Zucchini is an ingredient that I generally feel slightly indifferent about.
That is, until a pile of fritters fell into my lap.
Not literally. That would hurt if they were freshly fried.
Several years ago, my dad shared a recipe he discovered for zucchini fritters. Most of his culinary creations came from inside of his head (or Julia Child’s), so when he passed along something he found online, I was all ears.
The method called for succulent shreds of zucchini to be tossed with oniony scallions, briny feta, flour, and fresh dill. The salty fritters were served with a simple, creamy citrus sauce. And I couldn’t get enough of them.
Although these made a lovely landing pad for fried eggs and a superb side for a simple chicken dinner, they didn’t satisfy that “poppable” craving that, for lack of a better word, often popped into my head.
When my college roommate and I would visit her parents in South Carolina, we were always greeted with warm hugs and steaming plates of fried yellow squash.
It must’ve been a Southern tradition, because my family would welcome us into their North Carolina home with love and lox.
Yep. Love and Lox is definitely going to be the name of my next cookbook. But I digress…
In South Carolina, those sunny-colored circles were simply dusted in flour, fried in oil, and sprinkled with salt. After enjoying them on a dozen of those road trips, they had flown to the top of my “poppable” list.
This fried zucchini takes my dad’s favorite fritters and those mouthwatering college memories, and melds them together to create one addictive appetizer.
For starters, the batter has a secret.
Shh, it’s not beer.
It could be beer, if you’re feeling frisky and want to add a hoppy kick to your veggies. But no, this batter’s superpower is soda water.
While the panko breadcrumbs give the exterior of the fried zucchini its crackly crust, the carbonated beverage in the batter gives each salty slice a light, airy bite.
Zucchini’s mellow, delicate flavor pairs wonderfully with a zippy citrus sauce. My dad’s go-to fritters call for a sour cream and lemon duo, but these fried rounds get a lift from lime and some creamy thickness from mayo. (And okay, there’s a little sour cream in there too, because why not?)
Fried food doesn’t have a reputation for being the healthiest cooking preparation on the block, but look at it this way:
You could have lowered a beignet, a stick of cheese, or even a candy bar into that bubbling vat of oil.
But instead, you chose a vegetable. You win!
Whether you pop every one of these crispy morsels in your own mouth (no judgment here) or share them as a finger food starter at your next holiday party, one thing is certain.
You’ll look at zucchini in a whole different light… And that light is deep-fried.Print
Crunch into these golden rounds for a crispy treat. Served with a light, citrusy dip, this fried zucchini is a satisfying, salty snack.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Zest and juice of 1/2 lime (or your choice of citrus)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups cornstarch
- 2 1/2 cups soda water
- 2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs (or regular unseasoned breadcrumbs)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, lime zest and juice, parsley, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Slowly add the soda water, whisking as you pour to make sure there aren’t any lumps, until the mixture resembles a thin pancake batter.
- Dip the zucchini rounds a few at a time into the wet batter and then into the breadcrumbs, and press to adhere. Repeat with the remaining rounds and set the prepared zucchini aside on a plate.
- Prepare a paper towel-lined plate near the stovetop.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepot or Dutch oven, heat about 1 inch of oil over medium heat until it reaches 350°F. You’ll know the oil is ready when you drip in a small amount of the batter and it bubbles immediately.
- Working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil, carefully drop in several zucchini rounds at a time. When the bottoms turn golden brown, in about 30-45 seconds, flip them over and cook the other side until golden.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove and transfer to the paper towel-lined plate to sop up any excess oil. Sprinkle them with the remaining salt while they’re still hot.
- Serve warm, with the citrus sauce.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Vegetable
- Method: Frying
- Cuisine: Appetizer
Keywords: zucchini, fried, frying, appetizer, panko, citrus
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Make the Citrus Sauce
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise (learn how to make mayo from scratch!), sour cream, mustard, lime zest and juice, parsley, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
You can also substitute in another citrus fruit like orange or lemon. The lemon will make a sauce that’s more tart, and the orange will be sweeter.
Step 2 – Make the Batter and Place the Panko Breadcrumbs in a Bowl
In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.
Slowly add the soda water, whisking as you pour to make sure there aren’t any lumps, until the mixture resembles a thin pancake batter.
Place the panko into a deep, wide bowl.
Step 3 – Prep the Zucchini for Frying
A few at a time, dip the zucchini rounds into the wet batter and then into the breadcrumbs, pressing to adhere. Keep one hand wet and one hand dry so that you don’t get large, wet crumbs in the dry panko.
Repeat with the remaining rounds, and set the prepared zucchini aside on a plate.
Step 4 – Heat the Oil
Prepare a paper towel-lined plate near the stovetop.
Heat about 1 inch of oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed saucepot or Dutch oven until it reaches 350°F. You could also use your deep fryer to make this recipe.
You’ll know the oil is ready when you drip in a small amount of the batter, or a couple of the breaded slices as testers, and it bubbles immediately.
Step 5 – Fry and Serve
Working in batches so you don’t crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil, carefully drop in several of the zucchini rounds at a time. When the bottoms turn golden brown, in about 30-45 seconds, flip them over and cook on the other side until golden. The second side will usually take less time to brown.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried zucchini and place them on the paper towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
While they’re still hot, sprinkle them with the remaining salt. Serve warm, with the citrus sauce on the side for dipping.
You can reheat these in the oven, but they don’t crisp up as nicely when they’re served as leftovers, so eat as many as you can while they’re freshly fried!
Zucchini Plus Zesty Sauce Equals Happiness
Although I’m fully advocating for zucchini as an underrated veggie, I can’t stress enough that much of the magic in this recipe comes from the carbonated batter (and that citrusy dipper as well).
Scroll back up to that side note about beer. You can totally sub in one of your favorite brews to give your veggies an added oomph of effervescence and flavor.
My advice is to avoid IPAs (pour them in your mouth instead) as their bitterness can be overwhelming, and stick to light lagers or brown ales for a hint of malty, caramel sweetness.
Zucchini are as versatile as veggies come. Double up on the green goodies and stretch them out by making these summer squash recipes next:
- Light and Lemony Quinoa Bowls with Roasted Zucchini and Tomatoes
- Raw Zucchini and Feta Salad
- Grilled Zucchini Pizza
What’s your go-to green vegetable to plop into a pool of sizzling hot oil? Brussels sprouts? Asparagus? Share your preferred produce in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on August 14, 2012. Last updated May 5, 2020.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”