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Crisp-fried in extra virgin olive oil until golden brown, this delicious fried zucchini with lemon and Parmesan cheese is easy to make when you have an abundance of zukes! There’s no need for an egg wash or breadcrumbs with my dry-fry method. Enjoy this Italian-style recipe as a salad, side dish or over pasta.
Frying zucchini in olive oil is one the best ways to cook the humble green squash. It transforms its somewhat bland flavor into something very snackable.
I hope it will convince you that the Mediterranean sun is shining down on you, even if only in your imagination. Fried zucchini are delicious!
You could easily eat these fried zucchini all by themselves as a snack, or serve the hot, crisp zucchini as a topper for simple pasta recipes, or as a veggie side dish.
Ingredients for the recipe
- Zucchini: I recommend using zucchini that are small to medium-size, not more than 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Although we think of them as a full-blown summer vegetable, you can usually find zucchini in grocery stores all year long, perfect for frying, roasting or even as zucchini noodles.
- Flour: For easier cooking and clean up, I use a light coating of flour instead of an egg batter and a dredge in breadcrumbs. I’ve used all-purpose flour, rice flour and gluten-free flour blends with success.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: Because you’ll want the taste of olive oil to shine in this simple recipe, use a good quality extra-virgin oil — you won’t be deep-frying, so will need about 1/4 oil to fry the zucchini in a skillet.
- Onion and garlic: Thinly sliced onion fries alongside the zucchini with whole, smashed garlic.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated Parmesan or shaved slices off a chunk of cheese.
- Lemon: Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fried zucchini just before serving.
Choosing the right size zucchini
I prefer to cook with small green zucchini, not only for this recipe but in most of my vegetable recipes.
When zucchini matures and swells to more than 1 1/2-inches in diameter, the flesh will likely have more seeds. That means the flesh can become waterlogged and get more soggy when cooked.
- Sizzling the coated zucchini slices in hot olive oil gives the otherwise neutral zucchini a taste almost like tempura-battered zucchini.
- For this fried zucchini recipe, the sliced zucchini are tossed in a light coating of flour.
Pan-Fried Zucchini with Parmesan
- 2-3 (450 g) small or medium zucchini, between ½ – 1 inch in diameter, about 1 pound
- ½ onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup (40 g) flour, all purpose, rice, or gluten-free
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 whole peeled garlic cloves, lightly smashed
- ½ lemon, cut into 4 wedges
- ¼ cup Italian parsley or fresh basil, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Slice the zucchini into thick coins about ½-inch wide. Put them in a bowl with the onion. Add the flour, 1 ½ teaspoons salt and black pepper to taste. Toss the slices so they're evenly coated in the flour mixture.
- Heat a 12-inch (preferably non-stick) skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Pour in the olive oil and heat until it just begins to shimmer.
- Lift the slices out of the bowl, shaking off the flour. Arrange them cut-side down in the pan in one layer. The slices should sizzle right away, otherwise the pan isn't hot enough yet. Toss in the garlic cloves. Fry undisturbed for 2 or 3 minutes, until the slices are nicely golden brown on one side. Note: Depending on the size of your pan, you might have to cook the zucchini in batches.
- Flip the zucchini over, either by shaking the pan or by gently nudging with a spatula. Fry on the other side for 1-2 more minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley or basil. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle the cheese on top. Squeeze the lemon over and serve hot.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- If you can, choose small zucchini that are less than 1-inch in diameter. They will be less bitter and have smaller amount of seeds.
- For the best texture, be sure not to slice the zucchini too thin.
- The fried zucchini is best served hot and freshly cooked. It will become softer in texture as it cools.
- Reheat leftovers in a lightly oiled skillet until warmed through.