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Quick and easy sautéed zucchini with garlic, butter, and fresh herbs is the perfect summer side dish! Add Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes on top for an extra layer of flavor. Best of all, the healthy and delicious vegetables pair nicely with just about any entrée — from grilled steak and burgers, to fish, pasta, and chicken!

Sauteed zucchini on a blue and white plate with a serving spoon.
Table of Contents
  1. Why You’ll Love this Recipe
  2. Ingredients
  3. How thick to slice the zucchini?
  4. Directions
  5. Serving Suggestions
  6. Storage Tips
  7. Recipe Variations
  8. Sautéed Zucchini Recipe

If you’re looking for even more of the best zucchini recipes, don’t miss these one-bowl zucchini muffins, this cheesy pasta with zucchini and bacon, this dump-and-bake summer pasta, and an easy zucchini cake, too!

Why You’ll Love this Recipe

  • Quick and Easy. If we’re making a weeknight side dish, it better come together with minimal effort and minimal ingredients. This is one of those gems that’s ready from start to finish in less than 20 minutes.
  • The Best Seasonings for Zucchini. On its own, zucchini can be a rather bland vegetable. That’s why it takes so well to herbs and spices. This recipe includes the best seasonings for zucchini, and gives you leeway to use those that you love most. Choose between dill, basil, thyme, parsley, and chives, all of which pair nicely with the summer veggie. We also love to add flavor to the dish with a bit of fresh lemon juice for a bright, acidic finish; a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese for a salty, tangy punch; and crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat. No boring zucchini allowed!
  • Versatile. This is one of our family’s go-to sides, since sauteed zucchini pairs so nicely with almost any entree. Plus, it’s kid-approved! Offer it alongside meatloaf, grilled bbq chicken breast, grilled pork tenderloin, or grilled scallops.
Overhead shot showing how to saute zucchini in a cast iron skillet.

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for this sauteed zucchini recipe. As always, specific measurements and step-by-step instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Zucchini: diced into bite-size triangles or sliced into thin rounds (but not too thin, or they’ll fall apart when cooked). Use yellow squash for half of the recipe if you’ve got it on hand, too! Do not peel the zucchini. The peel is very thin, so there’s no need to remove it before cooking. It also helps the zucchini stay together, prevents it from becoming mushy, and adds a bit of texture to the dish.
  • Olive oil and butter: a combination of the two fats adds a nice balance of flavor, plus you get the higher smoke point from the oil.
  • Seasonings for zucchini: garlic and herbs make the perfect seasonings for zucchini. Summer is such a great time to take advantage of fresh herbs, but you can use dried herbs in the off-season, too. I love dill, basil, thyme, parsley, or chives in this dish, so pick your favorite — or use a combination. Italian seasoning is a great shortcut that works well with zucchini, onion powder is tasty, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder is a fine substitute for the fresh garlic.
  • Lemon Juice: an acidic component to brighten up the dish at the end.
  • Parmesan: optional, but the creamy, nutty, and salty cheese offers a perfect finishing touch!
Hands chopping zucchini on a wooden cutting board surrounded by seasonings for zucchini like garlic and thyme.

How thick to slice the zucchini?

This is a matter of personal preference. If you slice the zucchini into paper-thin rounds, they will become very soft and will fall apart while cooking in the skillet. I prefer a slightly thicker slice (using the middle notch on my mandoline), which is about ¼-inch thick. You can make the slices as large as ½-inch thick if you like a sturdier, more firm bite to your finished dish. You can also cut the zucchini into half-moons, triangles (shown here), a small dice, or even grate it with a box grater (for a soft texture).

Process shot showing how to add seasonings for zucchini (like lemon juice) to a pan of sauteed zucchini.

Directions

You only need a few minutes for the zucchini to become nice and tender in a hot skillet on the stovetop — not mushy! The veggies absorb the flavor of the garlic, butter, and other seasonings, delivering a healthy side dish that tastes decadent. You’ll find detailed directions in the recipe card below, but here’s my overview:

  1. Cook Garlic. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Use the largest skillet you have. You’re cooking a lot of vegetables here, so you want to be able to spread them out as much as possible. This allows the zucchini to cook evenly and get nicely browned instead of steaming. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir constantly so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  2. Sauté Zucchini. Add the zucchini to the skillet and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until the zucchini is just starting to brown and become tender. Zucchini gets mushy if it’s overcooked, so the key to a perfect skillet of sauteed zucchini is not cooking the vegetables for too long. Once the vegetables are in the pan, keep a close eye on the dish, stirring regularly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the zucchini becomes crisp-tender. It should look slightly wilted and soft, but still have a bit of crunch.
  3. Add Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the herbs and lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Finally, sprinkle with Parmesan, if you like! Wait to add the salt until you’re done cooking the zucchini. If you add salt at the beginning, it draws moisture out of the vegetables and results in a mushier texture. For a stronger lemon flavor, add grated lemon zest to the skillet in addition to the lemon juice.
Sauteed zucchini in a cast iron skillet with a wooden spoon.

