This quick and easy vegan zucchini and mint side dish is filled with the fresh flavours of the Italian Amalfi coast and uses only 5 ingredients. In this simple recipe, I teach you how to cook courgette slices that are crispy on the outside and sumptuously soft on the inside. Fresh mint and lemon juice are added to the pan at the end of cooking to cut through the olive oil and lift the flavours giving this amazing contrast of richness and freshness all at once. This fast Italian sautéed zucchini dish will soon become your go-to favourite for elevating the humble courgette! It is also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and soy-free!
Like many others, I fell completely in love with zucchini whilst on holiday in the Amalfi coast in Italy. My goodness, they really know how to make courgette taste divine there! When I came home from holiday I couldn’t stop thinking about the simple sautéed zucchini and mint that I had in a restaurant there. It was sweet and flavourful but included just a few simple ingredients.
The restaurant, if you're interested, was a gem of a place that my clever husband found. Perched on the steep cliffs on the island of Capri overlooking the beautiful Amalfi coastline, the setting was breathtakingly beautiful! As is often the case with my favourite restaurants in Italy, it was simple food, delicious local wine and a bustling atmosphere. Definitely worth the 25 minute trek to get there from the main town!
But I digress…. Back to this amazingly simple zucchini and mint recipe that you can cook at home right now. I promise you, the taste will take you straight to the heavily laden lemon trees of Amalfi!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Delicious – this recipe turns the humble courgette into a taste sensation, with vibrant fresh flavours.
- Only 5 ingredients – no need to hunt around for fancy ingredients – just courgette, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon and mint.
- Quick and easy – this recipe takes about 15 minutes, start to finish (5 minutes longer if you choose to pre-salt the courgette slices first).
- Vegan, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free – no need for flour, milk or egg, this is a perfect allergen-friendly recipe!
Note that this is similar to another Italian zucchini and mint recipe (zucchini alla scapece) but I find this fresher tasting with fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar. It is also easier to prepare since it doesn’t require making any kind of dressing!
- Courgettes (zucchini) – choose firm courgettes and try to use organic if possible since we are not peeling off the skin for this recipe. The dark green skinned courgettes look great as they have such contrasting exteriors and interiors but it would also be good with a mixture of light skinned and dark skinned courgette and yellow squash all together!
- Extra virgin olive oil – usually I would not cook with extra virgin olive oil but since this is only sautéing for a short time, and the flavour of the oil is integral to the dish, I would use a good quality extra virgin olive oil here, if possible.
- Garlic - this is an optional ingredient and is only used to flavour the oil before cooking the courgette. It gives a lovely background flavour but is not essential.
- Lemon – use fresh lemon for fresh vibrant flavour and nutrients, rather than bottled lemon juice.
- Fresh mint – either from the garden or the fresh herbs section of your local supermarket or grocery store. Dried mint will not have the same vibrant flavour so unfortunately it can’t be used as a substitute here.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full list of ingredients and their quantities.
How To Make This Recipe
This minted zucchini recipe is really very simple and easy to make.
Step One - Slice the Courgette
Slice the courgettes into thin rounds about 5mm (¼”) thick. If you cut on the diagonal, it will give interesting oval shapes that will be slightly longer and easier to manage in the pan.
Optional Pre-Salting Step - Salting
Place the courgette slices in a colander set over a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt. Then, use your hands to toss the slices in the colander to ensure the salt is spread throughout. Leave for 5 minutes to draw out the bitter juices from the courgette.
Optional Pre-Salting Step - Rinsing
After 5 minutes, once the courgette slices look wet and glistening, rinse the colander under the tap to wash off the salt and wash away the bitter juices. Then dry the slices on a clean tea towel.
Optional Pre-Salting Step - Drying
Dry the slices on a clean tea towel or with kitchen towel.
Step Two - Heat The Oil
Heat up 2 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Optional garlic flavouring - add the whole garlic clove (do not cut it) and move it around in the oil, turning occasionally until browned. This should take no more than 2-3 minutes and will have the benefit of telling you when the oil is hot enough. Once browned, remove and discard the garlic clove (or use it for rubbing onto hot toast or flavouring something else!).
