Zucchini salad is a refreshing, tasty, and crunchy summer salad, perfect for picnics and potlucks, light and healthy lunch, or a side dish for family dinners.
We'll show you how to marinate raw zucchini ribbons in lemon juice, fresh herbs, and extra virgin olive oil to make this recipe flavorful and aromatic.
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Making zucchini salad is easy. First, slice the zucchini into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler.
Then, marinate the zucchini slices in lemon juice, salt, and herbs. You can let the zucchini marinate for as little as 15 minutes and up to as long as 1 hour. That's it!
Marinating is essential because:
- The salt in the marinade allows the zucchini to lose water, which you can discard easily before serving the salad. No one wants a watery salad.
- The fresh lemon juice will slightly "cook" the zucchini slices, making them softer but tender-crisp, more appealing, and turning them into elegant zucchini ribbons.
- The fresh herbs will infuse the raw zucchini will flavor and summery aromas.
As usual, use our recipe as a guideline, and feel free to add your ideas. For instance, to keep the recipe vegan, add toasted pine nuts, olives, and cherry tomatoes.
If you are vegetarian, try crumbled feta cheese, shaved parmesan, or a few pieces of goat cheese. And now, let's see how to make this delicious marinated zucchini salad.
Ingredients for zucchini salad
Get the freshest zucchini you can. Even better if you have it from your garden or local farmers market. We recommend using green zucchini.
Smaller zucchini are more suitable than large or medium zucchini because they make smaller ribbons that are easier to eat.
We haven't tried other zucchini varieties, such as yellow summer squash.
We marinate the zucchini with freshly squeezed lemon juice, making them tender, soft, and bright.
If you love lemon, you can even grate some lemon zest in the salad.
Extra virgin olive oil
Try to use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.
The olive oil and the lemon work together like in a lemon vinaigrette to add flavor and freshness to the salad.
We recommend using fresh basil and fresh mint, which are incredible with raw zucchini. Dill, chives, and parsley are good options too.
We use a crushed garlic clove to infuse a little garlic aroma into the salad.
Salt serves two purposes in this recipe. First, it helps us purge the zucchini, making them lose some of their water. Second, it adds taste. We use sea salt or kosher salt.
Add a twist of freshly ground black pepper or a pinch of red pepper flakes.
You can garnish this zucchini salad with cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. The tomatoes add color and sweetness. The pine nuts add an earthy, nutty flavor and are perfect with the zucchini and the basil.
These ingredients are optional, and you can change them as you like. Other ingredients that go well with zucchini are almonds, arugula, bell peppers, artichokes, carrots, corn, olives, raisins, thinly sliced red onion, oregano, ripe peach wedges, walnuts, and pecans.
How to make zucchini salad
Wash and dry the zucchini. With your non-dominant hand, hold the stem of the zucchini firmly. With your dominant hand, thinly slice the zucchini with a vegetable peeler.
You can also do this with a mandoline slicer, although we find it quicker and safer with a vegetable peeler.
Transfer the zucchini slices into a large mixing bowl. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, black pepper, crushed garlic, fresh basil, and mint leaves.
Toss well so the zucchinis are fully coated in the seasoning, then set aside to marinate.
The salad is at its best with 30 to 60 minutes of marinating, but if you don't have as much time, 15 minutes will do.
As it marinates, the zucchini get softer and lose some water; they'll turn into cute thin ribbons.
After marinating, drain the excess zucchini water. We like to get rid of most of it. Then add extra virgin olive oil and mix well.
As a final step, transfer the zucchini to a serving platter (you can also leave it in the same large bowl) and garnish with a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and more fresh herbs.
Tip: toast the pine nuts on a non-stick pan on medium heat for about 2 minutes, moving them around the pan often.
Zucchini salad is the perfect summer recipe for family dinners, picnics, and potlucks. It's an excellent light lunch and side dish to complement most dishes.
Try it with:
- White bean aglio e olio (spaghetti, white beans, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, etc.)
- Pesto pasta salad (basil pesto, arugula, cherry tomatoes, olives, bowtie pasta, etc.)
- Asparagus soup (asparagus, leek, garlic, peas, thyme, yogurt, vegetable broth, etc.)
- Eggplant Parmigiana (eggplant, canned tomatoes, parmesan or vegan parmesan, etc.)
- Tomato risotto (tomato passata, arborio rice, vegetable broth, onion, butter, etc.)
- Fried tofu (tofu cubes, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, olive oil, etc.)
Zucchini salad with cheese
If you are looking to slowly ease into a more plant-based diet but don't feel like giving up cheese completely, you can add some shaved parmesan cheese to this raw zucchini salad.
You can also add feta (just a little crumbled on top) or some pieces of goat cheese. If you make it in advance, add the cheese at the last minute before serving.
Blanched zucchini salad
Not sure about eating raw zucchini? If we haven't convinced you yet that raw zucchini is delicious, you can do this same recipe with blanched zucchini ribbons.
To do that, scald the zucchini slices in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and plunge them into iced water or place them under cold running water. Next, use as instructed in our recipe.
Grilled zucchini salad
Grilled zucchini are perfect for adding to salads. Learn here how to grill zucchini. If you don't have a grill, you can easily do so on the stove top with a griddle pan.
We usually make a very quick and simple salad by mixing the grilled zucchini with grilled cherry tomatoes, grated carrots, spinach, and arugula, in a large bowl.
We then serve and drizzle the salad with a sweet, tangy carrot and ginger dressing.
Yes, zucchini can be eaten raw in salads. However, we recommend marinating the zucchini for 15 to 30 minutes with lemon juice, salt, and fresh herbs to make it tastier and more aromatic. Check out our complete recipe for zucchini salad to see how we do it.
Make ahead: you can make this recipe up to 12 hours ahead of time, discard the excess water, and season with olive oil before serving.
Refrigerator: store zucchini salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 36 hours. After that, the zucchini start to lose their crunch and freshness.
Freezer: fresh zucchini salad is not suitable for freezing.
More zucchini recipes
Here are some more ideas for savory and sweet zucchini recipes:
- Easy zucchini soup (potato, zucchini, onion, vegetable broth, garlic, Italian herbs, etc.)
- Risotto (grated zucchini, arborio rice, vegetable broth, parmesan or dairy-free cheese, etc.)
- Roasted zucchini (breadcrumbs, olive oil, Italian herbs, lemon, zucchini, etc.)
- Grilled zucchini (lemon, olive oil, garlic, mint, zucchini, etc.)
- Stuffed zucchini boats (lentils, walnuts, canned tomatoes, onion, zucchini, yogurt, etc.)
- Easy zucchini muffins (flour, plant milk, zucchini, chocolate chips, walnuts, cinnamon, etc.)
For many more salad ideas, check out our salads category page.
- vegetable peeler or mandoline slicer
- 3 small zucchini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 10 leaves mint
- 10 leaves basil
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- ½ teaspoon salt or more to taste
- 2 twists black pepper
- 8 small cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts toasted
- Wash and dry 3 small zucchini then thinly slice them with a vegetable peeler or mandoline slicer.
- Transfer the zucchini slices into a large mixing bowl. Add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 10 leaves mint, 10 leaves basil, 1 clove garlic (crushed), ½ teaspoon salt, and 2 twists black pepper.
- Toss and set aside to marinate for 15 to 60 minutes.
- Drain most of the excess zucchini water, add 1 - 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and mix well.
- Transfer onto a serving platter and garnish with 8 small cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 tablespoon pine nuts (lightly toasted on a pan), a twist of pepper, and some fresh herbs.