Zucchini with Butter and Garlic

Cooking zucchini with butter and garlic is one of the easiest and most delicious ways to serve this lovely vegetable. This recipe is not only simple, but it can easily accommodate a wide range of dishes or cuisines. You can have this wonderful side dish ready to go in less than 20 minutes!

zucchini with butter and garlic

Using Zucchini with Butter

You’ll notice on our site that there aren’t too many zucchini recipes that use butter, but rather olive oil. Such as my recipe for sauteed zucchini and garlic. That’s because both sides of my family are from the southern regions of Italy.

However, for this recipe, I wanted to do something different and go with a more northern-Italian variation by replacing the olive oil with butter.

Typically northern regions of Italy use more butter and creams with their dishes, while southern Italy all the way to Sicily, uses olive oil. This is due to what they are able to grow agriculturally in the various regions.

Using the zucchini with butter provides a richer flavor and combined with the garlic, is like adding a cherry on top!

Sautéing the Zucchini with the Butter and Garlic

What makes this recipe so easy is how we cook it all together. We don’t bake or fry the zucchini but saute it in a sauce pan over medium heat.

We first saute the butter and garlic together and then add in the zucchini after a few minutes. It really is that simple as you’ll see in my images below.

Using Basil with the Zucchini

Although you don’t have to, adding in basil is another way to enhance this recipe. I often use basil as my preferred herb when cooking with zucchini. Not only do I have it on hand year round by growing basil without soil, but I really love the combination of zucchini and basil together, especially with pasta.

Use fresh basil, not dried. If you saved your basil from the summer by freezing the basil leaves in ice cube trays or some other method, this is a great recipe to use them in.

Simply take your fresh basil leaves and stack them. Then roll them like a cigar and slice them lengthwise so you end up with a bunch of ribbons. If they seem too long, slice them crosswise to make them shorter.


The ingredients you’ll need for making this side dish are exactly what the recipe name implies, plus the basil.


We’ll use two medium size zucchini which will make enough for 4 to 6 servings.


You’ll only need one Tablespoon of butter. A little goes a long way.


This recipe calls for two cloves of garlic which should be chopped finely. For a more subtle garlic flavor, slice the garlic instead.

Basil (optional)

Use a small handful of fresh or frozen basil leaves, but do not use dried basil for this recipe.

Can You Use Frozen Zucchini?

You can substitute approximately 1 and ½  cups frozen zucchini for the fresh zucchini, but the result will be a softer, mushier zucchini side dish.

I’ve done this on numerous occasions for different recipes with Italian squash. It still tastes great and is often more economical when your budget is tight, or you don’t grow your own zucchini.

Zucchini with Butter and Garlic

To make zucchini with butter and garlic, follow these steps below. You can also see my detailed recipe card below.

In a medium sauce pan, melt the tablespoon of butter over low-medium heat.

melt the butter in a frying pan

While the butter is melting, chop two cloves of garlic. If you aren’t sure about two cloves being too much, you can use just one, or slice the garlic lengthwise into thin strips.  

chop two cloves of garlic

Add the garlic to the melted butter and spread it around so the garlic is covered with the butter. Make sure the garlic does not burn by giving it a frequent stir and keeping the heat to a low-medium level.

add garlic to butter

Meanwhile, take your zucchini and cut it into half-moons. Do this by slicing the zucchini lengthwise and then slicing them crosswise into slices. Since the zucchini is cut lengthwise to start with, this creates the half moon. See my images below.

slice the zucchini in half-moons

Add the zucchini to the butter and garlic mixture and stir so that the zucchini is adequately coated with the melted butter.

add zucchini to pan with the butter and garlic

While that is cooking, grab a handful of basil leaves. Layer them on top of each other and roll them up..

Then slice them so they create thin strips that look like ribbons. If they appear too long, just cut them to be shorter.

add chopped basil leaves for extra flavor

Add the basil when the zucchini is almost ready to be served. The basil doesn’t need to be cooked down for a long time, otherwise it can lose some of its flavor.

Serve warm as a perfect side dish.

Recipe Variations and Ideas

This recipe is very adaptable to different variations. Sometimes you may find an ingredient may not go well with your main dish, perhaps overpowering it. So you can modify it based on your own preferences.

Here are some ideas that might help you out when the need arises. Knowing how to make the basics of this recipe can be just the start, opening the option for more recipes to add to your collection down the road!

  • Add a drop of fresh lemon or lemon concentrate for a brighter flavor.
  • Use Italian parsley or even thyme instead of basil if you prefer those herbs.
  • Add some red pepper flakes for some extra heat.
  • Switch the butter with olive oil.
  • Add in some scallions or shallots.

This Side Dish Goes Well With…

Zucchini with butter and garlic always goes well with chicken recipes such as fried chicken cutlets, baked chicken breasts, rosemary whole chicken. It also pairs well with other vegetables such as eggplant dishes, or light pastas such as pasta with asparagus and lemon or pasta with alfredo sauce and mushrooms.

Serve with some artisan bread or a baguette. You don’t have use homemade Italian bread, but if you do, it will taste amazing!

Similar Zucchini Recipes

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like the following.

italian zucchini flower blossom recipe

Instead of sauteeing zucchini, this recipe uses the blossoms to make fried zucchini flowers!

sauteed zucchini

Italian style zucchini with olive oil and garlic is also delicious and healthy! It can be a side dish or toss it in some pasta for a main meal.

I hope you enjoy this recipe, please let me know how it goes for you and if you made your own unique modifications!

zucchini with butter and garlic

Zucchini with Butter and Garlic

Delicious zucchini side dish with rich and full flavor.
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 2 medium zucchini sliced in half moons
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • small handful basil cut in ribbons Optional


  • Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over low-medium heat.
  • Add in the chopped garlic and stir to coat, reduce heat to low so as not to burn the garlic.
  • Meanwhile cut the zucchini in half moons by cutting them lengthwise then cutting in 1/4" slices.
  • Add the zucchini in with the butter and garlic and stir to coat.
  • Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat until zucchini is cooked through. For firmer zucchini cook less, for softer zucchini cook closer to 15 minutes.
  • Toss in your fresh basil a few minutes before serving. This step is optional.


  • Try adding additional herbs to match your dish.
  • Do not let the garlic burn. If it does then toss it out and start over.
  • You do not need to peel the zucchini.
  • You can use frozen zucchini instead. It just won’t be as firm.
  • Turn this side dish into a main meal by adding it to a plate of pasta with a ratio of 1 cup of pasta to 1 small zucchini.
  • Goes great with chicken and roasts. Serve alongside with some fresh artisan bread.

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