Step Three - Sauté the Zucchini Slices
Add the courgette slices in a single layer in the hot olive oil and cook over a medium heat until browned on the underside (about 2-4 minutes).
Please do not be tempted to throw all the slices in at once as they will steam and go soggy rather than crisping up in the oil.
Step Four - Turn the Zucchini Slices.
After 2-4 minutes, when golden brown, use a pair of tongs to turn each courgette slice over to cook on the other side.
Step Five - Add Mint and Lemon
Finely slice the fresh mint then, when the courgette slices have browned on both sides, add the mint to the pan with a good squeeze of lemon. Carefully stir it all together so that the mint leaves slightly wilt in the oil and the lemon juice cooks briefly. Then quickly pour onto a serving dish and serve.
This is a summary only. Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this page for full instructions.
Tips for Success
There are a few key points to remember when making this Italian zucchini and mint dish.
Heat the Oil First
The most important thing to remember is that you must make sure the oil is really hot before you add the courgette slices. If it is not hot enough, then the courgette slices will not sear on hitting the pan and instead will soak up the oil and go soggy. Instead, you want to hear a strong sizzling sound when you place the courgette slices in the pan.
Cook in a Single Layer
The next really important thing to remember is to only place the courgettes in a single layer in the pan. Do not pile all the courgettes in the pan at once, hoping to speed up the process. All that will happen if you do that, is that the courgettes will steam in the evaporating juices and again, will go soggy and not at all crispy! Better to do it in 2 or more batches instead (depending on the size of your pan and the size of your courgettes!).
Ideal Slice Thickness
There is no need to slice the courgette super fine on a mandolin as this will just mean that you need to spend longer doing more batches of sautéing in the pan. I find 5mm (¼”) is a good thickness as it allows cooking for long enough to brown the outside while maintaining some softness on the inside.
To Salt or Not To Salt?
For perfect courgettes, it is best practice to pre-salt the courgette slices so that you can draw out some of the bitter juices and wash them away. This makes your zucchini taste sweeter and prevents sogginess since some of the liquid is removed before cooking.
That said… I have tested out various methods of pre-salting [(1) salt straight onto the courgette slices over a colander, and (2) soaking courgette slices in salty water] and not pre-salting at all and just cooking the courgette slices straight away. I found there was not much difference between them!
If you have fresh courgettes, they shouldn’t be too bitter anyway and the lemon and mint flavours will mask any bitterness that might be lingering there. Also, since you are frying for a few minutes on each side and the slices are fairly thin, most of the moisture evaporates anyway! So, I have to admit that when I’m in a rush, I rarely pre-salt my courgette. A little less perfection is fine for me if it makes it much quicker and easier!
Use a Non-Stick Pan
It is easiest to use a non-stick sauté pan or frying pan for this recipe. Since the courgette is very delicate, it can easily stick to the pan if there is not enough oil or the oil is not at the right temperature. So, it is much easier to cook this Italian sauteed zucchini recipe on a non-stick surface so that you can use less oil and the courgette slices will flip over easily without sticking and tearing. Take a look at my advice on buying non-stick pans if you want help in choosing the best ones!
When you are chopping the courgette, you might think that it is a huge amount for two people, but remember courgettes shrink – a lot! It will go to a much smaller amount in the pan!
How To Chiffonade Mint
You can cut the mint any way you like, but I think it looks really pretty if you cut it into thin ribbons. This type of cut is called a "chiffonade". It works on really soft herbs like basil and mint because it cuts them finely without too much handling and bruising. To chiffonade your mint, place a few leaves on top of each other, roll them up together like wrapping paper, then slice across the roll of leaves in thin lines.
This Italian sautéed zucchini (courgette) with mint and lemon recipe is the perfect fresh and tasty vegan side dish. Serve with this air fried tofu and some steamed rice or alongside a delicious vegan pot pie or these vegan mushroom feuilletées.
The versatility of this courgette dish is endless, you could even have it on toast with a dollop of vegan soured cream or cashew cream mixed with lemon juice.
