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In this refreshing Zucchini Salad, paper thin slices of raw zucchini marinate in fresh lemon juice, salt and garlic until their texture is transformed to something more like tender pappardelle pasta than raw zucchini. The zucchini maintains the right amount of bite, similar to pasta cooked al dente. Then a sprinkle of creamy feta cheese, a shower of buttery pine nuts and slivered fresh basil and you’re ready to serve!

Zucchini Salad served on white plates.

Our quest for the perfect Zucchini Salad began with this recipe from the New York Times. Not always a fan of raw zucchini, I loved the idea of tenderizing thin slices in a tangy, salty marinade. And the tangle of thin slices was so pretty! But being the skeptic that I am, I questioned three things: one, that it was necessary to toss the zucchini slices with salt first before adding the lemon juice and garlic; two, that such thin slices would really require a minimum of 4 hours to marinate; and three, that the dish wouldn’t be improved by a shower of feta and pine nuts. But I had to test these theories to be sure.

Ingredients You Need to Make Zucchini Salad

  • Fresh Zucchini: ideally a mix of small to medium green zucchini and yellow summer squash
  • Lemon Juice: ideally fresh from about 1 large lemon
  • Garlic: fresh garlic clove
  • Olive Oil: good quality, extra-virgin olive oil
  • Feta Cheese: or crumbled goat cheese (chèvre), or shredded Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Pine Nuts: or chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans or almonds
  • Fresh Basil Leaves: optional, but recommended!

Recipe Testing Notes (or why this is the ONE)

First I tried the NYT recipe as directed: I tossed the zucchini slices with salt and let stand for 30 minutes then drained and patted them dry before adding the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. After marinating for 4 hours, the salad was tasty, but on the watery side and I hesitated to pour off the liquid since I’d already tossed in the olive oil. We enjoyed this version, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Next I tried increasing the amount of zucchini slices and tossing them with all but the olive oil: salt, fresh lemon juice and garlic. Then covered and refrigerated. We tasted the zucchini slices at 1 1/2 hours, 2 hours, 4 hours then 6 hours (Oh how I love tasty R&D!). As it turns out, the perfect amount of marinating time is between 1 1/2 and 2 hours, there was no improvement in texture or flavor by marinating for the full 4 to 6 hours as the base recipe suggested.

A Better Marinade

As a bonus, I much preferred the flavor of the zucchini when it was marinated in not just salt but lemon juice and garlic from the start, better flavor and one less step. Both the lemon zing and subtle garlic heat came through better when the slices hadn’t spent time in salt first. This way, you’re draining and patting dry the zucchini and tossing in the the olive oil right before you serve.

Though the salad is delicious on it’s own, it’s even better with the added texture and flavor of feta and pine nuts. And you could certainly toss in some fresh herbs if you like. Fresh mint, chives or basil (as pictured) would be especially good.

FAQ

Can you eat zucchini raw in a salad?

Yes, and you should! Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife to thinly slice it raw for salads and marinate if you want a more tender / less crunchy texture. (As in this recipe.)

Can you use zucchini instead of cucumber in a salad?

Yes you can! Swap raw zucchini for cucumber in any salad you like. Just know that raw zucchini has a denser, less watery texture than raw cucumber and is a bit less crunchy.

Pairing Suggestions

To make this salad a meal, I recommend serving as a side dish with:

More Delicious Summer Salads to Try

How to Make Zucchini Salad

Thinly slice zucchini with Y peeler or mandoline slicer and place in large bowl.

Add fresh lemon juice, salt and smashed garlic clove; gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours up to 6 hours.

Drain zucchini slices and pat dry. Drizzle with olive oil and gently toss to coat; adjust seasoning. Divide among serving plates and top with crumbled feta cheese and pine nuts. Serve.

Recipe Video

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Zucchini Salad

5 from 15 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 1 hour 45 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Calories: 238
Servings: 4 people
Raw Zucchini Salad marinated in a delicious blend of fresh lemon juice, garlic and salt then topped with creamy feta cheese and buttery pine nuts! An easy and healthy recipe to serve with everything this summer!

Ingredients  

  • 1 1/2 pounds small to medium zucchini ideally a mix of green zucchini and yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice about 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic smashed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces feta cheese crumbled
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves optional

Instructions 

  • Thinly slice zucchini with a Y Peeler or mandoline slicer at its thinnest setting. Place zucchini ribbons in large bowl, gently separating slices with your hands.
  • To zucchini add salt, lemon juice and smashed garlic clove; gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours and up to 6 hours.
  • When you're ready to serve, remove zucchini mixture from refrigerator. Drain and discard garlic clove. Gently pat slices dry with paper towels. Alternatively, you can turn slices out onto a paper towel lined baking sheet in a single layer and pat dry for a drier salad. Return zucchini slices to bowl.
  • Drizzle zucchini with olive oil and gently toss to coat; adjust seasoning as desired. Divide among 4 serving plates. Top each salad with an equal amount of crumbled feta, pine nuts and basil if you like. Serve.

Notes

I recommend a Y peeler for uniform, thin slices of zucchini (this one is my favorite). You can also use a mandoline slicer like this one.

Nutrition

Calories: 238kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 542mg | Potassium: 519mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 430IU | Vitamin C: 35.1mg | Calcium: 132mg | Iron: 1.3mg

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

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42 Comments

  1. Amanda says:

    5 stars
    This salad was amazing. The texture is very satisfying, even if not fully dried before adding the olive oil. The flavors work great together. This is definitely one of my top 10 favorite salads. 10/10 would recommend!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      This is so great to hear, Amanda! Thank you for coming back to let me know.

  2. Jackie says:

    5 stars
    SO GOOD!! I’m such a food snob and this salad was on point! I added fresh mint but followed the recipe to a T otherwise. So refreshing and delicious. Don’t skip the pine nuts. Toasting them makes the salad even better!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Love that you enjoyed this recipe, Jackie! Thank you for coming back to let me know.

  3. Amy says:

    5 stars
    I skipped the marinating phase and dug straight into it. Used walnuts rather than pine nuts. Delish!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Ha! I love it, Amy. So glad you enjoyed it!

  4. Chef Mimi says:

    Beautiful. This is summer perfection!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks so much, Mimi!

  5. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    I’m so glad to see this recipe pop back up, Marissa! It’s zucchini season, and I’m always hunting for ways to use it. This sounds like a fantastic option next to a piece of grilled chicken – summer at its best!!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I agree, David! Thank you.