Fried Zucchini with Citrus Sauce

Zucchini is an ingredient that I generally feel slightly indifferent about.

Vertical top-down image of golden-brown crispy squash coins, sliced limes, herbs, and a seasoned condiment in a bowl all on a white plate, with text in the middle and on the bottom of the image.

Sure, I’ll pick one out of my produce drawer when I need some extra veggies for an omelet or I’m making a Hibachi-inspired stir-fry. But I don’t often seek them out as the star of a dish.

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.

And forks.

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.

Vertical image of a pile of fried squash, fresh whole herbs, and a blue bowl filled with a creamy condiment on a dark plate.

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.

Vertical image of a white plate with a blue bowl filled with a creamy condiment, fried squash coins, lime slices, and fresh herbs.

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?)

Vertical image of a white plate with crispy squash coins, fresh whole herbs, and a blue bowl with a creamy condiment.

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 starter at your next party, one thing is certain. You’ll look at zucchini in a whole different light… And that light is deep-fried.

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Horizontal image of a white plate with a mound of zucchini slices and a blue bowl with a creamy dip.

Fried Zucchini with Citrus Sauce


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings, as an appetizer 1x

Description

Crunch into these golden rounds for a crispy treat. Served with a light, citrusy dip, this fried zucchini is a satisfying, salty snack.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate near the stovetop.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Serve warm, with the citrus sauce.

  • Category: Vegetable
  • Method: Frying
  • Cuisine: Appetizer

Keywords: zucchini, fried, frying, appetizer, panko, citrus

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Make the Citrus Sauce

Horizontal image of a mound of sliced squash on a wooden board next to a knife.

First, measure out and prep all of your ingredients. Zest and juice the citrus, and chop the parsley with a sharp knife on a sturdy cutting board. Slice the zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick rounds.

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.

Horizontal image of a green bowl filled with a seasoned creamy mixture stirred by a metal whisk on a wooden surface.

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

Horizontal image of a glass bowl with a creamy liquid mixture and a red bowl with a dry mixture.

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

Horizontal image of a glass bowl with a creamy mixture and a few slices of squash next to a bowl with a dry mixture with a few slices of squash.

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.

Horizontal image of a red plate with breaded uncooked squash slices.

Repeat with the remaining rounds, and set the prepared zucchini aside on a plate.

Step 4 – Heat the Oil

Horizontal image of bubbling oil and three slices of squash in a black pan.

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

Horizontal image of a black pan with bubbling oil and many slices of squash.

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.

Horizontal image of four fried squash slices on a paper towel next to a metal spoon.

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.

Horizontal image of a white plate with a mound of deep-fried squash, a bowl of a creamy mixture, and fresh herbs.

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.

Horizontal image of a white plate with a mound of zucchini slices and a blue bowl with a creamy dip.

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:

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 20, 2020 at 14:44 pm.

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.”

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