Serving Suggestions

This versatile, easy side dish goes well with a variety of entrées like grilled pork tenderloin, linguine with clam sauce, stuffed shells, classic meat lasagnagrilled salmon, grilled shrimp skewers, and grilled pork chops.

Horizontal overhead shot of sauteed zucchini on a blue and white oval plate.

Storage Tips

  • Leftover sautéed zucchini will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
  • To reheat, warm the zucchini in a skillet over medium-high heat, spreading the slices out as much as possible. Stir frequently and cook just until heated through. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.
  • Freeze leftover cooked zucchini in an airtight Ziploc freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, strain off any liquid, and reheat in a skillet as suggested above.
Overhead shot of a blue and white serving tray full of sauteed zucchini.

Recipe Variations

  • Onions or red peppers: add half of a thinly sliced onion or red bell pepper to the skillet with the garlic. Cook until the onion or pepper is soft, about 7 minutes, before adding the zucchini.
  • Add halved cherry tomatoes or a can of drained, diced tomatoes to the skillet with the zucchini.
  • Add nuts. instead of Parmesan, try adding crunchy toasted slivered almonds, pecans, or walnuts to the top of the dish.
  • Add white beans or chickpeas for a heartier, more filling dish with extra fiber and protein.
  • Double all of the ingredients to serve a larger group.
  • Make it dairy-free by replacing the butter with additional olive oil, and by omitting the Parmesan garnish.
The best seasonings for zucchini on a bed of sauteed zucchini on a blue and white plate.

More Zucchini Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of sauteed zucchini on a blue and white platter.

Sautéed Zucchini

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Total: 17 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 61 kcal
Quick and easy sautéed zucchini with garlic, butter, and fresh herbs is the perfect summer side dish!

Ingredients
  

  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 lb. zucchini (about 2 medium), thinly sliced into rounds, half-moons, or triangles
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, basil, thyme, chives, or parsley (or about ¼ teaspoon dried dill weed, dried basil, dried thyme, dried parsley, or dried chives)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional garnish: freshly-grated Parmesan cheese; crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, and continue to cook until tender, about 5-7 more minutes.
    The best seasonings for zucchini in a cast iron skillet with sauteed zucchini.
  • Stir in herbs and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    Process shot showing how to add seasonings for zucchini (like lemon juice) to a pan of sauteed zucchini.
  • Garnish with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes, if desired.
    Horizontal overhead shot of sauteed zucchini on a blue and white oval plate.

Notes

  • Zucchini gets mushy if it’s overcooked, so the key to a perfect skillet of sauteed zucchini is not cooking the vegetables for too long. Once the vegetables are in the pan, keep a close eye on the dish, stirring regularly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the zucchini becomes crisp-tender. It should look slightly wilted and soft, but still have a bit of crunch.
  • Wait to add the salt until you’re done cooking the zucchini. If you add salt at the beginning, it draws moisture out of the vegetables and results in a mushier texture. For a stronger lemon flavor, add grated lemon zest to the skillet in addition to the lemon juice.
  • Summer is such a great time to take advantage of fresh herbs, but you can use dried herbs in the off-season, too. I love dill, basil, thyme, parsley, or chives in this dish, so pick your favorite — or use a combination. Italian seasoning is a great shortcut that works well with zucchini, onion powder is tasty, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder is a fine substitute for the fresh garlic.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the recipeCalories: 61kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 1gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 34mgPotassium: 300mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 314IUVitamin C: 21mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 1mg
Keyword: sauteed zucchini, seasonings for zucchini
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in July, 2020. It was updated in May, 2024.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Marion says:

    Looks good! My mother made zucchini in a similar fashion but she always burned the garlic. I thought I hated zucchini for decades but I found out later, through my own cooking mistakes, that what I hated was the taste of burned garlic. Later, when we had a microwave, she made yellow squash with lemon and onion which was good but braised rather than sauteed.
    I was wondering. How do I check the skillet to make sure that it’s hot enough. Should I drop in a pinch of flour to see if it sizzles? I would probably add the onion. Should I add more fat to the skillet if I use the onion. I also had a question about sweet onions.. The sweet onions which I have found in the local stores are great big things. Probably the size of three “small” onions! How long would a sweet onion keep in the refrigerator? If I froze the remainder, chopped or sliced, would it be worth using later? I only cook a couple of dishes in a week. Thanks.

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Marion! You can tell that the oil is hot enough when it starts to shimmer in the pan. Don’t let it get to the point of smoking, though.

      You don’t need to add any extra fat to the pan if you include onion, although you certainly can if you like. An onion will keep in the fridge for at least a couple of weeks. You can slice up any extra onion and then freeze it to use later, too. The frozen onion will be soft when it’s thawed, but that doesn’t matter if you’re planning to cook it anyway. Hope that helps!

  2. Renee says:

    Love zucchini, & will make this week. For the herbs, is it one fresh tablespoon of EACH herb? Or is it one tablespoon of all herbs combined? For the dried herbs-is it 1/4 teaspoon of each herb? Thanks!

    1. Blair Lonergan says:

      Hi, Renee! I recommend 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs total — in any combination or variety that you like. If you’re using dried herbs, I’d cut it down to about 1/4 teaspoon total. You can always add more after tasting it. 🙂