Grilled Zucchini

This Grilled Zucchini recipe is a quick, easy, versatile, prep ahead side dish that will knock your socks off!  Plus, it goes well with anything!

This grilled zucchini is an essential, epic side dish that will win over even the toughest zucchini critics – it might even upstage the main course!  It transforms plain, humble zucchini into a bright yet simple, elevated, side laced with lemon, garlic and Italian seasonings.  The recipe is simple to make by tossing all the ingredients together then grilling outdoors or on an indoor grill pan. This grilled zucchini and squash is also fabulous to make for company because it’s vegan, gluten-free, low carb, keto and Whole30 friendly– win, win, win!  I’ve also included several seasoning/flavor variations so you can mix up this recipe to suit your mood. And bonus, this grilled zucchini recipe works with summer squash as well!  Serve your grilled zucchini alongside all your favorite cookout foods like NY Strip Steak, Best Burgers and Balsamic Chicken for a tasty meal everyone will be raving about.

Zucchini is a versatile, mild mannered vegetable (technically a fruit!) that can be dressed up in all sorts of ways. We particularly love it in zucchini lasagna, zucchini casserole, and cilantro lime shrimp zucchini boats, and of course, grilled zucchini for a charming side.

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top view of grilled zucchini on a white platter

Grilled Zucchini Recipe

Aren’t we always looking for an easy dinner side dish?!  I put most of my effort into the main dish, so I LOVE an easy, yummy side that tastes exponentially more delicious than the effort I put into it. Enter this grilled zucchini recipe!

Before this recipe, I served up grilled veggies alongside my favorite proteins seasoned with a little of this and a little of that – I didn’t know what I was missing! I never would have guessed grilled zucchini could taste THIS GOOD. 

This recipe transforms mild, unassuming zucchini into confident, crisp-tender zucchini dressed to impress. It’s the kind of extraordinarily delicious side you want seconds and thirds of so you can inhale its vibrant, bright, garlicky, herbaceous notes once more. 

More reasons to love this grilled zucchini recipe:

  • it looks uber fancy but is astonishingly quick and easy to prepare
  • pairs beautifully with chicken, fish or meat
  • pairs well with practically every type of cuisine
  • is versatile: mix up the flavor profile with different oils, vinegars or spices
  • is vegan, gluten free, low-carb, keto and Whole30 friendly
  • can be prepped up to two hours ahead of time then grilled when ready
  • can also be made with squash which is available year round
  • can be cooked in an indoor grill pan – another win for year-round grilled zucchini!

What zucchini is best for grilling?

Either Black Beauty Zucchini (the most common type) or Gourmet Gold are excellent for grilling but if you can get your hands on Green Griller Zucchini, then you’ve hit the jackpot.  This type of zucchini boasts a fatter, blockier oblong shape which yields broad, more uniform slices that are easy to flip and a texture that holds well after cooking. Its flavor is also deliciously nutty.

WHAT SIZE ZUCCHINI IS BEST FOR GRILLING? 

You can grill any size zucchini but for optimal flavor and texture, I recommend small to medium-sized zucchini.  Small to medium sized zucchini have a fresh, mild flavor with smaller seeds and thinner skins.  Larger zucchini or summer squash can be either flavorless or bitter, stringy, seedy and watery.  Smaller zucchini are also easier to cut into uniform slices.

3 ways to cut zucchini and squash for grilling

How to cut zucchini and summer squash for grilling?  There really is no right or wrong to this answer as long as you cut the zucchini slices at least 1/3-inch thick.  Of course, each shape has their pros and cons:  Here’s a little breakdown:

  • Rounds:  slice the zucchini and squash into ⅓ to 1/2-inch-thick rounds.  Although beautiful, I find this shape more of a hassle to cook because there are 4X as many zucchini slices to flip!
  • Wedges/Sticks/Batons: cut the zucchini in half lengthwise; place the cut sides down flat on the cutting board and cut it lengthwise in half again to create four zucchini wedges or sticks. This is my second favorite way to cut zucchini because the batons hold their shape well, but they don’t cook quite as evenly and you don’t get that coveted char on all sides.
  • Long Planks:  is my preferred method of cutting zucchini (more on how to cut below).  You get a long, even surface area for continual contact with the grill and they are easy to flip.

HOW THICK SHOULD I CUT THE ZUCCHINI BEFORE GRILLING?

