Fried Zucchini Is the Ultimate Summer Appetizer

BY Jesse Szewczyk, TIMEJune 21, 2022 PRINT

As the days get longer and the weather warms up, my excitement for zucchini season grows. I love zucchini in any and all forms, whether that’s grilled, added to soups and stews, shredded, or even served raw.

But my absolute favorite way to enjoy zucchini is when it’s breaded and fried into crisp, golden-brown batons. There’s just something about the crunchy outside contrasting against the tender zucchini center that can’t be beat. Dunk them into your favorite sauce and you have the perfect summer appetizer.

This is my go-to method for making fried zucchini. It produces impossibly crisp spears that just about anyone would love. They’re perfectly golden, light, and just the thing to kick off a summer soiree.

Should I Salt Zucchini Before Frying?

Yes, you should always salt your zucchini before frying—especially if you’re aiming to achieve a crispy texture. Salting your zucchini helps remove the excess moisture stuck in the zucchini that would otherwise make frying a challenge.

To do so, place your cut zucchini in a colander nestled inside of a bowl. Sprinkle the zucchini with one teaspoon of salt and give it a toss. Let the zucchini drain for one hour and discard any liquid that accumulates in the bowl. After that, you’re ready to fry!

How Do You Keep Fried Zucchini From Getting Soggy?

Salting your zucchini is the most important step in preventing it from getting soggy. Additionally, make sure your pan is properly preheated before frying the breaded zucchini. Adding the zucchini to a cold pan will make it come out oily and soft rather than crisp and golden. A good rule of thumb is to preheat your pan for a full minute before frying your first batch. Once your zucchini is in the pan, let it cook undisturbed and try your best to avoid moving it too much before flipping.

3 Tips for Making the Best Fried Zucchini

Before you head into the kitchen to fry up some zucchini, keep these tips in mind.

1. Don’t overcrowd the pan. When frying the zucchini, make sure there is at least half an inch of space between each spear. This will help the zucchini brown evenly and become perfectly crisp.

2. Let the zucchini drain on a paper towel after frying. This will remove the excess oil and ensure the zucchini turns out nice and crisp.

3. Serve them with fresh lemon juice and a flourish of flaky sea salt. The pop of acidity brightens everything up while the additional salt creates that fried-and-salty combination that is impossible to resist.

Fried Zucchini

Serves 4 to 5

  • 2 medium zucchini, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Flaky salt, for serving (optional)
  • Dipping sauce, such as garlic aioli or remoulade (optional)

Trim the stems off of the zucchini and slice them in half crosswise. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into planks about 1/2-inch thick. Working with two of the stacked planks at a time, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide batons. Repeat with the remaining zucchini planks.

Place the zucchini batons in a colander placed inside of a bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and toss to evenly distribute. Let the zucchini sit uncovered at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile cut the lemon into wedges

In a large shallow bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, paprika, black pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk the eggs with a fork in a second large shallow bowl until broken up with no streaks of egg white. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a third large shallow bowl.

Transfer the zucchini onto a paper towel-lined plate and pat dry. Discard the water collected at the bottom of the bowl.

Working with a few pieces of zucchini at a time, dredge in the flour mixture. Then, working with 1 piece at a time, shake off excess flour and dredge in the eggs then the breadcrumb mixture, gently pressing the breadcrumbs into the zucchini so they stick. Place in a single layer on a large plate or baking sheet.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 10-inch or larger nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the breaded zucchini in a single layer and cook, flipping 2 or 3 times depending on the shape of the batons, until lightly browned on all sides, 2 to 3 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the zucchini onto a paper towel-lined plate. Wipe down the pan if needed then add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and repeat cooking the remaining zucchini.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges, flaky salt, and your favorite dipping sauce (if using).

Recipe Notes

Dipping sauce: Fried zucchini is delicious served with creamy mayo-based dips such as garlic aioli and remoulade.

Make ahead: Cut zucchini can be salted and placed in a colander placed inside of a bowl up to 12 hours in advance in the fridge.

Storage: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

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