Sautéeing zucchini is a cooking technique I perfected as a restaurant line cook. In the time since, it has been my go-to way of cooking zucchini when I need a fast and healthy side dish that will go with everything. This easy Sauteed Zucchini recipe is the best way to turn a favorite summer squash into a healthy tasty side dish in just 12 minutes! It has only a few basic ingredients but the flavor of the fresh herbs and garlic really make it taste special.

a skillet with sauteed zucchini in it

Why We Love This Sauteed Zucchini Recipe

If you have fresh zucchini and are looking for an easy way to prepare it, look no further than this simple skillet sauteed zucchini recipe. It takes just 12 minutes to make and only uses a few ingredients. This easy sautéed zucchini is a healthy side dish to pair with a variety of main courses.

Ingredients For This Easy Zucchini Recipe

ingredients with labels
  • Zucchini: For this recipe you will need 2 medium zucchini weighing a combined total of one pound. You can use a large, just weigh out 1 pound to make sure that the pan won’t be overcrowded. (More on that in a minute.) And you will probably want to cut it lengthwise into quarters so each piece is bite sized.
  • Garlic: If you know my Simple Skillet Green Bean recipe or my Garlic herb butternut squash, then you know the key to an easy skillet side dish is to add garlic! It seems like a no-brainer, but really it makes all the difference. I always recommend using freshly chopped garlic for the best taste and flavor.
  • Herbs: In the summertime fresh herbs are a must! The original recipe (from the above mentioned restaurant) used a combination of what we called “savory herbs” which was a blend of half part sage, thyme and oregano mixed with half part parsley. Today I used sage, oregano, thyme and dill, all of which were growing in my garden. But you can use whatever herbs you have on hand! You can’t go wrong. Fresh basil is wonderful too. My only caveat would be to limit the amount of rosemary to 1 teaspoon, because it is so strong. Try blending a few together! If you are in a rush you can sub in dried herbs. I suggest using 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning and adding it in with the garlic.
  • Oil: I chose avocado oil today but you could also use extra-virgin olive oil or another cooking oil of your choice.

How To Make Sauteed Zucchini

prepared ingredients

Prep Ingredients

  1. Cut the zucchini by slicing the blossom and stem end off.
  2. Then cut lengthwise through the squash.
  3. Lay the halves, cut side down for stability, and slice into half moons on a slight bias. (See picture on left.)
  4. My slices are a little thicker than 1/4 inch thick. Slicing them too thin will cause overcrowding and the zucchini will become easily limp and overcooked.

You will also want to chop the garlic and herbs before you start cooking. This recipe goes so fast it is best to have everything ready before you begin cooking!

how to cook this dish, step one and two: sauteeing the zucchini

Step 1: Use a Hot Pan

Get the pan hot! This is key to browning the zucchini and keeping it from getting watery.

Food Science Tip: Water boils at 212 degrees, and sugars caramelize at 320. The naturally occurring sugars in the zucchini will not be able to caramelize if there is water present. That is why it is important to use high heat if you want to brown. (If you are wondering why we would want browning, we do because browning = flavor.)

Add the oil to heat it up and wait for it to become thin in texture, shimmer and look at the air above the pan. You will begin to see a wisp of vapor coming off the skillet. This is subtle and hard to see so you may need to look from the side. Take note: I am not talking about full-on smoke, you don’t want to heat it up so much that you are burning the oil.

As soon as you see the vapor of the oil “just beginning to smoke” add the zucchini into the hot skillet and then leave it there, untouched for two minutes. Stirring will cool down the skillet and cause the zucchini to release its moisture. As I said, we don’t want that because that will inhibit browning.

Step 2: Minimize Stirring

After two minutes and the bottom is browned, stir it once. Then let it sit undisturbed again for another minute or two. [Remember zucchini has relatively high water content, so stirring too much will only result in soggy zucchini!] Stir one more time and let it cook until the zucchini is starting to soften up. (All told, at this point, it should cook about 5 minutes.)

cook garlic and add herbs

Step 3: Cook the Garlic

Scrape the zucchini to one side of the skillet. Tilt the skillet to allow the oil to run on the empty side of the sillet. If your skillet seems dry you can add a tiny bit more oil onto the surface. Add the garlic to the oil stir it around until it is fragrant. This only takes about 1 minute.

Step 4: Add Herbs

Stir the zucchini into the garlic and then add in the herbs, salt and pepper. Stir it together and serve it immediately.

Once you try it, you’ll come back to this simple technique over and over! It is a favorite way to make one of the summer’s most popular veggies into a savory veggie side dish. Read on, because I am going to share my tips for how to get skillet browned zucchini that isn’t watery!

