Sauteed zucchini is the easiest and most versatile of all zucchini recipes because you can eat it on its own, as a side dish, or use it in lots of other recipes.
Use it in pasta or risotto, in a frittata, or on pizza, you'll want to learn how to sautée zucchini on a pan in just about 10 minutes and get ready for the next zucchini season.
Knowing how to quickly pan-fry or sauté zucchini on the stove (courgette in the UK) is a basic cooking skill that any home cook should learn because is at the base of many savory zucchini recipes. Check out our "serving suggestions" chapter below.
Think about a quick pasta with a creamy zucchini sauce and zucchini slices. Or an easy risotto with zucchini and lemon zest.
What about a scrumptious and fulfilling vegan frittata made with zucchini and chickpea flour. Or a simple bruschetta with zucchini, pine nuts, and basil as a starter.
These are all dishes that start from this sauteed zucchini recipe. And the list could go on because zucchini is a vegetable with magical properties. It goes well with most dishes, and if cooked properly everyone will love it.
Plus, our quick and easy sautéed zucchini recipe is already pretty tasty on its own, so you can use it as a side dish by adding a squeeze of lemon on top and a few basil or parsley leaves.
We like to cook sautéed zucchini with red onions, to add sweet, caramelized, and smokey notes to the zucchini. But if you prefer, you can cook the zucchini without the onion.
Zucchini: this recipe works well with classic dark green zucchini and also with globe zucchini, yellow crookneck, yellow squash, yellow zucchini, grey zucchini, and costata romanesco.
At the store, 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. Old zucchini can be mushy and bitter.
Oil: zucchini goes best with olive oil. Even better if an extra virgin, for more aroma and antioxidants. Sunflower oil is an ok alternative, but it won't give the same flavor as olive oil.
Garlic and onion: they make the zucchini tastier. Garlic adds a mild aroma, and the onion makes the whole dish sweeter, with caramelized notes. We recommend adding at least one of the two.
Herbs and spices: we add black pepper, dried oregano, and fresh parsley. Great alternatives are thyme, sage, basil, tarragon, mint, marjoram, chives, dill, and red pepper flakes. Italian seasoning with mixed herbs is also a good option.
Salt: zucchini requires salt to bring out its sweet, creamy, and buttery taste. We recommend sea salt or kosher salt.
Lemon: optional, but we like to squeeze some lemon on top of the sautéed zucchini just before serving them. Aged balsamic vinegar works too.
Other ingredients: we don't use butter, minced garlic, and parmesan cheese in this recipe. If you'd like to use them, I would recommend adding them in towards the end, about 1 to 2 minutes before the zucchinis are ready.
Finely chop the onion, and crush and peel the garlic.
Wash, dry, and chop off the ends of the zucchini. Slice the zucchini into ⅕ inches (5 mm) thick discs. You can do so with a chef's knife or with a mandoline slicer.
You can also 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 of the nutrients, flavor, and color is in the peel.
To a large skillet, and I mean really large, the largest you have, add the olive oil, the crushed garlic, and the chopped onion.
A large pan helps the zucchini cook more evenly, and the steam to escape, allowing the zucchini to get more tender-crisp, and less mushy.
Fry on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often.
Now, add the zucchini, and season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Give it a stir and let fry without touching and on medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Stir again, or make them jump (sauté literally means to jump in French), rocking the pan with a swift movement forth and back, making the zucchini hit the edge of the pan and flip over.
Cover with a lid and let fry for another 2 minutes. The lid will help the zucchini cook faster, trapping some of the steam. This way we won't need to add any liquid to the pan. Keep the lid on for only 2 minutes.
Take off the lid, stir or jump again, and finish cooking for about 3 to 6 more minutes, stirring or jumping occasionally. The exact cooking time depends on how thick your zucchini slices are, and how cooked you like them.
The more you cook the zucchini, the mushier, softer, and browner they'll get. To have bright, green, crisp-tender zucchini, I'd recommend undercooking them slightly.
This is especially true if you are going to use them for other preparations, such as pasta, risotto, or frittata.
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, and optionally some red pepper flakes.
Tip: chopped basil and toasted pine nuts are also insanely delicious with zucchini.
Serve sautéed zucchini as a healthy side dish or use them to make other recipes.