When cutting zucchini, take care not to slice them too thin or you’ll end up with soggy zucchini.  Here’s how to cut them for perfectly crisp-tender grilled zucchini every time:

  • Lay the zucchini on a cutting board and slice both of the ends off. 
  • Cut the zucchini lengthwise into slabs that are about 1/3-inch thick.  
  • This could mean 3 or 4 slabs per zucchini.  When in doubt, cut them on the thicker side. 
  • Thicker slabs won’t break apart when removing from the grill and grill up crisp-tender instead of mushy.
  • If your zucchini is extra-long, you can cut it half crosswise and then into 1/3-inch-thick slabs so it’s easier to flip on the grill. 
front view of grilled zucchini recipe garnished by lemon

Ingredients for grilled zucchini and squash

It doesn’t take much to transform unassuming, mild tasting zucchini and squash into the bold, confident stars they were born to be.  This grilled zucchini recipe uses minimal ingredients but you will be blown away at the flavor. Here’s what you need for grilled zucchini and squash:

  • Zucchini: look for zucchini and/or squash that are small to medium-sized (no longer than 6 to 8 inches) for the best flavor and texture. They should be very firm without any give/wiggle so make sure to gently squeeze each zucchini before popping it in your cart.  The skin should be smooth and free of nicks, cuts and bruises and be slightly prickly yet shiny, a key indicator of freshness. Store the zucchini in a plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper drawer without washing first.  Use it as quickly as possible for the best texture, but it should last up to 5 days. If you notice it wilting/becoming soft, use it immediately.
  • Olive Oil:  is used in the marinade to add and deliver flavor and coats the zucchini so the exterior can caramelize without sticking to the grill.  Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Lemon:  you will need the juice of one lemon and one teaspoon lemon zest – so please use fresh!  The bright pop of lemon juice highlights the garlic and seasonings and is what makes this recipe truly spectacular. Of course, you can use more or less lemon to taste.
  • Garlic:  three cloves of garlic bring the tantalizing garlic-lemon flavor we all know and love and make this recipe taste far more complex that it is.  If you’re in a bind, you may substitute with a heaping ½ teaspoon garlic powder but fresh is best.
  • Herbs:  dried parsley and dried basil add a hint of earthiness that rounds out the dish. Feel free to add additional herbs or substitute with 3X the amount of fresh herbs to dried.  You can also swap in your favorite herb blend such as Italian seasonings.
  • Salt and pepper:  a must!  They are a key ingredient to great tasting, never bland zucchini.  Kosher salt and pepper are added directly to the marinade but you may also season with additional freshly cracked salt and pepper to taste afterwards if needed. If you use table salt instead of kosher salt, you will need half the amount.

grilled zucchini recipe variations

This recipe is a blank canvas for all sorts of add-ins such as Parmesan, fresh herbs or a drizzle of balsamic. Here are some tasty ideas:

  • Use squash!  This recipe works equally well with squash or a blend of both zucchini and squash.
  • Make skewers.  Instead of planks or spears, you can thread zucchini rounds onto skewers and grill. 
  • Add freshly grated Parmesan.  This nutty, umami adds complex flavor and is always a hit with kids and adults alike.  Sprinkle the Parmesan on after you remove the zucchini from the heat. 
  • Add feta.  Sprinkle your platter of grilled zucchini with feta and enjoy the salty, tangy flair.
  • Add a drizzle of balsamic.  For a different spin, try swapping half of the lemon juice for balsamic and drizzle the platter with either quality balsamic or sweeter balsamic glaze.
  • Add fresh herbs.  Add fresh mint, basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, etc. directly to the marinade and any additional herbs after grilling to garnish.
  • Spice it up.  Add a dash of red pepper flakes to the marinade or sprinkle onto the grilled zucchini for those who like it hot.
  • Add pesto.  Add a couple tablespoons pesto to the marinade or drizzle pesto on top of the zucchini before serving.
  • Add nuts for crunch.  Sliced almonds, roasted pecans, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper pistachios, etc. would offer a textural contrast.
  • Add panko for crunch.  Sprinkle on buttery toasted panko after grilling. Use this recipe as a guide.
  • Add seeds for crunch.  Add seeds such as roasted pumpkin seeds, roasted sunflower seeds, etc.
  • Add dried fruit for sweetness.  Sweet and savory is a favorite pairing especially with some crunch!  Add some dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried peaches, raisins, etc.
  • Dip, dip, dip!  Dip the tangy grilled zucchini and squash in cooling, creamy tzatziki, ranch sauce or pesto.

