The Best Pan-Fried Zucchini

5 from 6 votes
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Pan-fried zucchini is a quick, easy, and healthy, versatile side dish for any meal! Enjoy the sauteed zucchini with garlic, lemon, and parmesan as I have, or experiment with tons of other seasoning options – just 10 minutes from start to finish! Gluten-free, low-carb, keto, vegetarian, + vegan optional!

Pan-fried zucchini in a pan

If you usually find zucchini underwhelming, you probably just haven’t tried the “right” recipe. This pan-fried zucchini cooks in just 5 minutes and requires a handful of inexpensive pantry staples, yet will have you nibbling straight from the pan (or maybe that’s just me)!

Whether it’s summer and you’ve got a glut of garden zucchini and summer squash to use up, or you just find yourself buying it weekly from the supermarket, fresh zucchini is one of those super versatile ingredients that can be baked, grilled, fried, pan-fried, etc. Even so, I think this 5-minute pan-fried dish is one of the BEST ways to cook zucchini for its combination of speed, ease, and flavor.

Zucchini doesn’t require a lot of work to make it the star of any meal and is. So, with just a little garlic, lemon, butter, and parmesan (vegan options + optional variations included below!), this low-carb, plant-based, gluten-free, and delicious vegetable side dish will find its way onto your plate all the time. You can also easily adapt this recipe to keto, paleo, and whole30!

Pan-fried zucchini in a pan

With just 5 minutes of cooking time, cooking zucchini on the stovetop has become one of my go-to’s for adding last-minute greens to any meal that’s lacking. And if you love zucchini, you might enjoy other easy recipes, like grilled zucchini, air-fried baked zucchini fries, crispy zucchini fritters, or even rainbow stuffed zucchini boats!

The Ingredients

This easy sauteed zucchini recipe requires just seven ingredients, plus salt and pepper, all of which may already be in your kitchen.

  • Zucchini: I recommend using fairly evenly shaped oblong zucchinis to make them easier to cut down to even-sized pieces. You could also use yellow summer squash.

How To Choose the Best Zucchini?

Look for zucchinis that are smooth, vibrant, and free from lots of blemishes. They should also feel heavy for their size. It’s best to choose ones that are around 6-8 inches in length and fairly thin. Larger zucchini actually tend to be more watery and less flavorful.

  • Olive oil & Butter: By combining the two, you achieve incredible richness and nutty flavor. Use dairy-free butter if needed.
  • Garlic: I used a couple of fresh garlic cloves. Alternatively, you could use roasted garlic (increase the amount to taste). Garlic powder will also work in a pinch.
  • Parmesan: Use fresh parmesan cheese, not the shaker stuff. Alternatively, you could use nutritional yeast or a parmesan alternative for a vegan version. Of course, cheddar, feta, and other strong, salty cheeses will also work.
  • Fresh herbs: I recommend using thyme, oregano, or basil, which pair amazingly with the sauteed zucchini.
  • Lemon: Use a fresh lemon juice (organic, unwaxed is best) for the best flavor. You could even add some lemon zest for extra ZING.
  • Salt & Black pepper: Season to taste.
Ingredients for pan-fried zucchini

Optional Add-ins and Variations

  • Other herbs: Dill, parsley, fresh basil, green onion/scallions, chives, etc.
  • Spice: Add chili/cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Spices: Smoked paprika and onion powder work particularly well with zucchini recipes. You could also experiment with dried herbs like oregano, etc.
  • Seasonings: You can experiment with all sorts of seasonings. I.e.,
    • Italian seasoning
  • Pine nuts: Lightly toast them until fragrant. Slivered almonds would also work.
  • Other vegetables: You can easily add to this simple zucchini recipe with the addition of other veggies. Some of my top recommendations include:
    • Tomatoes
    • Bell pepper
    • Onion or scallion (very finely sliced)
    • Corn
    • Peas
    • Mushrooms (pre-sauté to release excess liquid first)
  • Paleo: Skip the butter and parmesan (you could use nutritional yeast instead).

How To Cook Zucchini To Avoid Mushy Sauteed Zucchini?

Since courgette is made up primarily of water, it can become mushy if not treated with care. Here are a few tips to keep them from getting soggy.

  • Use the right pan: You’ll need to use a large, wide pan that will allow you to add the zucchini without piling it all up (which will cause it to steam and become soggy). Cook it in batches if necessary.
  • Cut even-sized pieces: This will ensure they all pan-fry at the same rate.
  • Add salt at the end: Salt draws out the excess liquid from the zucchini. If you add it early on, it will cause soggy sauteed zucchini. So only add it right at the end.
  • Be careful not to overcook the zucchini: The longer it cooks, the more water it releases and the mushier it gets. You want it to be tender-crisp.
  • Don’t slice it too thin: This will lead to mushy pan-fried zucchini that won’t hold its shape or crisp up. I recommend not slicing the pieces any thinner than ¼-inch, but ½ inch is even better. Add an extra minute of cooking for thicker pieces.
  • Don’t stir too much: You need to allow the veg time to brown and achieve a sear. Only stir/flip them a couple of times throughout the process for the best results.

How to Cook Zucchini in a Pan?

First, mince the garlic, finely chop the herbs, and squeeze the lemon juice.

Then rinse the zucchini well and cut it into slices around 1/4-1/2 inch thick using either a sharp knife (or a mandoline/ food processor slicing disk for all even-sized pieces).

Sliced zucchini on a chopping board

The size of your zucchini will affect how to cut it. Small ones can be cut into rounds, medium into half-moons, and large ones can be chopped into quarter moons or even cubed.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large, wide cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Once hot, add the minced garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds, stirring often.

