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This classic side dish has been an absolute staple in our family for several generations. Here’s how to make a basic version and a slightly amped up version of sautéed zucchini and onions with ease, and how to serve it.

sautéed zucchini and onions in a yellow pan
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Why we love this recipe

There are a few super-versatile vegetable side dishes that I’ve returned to again and again over the decades, and sautéed zucchini and onions is high up on the list. It’s equally great served alongside a protein like chicken, steak, pork, or salmon, or tossed into a piping hot pot of spaghetti. This recipe is:

  • Happy (and happy-making) with or without capers, lemon juice, and basil
  • Make-ahead friendly
  • Amenable to your preferences — cook as little or as long as you like

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe, and which ones are optional.

ingredients in bowls
  • Use any zucchini or other summer squash you have. I prefer to buy zucchini on the smaller side since they’re a bit sweeter and more tender before they get too big.
  • Instead of a large yellow onion, you could use a couple of shallots.
  • Regular fine sea salt works beautifully, but so do herb salts. Here I’ve pictured homemade basil salt.
  • The capers, lemon juice, and basil each add a layer of flavor, but they’re totally optional

How to make it

Here’s what you’ll do to make this recipe great. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. Trim the ends off the zucchini, then quarter lengthwise and dice. Dice the onion fairly small.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, capers if using, zucchini, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is turning soft and translucent.
  4. Cover, add a splash of water, and cook until as tender as you like. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and basil if you’re using them.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I use other types of squash?

Sure, any summer squash with a relatively tender skin will work just fine. Cooking time will vary a bit based on the density of the flesh and the size of your dice. Good candidates include yellow squash, pattypan, and many more.

How do I know when it’s done?

This is really a matter of personal preference. Zucchini can be eaten and enjoyed anywhere along the spectrum from raw to puréed, and people tend to have strong feelings about how they like it best. For me, in this particular dish, a softer result feels like the comfort of home. But you can opt to cook it until just crisp-tender if you prefer.

Can I make sautéed zucchini and onions in advance?

Sure thing. Just cool it to room temperature before storing in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. You can even reheat it in the microwave.

How to serve it

This flexible side dish makes a beautiful accompaniment to a wide variety of proteins, from chicken to steak to pork to fish to shellfish. We also love to serve it as an easy, healthy-comfort-food dinner by stirring it into a pound of cooked spaghetti or linguine and sprinkling it with grated parmesan or pecorino.

More favorite vegetable side dishes

sautéed zucchini and onions in a yellow pan

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sautéed zucchini and onions in a yellow pan
4.47 from 43 votes

Sautéed Zucchini and Onions

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This classic side dish has been an absolute staple in our family for several generations. Here's how to make a basic version and a slightly amped up version with ease, and how to serve it.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams) capers (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 pounds (907 grams) zucchini, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, optional
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

Instructions 

  • Pour the olive oil into a 12-inch lidded frying pan and set over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, garlic, capers if using, zucchini, salt, and pepper and give it all a good stir.
  • Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until the onion becomes somewhat tender and translucent.
  • Pour in water, cover pan, and cook until zucchini is as tender as you prefer it. I like it quite soft, which can take about 15 minutes, but you may prefer it more al dente.
  • Off the heat, stir in the basil and lemon juice.

Notes

  1. You can refer to the video to see how to cut the zucchini.
  2. Fine sea salt works well. You can also use herb salt (such as this one or basil salt, pictured).
  3. This flexible side dish makes a beautiful accompaniment to a wide variety of proteins, from chicken to steak to pork to fish to shellfish. We also love to serve it as an easy, healthy-comfort-food dinner by stirring it into a pound of cooked spaghetti or linguine and sprinkling it with grated parmesan or pecorino.
  4. You can make this recipe in advance. Once cool, it keeps well tightly sealed in the fridge for a week, and reheats well on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 84kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Sodium: 266mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 2g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sides
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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