Sautéed Summer Squash Ribbons

Sautéed summer squash ribbons is an easy-peasy side dish that is tasty, healthy, and really quite lovely to behold. Sliced thinly and cooked without the seeds, the strands don’t get a chance to become waterlogged before serving. A lemon and garlic dressing adds brightness and zing.

A tangle of sautéed summer squash ribbons on a square white plate.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen | The Complete One Pot | America’s Test Kitchen, 2020

Summer squash and zucchini make great side dishes; they cook quickly and have creamy, delicately flavored flesh that pairs perfectly with most proteins. But summer squash and zucchini contain a lot of excess moisture that can inhibit browning and result in a mushy, unpleasant texture. We found that we could avoid this by starting with very thinly sliced squash. We used a peeler to make evenly thin “ribbons,” discarding the waterlogged seeds. The ultrathin ribbons browned and cooked so quickly that they didn’t have time to break down and release their liquid. Steeping the minced garlic in lemon juice mellows the garlic’s bite; don’t skip this step. To avoid overcooking the squash, start checking for doneness at the lower end of the cooking time.–America’s Test Kitchen

Sauteed Summer Squash Ribbons

A tangle of sautéed summer squash ribbons on a square white plate.
Delicate cooked squash needs little embellishment; a quick, tangy vinaigrette of extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and lemon and a sprinkle of fresh parsley round out the flavors. We like a mix of summer squash and zucchini, but you can use just one or the other.

Prep 15 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 25 mins
4 servings
103 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • 1 small garlic clove minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 4 (6- to 8‑ounce) yellow squash* or zucchini ends trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


  • In a large bowl, combine garlic and lemon juice and let rest for at least 10 minutes.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, shave each squash lengthwise into ribbons. Shave off 3 ribbons from 1 side, then turn squash 90 degrees and shave off 3 more ribbons. Continue to turn and shave ribbons until you reach seeds.

    TESTER TIP: Save those squash cores for making vegetable stock.

  • Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, salt, pepper, and lemon zest into the garlic-lemon juice mixture.
  • In a 12-inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 teaspoon oil until just smoking, 2 to 3 minutes. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally with tongs, until squash has softened and is translucent, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Dump the squash into a bowl with dressing, add parsley, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a serving platter and serve immediately.
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*What’s a summer squash?

Summer squash and zucchini have soft, thin skin that’s perfectly textured for eating, unlike the hard, shell-like skins of winter squash. Ever dropped a butternut squash on your foot? A sweet yellow summer squash would never hurt you like that. Tender and mild, they can be eaten raw or cooked, too. Summer squash includes varieties like green or yellow zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan, cousa, or zephyr squash. Harvested while immature, any of the squash you find at your summer farmer’s market should be perfect for use in this recipe.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 103kcal (5%)Carbohydrates: 8g (3%)Protein: 3g (6%)Fat: 8g (12%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 145mg (6%)Potassium: 546mg (16%)Fiber: 3g (13%)Sugar: 5g (6%)Vitamin A: 522IU (10%)Vitamin C: 43mg (52%)Calcium: 37mg (4%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Sautéed summer squash ribbons is a delightfully simple and bright summer recipe. I love zucchini and summer squash, and have spiralized them before and served them in a similar way. However, I had yet to try this “ribbon” variation, and I must say I really like the texture. It’s delicate and takes on the flavor of the garlic and lemon beautifully. There’s a lot of moisture to the dish–it actually feels hydrating, which makes it an even better summer side.

I would absolutely make this again, possibly with additional/different herbs thrown in… maybe some tarragon in place of parsley… I served it with leftover shredded chicken (which was braised in bone broth with garlic, rosemary, and thyme) and some fresh bitter green lettuce for a light lunch.

This recipe for sautéed summer squash ribbons is a nice and easy side dish one can prepare quickly and scale up or down for the family or a dinner party. When slicing the ribbons, I suggest you do one side, then turn the squash over 180 degrees to get a flat side for more stability when peeling, then follow that process. I served the squash with some roasted halibut that I had topped with ramp butter, so the flavor pairing was perfect.

The ingredient list and preparation for this sautéed summer squash ribbons recipe is simple, so I was surprised how much better it turned out than I expected. Letting the garlic sit with the lemon juice played a big part in imparting garlic flavor without the sharpness.

The recipe was also quick to prepare with the most tedious step being the shaving of the squash ribbons. I would suggest using a mandoline if available. Lastly, this dish gets points in the looks department and could easily be used as a side dish for a quick weeknight dinner or a dinner party.

This recipe for sautéed summer squash ribbons was easy and fun to make and a great way to serve sweet summer squash. You could serve a smaller portion as a side dish or a larger one with a piece of protein for a nice healthy meal.

I used both zucchini and yellow squash–because it was so visually appealing. You really need to stick with the 90 degree turns, to help with getting nice wide ribbons, as opposed to just following the natural shape of the vegetable. Depending on the size of your pan and the number of ribbons, you’ll want to err on the shorter time of sautéing so as not to overcook them. (There’s carryover cooking from the heat and tossing with the dressing.)

The pungent garlic and bright lemon create a nice flavor profile. The garlic marinated with the lemon for about 15 minutes, which still kept the garlic a bit sharp. If you’re not a fan of garlic, or just want to change it up, additional fresh herbs (of the soft variety) such as dill, basil, cilantro, or more parsley, would be just as yummy.

Don’t sleep on this summer side dish! What a delightful surprise these sauteed summer squash ribbons are. While it looks quite simple, this recipe produces a bright and attractive dish. I will be making it, again and again, this summer when it will be a good use of bountiful zucchini. Using the two different colored squashes, though, is worth it for the beautiful presentation.

We had this along with broiled NY strip steak and red wine mushroom sauce, buttermilk mashed potatoes, and a Cobb salad.

This recipe for sautéed summer squash ribbons transforms the heretofore (in our household) unloved zucchini. These warm, soft ribbons in the light and lemony dressing are magical. Consider adjusting the lemon to taste at the end and add a swath of fresh minced chives if you have them.

It made a beautiful starter course for a dinner party for close friends; though it does require last-minute work over a hot stove, the ribbons can be made ahead. Don’t be afraid of the huge mound of them though because they cook down quickly. Serve it all, because the texture didn’t keep well in the few pieces that made it to the fridge.

This recipe for sauteed summer squash ribbons was the perfect recipe for a summer lunch or barbecue side! We served ours with a vinaigrette potato salad and BBQ halibut and chicken.


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