Fried zucchini is one of those starters that you always get at your favourite Italian restaurant, usually in order to say you were eating vegetables even when they are actually fried. But did you know that this mainstay of Italian-American cuisine is incredibly easy to make at home? All you need is a pot, bread crumbs, Parmesan, and some frying oil.
Fried zucchini was developed by Italian immigrants to America in the 1950s, an affordable and pared-down American version of a dish called fritto misto – which translates as mixed fried. Zucchini itself comes from the Italian word for squash, zucca, and it was generally unknown in America until Italian immigrants began demanding the vegetable in the 1920s. This introduced the "Italian Squash" to American diners, first in the form of fried zucchini, and then in pasta primavera, stuffed zucchini, and many more dishes.
Today, fried zucchini is a mainstay on Italian restaurant menus, usually under the antipasti (before pasta, or appetizers) section. But when you’re craving some fritto zucca, making it yourself is much faster, easier and — dare we say — healthier than ordering in. So let’s get started!
Gather the ingredients for fried zucchini
There are no obscure ingredients involved in the making of fried zucchini. A few dark green zucchini, some breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, eggs and flour is all you need to make your own Italian classic.
If you’re making fried zucchini in the summer, when summer squash is particularly abundant, make sure you choose thinner-skinned zucchini. If you end up with your aunt’s castoff giant summer squash, then peel the tough outer skin off first with a regular vegetable peeler.
None of the other ingredients you use should be particularly fancy, but try to grate real Parmesan instead of using pre-grated cheeses, as they won’t cook quite the same and will burn faster.
Slice zucchini into rounds
To start prepping your fried zucchini, you’ll need to grate that Parmesan cheese. Use the smallest setting on your grater, as the grated Parmesan needs to blend in with the breadcrumbs coating and not stick out in large chunks.
Slice the zucchini into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Try to slice at a diagonal, so that your slices are longer. However, if you end up with just rounds, that’s totally fine too! Some people like long strips or spears for their fried zucchini, but we find they don’t get as crispy on the outside (though they are more soft and creamy on the inside).
Mix the breading for fried zucchini
The next stage is to mix the coating for the fried zucchini. The coating is made up of two main parts — breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper are important as well, as they help flavor every part of the zucchini before cooking. With so few ingredients and so little actual manipulation of the product, every bit of seasoning counts!
To make the coating, combine Parmesan, breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper in a large, shallow bowl or plate. Mix well to combine. You can even taste the coating to see if it needs more salt, or pepper.
Set up working stations for fried zucchini
To make the prep of the fried zucchini as easy as possible, set up working stations close to your stovetop, where you’ll likely be frying (unless you have enough counter space to own a deep fryer, lucky you).
Beat eggs in a deep bowl into which you can easily dunk a few zucchini slices at a time. Transfer flour to another large, shallow bowl or plate, similar to the one where you put the coating. Arrange them in this order, going from the furthest from the stove to the pot: zucchini slices, flour, eggs, and coating mix — then the pot you’ll be frying in.
Flour, dip in egg, and bread the zucchini slices
Now that all your work stations are arranged, it’s best to actually prep some or even most of your zucchini slices before you get started on cooking. Frying zucchini slices can go fast, and sometimes you’ll end up letting pieces burn if you’ll need to dip, dunk, and coat while you’re frying!
Frist, dredge zucchini slices in flour. Then dip them into the egg, and allow the excess to drip off. Finish each zucchini slice by pressing it in breadcrumbs and Parmesan mixture; you may want to apply a bit of pressure to make sure all the outside is coated in the Parmesan-breadcrumb mixture.
Fry the coated zucchini slices
For frying your zucchini, you’ll want to choose a large, heavy rimmed pot with tall sides and a thick bottom. A Dutch oven would be ideal for this, or a large cast iron pan. Fill it with one cup of oil, and heat the oil to a point where a bit of batter thrown in will bubble immediately and rise to the surface.
Working in batches, fry battered zucchini slices until golden brown, two or three minutes per side. Do not crowd the pan. Transfer zucchini slices onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Season with additional salt.
Serve the fried zucchini with marinara sauce
Once you finished frying all that yummy battered zucchini, you’ll want to dig in immediately! Your fried zucchini should be golden and crispy on the outside, with a soft, warm, and gooey flesh in the middle. The outer shell should crunch when you bite into it.
To replicate the Italian-American restaurant experience, serve your fried zucchini with some store-bought or even homemade slow cooker marinara sauce. If, however, you want a more pub-like experience, fried zucchini also tastes great with ranch sauce, or even just some plain old sour-cream-and-mayo mix.
Fried zucchini doesn’t reheat well, and will lose all of its crispiness after it sits in the fridge. If you find you absolutely can’t finish it all in one go and need to reheat your leftovers, we recommend putting it in the oven on the grill (500°F) setting for about five minutes, watching it closely so it doesn’t burn.
No need to go out for dinner when you can recreate this Italian appetizer at home. This delicious fried zucchini recipe comes together in minutes.
- 2 medium zucchini
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- canola oil for frying
- Slice zucchini into ½ inch-thick slices. Try to slice in a bit of a diagonal, so that your slices are longer.
- In a deep bowl, beat eggs. Add a pinch of salt.
- Combine Parmesan, breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper in a large, shallow bowl or plate. Transfer flour to a separate large shallow bowl or plate.
- Dredge zucchini in flour. Dip into egg and allow excess to drip. Finish each zucchini slice in breadcrumbs and Parmesan mixture.
- Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan with tall and wide rims to medium-high heat. Add oil and allow it to heat through.
- Working in batches, fry zucchini slices until golden brown, 2-3 mins per side. Do not crowd the pan.
- Transfer zucchini slices onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Season with additional salt.
- Serve immediately with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.