How to Cook Zucchini, 4 Ways
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Whether it's baked, grilled, air-fried or sauteed, learn how to cook zucchini with tips from the experts.
Cooked correctly, zucchini opens up a bright, bold world of mouthwatering flavor. This garden-fresh glory has the power to take on tons of flavor, playing a leading role in primavera pastas, hearty casseroles and even moist chocolate cake. Don’t believe me? Check out our most-loved zucchini recipes and zucchini recipes that have earned 5 stars.
But what’s the secret to cooking up a great-tasting storm of summer squash? Taste of Home Test Cook Matthew Haas gives his expert tips for how to cook zucchini, whether it’s on the stove, grill, air-fryer or in the oven.
How to Cook Zucchini On the Stove
Need to cook your zucchini quick? A skillet on the stovetop is the way to go. Sauteed zucchini works well in pasta dishes and stir-fries.
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Saute the zucchini
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Add oil and butter into a large skillet over medium heat. (We’re partial to this skillet from our new line of cookware.) Then pile in the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are tender.
Test Kitchen tip: You can use oil, butter or a combination of the two. Note that butter has a lower smoke point than most oils, so it may burn faster under high heat.
Step 2: Add the seasonings
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Add in the minced garlic, salt and pepper. Stir for a minute longer, then remove from heat and serve.
Test Kitchen tip: Keep a careful eye on the garlic as it can burn rather quickly. Try to pull the skillet off the stove as soon as you see the garlic start to turn brown.
How to Cook Zucchini In the Oven
An oven bake gives zucchini an extra-crisp texture, perfect when you want to make a savory, stand-alone side. Although, there are so many ways to bake with zucchini if you’d like incorporate it into a recipe.
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch slices (they can also be quartered lengthwise, then halved crosswise for zucchini “fries”)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, salt and pepper
- Parmesan cheese for sprinkling
Step 1: Prepare the zucchini
In a medium-sized bowl, coat the zucchini in melted butter. Add in the oregano, salt and pepper and give a toss to coat.
Step 2: Arrange and add cheese
On a greased baking sheet, arrange a single layer of zucchini rounds. Next, give the zukes a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese—seriously, add on as much as you please.
Test Kitchen tip: For even cooking, make sure the zucchini is spread evenly and no pieces are overlapping one another.
Step 3: Get baking
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Crank the oven up to 350°F and bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes. You’ll know the dish is done when the zucchini turns golden brown.
Test Kitchen tip: If you’re in the mood for roasted zucchini, bump up the oven to 425°. This gives the zucchini a richer, deeper brown and preserves some of the vegetable’s crisp texture. Keep an eye on the oven though, to ensure your veggies don’t burn.
How to Cook Zucchini on the Grill
Ready to get fired up? Grilled zucchini is an easy side for your next backyard cookout. (Just like these barbecue side dish recipes!)
- 6 small zucchini, halved
- 1 tablespoon oil
Step 1: Add oil
In a small dish, drizzle the zucchini with oil.
Test Kitchen tip: The oil helps prevent the zucchini from sticking—no need to grease the grill rack!
Step 2: Grill, flip and grill some more
Get grilling. Fire up the grill to medium heat, then place the zucchini on the grates. Grill, covered, for 4-5 minutes. Then carefully flip the zucchini using a pair of long-handled tongs. Grill for 4-5 minutes longer. Remove your veg and serve alongside some hearty burgers and brats.
How to Cook Zucchini in the Air Fryer
Looking for a the fastest way to make perfectly golden zucchini slices? The air-fryer is the answer. Thicker slices will be crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Thin slices will be more crisp throughout.
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Parmesan cheese
Step 1: Prep the zucchini
In a large bowl, toss zucchini with salt. Arrange zucchini slices in a single layer on paper towels or clean kitchen towels. Let stand 10 minutes then pat dry.
Add zucchini back to the bowl; toss in oil. Add Parmesan, salt and pepper; toss to coat. The cheese helps to crisp up the outside of the zucchini slices and adds that can’t-stop-eating-them delicious flavor; but it can be omitted.
Test Kitchen tip: If you prefer breaded slices, dip zucchini in lightly beaten egg, then coat in seasoned bread crumbs (we prefer panko!) instead of tossing with oil.
Step 2: Prep the air-fryer
Preheat the air-fryer to 400. Coat the air-fryer basket with cooking spray. Arrange zucchini slices in a single layer in the basket (you’ll likely have to cook multiple batches).
Step 3: Cook to (your) perfection
Cook until golden brown, 10-15 minutes, turning once. If you prefer the slices as crisp as you can get them, you’ll want to cook a little longer (don’t be afraid to taste-test while cooking to find your perfect doneness).
Test Kitchen tip: Zucchini holds a lot of water. Salting and letting the slices stand will help draw the moisture out to make crisper slices (don’t forget to pat dry!). It’s an extra step, but will help create crisp, dip-able slices. Keep in mind that these won’t get potato chip-crisp, but the outside of the slices will have a little crunch that makes them perfectly snackable.
Tips for Cooking Zucchini
Select the Right Squash
Whether you plan on purchasing zucchini from the farmers market or corner store, the best flavor comes from the freshest ingredients. Look for zucchini that’s firm to the touch and has smooth, blemish-free skin. Beware of large, super-sized zucchini, as they can have bland flavor and woody texture. Experiment with different varieties like yellow zucchini, pattypan and Eight Ball squash—they all cook up the same way as the usual zucchini.
Test Kitchen tip: To save time, skip the peeler. Zucchini skin is safe to eat and almost flavorless. Just be sure to give the veggies a thorough rinse before chopping.
Oil ’em Up
If you plan to prepare your zucchini using some form of heat, your best bet is to toss them in oil before you begin. In most cases, olive oil, butter or vegetable oil will work fine. A thin layer of oil helps zucchini cook for a host of reasons: It prevents zucchini from sticking to your cooking tools, it speeds up browning and it helps seasonings stick.
Go Crazy with Flavors
Speaking of seasonings, due to its mild flavor, zucchini makes a great base for piling on herbs and spices. Test out flavors from your spice rack like basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary and garlic as you cook. Prefer it plain? A dash of salt and pepper is all it takes to help a zucchini’s natural flavors shine.
Test Kitchen tip: Use a sprinkle of smoked paprika and cayenne for a smoky, spicy kick.
Make Sure It Doesn’t Get Soggy
Since zucchini has such a high water content, it’s easy for it to get soggy during cooking. That’s why Peggy Woodward, Taste of Home Senior Food Editor, recommends you salt your zucchini, let it stand, and pat dry the slices before it’s cooked to draw out some of the water.
Zucchini also gets crispier under higher heat, so try a grilled or broiled zucchini recipe for optimal crunch.
Know the Healthiest Ways to Eat Zucchini
Skipping the oil and cheese is going to be the healthiest way to enjoy zucchini. Luckily, we have an air-fryer zucchini recipe that doesn’t use oil if you’re trying to cut calories.
Substituting zucchini into other recipes can also make your meals a lot healthier, too. Make pasta dishes a lot less carb-heavy by using spiralized zucchini (aka zoodles) instead of regular pasta. Slip zucchini into baked goods for some additional nutrients—and if you grate the zucchini beforehand you might not even notice it’s there.
Did you know you can eat zucchini flowers, too? They’re full of vitamins and minerals, and there are lots of ways to cook with them, whether you stuff or fry them.