Variations:  Try these flavor combos!

Zucchini and squash are mild in flavor which makes them a blank canvas to dress in the flavorings of any type of cuisine – which means they pair well with every type of cuisine. While Mediterranean and Italian are always a favorite paired with lemon juice, you can also swap in your favorite seasonings or seasoning blends paired with lemon juice, lime juice, or a splash of soy sauce or balsamic.  Keep the ¼ cup olive oil then add an acid and seasonings of your choosing.  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Asian Grilled Zucchini:  rice vinegar, soy, sesame oil (just a splash) honey sriracha, ginger and garlic garnished with sesame seeds.
  • Greek Grilled Zucchini:  red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, then top with crumbled feta.
  • Mexican Grilled Zucchini : lime juice, chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic, salt pepper, etc., then top with crumbled Cotija.
  • Cajun Grilled Zucchini:  Cajun seasoning, lime juice, garlic.
  • Middle Eastern Grilled Zucchini: half lemon and half balsamic, curry powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, garlic, salt and pepper.

Variations: try these seasoning blends!

If your seasoning blend contains salt then make sure to reduce the salt in the recipe and then season the grilled zucchini and squash with additional salt to taste after cooking.  Here are some ideas:

showing how to grill zucchini by adding it to a serving platter and sprinkling with fresh herbs

How to grill zucchini and squash

Now, let’s get to the grilling!  Grilling zucchini is very simple as long as you pay attention to the thickness of your zucchini slices, grill temperature and general timing.  Here’s how to grill zucchini (full measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Slice zucchini.  Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 1/3-inch-thick planks.
showing how to grill zucchini by slicing it lengthwise into planks
  • Marinate zucchini. Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and seasonings together in a freezer size resealable bag.  Add the zucchini and turn to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
a collage showing how to grill zucchini by adding olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, basil and parsley to a freezer bag then adding zucchini slices to marinate
  • Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. That’s about 400 to 450 degrees.  Clean the grill with a wire grill brush and generously grease with oil.
  • Grill on the grates for 3 minutes per side, turning once. Cook just until crisp tender, don’t overcook!
a collage showing how to grill zucchini by adding zucchini to the grill then flipping over when there are grill marks

Serve immediately. Transfer the zucchini to a platter. For extra flavor, brush with some of the marinade left behind in the bag. Dig in!

How do you grill zucchini without it becoming soggy?

If you’ve suffered through soggy or mushy zucchini, you’ve probably never wanted to touch it again.  But please keep in mind not all grilled zucchini is created equal.  When grilled correctly, zucchini and squash are crisp tender, lightly caramelized and injected with flavor.  There are three keys to success for tender-crisp zucchini every time:

  • Set yourself up for success and choose small to medium zucchini.  Larger zucchini have larger seeds which makes them waterier and pulpier; not the ideal conditions for that coveted crisp-tender texture.
  • Slice the zucchini at least 1/3-inch thick. Thicker zucchini is harder to overcook, so it grills up tender and not mushy.
  • Grill over medium high heat (about 400 to 450 degrees F). This is the ideal temperature because it’s hot enough to deliver those beautiful grill lines while caramelizing and crisping up the outside, but not too hot that it burns the zucchini on the outside before the inside is tender.  
  • Don’t cook the zucchini too long.  This is crucial. The less time you cook the zucchini, the crisper it will be.  The longer you cook the zucchini, the more tender it will be.  If you don’t want soggy zucchini, don’t cook it past crisp-tender.
  • Serve the zucchini immediately.   Even if you cook the zucchini perfectly crisp-tender, it has a tendency to get a little mushy as it sits and cools so make sure you serve it immediately.

More tips FOR SUCCESS

  • Slice the zucchini uniformly.  A uniform thickness will help the zucchini and squash grill evenly.
  • Slice the zucchini evenly.  If your zucchini isn’t straight, then it won’t lay straight on the grill and won’t caramelize evenly.
  • Lay the zucchini on the grill horizontally across the grates.  You can also lay it on a slight bias for diagonal grill marks.  Either of these grilling directions will ensure the zucchini doesn’t slip into the fire.
  • Above all else, don’t overcook!  Zucchini can be eaten raw so it doesn’t need much by the way of cooking.  Cook just until crisp-tender and not tender-crisp.  When in doubt, pull the zucchini.  Slightly crunchier zucchini is better than soggy zucchini.
  • Undercook the zucchini if using for leftovers.  If you are planning to reheat the zucchini in another recipe like pasta or rice, then slightly undercook it by a couple minutes, then cook it to the desired tenderness in the final dish.
  • Use an indoor grill pan in the winter or if you don’t have a grill.  This one works great.

