It wasn’t until my mid-thirties while visiting family in Ohio when I first learned how to fry zucchini. It was mid-summer when zucchini was in season, we picked it right from the garden. It was the best fried zucchini I had ever tasted and I’m going to help you make it for yourself!
The funny thing is at the time they didn’t give me a real “recipe”. They prepared it, I ate it and soon I fell in love with it. The problem was when I asked for the recipe I was told, “add a little this”, “add a little that” and “you’ll know when it’s done”.
I promise not to do that with you!
Instead, I documented this recipe with specific cooking steps, pictures, specific quantities of ingredients, and lots of suggestions. You’ll learn everything you need to know about how to fry your zucchini, whether you want rounds, spears or other shapes.
Let’s get started.
Know How to Fry Zucchini Correctly
What shapes come to mind when we talk about frying zucchini? I ask, because technically, you can cut or slice your zucchini in almost any shape. There is no wrong or right shape to use. I fried different shapes and will show you below how they all came out.
I encourage you to experiment and find what style you like the best.
These zucchini circles or rounds, are also commonly referred to as sliced zucchini. However, technically you can slice zucchini horizontally to create the rounds or slice them lengthwise. In this post, when we say sliced zucchini, I’m referring to slicing them horizontally about ¼” thick to create the round circles. Hence the term rounds.
Ribbons are made by thinly slicing the zucchini lengthwise. The width is thinner than rounds. If you go too thin, they won’t hold their shape. I’d recommend slicing them about 1/8 of an inch thick.
You can use a mandolin, but I find they are too dangerous so I use a knife and slice them myself.
That’s right, you can fry zucchini as sticks. You can cut them so they look a bit like French fries. The above is how I cut them by halving the zucchini and then cutting it to length. Then I sliced them lengthwise and then through the center so they were not wide.
You can also fry zucchini in the shape of spears. Think pickles when you buy them cut as spears. They take about a minute more to fry. Make sure to turn them so all three sides get some fried batter.
Zucchini spears are great as an appetizer. I really enjoyed frying these and it will probably become my go-to method.
If you’re picking your own zucchini from your garden, make sure to grab some of the zucchini flowers. Check out my post about how to fry zucchini flowers. Heck, if you’re going to fry zucchini – fry the blossoms too!
How Long to Fry Zucchini
To test how long to fry the zucchini based on size and shape, I placed them all in the hot oil at the same time.
The sliced rounds, sticks, and ribbon zucchini all took the same length of time to fry, approximately 3 minutes on one side and 1 to 2 minutes on the other. That was using a medium heat with a cast iron pan on an induction burner.
Wait until the fried zucchini is golden brown
The secret for knowing when the zucchini is done is to fry until the breading is golden brown, flip and fry again until golden brown on the other side.
The zucchini spears only took about a minute longer per side. When biting into the spear, it was not hard and tasted fully cooked. It was, for lack of a better term, al dente.
You will need to turn the spears and sticks more while frying since you’re dealing with more sides.
Adjust cooking times accordingly
If you’re concerned about oil splattering, use a splatter screen as I did here.
Remember that times will vary depending on how hot your oil is, so this table is just a guide! If it gets to be golden brown early, flip it and don’t let it burn.
- Rounds/Slices: 3 minutes on first side, 1 1/2 minutes second side.
- Ribbons: 3 minutes on first side, 1 1/2 minutes second side.
- Spears: 4 minutes on first side, 2 1/2 minutes second side.
- Sticks: 3 minutes on first side, 1 1/2 minutes second side (turn a few times to make sure all sides are in contact with the oil.
Type of Zucchini
Any zucchini variety will work. I use what I have available. Different zucchinis have different levels of flavor. For example, black beauty zucchini has a strong zucchini flavor, while an Italian variety, like the pale zucchini types, have a milder flavor.
You can also fry yellow squash, but the flavor will be very different, and I wouldn’t call it fried zucchini. However, the process for frying them would be the same.
Fried Zucchini Breading
Let’s take a minute and discuss the breading used for frying your zucchini, regardless of shape or type of zucchini.
Traditional – fried zucchini with flour and egg
I call this method the traditional method because it uses all the standard ingredients used for a good fried zucchini breading. This includes flour, egg & milk wash, and breadcrumbs. This is the method I use but you are not required to use all those ingredients.
Here is the zucchini with flour, egg, milk and plain breadcrumbs. You can also use whole wheat flour which is what I did when I recorded the video back in 2016. You can watch the video in the recipe card at the end of this post.You can Jump to the Recipe Card here.
Frying zucchini with flour but no egg
You can also make your zucchini breading by using flour without any eggs.
- You can fry zucchini with flour only (not recommended, see image below.
