandy clam digging at low tide; 4 a.m. fishing trips on the Sound; crispy coconut shrimp at a beachside cafe with serious seagulls perched on every pier.
I’m still trying to figure out exactly how to replicate the crab boil experience for vegetarians, but until that happens, I’m pretty sure I’ve go the answer for coconut shrimp right here: Crispy Baked Coconut Zucchini with Mango-Jalapeno Dipping Sauce!
Crispy, crunchy, and dare I say totally grubbin’, I think this is the most fun way to use up my garden zucchini yet. Plus, it’s oven-baked, so there’s a healthier-than-deep-fried component here too. Win-win!
The key to crispy oven-baked zucchini is twofold: first, you coat the zucchini in flour, then, after a quick egg dip, you dip it in Panko-style bread crumbs and coconut flakes.
And then all you do is bake these suckers until the zucchini is just tender and the coconut breading is golden brown and perfectly crunchy/crispy.
So good! The clincher, though, is this Mango-Jalapeno Dipping Sauce. It’s super easy, too – just a quick puree of fresh mango, jalapeno, honey, lime, and rice vinegar. Sweet with a touch of heat, and SO PERFECT with this baked coconut zucchini.
Giant finger alert!
Who needs shrimp?! The garden’s got us covered on this one.
Crispy Baked Coconut Zucchini with Mango-Jalapeno Dipping Sauce
For the Crispy Baked Coconut Zucchini:
- 1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium, sliced into 1/4-inch coins)
- 2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
- 2/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
For the Mango-Jalapeno Dipping Sauce:
- 1 medium ripe mango (peeled and pitted (about 1 cup fruit))
- 1 jalapeno pepper (roughly diced and seeds removed (you may want to start with less and add more until you reach your desired heat level))
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Place zucchini in a large bowl and sprinkle with the flour. Toss until all pieces are well-coated. Crack the egg into a bowl and add the water. Whisk with a fork until blended. Add the coconut, Panko, salt, and pepper to a third bowl and stir to combine.
- Working with 2-3 pieces at a time, dip each flour-coated zucchini coin into the egg then transfer to the coconut-Panko mixture, dredging until both sides are covered with the crumb mixture. Lay on the baking sheet and repeat until all pieces are covered.
- Drizzle with olive oil if desired - the results will be slightly crisper and more golden brown with a little oil. But I've skipped the olive oil in the past and the results are still delicious!
- Bake until golden brown and fork-tender, 12-15 minutes.
- While the zucchini is baking, make the Mango-Jalapeno Dipping Sauce. Add all sauce ingredients to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add additional jalapeno pepper if desired. Any leftover sauce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
- Transfer cooked zucchini to individual plates and spoon sauce into dipping bowls to serve alongside.