by Olena

Sauteed Zucchini

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Olena Osipov
4.7 from 3 votes

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When you realize how light, tasty, and simple this Sauteed Zucchini recipe is, it’ll be one of your new summer favorites, too! All you need is five ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and just 5 minutes to prepare the ultimate pan-fried zucchini for potlucks, BBQs, picnics, and mid-week meals!

If you have a whole bounty of zucchini and summer squash, you might also love Mediterranean baked zucchini sticks, parmesan zucchini sticks, and grilled zucchini!

sauteed zucchini in a skillet garnished with dill and Parmesan

Sauteed Zucchini Recipe

During the summer months, you’d think I had a whole zucchini farm with the amount of zucchini and summer squash that lands in my family members dishes. Along with zucchini quiche, grilled zucchini pizza, and zucchini lasagna, simple and delicious sides like this sautéed zucchini are a must!

Learning how to sauté zucchini to perfection couldn’t be easier, either. The high heat softens the zucchini enough so that it’s tender without being mushy. Since zucchini is almost 95% water, this can be a little tricky (but also makes it a great addition to baked treats like healthy zucchini brownies, banana zucchini muffins, and lemon zucchini bread). However, for this recipe, we want it to retain its moisture for pieces that are lightly seared and tender yet slightly firm.

Even better, the combination of garlic, dill, and a little freshly grated parmesan cheese makes for a veggie side that even your kids will be coming back for seconds and thirds! Serve it up alongside chicken kabobs (and other grill favorites), pita, salads, and sides – and you’re in for a winning combination!

As much as I love a simple zucchini tomato bake, zoodles, and even zucchini fritters – there’s no option as quick and simple as this 5-minute sauteed zucchini! It’s even simpler than some of my other favorite sides like garlic green beans, roasted Brussels sprouts (or the sautéed version with bacon!), and broiled asparagus!

Why This Chopped Zucchini Saute Recipe Works?

If you’re not already sold on this simple pan-fried zucchini, then here are more reasons why it’s one of my favorite summer sides!

  • This sauteed zucchini recipe requires just 5 ingredients and 5 minutes of your time!
  • All you need is a simple combination of seasonings and a sprinkle of parmesan for a truly versatile side. However, feel free to experiment with herbs and spices based on what you have and what you’re serving it with – there’s no need to make a grocery store run!
  • Since zucchini is available year-round, this is a wonderfully frugal year-round vegetable side!
  • Learning how to sauté zucchini is ridiculously simple. Just slice, season, and sauté to perfection! Use a mandoline to make the job go even quicker!
  • This sauteed zucchini recipe is low-carb, gluten-free, plant-based, and can be made dairy-free and vegan! Skip the cheese for a side that’s also keto, paleo, and whole30!

Ingredients for Pan Fried Zucchini

If you currently have zucchini in your kitchen, then chances are you could make this sauteed zucchini right now!

  • Zucchini: You can use smaller or larger zucchini and simply adjust the way they’re chopped (see recipe instructions below). This method will also work with summer squash.  
  • Garlic: Feel free to adjust the amount to personal preference, but I don’t recommend omitting it as it really helps to pack in flavor to this simple side!
  • Herbs: As a Ukrainian, my favorite is dill. However, you can use basil or Italian parsley (I recommend flat-leaf for the best flavor), too, or even your favorite dried herbs.
  • Oil: Use a neutral-flavored cooking oil like avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil.
  • Salt & pepper

Keep reading below (after the recipe how-to) for more information on sauteed zucchini recipe add-ins and seasoning variations!

sauteed zucchini ingredients on board

How to Sauté Zucchini

  • Chop the zucchini: First, clean and chop the zucchini. If it’s a large one, then you can chop them into ½-inch thick cubes or quarter moons (pictures). For smaller ones, half-moons would work, and with baby zucchini, then even whole rounds would work well.
  • Heat the skillet: Add the oil to a large pan and heat it up over high heat – I do this while I’m chopping the zucchini, so it’s ready to go when the veg is ready!

I recommend using a large non-stick skillet with tall sides– I use a ceramic pan.

  • Sauté the zucchini: Add the chopped zucchini to the heated pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring just a couple of times (this will help the outside of some pieces sear and brown a little).

If you stir the squash constantly then, you’ll end up with pale ‘steamed zucchini that is mushier. So, make sure not to stir it too much (like how you deal with sauteed mushrooms).

