Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic

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Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic that's ready in under ten minutes and comes out with the perfect tender crisp zucchini every time!


Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic is the side dish you will want to serve over and over again. It's seriously the best zucchini recipe. Zucchini lovers should also check out these Zucchini Pizza Boats and Healthy Zucchini Lasagna.

Zucchini is one of those ingredients I find myself reaching for all the time. It is quick and easy to cook, works with almost any flavor profiles, and can be used in everything from zoodles to boats to simple salads and soup. But the zucchini dish I make the most often is probably this easy sauteed zucchini. It takes less than 10 minutes to make, can be seasoned in millions of ways, and is a side dish the whole family loves.

The thing I love most about cooking zucchini on the stovetop this way is the simplicity. A touch of olive oil, some minced garlic, garden fresh zucchini and/or summer squash, fresh herbs if you have any on hand, and in less than ten minutes you have the most amazing side dish. My kids love it sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and I love getting a veggie on the table that everyone enjoys. 

A few important notes about sauteeing zucchini that will ensure it comes out delicious every time. First and most importantly, do not overcook your zucchini. Zucchini should be tender-crisp and maintain some crunch. Usually, five minutes is all it takes for perfect zucchini. No one wants it mushy.

Secondly, wait to salt your zucchini until you serve it. Salt draws out the water in zucchini and when you salt the zucchini too early, the extra water is released into the pan and stops the browning process. You want your zucchini to get some nice, delicious browned bits.

Lastly, give your zucchini some space. A larger pan is your friend when you are cooking zucchini. You want it to be in a single layer or as close as possible to a single layer. This ensures the zucchini can be in contact with the hot skillet and brown. Layering a bunch of zucchini in a small pan will cause it to steam and you will miss all that delicious caramelization.

Sauteed zucchini with garlic, thyme, and summer squash in a skillet.

How to Saute Zucchini

Sauteeing zucchini couldn't be easier and once you master a few simple steps, you can make all kinds of different sauteed zucchini recipes.

  1. Prep the zucchini by washing and drying it. Then slice in half lengthwise and slice into half moons. You can also cook the zucchini in rounds or sticks, but I think it comes out best as half moons.
  2. Heat olive oil (or another cooking oil) over medium high heat. At this point, I like to add my flavor agents to add flavor to the oil. So at this point, you can add your minced garlic fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme, red pepper flakes, shallots, etc. to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant, making sure they don't begin to burn.
  3. Add the zucchini in a single layer if possible. Let cook for about 3 minutes or until it begins to brown. Stir and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until tender crisp. Make sure not to overcook the zucchini. It should be tender crisp and shouldn't be mushy.
  4.  Now is time for the salt. Add salt, pepper, and any other spices you like. Salting the zucchini early can make it mushy so make sure to wait until the end.

What to Serve with Sauteed Zucchini

This easy side dish can be served with pretty much anything since the flavors are versatile and universally appealing. However, like anything else, we all have some favorites. Here are some of my favorite main dishes to pair with sauteed zucchini.

  • Chicken in pretty much any form tastes great with zucchini. Make some simple grilled chicken, grab a rotisserie chicken, or make this amazing Parmesan Crusted Chicken.
  • Another great option is fish. Two of my favorites are this Blackened Tilapia and Italian Salmon.
  • This zucchini goes great with pasta and is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies. We love adding it right to this One Pot Caprese Pasta.
  • If you have leftovers, use this with your morning eggs. It makes a great scramble or omelet. You can also toss it with some brown rice and leftover protein for a quick lunch bowl.
  • Make this easy Beef Stroganoff with ground beef and egg noodles and serve this delicious zucchini on the side.

Recipe Ideas for Sauteed Zucchini

There are so many different ways to saute zucchini and endless combinations of flavors. Here are some of the recipes we use most often to make zucchini in a saute pan.

  • Add onions: Kick up the flavor by adding some thinly sliced red onions, white onions, or shallots to the pan with the zucchini. To make sure the onions are tender, cook them for 5-8 minutes first and then add the zucchini.
  • Add tomatoes: Zucchini and tomatoes are one of my favorite combinations for summer. Add a handful of cherry tomatoes to add even more flavor.
  • Add Parmesan: Not surprisingly, Parmesan is a great addition to this dish. Just top everything with Parmesan right before serving.
  • Add lemon: You can also finish this dish with some fresh lemon. Lemon juice is one option and to add even more flavor is using lemon zest as well.
  • Make it spicy: If you love things with some punch, add some red pepper flakes to the oil and infuse it with some heat. You could also use fresh jalapenos for a different twist.
  • Add carrots: A lot of people like to pair zucchini and carrots. Since carrots take a bit longer to cook, cook them for about five minutes before adding the zucchini to the pan.
  • Use butter: Swap in some butter for the olive oil to make a richer, more indulgent dish. Plus the butter adds some nutty flavors to the recipe.

Garlic sauteed zucchini and squash in a black skillet with fresh thyme.

Tips for Making Sauteed Zucchini and Squash

Follow these three simple tips and your zucchini will come out perfectly every time. 

  • Wait to add salt: One of the biggest mistakes people make when cooking zucchini is adding the salt too soon. When you add salt to zucchini, it pulls the water out of the zucchini. This water, even if it is a small amount, ends up in the skillet and causes your zucchini to steam. Steaming makes the zucchini softer and soggier and also means no delicious charred spots. So wait until right before serving to add the salt.
  • Don't overcook it: If your zucchini comes out mushy without any texture, you are cooking it too long. Zucchini and summer squash should be cooked until tender-crisp so it still has some bite. This only takes about 4-5 minutes.
  • Use a large pan: Any time you are cooking vegetables and want to end up with some browned, charred edges, the vegetables need space. Using a larger pan means that you can have your zucchini in a single layer so that it cooks evenly without steaming. 
The Recipe
Sauteed zucchini and summer squash with fresh thyme and garlic in a bowl.

Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic

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  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or half the amount dried thyme)
  • 3 zucchini, cut into half moons (or summer squash or a combination)
  • Salt and pepper

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Heat the olive oil over medium high heat.


Add the garlic and thyme. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant.


Add the zucchini. Stir and then press down into the pan and let cook for 2-3 minutes without stirring until the zucchini begins to brown.


Stir and cook for 2-3 more minutes until tender crisp.


Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Top with extra thyme if desired. You can also add fresh lemon juice and Parmesan cheese.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2/3 cup
Amount Per Serving
Calories 74
Calories from Fat 38
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 4g
Saturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 20mg
Total Carbohydrate 8g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 6g
Protein 3g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
On Sautéed Zucchini with Garlic
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January 31, 2021 - 15:01
Add a Rating:
Absolutely Tasty!!If you follow the recipe precisely.
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jean flenia
July 25, 2022 - 09:07
I tried it after my daughter made it and it was amazing!!!!
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