This recipe is so easy to prepare and goes with so many main courses. It is the perfect one to have up your sleeve for a super-fast healthy side!

closeup of sauteed zucchini

FAQs and Expert Tips

Can you saute zucchini without oil?

Technically cooking the zucchini without oil would not be sauteeing since the definition of sauteing means to cook in a little fat. The fat is essential to make sure the zucchini doesn’t stick to the pan. It also ensures that it will brown the zucchini.

Can you add onions to this recipe?

Yes. Finely dice the onion, and then add it with the zucchini in step one. Alternatively, you can use scallions or chives (adding in with the herbs.)

Is this recipe healthy?

Fresh zucchini is a low-calorie-density food and has zeaxanthin and lutein (both carotenoids) that are helpful to protect skin. It can also improve digestion. Overall this dish is low in calories (56 per serving) and suitable for keto and diabetic diets (4 grams net carbs.)

Does this recipe work for yellow squash or other summer squash?

Yes! You can use yellow summer squash or even pattypan squash for this recipe instead of zucchini. For pattypan, make sure to cut it into small wedges, and wait to add the garlic in step three until the squash is softened.

Variations To Try

If you want to try something different than this combination of garlic and herbs here are a couple of different options.

  • Serve this sauteed zucchini as is. For even more flavor top it off with crumbled feta cheese (I like goat feta best with it) or grated Parmesan cheese. You can also drizzle on some lemon juice or aged balsamic vinegar for a bit of tang.
  • Add a handful of halved cherry tomatoes in step three when you stir the garlic into the softened zucchini. Use 2 T basil instead of blended herbs. Top with crumbled feta cheese or parmesan.
  • For added protein, dietary fiber and to make this more substantial in general, add a can of drained white beans after step three. Season with a pinch of red pepper flakes! Top with crumbled goat cheese and dot with pesto. Cover and let heat through.
  • Stir in one cup fresh corn kernels and 1 can drained black beans after step three. Warm through. Omit the chopped herbs and instead, top with shredded Mexican cheese blend. Garnish with crumbled tortilla chips and chopped cilantro.
  • Come up with your own combination based on your own matter of personal preference!

Leftovers, Storage and Reheating

  • Make Ahead: Prep the zucchini, garlic and herbs and keep in separate resealable containers in the refrigerator up to one day ahead. Make sure the zucchini is dry before sauteeing.
  • Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container up to three days.
  • Reheat in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high heat with a little water or broth, stirring often until steaming hot.

What To Serve With This Zucchini Side Dish

At the restaurant where I learned how to make this sauteed zucchini, we paired it with salmon (this salmon in foil is what I would pair it with at home.) It would also be great with grilled chicken or flank steak. Or serve it with one of our favorite healthy burger recipes.

a white bowl with zucchini and herbs

More Zucchini Recipes

I also love to make grilled zucchini , zucchini noodles, zucchini ribbons and zucchini casserole. Not to mention baking up a batch of my chocolate chip zucchini bread. Here are some more favorite zucchini recipes:

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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a close up of zucchini in a skillet with herbs and garlic

Easy Sauteed Zucchini

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: Katie
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 2 2/3 cups 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


This Easy Sauteed Zucchini with herbs and garlic is a no-fail and simple way to make a healthy zucchini side dish in only 12 minutes.



1 tablespoons avocado oil or organic canola oil, plus more if necessary (see note)

1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium), sliced about 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick

2 cloves minced garlic

1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, sage and chives

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add zucchini and cook undisturbed until lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir and continue cooking stirring once more, until the zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Push the zucchini to one side of the skillet, and tilt to allow the oil to pool on the empty side. Add the garlic and cook until just about to brown. Stir the garlic into the zucchini.
  4. Add in herbs, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Remove from the heat and serve immediately.



This recipe also works with summer squash. For a more colorful dish, use one zucchini and one yellow summer squash.


For the chopped herbs, we recommend a blend of various herbs, but you can use a single herb if you prefer. The only exception is that rosemary would be too strong in this quantity. Limit rosemary to 1 teaspoon.


In step 3, when you tilt your skillet, if your skillet seems dry you can add a tiny bit more oil onto the surface for cooking the garlic. You need just enough so the garlic won’t stick to the skillet. 

  • Prep Time: 12 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 minutes
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Saute
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 2/3 cup
  • Calories: 56
  • Sugar: 3 g
  • Sodium: 149 mg
  • Fat: 4 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 5 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 1 g