Grilled zucchini is a quick and healthy summer side dish, ready in just 10 minutes! They are seasoned with savory spices for maximum flavor, then cooked until lightly charred and tender. It’s the perfect pairing with a variety of barbecued foods.
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Zucchini is one of the easiest side dishes to prepare. You can purchase green-skinned squash year around at most markets. They have a neutral taste with a hint of sweetness that develops when cooked. For this recipe, I slice them in half lengthwise, then use olive oil and a blend of dried seasonings to enhance their flavor.
Toss the squash on the grill, and let it sizzle! Stunning grill marks will form in a few minutes, and the slices will soften and tenderize. Serve with a juicy burger, cedar planked salmon, crisp corn on the cobb, or barbecued chicken for a complete meal.
Choose zucchini that are emerald green in color and feel firm, with no soft spots or bruising. Being a summer squash, their peak season is from May to July, but you can often find it throughout the year as it’s grown in various warm weather regions. Pick a zucchini about 7 to 8-inches long and 9 to 10 ounces in weight.
Typically you can get three to four ½-inch slices from one zucchini this size depending on width. For smaller zucchini, it may be best to halve them. Yellow squash or calabacita (Mexican squash) can be used instead. Yellow tends to be slightly thicker skinned with a smaller tapering end. Calabcita is lighter green in color and a bit sweeter.
How to cut zucchini for grilling
Cut the zucchini lengthwise into ½-inch thick slices. It’s important to slice it wide enough to preserve its structure, so it can be easily lifted off the grill and not fall through the grates. This squash is composed of over 90% water and will get very mushy and hard to handle if sliced too thin.
Make sure to leave the skin on to hold the interior together while cooking on the barbecue. Alternatively, you can cut the vegetable on a diagonal for smaller pieces. They can also be quartered lengthwise into batons if you prefer sticks.
Benefits of dried seasonings
Dried seasonings are concentrated in flavor and are very low in moisture. They prevent adding extra water to the vegetable that could dilute its flavor and make it steam on the grill. You can keep the seasonings simple with salt and pepper, but I add onion and garlic powder. The dehydrated and ground alliums add a pleasant roasted, earthy taste. Use Italian seasoning or individual dried herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, or thyme for a herbaceous flavor.
Coat the sliced squash with olive oil to help the spices stick to the surface, not the grill. The oil also helps the fat-soluble flavor compounds in the seasonings dissolve for better taste. If you like it spicy, sprinkle on red pepper flakes, chili powder, or chipotle chili powder.
How to grill zucchini
To achieve stunning grill marks, preheat the barbecue and grease the grates to prevent sticking. Heat the grill to medium, about 350 to 375°F (160 to 177°C). Add the zucchini at a 45-degree angle to the grates to get a nice design and prevent them from falling through.
The key is to press the slices down on the hot grates lightly. This process drives off moisture which could convert to steam and turns areas in contact with the grate golden brown. Do not move the pieces. Once you see those lines form, give it a flip and cook until tender. A grill pan works great if you prefer to cook the zucchini on a stovetop.
How long to grill zucchini
For ½-inch thick pieces, it takes about 3 to 5 minutes per side. I like to cook the zucchini just past crisp tender, then let it sit for a few minutes before serving for gently carry-over cooking to occur. Each grill varies, so keep a close eye on the vegetable’s visual change.
They should pierce easily with a fork and retain their structure along the edges. The slices should be glossy with some moisture on the surface. Overcooking will create dry and mushy pieces.
Extra ways to flavor grilled zucchini
I like to garnish with chopped parsley or thin slices of fresh basil. Add some grated parmesan cheese or crumbled feta on top. Toast up some bread crumbs or nuts for a crunchy element. If you want to serve it with a sauce, try a homemade pesto, green goddess dressing, tzatziki, balsamic glaze, or ranch sauce.
Serve this with
Yes! The green skin is thin and tender. It’s full of fiber and nutrients, so I recommend keeping it on. The squash is also high in moisture, so the skin helps keep the vegetable intact during the cooking process.
The squash slices need not be pre-salted before grilling to draw out moisture and bitterness like you would for eggplant. I recommend just seasoning with salt and other desired spices before grilling to add a pleasant savory taste. You can lightly pat dry the squash before cooking if you notice moisture to prevent steaming on the grill.
The key is to use high enough heat to get the grates searing the zucchini as soon as it hits the grill. Grilling adds terrific flavor to the surface while quickly cooking the flesh. If left in the heat for too long, more moisture is released. You’ll notice that overcooked pieces get soggy and mushy in texture. The zucchini should have a tender bite.
Should I marinate zucchini before grilling?
If marinating, then it’s best to do so after grilling. The cell walls contain over 90% moisture, so a wet, salty and acidic solution will draw out the water, break down the structure, and make the vegetable mushy if not completely drained and dried. It’s better to use oil and dried seasonings first to flavor the surface. Add a dressing or drizzle with balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, or citrus such as lemon juice while still warm to brighten the taste before serving.
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- Cut the Zucchini – Trim the stem and end off the zucchini. Slice lengthwise into ½-inch thick pieces. Alternatively, cut into diagonal pieces. Place on a sheet tray.
- Add the Seasonings – In a small bowl, combine salt, Italian seasoning, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Brush both sides of the sliced zucchini with olive oil. Evenly season both sides with the salt mixture.
- Grill the Zucchini – Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium heat between 350 to 375°F (160 to 177°C). Clean the grill grates and grease with olive oil. Place the zucchini slices on the grill at a 45-degree angle to the grates. This will give a nice char mark pattern and prevent the pieces from falling through the grates. Lightly press down on the pieces to make contact with the grates. Cover and cook until golden brown lines form, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip, cover, and cook until tender but not mushy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- To Serve – Transfer the zucchini to a serving dish, garnish with chopped parsley and parmesan cheese (if using).
- Storing: Cover and store grilled zucchini in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high heat in 15 to 30-second increments until warm.
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