  • Season them: Meanwhile, as it sautés, quickly grate the garlic, chop the herbs, and add them to the pan, stirring in. Finally, add in the grated parmesan, stir, and serve!

For even crisper results, you can place the zucchini under a broiler (if they’re in an oven-proof skillet) for just a couple of minutes to crisp up the parmesan and top layer of zucchini.

Remember that they’ll continue to cook slightly from residual heat, so it’s best to remove the sauteed zucchini from the pan before they’re cooked to your liking!

Top Tips on How to Sauté Zucchini

  • Avoid dry ingredients: Fresh is the key to this sauteed zucchini recipe. Fresh herbs, fresh garlic (not garlic powder), and fresh parmesan (not from a shaker) – for the absolute best results!
  • Don’t slice them too thin: The thinner you slice the zucchini, the more likely that you’ll end up with results that are mushier and more ‘steamed.’ I recommend ½-inch in thickness for the best results that are tender yet still slightly firm and not mushy.
  • Use a wide pan: If you use a smaller pan, you’re more likely to end up with ‘steamed’ and mushier results. I used a large ceramic non-stick skillet with tall sides. Treat zucchini like mushrooms – don’t pile too many in the pan and give them time to brown!
  • Allow the squash to sear! Make sure to allow the zucchini to touch the hot skillet surface without stirring too much to allow it to sear. If you stir the veg too much, they’ll end up mushy, pale, and ‘steamed’ rather than ‘fried.’ I recommend stirring them for a maximum of TWO times during the few minutes they’re cooking.
  • Cook in batches: If you want to make a large amount, it’s best to cook the zucchini in batches so they can properly brown.

Optional Add-Ins and Variations

Below are a few optional ‘add-ins’ when seasoning the zucchini/ summer squash pieces.

  • Other herbs: I’ve previously used cilantro and green onions for this recipe, too, and while the results are ‘okay, they’re nothing WOW! Chives may also work.
  • Seasonings: If you want something a little more complex than the salt and pepper combo, you can use pre-made seasonings like Cajun seasoning, za’atar, Italian seasoning, or taco seasoning for more flavor.
  • Spices: There are several spices you can use based on how you’re serving the pan-fried zucchini. Smoked paprika, chili/cayenne powder (or chili flakes), and onion powder are my most used spices for zucchini.
  • Other cheese: While I love the salty, savory, tangy flavors of fresh parmesan, feel free to swap it out with another sharp cheese like cheddar or even crumbled feta or goat cheese.
  • Other vegetables: Whenever you add any extra ingredient, the total cooking time will be affected. My favorite options include tomatoes (grape or cherry tomatoes) and mushrooms. Both need to be pre-sauteed for several minutes before adding the zucchini. Whole mushrooms are best as they won’t release as much water (or sliced if you plan on frying until they begin to brown before adding the zucchini). Other options include diced bell peppers, onion, and corn. Eggplant will also pair well but requires more cooking.
  • Lemon: Add a little lemon zest into the pan and/or serve the sauteed zucchini with a spritz of fresh lemon juice for extra brightness!
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, butter beans, white beans, black beans, and kidney beans would all pair well and boost the protein in this simple vegetarian side dish.
  • Butter: Not the healthiest add-in, but wonderful for creamy, nutty, buttery flavor. I recommend adding a little butter just 30 seconds before removing it from the pan, so it doesn’t get the chance to burn but will coat the slices in delicious buttery flavor.

FAQs for Sauteed Zucchini Recipe

How long to cook zucchini?

For this sauteed zucchini, you literally need just 3-4 minutes to pan-fry them to perfection! No more, or else you’ll end up with mushy results! How long to saute will also depend on the thickness of the zucchini slices.

What other ways can I cut zucchini to saute?

I change the way I slice the zucchini based on its size, but try to keep it around 1/2-inch in thickness. For larger zucchini I recommend, 1/4 moon slices, medium zucchini can use half-moons, and small zucchini can use whole round ‘coins’. You can also dice the zucchini, but I find it harder to cook evenly.

What is a good herb for zucchini?

There are several herbs that pair particularly well with zucchini, including Italian parsley (flat-leaf is best as I find curly-leaf tastes more like cilantro), basil, dill, thyme, and oregano. I’ve also used green onion, cilantro, and rosemary – which are ‘okay’ to pair, but not great!

Can I cook summer squash the same way as zucchini?

You sure can. You can use this recipe combining zucchini and summer squash or just using summer squash and the method will remain the exact same.

