Easy Sauteed Zucchini
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.
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.
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!
Quickly frying zucchini in a small amount of fat with garlic and herbs is a technique I learned when I was a restaurant line cook. In the time since, it has been my go-to way of cooking zucchini when I need something fast, healthy and will go with everything. I have decided to share it with you today because it is absolutely delish and such a helpful technique to know.
Of course 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. This recipe today though, you guys, 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!
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.
Ingredients For This Recipe
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.
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.
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.
I chose avocado oil today but you could also use olive oil or another cooking oil of your choice.
How To Make Sauteed Zucchini
- Cut the zucchini by slicing the blossom and stem end off.
- Then cut lengthwise through the squash.
- Lay the halves, cut side down for stability, and slice into half moons on a slight bias. (See picture on left.)
- 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!
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.)
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.
FAQs and Expert Tips
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.
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.)
Fresh zucchini is a low-calorie-density food and has zeaxanthin and lutein (both carotenoids) that are helpful to protect skin and slow or lower risk of cardiovascular disease. 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.)
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.
- 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!
Serving Suggestions and More Recipe Ideas
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.
Here are some menu pairing ideas and more recipes with zucchini and summer squash to try this season.
- My rustic Ratatouille stew with eggplant and zucchini is a little smoky and goes great with crumbled chevre and pine nuts on top.
- This Zucchini Oat bread is low in added sugar and sturdy enough to pack for a picnic or in lunchboxes.
- If you have any of those giant zucchini from the garden, use them to make this pureed Zucchini Soup with dill. It is great hot or cold.
- Our grilled zucchini is one of those easy recipes for effortless summertime dinners.
- Shave zucchini and add the ribbons on top of pita pizzas for a quick weeknight dinner.
- This Summer Squash Chicken Tortilla Skillet has Mexican flavors, and works with zucchini too.
- Our healthy Zucchini Casserole is another easy veggie side that is also gluten-free and low in carbs.
- Another summer squash recipe to try is this Grilled Stuffed Squash Boats.
Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~KatiePrint
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 ¼ to 1/3 inch thick
2 cloves minced garlic
1 ½ tablespoon chopped fresh herbs such as oregano, thyme, sage and chives
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add zucchini and cook undisturbed until lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes.
- Stir and continue cooking stirring once more, until the zucchini is softened, about 3 minutes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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