- If you don’t have fresh mint to hand, other fresh green herbs would be delicious as well – whichever ones you like the flavour of - thyme, dill or parsley would all be great!
- This dish would also be delicious with some baby spinach thrown in at the end of the cooking time to quickly wilt with the mint and lemon juice.
- If you have an air fryer, you could cook the courgette slices in the air fryer instead (around 6-8 minutes at 200°C/400°F, in a single layer, turning half way through cooking time). Then just mix the cooked zucchini slices in a bowl with the lemon juice and mint after cooking. This will give slightly crispier zucchini slices and a slightly tarter lemon flavour since the juice will just be added straight to the bowl rather than cooked a little in the pan.
Leftovers & Storage
This is not really a make ahead type of dish as it is quickly cooked with fresh flavours. You can make it half an hour ahead if you really need to for entertaining and just keep some foil over the top to keep it warm.
If you make too much, you could save the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days and reheat quickly in a pan or in the air fryer. You could also use up any leftovers by stirring into pasta dressed with a little extra virgin olive oil. Delicious!
Well, with this dish, the aim is to have zucchini with crispy outsides and sumptuously soft insides. The way we do that is to fry it over a high heat with the oil already hot before adding the slices to the pan. That way the oil immediately sears the outside of the zucchini. If the oil is not hot enough, the oil will penetrate the courgette slices and it will taste soggy and oily. Pre-salting the zucchini slices can also help as it draws out some of the moisture from the inside of the courgette before cooking. (see the notes above on pre-salting zucchini).
Technically, frying involves immersing the food in oil. Shallow frying involves just a thin layer of oil and deep frying obviously involves a much deeper layer. Sautéing uses less oil in the pan and the food is cooked on the surface of the pan with a little oil to prevent sticking and to help transfer the heat. It is very similar to shallow frying but with slightly less oil.
📖 Recipe 📖
Italian Sautéed Zucchini with Mint & Lemon
- 2 courgettes (zucchinis)
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, (peeled but not sliced)
- 1 handful fresh mint
- juice of ¼ lemon
- salt and pepper, to taste
- First, slice the courgettes (zucchini) diagonally across (the oblique cut), roughly about 5mm width.2 courgettes (zucchinis)
- [Optional pre-salting the zucchini - Place the courgette slices in a colander set over a bowl and liberally sprinkle salt over them. Quickly mix the salt into the courgettes with your hands and leave for 5-10 minutes so that the salt can draw out the bitter juices from the courgette. Once the courgette slices look wet and glistening, rinse them under the tap in the colander to wash away all the salt and the bitter juices. Then dry in a clean tea towel or kitchen towel.]
- In the meantime, slice the fresh mint thinly. The best way to do this is to get the leaves piled on top of each other then slice once along the vein of the leaves, and then cut across the leaves in thin slices. (This is called “chiffonading” the mint)1 handful fresh mint
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot, add the whole garlic clove and move around in the pan to brown on all sides and flavour the oil. Once browned, remove from the pan and discard (or use to flavour in something else).2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, 1 garlic clove
- Add the courgette slices in one single layer. Do not overlap the slices. You may need to sauté the courgette slices in batches. Sauté the courgette slices until the underside is golden brown (about 2-4 minutes), then, using a pair of kitchen tongs, turn each slice over to cook on the other side. Cook for another 2-4 minutes until golden brown on both sides.2 courgettes (zucchinis)
- Once cooked, add the chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir over the heat for 30 seconds until the mint has wilted and the lemon juice is mixed into the courgette slices. (If cooking in batches, add the pre-cooked slices back into the pan at this point and stir all together over the heat). Season with salt and pepper to your taste.1 handful fresh mint, juice of ¼ lemon, salt and pepper
- Once cooked through, pour the contents of the pan into a serving dish and serve immediately.
- It is most important to cook the courgette slices in a single layer in the pan. Cook in batches if they do not fit in the pan.
- Use a non-stick pan so that the courgette slices do not stick.
- Please see the blogpost for further information on pre-salting.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
If you like this Italian sautéed zucchini and mint recipe, you may like these other delicious vegan and gluten-free side dish recipes too: