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Perfect Pan-Seared Zucchini

This is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to cook zucchini. In just 10 minutes you can have perfectly golden brown, pan-seared zucchini slices without ever turning on your oven or firing up the grill. We cook and eat a ton of veggies around here and pan-searing is a favorite technique because it’s quick, easy, and produces a ton of extra flavor that boiling and steaming just don’t achieve (even though we love vegetables made these ways too).

We eat oven-roasted and pan-seared zucchini year-round, but we especially love it during the summer peak season straight out of the garden or from the local farmer’s market.  This is a healthy, delicious way to eat more vegetables especially if you have an abundance growing in your garden. 

Any Which Way You Slice It — Pan-Seared Zucchini is Easy to Make at Home

There are so many ways to cook zucchini and when you pan-sear zucchini you can use long slices, thicker rounds, or a small dice.  It’s up to you and what you’ll be serving it with (or in). I prefer to use the diced zucchini when I’m making veggie couscous or other grain salads, and prefer the zucchini rounds in Pasta alla Zucchini, and the long zucchini slices work really well as hearty sides to chicken breast cutlets and flank steak.

How to Get Oven-Roasted Flavor by Perfectly Pan-Searing Zucchini in Just 10 Minutes

Use these steps to make get a pan-seared zucchini that’s even better than oven-roasted zucchini (or what you might get as a side to an entrée when you order out).  This zucchini is packed full of delicious flavor. 

  • Get the skillet hot. Make sure the skillet is nice and hot but not smoking before you add the oil and then the veggies to it.
  • Dry vegetables. No wet veggies here. It’s best to have veggies that are fairly dry so that when they hit the hot oil, they will start to brown and not sweat. If the cut vegetables are really moist or have excess water on them pat them dry with a paper towel before adding to the hot pan with oil so they sear instead of steam.
  • Have patience. Once you place the veggies into the skillet, do not move them around. Let them have constant contact with the hot pan and the oil so that the browning and caramelization can take place. If you move them around or flip them over too much (or too soon), you’ll miss out on all that good extra flavor. Patience is key.  Peek at the underside of the veggies every once in a while with a pair of tongs.  This is how to know when it’s a good time to flip them over.
  • Use a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet or a stainless steel heavy-bottomed skillet. It helps to use a heavy-bottomed pan with good even heat distribution (cast-iron or carbon steel, 7-ply stainless steel like All-Clad, or even heavy-duty aluminum with multiple layers).
  • Use vegetables with a medium to high natural sugar content. Because sugar caramelizes, if the vegetables you’re searing have a little more natural sugar, you’re all but guaranteed a nice color and flavor. Purple carrots, red bell peppers, onions, shallots, etc. yield a naturally sweeter and sometimes darker colored sear. but you can sear any veggies, even carrots or delicious purple cauliflower sesame steaks.

What’s the Difference Between Zucchini and Yellow Squash?

There are several differences between zucchini and yellow squash, but they’re both easy to grow and bear a lot of squash. In fact, you can see my yellow squash growing in planter boxes below. Here are the main differences between these two summertime veggies.

  • The color of zucchini and yellow squash is obviously different with zucchini being dark green and yellow squash being yellow (hence the name).
  • The shape of zucchini is straight throughout and yellow squash tends to have a slender and sometimes curved neck and fat body. Additionally, some yellow squash varieties like the “crook neck” have very curved necks (hence the name) and bumpy skin, but overall taste the same as regular yellow squash.
  • The consistency of the “flesh” is different in zucchini versus yellow squash mostly because yellow squash has more and larger seeds in the fat part of the vegetable (the bottom) than zucchini. Zucchini tends to have a very firm flesh all the way through that holds up well to pan-searing and grilling. That’s not to say yellow squash isn’t tasty cooked these ways (it is). Try to find baby yellow squash because the flesh will be firmer and the seeds have not fully developed.
  • The taste of vine-ripened home-grown yellow squash is nuttier than its zucchini cousin which anyone who’s grown these two summer squashes can attest to. .  But, both zucchini and yellow squash start to lose flavor after being harvested. They hold up especially well in the veggie crisper in the fridge.

Growing Yellow Squash in My Window Box Planters

Perfect Pan-Seared Ingredients

  • 2 tp 3 medium zucchini, washed and sliced 1/4 inch thick, lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • fresh rosemary and flat-leaf parsley (optional but recommended)

How to Make Perfect Pan-Seared Zucchini in Just 10 Minutes

  1. Slice the zucchini. Wash and slice the zucchini lengthwise to get long evenly 1/4″ thick pieces.
  2. Cook the zucchini. Heat a cast-iron skillet or another heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  When the skillet is very hot, but not smoking, add the zucchini in a single layer being sure not to overlap the slices. Drizzle the tops with a little more olive oil, add a sprig of rosemary and parsley, and season with a little salt and pepper. Do not move the slices once they hit the skillet until they have turned golden brown on the bottoms (after approximately 5 minutes of cooking).
  3. Flip the zucchini and finish them. Flip the zucchini over, season with a little more salt and black pepper, reduce the heat to medium-high, and continue cooking for about 4 to 5 more minutes, or until they turn golden brown with slightly crispy edges. Check the underside of the slices periodically lifting a corner slightly with a pair of tongs to check for color. When they’re ready, the slices should be tender but still have a slight firmness. Remove them to a platter and serve immediately, or at room temperature Enjoy!

What Texture Should Pan-seared Zucchini Be?

This zucchini should be tender with a little “bite” to it and have a beautiful golden brown pan-sear. Above all, it should be easy to cut using a knife and fork (or just a fork).  And although cooking them longer is always an option, we prefer our zucchini to have a little more “bite” to them (even if I grew up eating mostly southern-style boiled or fried zucchini which have a much softer texture). You can see the difference in cooking times in the photos above.

What Should I Eat with Pan-Seared Zucchini?

Now that you’ve decided to make this zucchini, you’ll need some other tasty things to eat with them. Here are a few of our favorites to get you thinking of your own food pairing ideas.

Perfectly Pan-Seared Zucchini tips + tricks + FAQ’s

  • Can you eat raw zucchini? Yes, you can eat raw zucchini and it tastes great shaved into ribbons and added to summer salads. If it’s bitter, don’t eat it raw because (1) it won’t taste good, and (2) this generally means it has high levels of cucurbitacins, which are compounds that can be toxic.  All that said, I’ve eaten a lot of raw squash and zucchini in my life and I’ve never gotten sick. It’s something to consider nonetheless.
  • What are the health benefits of zucchini? Zucchini is high in antioxidants and promotes healthy digestion. It contains a lot of water and both soluble and insoluble fiber. Zucchini also has lots of micronutrients and vitamins needed for overall health. And cooked zucchini has slightly fewer A vitamins than raw zucchini. It’s even rich in potassium and may help lower blood sugar.
  • Where does zucchini originate from?  Zucchini as we know it today comes from Italy. It was developed near Milan in the 19th century and later brought to the United States by Italian immigrants. That said, the 7,000 year-old ancestors of zucchini come from the Americas. They were native to today’s Mexico and parts of South America.

Let’s get started!

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pan-seared caramelized and golden brown zucchini slices on a white platter and a sprig of crispy rosemary on top

Perfect Pan-Seared Zucchini


  • Author: Kelly
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings depending on the hunger level 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

If you’re looking for a vegetable to highlight in your next vegan meal or just a delicious side to accompany your grilled steak or chicken, this perfectly golden brown seasoned and pan-seared zucchini is the dish to make. It’s ready in 10 minutes or less and there’s no need to heat up the oven or fire up the grill. These zucchini have a ton of flavor and can be cooked to have a little “bite” or leave them a few minutes longer after the initial sear to get them as soft as you like. And, it’s a great way to use up all of that abundant zucchini growing in your summer garden.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tp 3 medium zucchini, washed and sliced 1/4 inch thick, lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • fresh rosemary and flat-leaf parsley (optional but recommended)


Instructions

  1. Slice the zucchini. Wash and slice the zucchini lengthwise to get long evenly 1/4″ thick pieces.
  2. Cook the zucchini. Heat a cast-iron skillet or another heavy-bottomed skillet to high heat and add a drizzle of olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan.  When the skillet is very hot, but not smoking, add the zucchini in a single layer being sure not to overlap the slices. Drizzle the tops with a little more olive oil, add a sprig of rosemary and parsley, and season with a little salt and pepper. Do not move the slices once they hit the skillet until they have turned golden brown on the bottoms (after approximately 5 minutes of cooking).
  3. Flip the zucchini and finish them. Flip the zucchini over, season with a little more salt and black pepper, reduce the heat to medium-high, and continue cooking for about 4 to 5 more minutes, or until they turn golden brown with slightly crispy edges. Check the underside of the slices periodically lifting a corner slightly with a pair of tongs to check for color. When they’re ready, the slices should be tender but still have a slight firmness. Remove them to a platter and serve immediately, or at room temperature Enjoy!

Notes

  • If you want an even softer zucchini cook as indicated above, and after they’ve been seared on both sides (for approximately 5 minutes on each side) place a lid on top of the skillet to steam them a bit.
  • If you want to add a little spice, go for it! This zucchini tastes great with a little added smoked paprika and/or a little cayenne pepper for a kick.
  • I don’t measure the olive oil for this recipe instead I drizzle lightly and add more if the pan or the veggies start looking dry. You can do the same. You shouldn’t need more than 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  • Adjust the heat as needed to avoid burning the zucchini on the bottoms before they have a chance to become golden brown and tender. Every range is different and some people have electric, induction, or gas so adjust accordingly.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Side Dishes
  • Method: Skillet
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 slices

Keywords: summer squash, summer squash recipes, zucchini recipes, pan seared zucchini, oven roasted zucchini,

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