Then, add the zucchini, ensuring that it doesn’t overlap too much (cook in batches if necessary. Some overlap is okay, but not multiple layers). Stir to mix it with the garlic, then leave them to cook for just 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Then flip and repeat- this entire process should only take around 5 minutes.

Steps for making fried zucchini with cheese

Be careful not to stir the sauteed zucchini pieces too much. Otherwise, the pieces won’t brown and crisp up. I flipped/stirred them 2-3 times only.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, chopped herbs, and grated parmesan. Finally, season to taste and enjoy the garlic parmesan zucchini immediately!

Storage Instructions

Store: I don’t recommend making pan-fried zucchini too far in advance, as the results are best immediately after cooking. However, you can save any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (it will soften as it sits).

Reheat: I recommend reheating the garlic parmesan zucchini in a skillet with a swirl of oil to bring back a little of the crispness. You can also reheat them in the oven or air fryer.

Two slices of fried zucchini

Serving Recommendations

This sauteed courgette recipe is one of those all-purpose vegetable side dishes that just pairs with everything. Here are just a few suggestions:

FAQs

Does zucchini need to be peeled?

Not at all. In fact, I recommend you keep the peel on, as it helps keep the zucchini from becoming soggy and provides a little “crunch.”

How long to cook zucchini?

When making sautéed zucchini, you need just a few minutes to ensure it’s at the perfect tender-crisp texture without becoming soggy. 4 to 5 minutes is ideal.

Can I omit the butter?

I do think the butter helps add tons of flavor to the sauteed zucchini. However, omit it if you want to cut down on fats.

Can I use summer squash too?

Absolutely. The two cook in the same way. So you can cook either or even make a sauteed garlic parmesan zucchini and squash combination.

More Simple Vegetable Side Dishes

If you try this simple garlic parmesan sauteed zucchini recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts below. Also, I’d really appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!

The Best Pan-Fried Zucchini

5 from 6 votes
By: Samira
Pan-fried zucchini is a quick, easy, and healthy, versatile side dish for any meal! Enjoy the sauteed zucchini with garlic, lemon, and parmesan as I have, or experiment with tons of other seasoning options – just 10 minutes from start to finish!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Equipment

Ingredients 
 

  • 13 oz zucchini 2 large; or summer squash (or combo)
  • 0.5 oz garlic 3 cloves or adjust to taste
  • 0.9 oz parmesan cheese for a vegan version use nutritional yeast or omit
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 0.4 oz butter 1 Tbsp; use dairy-free butter if preferred
  • 1/2 tsp salt adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 0.2 oz thyme or oregano or basil
  • 1/2 lemon 2 Tbsp

Check the blog post for more optional add-ins and variations!

    Instructions 

    • Mince the garlic, finely chop the herbs, and squeeze the lemon juice.
    • Rinse the zucchini well and cut it into slices around ½-inch thick using either a sharp knife (or a mandoline/food processor slicing disk for all even-sized pieces).
      The size of your zucchini will affect how to cut it. Small ones can be cut into rounds, medium into half-moons, and large ones can be chopped into quarter moons or even cubed.
    • Heat the oil and butter in a large, wide skillet over medium-high heat.
    • Once hot, add the minced garlic and sauté for 30-60 seconds, stirring often.
    • Add the zucchini, ensuring that it doesn't overlap too much (cook in batches if necessary). Some overlap is okay, but not multiple layers. Stir to mix it with the garlic, then leave them to cook for just 2-3 minutes, until the bottom browns. Then flip and repeat- this entire process should only take around 5 minutes.
      Be careful not to stir the sauteed zucchini pieces too much (like sauteed mushrooms). Otherwise, the pieces won't brown and crisp up. I flipped/stirred them 2-3 times only.
    • Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice, chopped herbs, and grated parmesan. Finally, season to taste and enjoy!

    Storage Instructions

    • Store: I don't recommend making pan-fried zucchini too far in advance, as the results are best immediately after cooking. However, you can save any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (it will soften as it sits).
      Reheat: I recommend reheating the zucchini in a skillet with a swirl of oil to bring back a little of the crispness. You can also reheat them in the oven or air fryer.

    Notes

    • Use the right pan: You’ll need to use a large, wide pan that will allow you to add the zucchini without piling it all up (which will cause it to steam and become soggy). Cook it in batches if necessary.
    • Cut even-sized pieces: This will ensure they all pan-fry at the same rate.
    • Add salt at the end: Salt draws out the excess liquid from the zucchini. If you add it early on, it will cause soggy sauteed zucchini. So only add it right at the end.
    • Be careful not to overcook the zucchini: The longer it cooks, the more water it releases and the mushier it gets. You want it to be tender-crisp.
    • Don’t slice it too thin: This will lead to mushy pan-fried zucchini that won’t hold its shape or crisp up. I recommend not slicing the pieces any thinner than ¼-inch, but ½ inch is even better. Add an extra minute of cooking for thicker pieces.
    • Don’t stir too much: You need to allow the veg time to brown and achieve a sear. Only stir/flip them a couple of times throughout the process for the best results.
     
    Check the blog post for more notes, serving suggestions, and answers to top FAQs!
    Course: Side
    Cuisine: American
    Freezer friendly: No
    Shelf life: 2-3 Days

    Nutrition

    Calories: 133kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 10mg, Sodium: 420mg, Potassium: 276mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 360IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 126mg, Iron: 2mg

    Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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    Recipe Rating




    2 Comments

    1. 5 stars
      Use to be when I battered and fried zucchini it would be soggy. What I’ve learned is after you slice the zucchini, lay it between paper towels and pressed the water out
      before you fry it. I’ve noticed most of the replies to How do I fry zucchini without it
      being soggy doesn’t mention getting the water out first. I don’t know why.