The Secret to Flavor-Packed Zucchini? Caramelize It.

It’ll (s)quash everything you think you know about the slightly blasé veggie.

7 min read

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Hot damn, caramelized zucchini is my jam. Zucchini, you ask? Really, zucchini? Yes. I know that zucchini isn’t known for being an exciting vegetable. No one cites it as their favorite — the good PR all went to Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. But the humble green summer squash — available year-round in most grocery stores — is usually dismissed for being watery or bland. And the people aren’t wrong. But zucchini can actually be elevated to something delightful and craveable by leaning into its underrated qualities. 

Instead of fearing mushy zucchini, I embrace it — the wateriness works well to impart sauciness. The secret to my one-pan, 20-minute caramelized zucchini is to pack as much flavor into every step as possible. First by lightly caramelizing shallots as a flavor base and then  cooking the zucchini in a bit of stock, salt, and garlic. You’ll be left with incredibly tender, jammy, slightly saucy can’t-believe-this-is-zucchini zucchini. I’ve also done this with a mix of zucchini and yellow summer squash, and am contemplating adding eggplant to the mix for a jammy ratatouille vibe.

The flavorful fun doesn’t stop there. This zucchini is a total shape-shifter and can be repurposed from a simple side dish into a whole meal. Here are some of my favorite ways:

  • Transform it into a pasta sauce by tossing some cooked pasta with the zucchini, adding some grated Parmesan and more olive oil if needed.

  • Blitz in a food processor or blender to make a smooth vegan dip and/or spread. Adding ricotta or another creamy cheese to the mix wouldn’t hurt…

  • Need a veggie-forward base for a pizza? Add it as the “sauce,” or top a white- or red-sauced pizza crust with it before smothering with cheese.

  • Mix it into any sort of soup. One of my favorite simple soups is a jammy zucchini egg drop with rotisserie chicken, fish cakes, and a ton of spinach mixed in.

  • Add to scrambled eggs or an omelet for breakfast, lunch, or brinner.

  • Spread on a sandwich, top crostini, or tuck into a pita or wrap.

Ready to jam on? Here’s the recipe!

Caramelized Zucchini with Shallots

Serves: 4 to 6



  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 large (about 3” tall) shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

  • 2 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • ¼ cup chicken or vegetable stock — but water is okay, too! Just add more salt. 

  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (about 18 cranks)

  • 3 scallions, dark green parts only, thinly sliced or snipped


Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and let the butter melt. Add the shallots and let them cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and starting to brown. 

  2. Add the zucchini, stir to combine, then add the salt and stock. Bring to a simmer and cover, letting it cook undisturbed for 8 minutes. Uncover, add the garlic and stir, and then re-cover. Let cook for 4 minutes, then uncover and increase the heat to medium-high. Stirring frequently, cook until the liquid has all evaporated and the zucchini is jammy in texture, about 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Add the black pepper at the very end and then sprinkle on the scallions. This can be served hot, room temp, or even cold. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.


  • Photographer: Paul Quitoriano

  • Food Stylist: Cesar Aldrete

  • Art Direction: Sarah Ceniceros Gomez