How to store zucchini

  • To Store: refrigerate grilled zucchini in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days in a single layer or with parchment in between the layers.
  • To Reheat: line the zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through, 5-10 minutes or rewarm at 20 second intervals in the microwave.
  • Can I freeze zucchini?  I do not recommend freezing grilled zucchini because it is 94% water and will become mushy once thawed.

WHAT to serve with zucchini? 

This grilled zucchini recipe can be served year-round because it can be made with squash in the winter AND you can use an indoor grill pan – so the better question might be, what not to serve with zucchini?

top view of grilled zucchini and squash on a white platter with distinct grill marks

WAYS TO USE GRILLED ZUCCHINI

Grilled zucchini is perfectly scrumptious hot off the grill or you can add it to other recipes throughout the week.

MORE EASY ZUCCHINI RECIPES

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables to add to pastas, stir-fries, soups and more.  Here are a few zucchini recipes you’ll love:

  1. If you’re looking for low carb Zucchini Lasagna, this recipe is the comforting, hot, meaty, cheesy, saucy, low-carb, gluten free, keto answer.  You will be obsessed!
  2. You can also make zucchini into low carb spiralized noodles, then top them with any of your favorite comfort foods such as Chicken Stroganoff or Beef Stroganoff, Bolognese, Chicken Florentine, Tuscan Salmon, or Alfredo Sauce.
  3. This Zucchini Casserole recipe is a creamy indulgent side made with layers of sliced zucchini, drenched with cheesy cream sauce that has been simmered with herbs and then topped with bubbly golden Gruyere cheese and buttery, crispy panko.   
  4. These Stuffed Zucchini Boats are loaded with juicy, fiesta seasoned shrimp, sweet corn, crunchy bell peppers, punchy red onions, spicy jalapenos all tossed with fresh lime juice and zesty cilantro.  They are quick, easy, tangy, bright, refreshing, guilt-free, low-carb, and a healthier dinner the whole family will love! 
  5. My Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins are super low calorie but bursting with triple the chocolate!  
  6. Zucchini is a favorite to add to pastas.  From Lemon Basil Chicken Pasta to Tomato Chicken and Orzo, Caprese Chicken Pasta, Rice Noodles in Coconut Curry Sauce to Shrimp Pasta in Tomato Cream Sauce,  Pasta Primavera, zucchini adds the tasty textural contrast that amp up the dish.  Of course, you can always throw it into any pasta you’re making!
  7. I love tossing zucchini into soups the last few minutes of cooking.  It’s scrumptious in Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, Minestrone Soup, Thai Wild Rice Chicken Soup, Ramen, Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup, Salsa Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup, and everything else!
  8. Zucchini is also a welcome addition in any stir fries or curries such as Chicken Red Curry, Bang Bang Shrimp, Mango Chicken and Korean Beef Bowls.
  9. We love adding zucchini to every kabob recipe.  Try them in Beef Souvlaki, Chicken Souvlaki, Steak Kabobs, or Brazilian Steak Kabobs.

Try these zucchini recipes!

top view of lemon chicken pasta with asparagus in a white bowl
a bowl of easy crockpot chicken tortilla soup garnished with sour cream, avocados, cilantro and tortilla strips
This less than 30 MINUTE Thai Red Curry Chicken tastes straight out of a restaurant! Its wonderfully thick and creamy, bursting with flavor, so easy and all in one pot! Definitely a new fav at our house!

IS ZUCCHINI HEALTHY?

Zucchini contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including folate, magnesium and riboflavin, and is particularly high in potassium and vitamins A, C and K. A one cup (124 grams) serving of zucchini contains 35% of your daily needs of Vitamin C.  Zucchini is also rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help strengthen bones. Zucchini is also low in calories, high in fiber and 94% water which can help promote a healthy digestive system and keep you hydrated.

Grilled Zucchini Facts

What seasonings go well with zucchini? 