- Fry zucchini with flour, milk, and breadcrumbs (no egg). In this case, you would dip the zucchini in the flour, then the milk then the breadcrumbs
You don’t have to always use egg when creating a batter for frying. I’ve fried zucchini without egg before and use the same egg-less batter for other foods whether it’s vegetables or meat, such as my fried chicken cutlets which doesn’t use egg.
You can see in the image below that there really isn’t much difference when you fry with or without the egg. The egg will give it a little more flavor, better coverage and airiness, but not by much at all.
I do not recommend trying to fry with just flour. I did this as an experiment and it came out flimsy and gross. There was no crust or crispiness as you can see below.
Best Breadcrumbs for Frying
Breadcrumbs are important because it’s what gives the best crunch. It’s easy to overthink the type of breadcrumbs, but almost any kind will do. I’ve got my opinions and I’ll share them below.
Italian breadcrumbs – these are great for Italian style fried zucchini where you want the Italian herb flavor to come through. In my opinion, this is not necessary to make them Italian.
You can still fry them without herbs, or even use plain breadcrumbs with your own chopped fresh or dried herbs. I will provide some ideas further down below.
Plain breadcrumbs – you can use plain breadcrumbs from the store or make your own. Plain store-bought breadcrumbs are often finely ground, which means less texture when fried. Still delicious, just not as crunchy, but still crispy.
Panko breadcrumbs – I don’t buy panko breadcrumbs, but if you do, purchase the plain variety. Just take a look at the ingredients between plain panko and seasoned and you’ll get the point. Follow my tips below if you want to add your own Italian seasoning.
Homemade breadcrumbs – by far this is my favorite choice for the best type of breadcrumbs to use.
Firstly, you have control over the freshness and quality of the ingredients. This is important for me. Secondly, making your own breadcrumbs is not an elaborate process. Simply take some artisan bread, tear them into 1-inch pieces and pulse them in the blender for a few seconds.
There is no need to toast them because you’re going to fry them anyway.
This is the process I used in my images as shown here. I’ve even used regular sandwich bread when in a crunch (pun not intended).
Now that I’ve gone over breading options, and ways to cut the zucchini, I want to give you the list of ingredients that I most often use. This will make approximately 25 fried zucchini rounds for a medium size zucchini.
Adjust quantities as needed and be flexible – there is no exact measurement.
- Medium zucchini – you can see the size in my image.
- Flour (white or whole) – 1 cup
- Milk (2% or whole) – approximately a cup
- Egg – 1 or 2 eggs – depends how much you leave on when dipping.
- Breadcrumbs – 1 cup
To avoid confusion, remember that the egg and the milk are mixed together to create an egg/milk wash. We dip the zucchini in it after the flour. Flour, egg/milk, then breadcrumbs.
Tips for Fried Sliced Zucchini
When making sliced fried zucchini rounds for this recipe, we will be frying the zucchini in a frying pan. This is not deep frying.
You can use a frying pan with deep sides, or a cast iron pan as I did as shown in my images. In the video, you’ll see that I didn’t have a cast iron pan and I used a stainless steel frying pan.
Slice the zucchini rounds to ¼” thick. For a medium zucchini it will create approximately 25 zucchini rounds. For serving size, estimate 5-6 rounds per person. Well, in our house much more. We ate them all right away. This truly is the best recipe for fried zucchini!
Recipe for Fried Zucchini
Here’s the recipe for fried zucchini that you will want to follow, regardless of whether you’re using sliced zucchini spears, ribbons or any other shape. The principle of breading and frying the zucchini doesn’t change, except for the length of time frying on each side.
Slice the Zucchini
Slice the zucchini according to the shape you want. I use zucchini rounds in this recipe. Slice them no more than 1/4″ thick
Prepare your dipping batter
The next step is to prepare the ingredients in bowls on the counter. Place them in the order of dipping – Flour, milk/egg mixture, and then breadcrumbs, plus a plate to store them on.
Coat the zucchini with the batter
After you dip and coat each zucchini round, place on a plate off to the side. Do not attempt to fry them as you dip. It gets too messy and it’s too easy to accidentally burn them.
Heat the frying oil
Add enough olive oil to coat the pan about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Heat to medium or medium-high. You want it hot enough that if you add a little bit of the breadcrumbs it will sizzle.
Be careful not to burn yourself.
Fry the zucchini until golden brown
Next, gently add the zucchini rounds to the oil using tongs. Do not overcrowd them.
Cook for about 3 minutes on the first side or until golden brown. If your oil is really hot, it may take only a minute. Once it’s golden brown, use the tongs or a fork to gently turn them over.
Place fried zucchini on a plate
Remove from the pan and place on a plate that has some paper towels on it or wire rack with paper towel underneath. This absorbs excess oil.
Serve warm and enjoy.