What is the healthiest way to cook zucchini?

I think this lightly sauteed zucchini is one of the healthiest ways to cook zucchini. It uses just minutes of heat to retain as many nutrients as possible, avoids the ‘char’ from grilling (which some people avoid), and is made with minimal oil/fats.

Do I need to peel zucchini?

No, definitely not. Zucchini skin is thin and easy to eat through practically without noticing- plus it helps hold the pieces together while cooking.

sauteed zucchini recipe in a pan

Serving Recommendations

Serving ideas? Oh my, simple pan-fried zucchini goes with pretty much everything! That’s why I love it so-so much! Here are a few suggestions from Ukrainian me:

However, it will also pair well with tons of other dishes, including:

You can also serve it as a side for part of a party spread alongside other healthy sides like potato salad, coleslaw, mango salsa, Mexican street corn salad, etc.

Making Sautéed Zucchini in Advance

Make ahead: I don’t recommend making this recipe in advance. It is best when ate immediately after cooking.

Storing: Once cooked, the zucchini can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. It may be okay for three, but I’ve found two is the best, as it will continue to go soggier as it sits.

I don’t recommend freezing zucchini as its high water content means it becomes very limp upon thawing.

Reheat: For the best results, reheat the zucchini in a hot skillet until warm. They’ll go slightly more tender than before but will still taste fantastic!

More Simple Zucchini Recipes

You might also enjoy browsing through my favorite zucchini recipes or even my entire list of grilling ideas.

sauteed zucchini in black skillet
Sauteed Zucchini

Sauteed Zucchini {5 Minute Recipe!}

When you realize how light, tasty, and simple this Sauteed Zucchini recipe is, it’ll be one of your new summer favorites, too! All you need is five ingredients (plus salt and pepper) and just 5 minutes to prepare the ultimate pan-fried zucchini for potlucks, BBQs, picnics, and mid-week meals!
4.67 from 3 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Servings: 6 servings (as a side)
Calories: 47kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs zucchini
  • 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 garlic cloves grated
  • 2 tbsp dill basil or Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Parmesan cheese to taste

Instructions

  • Chop garden or farmer’s market large zucchini into 1/2 inch thick cubes or quarter moons. If zucchini is medium size, half moons are perfect. And baby zucchini could be sliced into rounds.
    Sauteed Zucchini
  • Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet with tall sides on high heat and then swirl oil. Add zucchini, salt and pepper.
    Sauteed Zucchini
  • Cook for 3 minutes, stirring maximum 2 times. Let zucchini touch the hot skillet surface for at least a minute to really get that sear. Don’t stir constantly to avoid pale “steamed” zucchini. And don’t stir cooked zucchini to make it mushy too much.
    Sauteed Zucchini
  • After zucchini is cooked, sprinkle with herbs and freshly grated garlic. Stir and grate fresh Parmesan cheese on top.
    Sauteed Zucchini
  • Serve warm or cold.

Store: Refrigerate covered for up to 2 days. Do not freeze.

    Notes

    • The best fresh herbs for zucchini are fresh dill, Italian parsley or basil. And if you can get flat leaf Italian parsley versus curly parsley, it’s better. I find curly parsley has a coriander taste to it.
    • Green onion or cilantro can be used too. They are just OK herbs for sauteed zucchini recipe, in my opinion.
    • You can add mushrooms. Make sure to fry them on high heat with a bit of salt first before adding zucchini. Whole mushrooms would be better as they will keep their water inside. Yes, mushrooms is another 92% water veggie.
    • You can also add tomatoes. Just like with mushrooms, cook them first before adding zucchini. Grape or cherry tomatoes will keep their shape better than larger sliced tomatoes. You might end up with more of a saucy zucchini side dish like my chicken breast with tomatoes.
    See recipe post for more tips and FAQs.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 47kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 206mg | Potassium: 395mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 313IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg
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    7 comments on “Sauteed Zucchini

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    1. Have you used summer squash instead of zucchini? My zucchini is done for the year but looking for summer squash ideas. 😊

    2. 4 stars
      This was delicious. I finished up my garden zucchini and it came out perfect. I used parsley and like the fresh kick it gave it.

    3. 5 stars
      Yes! Super easy. My 13 year old daughter gobbled it up! I changed it a bit by adding fresh minced garlic to the zucchini while cooking. I had fresh oregano in the garden so grabbed some of it to add to the dish as my herb.

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