Pan-fried zucchini make a healthy vegetable side dish, but it's also a wonderful component in an easy dinner. Here are some of our favorite ways use it:
Vegan zucchini frittata
Vegan frittata is definitely the most cooked meal in our family. 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, then mix in the sautéed zucchini, and cook as if it were a normal frittata. Here's the full recipe for the vegan frittata.
As a side to a tofu dish
Zucchini and tofu are great together. In late spring and summer, we love serving them with our quick and creamy lemon tofu. Other tofu recipes that go well with pan-fried zucchini are vegan tofu fish, tofu with pizzaiola sauce, tofu and spinach cutlets, and this tofu pasta.
With pasta in a creamy sauce
An easy way to use pan-fried zucchini is to use it with pasta. To do so, I'd recommend blending half of the sautéed zucchini with an immersion blender and a little pasta cooking water. This way you'll make a delicious zucchini cream that will coat your pasta.
Transfer the zucchini cream back into the pan with the remaining sautéed zucchini.
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.
Plate the pasta, drizzle with some good quality extra virgin olive oil, add a few leaves of basil (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, smokey, and tasty bruschetta with veggies, or better, with fried zucchini on top.
Toast the bread in the oven with a broiler, or on a grill pan. Then brush lightly 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 a burst of flavor that will impress anyone at your table.
A golden recipe for brunches, pot lucks, and picnics, but also perfect as a quick lunch. This vegan zucchini pie is incredible. You can make your own crust or use a store-bought one, then fill it with chickpea batter and sautéed zucchini. Bake in the oven and you'll see: it'll be the best zucchini pie you've ever had. Get the full recipe for zucchini pie.
Do not overcrowd the pan: zucchini contains a lot of water. To allow the water to evaporate and to prevent the zucchini from getting soggy, it's best to cook the zucchini in a large pan, without overcrowding them.
In everyday cooking, it's impractical to lay the zucchini on a single layer in the pan. It would take too long to cook them all. What I would recommend, however, is to not cook more than 500 grams or about 1.1 pounds of zucchini in one pan.
Get the freshest 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 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 in this case because turning the zucchini with a tool will almost surely damage the zucchini. A quick, shallow jump, won't.
More zucchini recipes
If you like cooking with zucchini as much as we do, check out our other recipes with zucchini:
- Zucchini pesto: a fresh green condiment with healthy fats and vitamins. A wonderful addition to vegan salads.
- Roasted zucchini easy baked zucchini in 2 ways that you can serve as an aromatic side or appetizer.
- Air fryer zucchini: the quickest way to get a juicy side dish with zucchini.
- Zucchini boats: protein-rich lentil and tomato stuffing make a nutritious meal in these stuffed zucchini.
- Rice salad: zucchini is a wonderful addition to grain bowls and salads including this Italian rice salad.
- Couscous with roasted vegetables: a healthy vegan lunch idea with loads of fiber.
- Tofu soup: our go-to easy dinner as it's ready in just 20 mins.
What are your favorite recipes with zucchini? We'd love to hear from you, let us know in the comments below.
No. Zucchini don't need to be peeled before sauteing. Zucchini peel is completely safe to eat 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.
Store sauteed zucchini in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days, best in an airtight container. Sauteed zucchini will get softer and wetter passed the second day, there's nothing you can do about that.
Reheat on a pan with a little oil, or in the microwave for just over a minute. This recipe is not suitable for freezing.
For many more side dishes ideas, check out our sides category page.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil extra virgin
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 pound zucchini (4 medium)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 lemon
- Finely chop the onion. Crush and peel the garlic.Wash, dry, and chop off the ends of the zucchini. Slice the zucchini into ⅕ inches (5 mm) thick discs. Use a chef's knife or a mandoline slicer.
- To a large skillet, add the olive oil, the crushed garlic, and the chopped onion.
- Fry on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often.Now, add the zucchini, and season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Give it a stir and fry without touching on, medium-high heat, for 2 minutes.
- Stir again, or jump them (sauté literally means to jump in French).Cover with a lid and fry for another 2 minutes. Keep the lid on for only 2 minutes.
- Take off the lid, stir or jump again, and finish cooking for about 3 to 6 more minutes, stirring or jumping occasionally. The exact cooking time depends on how thick your zucchini slices are, and how cooked you like them.Taste and adjust for salt, then add some finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Serve sautéed zucchini as a healthy side dish or use them to make other recipes. Check out our "serving suggestions" chapter above for ideas.