Sautéed zucchini is the easiest and most versatile zucchini recipe because you can eat the zucchini on its own, as a side dish, or use them in many other recipes.
You can sauté zucchinis on a pan in 10 minutes and add them to pasta, risotto, or frittata, or you can use them as a topping on pizza, bruschetta, and crostini.
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Sautéing zucchini in a pan on the stove is a valuable cooking skill that anyone can master with little effort and use to make a quick and creative home-cooked dinner.
Think of sautéed zucchini as much more than a simple side dish, although you can certainly eat it as such.
Try blending half of them and make a delicious sautéed zucchini sauce to use with pasta or risotto.
Or try mixing them into your frittata batter and make a tasty zucchini frittata.
We like to cook sautéed zucchini with red onion and some garlic to add a sweet, caramelized, and smokey flavor.
Add a handful of your favorite fresh herbs and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and enjoy this delicious zucchini as a beautiful side dish.
You can use classic dark green zucchini or try globe zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow squash, yellow zucchini, grey zucchini, and costata romanesco.
Choose zucchini that are hard to the touch. Apply gentle pressure with your thumb and index finger; the zucchini should barely yield to pressure.
Also, look for smaller zucchini—Max 6 inches (15 cm) long to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter.
Fresh zucchini will stay more intact and less soggy when you cook them. However, old zucchini can be mushy and bitter.
Zucchini goes best with olive oil, even better if an extra virgin olive oil for more flavor.
Canola, avocado, and sunflower oil are ok alternatives, but they won't give the same flavor as good-quality olive oil.
Substitute olive oil with butter or non-dairy butter.
Garlic and Onion
Garlic adds a fragrant and fresh flavor, while the red onion makes the dish sweeter, with caramelized onion notes.
You can use crushed, grated or minced garlic. Substitute white or yellow onion for the red onion.
Herbs and Spices
We use dried oregano and fresh parsley; however, you can use most dried and fresh herbs with this easy sautéed zucchini recipe.
We recommend thyme, basil, tarragon, mint, marjoram, chives, dill, and red pepper flakes. Italian seasoning with mixed herbs is also a good option.
Add dried herbs at the start and fresh herbs towards the end.
Salt and Black Pepper
We recommend sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
We like to squeeze half a lemon on the sautéed zucchini before serving them.
Aged balsamic vinegar works well too.
We don't use cheese for this recipe. However, if you'd like to use it, we recommend sprinkling the sautéed zucchini with grated parmesan cheese, crumbled feta cheese, goat cheese, or non-dairy cheese right before serving them.
You can also add toasted pine nuts and grated lemon zest.
Wash, dry, and trim the ends of the zucchini, then slice them into ⅕ inches (½ cm) thick discs. You can do so with a chef's knife or mandoline slicer.
Tip: You can cut the zucchini into other shapes, such as dice, or spiralize them into zucchini noodles. There's no need to peel the zucchini as most nutrients, flavor, and color are in the peel.
Heat up the olive oil in a very large skillet, add finely chopped red onion, and fry on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Tip: A large pan helps the zucchini cook more evenly and the steam to escape, allowing the zucchini to get tender-crisp without getting mushy. If you don't have a large skillet, cook half of the zucchini.
Add the zucchini, crushed or minced garlic, salt, pepper, and dried oregano.
Stir it to spread the seasoning, and fry the zucchini without moving them on medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Stir and turn them around, cover them with a lid, and cook for 2 more minutes.
The lid will help the zucchini cook faster, trapping some steam. This way, we won't need to add liquid to the pan. Keep the top on for only 2 minutes.
Tip: sauté means to jump in French. You could try to "jump" the zucchini rocking the pan with a swift movement forth and back, making the zucchini hit the edge of the pan and flip over.
Take off the lid, stir, and finish cooking for about 3 to 6 more minutes.
Taste and adjust for salt, then when the zucchini is cooked to your liking, add some finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Tip: The exact cooking time depends on how thick your zucchini slices are and how cooked you like them.
Serve sautéed zucchini as a tasty side dish, or use them to make other recipes.
As a side dish
Pan-fried zucchini make a healthy vegetable side dish with most mains. For example, try it with our lemon tofu for a beautiful, healthy spring and summer meal.
We make a mean vegan frittata with sautéed zucchini and chickpea flour batter. It's just so delicious and healthy; you have to try it. It's also super easy to make, which is a massive plus.
Make it with a simple chickpea flour batter, mix in the sautéed zucchini, and cook like a regular frittata. Here's the full recipe for chickpea flour frittata.
An easy way to use pan-fried zucchini is to use it with pasta.
To do so, we recommend blending half of the sautéed zucchini and adding a little pasta cooking water.
This way, you'll make a delicious zucchini sauce that will coat your pasta.