Making Fried Zucchini Italian-Style
As an Italian food writer, you may be surprised that for an Italian I’m not using herbs or Italian-specific seasonings in this recipe. The fact is you simply don’t need to.
But in case you want some extra flavors, here are some suggestions and ideas.
- Add 1 Tablespoon dried or fresh Italian parsley to the breadcrumbs.
- Add 1 Tablespoon dried or fresh basil to the breadcrumbs.
- Add 1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano to the breadcrumbs.
- Add a mix of all or some of the above to the breadcrumbs.
- Add ¼ cup of Italian grated cheese to the breadcrumbs.
How to Serve Fried Zucchini
Now that you know how to fry zucchini, how do you serve it? Here are some tips for the best ways to serve them.
The best way to serve fried zucchini is when they are still warm. If you’re not eating them right away, then simply bake or toast them for a few minutes to crisp them back up. I use a toaster oven and spread them out.
Serve with a dipping sauce
Pasta sauce will most likely be too runny; you want something thicker. I like using pizza marinara sauce. I like the Paesana brand and use it from the jar.
Horseradish dipping sauce is popular as well for fried zucchini, but I don’t have a recipe or opinion as I’ve never made it or tried it with my zucchini.
What does Fried zucchini go with?
Fried zucchini can be served as an appetizer, side dish, or part of a larger dish. I think it’s great anytime. 😊 Here are some ideas you can follow.
Shrimp and pasta – Fried zucchini or any vegetable goes great as a side dish for seafood recipes such as shrimp and pasta or clams and linguini.
Pasta – You can use it as a side dish to pasta or add it in with the pasta directly, such as angel hair pasta with my easy simple marinara sauce.
Baked breaded Italian chicken – Zucchini always compliments chicken recipes, so try it with some baked Italian chicken breasts.
Pasta with Lemon and Asparagus – perfect for the summer months, fried zucchini will compliment your pasta with lemon and asparagus as a perfect side dish.
In Case You’re Wondering…
Here are some more expert tips just in case you might have some of these questions.
Can fried zucchini be made in advance?
Yes, they can, but you will need to reheat the zucchini in the oven or toaster oven before serving.
I put mine in a oven proof pan and just use the toast setting in my toaster over as shown above. I toast them just enough to warm them up. Keep an eye on them as they may burn quickly due to the olive oil.
Can you freeze fried zucchini?
No, do not freeze them. Zucchini has a high-water content, and they won’t crisp up like you want when they thaw. For the best results, use fresh zucchini for frying.
Can you store them in the refrigerator?
Yes, you can store fried zucchini in the fridge, but make sure they are in an air-tight container. They will last for 2 -3 days. The longer they are in the fridge, the soggier they will become due to moisture. I would only store it in the fridge if you needed to.
You should reheat as I described above – in a toaster oven or regular oven until it becomes sizzly and crispy. The inside texture will not be the same as when it is freshly taken out of the frying pan.
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If you enjoy this recipe and Italian cooking, feel free to follow us on social media or join my email list for more recipes and tips. Enjoy the recipe below!
- 1 medium zucchini 1 medium zucchini makes 25 rounds on average
- olive oil to fill 1/4 to 1/2 inch in pan
- 1 cup flour
- 1 egg can be omitted
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- Wash and slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds – no larger.
- Pour approximately 1 cup of flour in a bowl or plate.
- Beat 1 egg and 1 cup of milk together in a bowl.
- Pour approximately 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a bowl or plate
- Take each zucchini round (or other shape) and dip in the above order making sure to coat generously and set aside on a plate.
- When ready, heat about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of olive oil in a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Just hot enough to sizzle when you add the zucchini.
- When the oil is hot, use some tongs to place the rounds in the pan, making sure not to overcrowd them. This will take 2-3 batches. In my video I do about 4 at a time, so it depends on the size of pan.
- Let them fry for about 3 minutes on the first side. The hotter the oil the faster they will cook, so adjust your timing accordingly. NOTE: When the breading is a nice golden brown, they are ready to flip regardless of how long it's been. If they aren't turning color fast, then the oil probably isn't hot enough – you want to hear it sizzle!
- Flip over and cook another 1 or 2 minutes until golden brown.
- Transfer to a plate with a paper towel (the paper towel will help absorb the excess oil).
- Serve warm.
- Temperatures vary depending on the pan and how high you have the heat. So the key to timing is to flip them when they are golden brown. Do the same with the second side.
- Spears will take a little longer to cook, by about a minute.
- If you need more egg or other ingredient, add as needed.
- The egg is not required and can be omitted if preferred.
- Place on paper towels when you first remove them from the pan to remove excess oil.
- Reheat in a toaster oven using an oven safe pan.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipe for fried zucchini. I’d love to know how you make your own fried zucchini so let me know in the comments below!