Zucchini is mild in flavor so it takes well to any seasonings.  You can season it as simply as salt and pepper or it pairs particularly well with Mediterranean flavors such as olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, basil, parsley and oregano.

Should I peel the zucchini before cooking?

Unlike cucumbers, zucchini skin is thin, edible and tasty. In addition, most of the health benefits of zucchini come from the skin, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and healthy carotenoids.  There is an exception when it comes to large zucchini. You may wish to peel its skin because it can be bitter.

How do I keep the zucchini from burning on a hot grill?

The best way to prevent burning zucchini: is 1) make sure the grill is clean and oiled so the zucchini doesn’t stick to old food; 2) marinate or grease the zucchini in olive oil before grilling so it has a protective coating, this will help it caramelize and not burn; 3) avoid grilling at high heat which is usually when burning happens; 4) lastly, don’t grill for too long!  Keep an eye on the zucchini so you can flip it before it chars too much.

How do I achieve beautiful char marks? 

Similar to above.  Make sure that the grill is clean, greased and above all HOT before you add the zucchini or squash.  Don’t touch the zucchini once you add it to the grill but let it cook continually in one spot until you see clear, dark lines, about 3 minutes, and then it’s time to flip. 

How long should you grill zucchini?

Grill zucchini for 3 to 4 minutes per side at 400-450 degrees F, just until crisp-tender. Serve immediately so it doesn’t start to soften.

What if I don’t have an outdoor grill?

Zucchini and squash can easily be cooked on an indoor grill pan or George foreman.  If you don’t have either of these, then consider roasting the zucchini or simply stir frying it. See below.

Can I make this recipe in the oven?

Yes!  If you do not have a grill, simply follow this recipe as written, but instead of lining the zucchini on the grill, line it on a lightly greased foil-lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 10-12 minutes.

What other vegetables can be cooked using this method?

The same method (and marinade!) of marinating, draining and grilling the zucchini can be used on a variety of vegetables such as yellow summer squash, eggplant, asparagus, bell peppers and mushrooms.

up close of grilled zucchini recipe showing distinct grill marks and how thick the zucchini is
top view of grilled zucchini on a white platter

Grilled Zucchini

This grilled zucchini is an essential, epic side dish that will win over even the toughest zucchini critics – it might even upstage the main course!  It transforms plain, humble zucchini into a bright yet simple, elevated, side laced with lemon, garlic and Italian seasonings.  The recipe is simple to make by tossing all the ingredients together then grilling outdoors or on an indoor grill pan. This grilled zucchini and squash is also fabulous to make for company because it’s vegan, gluten-free, low carb, keto and Whole30 friendly– win, win, win!  I’ve also included several seasoning/flavor variations so you can mix up this recipe to suit your mood. And bonus, this grilled zucchini recipe works with summer squash as well!  Serve your grilled zucchini alongside all your favorite cookout foods like NY Strip Steak, Best Burgers and Balsamic Chicken for a tasty meal everyone will be raving about.
Servings: 6 -8 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 small to medium zucchini, ends trimmed off, cut into 1/3-inch wide planks
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ tsp table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Whisk all of the ingredients together except the zucchini in a freezer size sealable bag. Add the zucchini and turn to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator if making ahead.
  • Preheat a grill to 400-425 degrees F or an indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Clean and grease the grill/pan.
  • Let the marinate drip off of the zucchini (don't rub off) and add the zucchini to the grill in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes per side or just until crisp-tender (don’t overcook!). Transfer to a serving platter and brush with some leftover marinade if desired. Best if served immediately (will soften as it cools).

Notes

*See the recipe post for lots of recipe variation ideas and how to use leftovers.

How to store zucchini

  • To Store: refrigerate grilled zucchini in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days in a single layer or with parchment in between the layers.
  • To Reheat: line the zucchini in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until warmed through, 5-10 minutes or rewarm at 20 second intervals in the microwave.
  • Can I freeze zucchini?  I do not recommend freezing grilled zucchini because it is 94% water and will become mushy once thawed.

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2 Comments

  1. Ramya says

    just made this super easy and fast to make after work i used my new air fryer for this it is my first time making your recipe and i used pasta herbs for this and i mixed all together instead mixing marinade then zucchini also the zucchini is delicious having it now for my dinner Thanks for this super fast vegan recipe Thanks Ramya

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Ramya, that’s awesome you made it already! What a great idea to make in the air fryer!