Add in the pasta cooked al dente, add a ladleful of pasta cooking water, and finish cooking on medium heat, stirring often, for about 1 minute.
This is such an easy and delicious meal. The zucchini cream perfectly coats the spaghetti. The sautéed zucchini add that sweet, buttery flavor.
Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few basil leaves (some toasted pine nuts would also be perfect here), and enjoy.
As a starter on bruschetta
There's nothing simpler and more satisfying than a crunchy and tasty bruschetta with sautèed zucchini.
Toast the bread in the oven with a broiler or grill pan. Then rub it with garlic, and top with a generous amount of sautéed zucchini.
Drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil, a few toasted pine nuts, and some basil leaves, and enjoy. Simple, yet with a flavor that will impress anyone at your table.
An excellent recipe for brunches, potlucks, and picnics, but also perfect as a make-ahead lunch.
Our zucchini pie is incredible. You can make a homemade or store-bought crust, fill it with chickpea batter and sautéed zucchini, and bake it in the oven.
Get the full recipe for zucchini pie.
Don't overcrowd the pan
To allow the water in the zucchini to evaporate and prevent the zucchini from getting soggy, it's best to cook it in a large pan without overcrowding them.
In everyday cooking, laying the zucchini on a single layer in the pan is impractical.
It would take too long to cook them all. What I would recommend, however, is to not cook more than 500 grams or about 1 pound of zucchini in one pan.
Get fresh zucchini
Zucchini gets soggy and bitter quickly if they are not fresh. When at the store, make sure to get the hardest zucchini. The ones with tiny furry spikes on their peel are the freshest.
Learn to jump
Sauté in French means to jump. In this context, jumping means flipping the veggies without touching them with tools.
To do that, move the pan swiftly forth and back. The zucchini should slide onto the edge of the pan and flip over.
Jumping vegetables is more effective because turning the zucchini with a tool will almost surely damage the zucchini. A quick, shallow jump won't.
No. Zucchini doesn't need to be peeled before sauteing.
Zucchini peel is safe to eat, contains flavor and antioxidants, and you don't need to remove it.
Your sautéed zucchini is mushy for one or more of these reasons:
1) You used an old, not-so-fresh zucchini that was soft to the touch. Only get the freshest zucchini for sautéeing.
2) You overcooked your zucchini.
3) You overcrowded the pan with too much zucchini.
4) You cooked it at low heat.
Cut smaller zucchini into ⅕ inch or ½ cm thin discs. If you have larger zucchini, cut them in half lengthwise first, then into half-moons.
Make Ahead & Storage
Make ahead: this is not the best recipe to make ahead because the zucchini will get soft and soggy as your reheat them.
Refrigerator: store leftovers in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, best in an airtight container.
Reheat: in the microwave for a minute or on a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.
Freezing: this recipe is not suitable for freezing.
More Zucchini Recipes
If you like cooking with zucchini as much as we do, check out our other easy zucchini recipes:
- Zucchini pesto (almonds, garlic, pine nuts, nutritional yeast, basil, zucchini, etc.)
- Zucchini fritters (chickpea flour, flour, zucchini red onion, garlic, dried oregano, etc.)
- Roasted zucchini (red onion, garlic, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, etc.)
- Air fryer zucchini (zucchini, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder, olive oil, etc.)
- Zucchini boats (lentils, walnuts, crushed tomatoes, onion, zucchini, parmesan, etc.)
- Couscous with roasted vegetables (peas, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, couscous, etc.)
- Vegan zucchini bread (flour, chocolate chips, walnuts, plant milk, baking powder, etc.)
More Sautéed Vegetable
Get more easy and quick dinner inspiration with these sautéed recipes:
- Sautéed mushrooms.
- Sautéed eggplant.
- Caramelized onions.
- Sautéed asparagus.
- Fried tofu sautéed on a pan.
For many more side dish ideas, check out our sides category page.
- 1 pound of zucchini (2 medium)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley
- ½ lemon
- Wash, dry, and trim the ends of 1 pound of zucchini, then slice them into ⅕ inches (½ cm) thin discs.
- Heat up 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a very large skillet, add 1 medium red onion (finely chopped), and fry on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Add the zucchini, 1 clove garlic (crushed), ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.Stir it to spread the seasoning, and fry the zucchini without moving them on medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
- Stir and turn them around, cover them with a lid, and cook for 2 more minutes.The lid will help the zucchini cook faster, trapping some steam. This way, we won't need to add liquid to the pan. Keep the top on for only 2 minutes.
- Take off the lid, stir, and finish cooking for about 3 to 6 more minutes.Taste and adjust for salt, then when the zucchini is cooked to your liking, add 1 handful flat-leaf parsley (chopped) and the squeezed juice of ½ lemon.
- Serve sautéed zucchini as a tasty side dish, or use them to make other recipes.
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