Grilled zucchini with mint salsa is an easy and healthy side dish that makes excellent use of an abundance of summer zucchini, and doesn’t require you to turn on the oven. The zesty mint salsa verde can serve double-duty for other grilled meats and veggies.
Grilled zucchini often falls victim to both under-seasoning and overcooking. Try to address the former by cutting the zucchini into thin planks that can be seasoned more thoroughly, and you end up exacerbating the latter, as thinner pieces overcook in a flash.
To achieve well-seasoned, crisp-tender zucchini, we ditched the planks, halved the zucchini lengthwise, and mixed up a brine. Meat normally gets all the brining love, but a 45 minute soak in a saltwater solution produced incredibly well-seasoned zucchini.
During brining, salt diffuses from an area of greater salt concentration (our 10 percent salt brine) to an area of lesser concentration (our soon-to-be-delicious zucchini).
We quickly grilled the brined zucchini to pick up great char and smoky flavor, without turning it to mush. We paired the zucchini with a punchy riff on salsa verde, packed with refreshing herbs, garlic, and red pepper flakes for heat, and capers and vinegar for an acidic bite.
Look for zucchini that are about 2 inches in diameter. Zucchini brined with this salt concentration will start to taste too salty if brined longer than 1 hour. Brined zucchini can be removed from brine, patted dry, and refrigerated for up to 3 hours before cooking. —America’s Test Kitchen
Grilled Zucchini FAQs
How do I select the best zucchini?
As far as zucchini is concerned, bigger is not better. While summer zucchinis can turn into monsters if left in the garden too long, you’ll want to select those that are small to medium-sized (no longer than about 8 inches). Whether from the store or fresh from your garden, the zucchini should be firm to the touch and free of nicks and cuts.
What should I serve with grilled zucchini?
This dish is fantastic as a side next to any grilled meat, but especially those with Greek or Mediterranean flavors. Try grilled Greek chicken, lamb burgers, or make a vegetarian platter of several different veggies in addition to the zucchini – try eggplant, portabellos, yellow squash, peppers, carrots, whatever your heart desires – all served with the delicious mint salsa.
Can I make this without a grill?
Definitely. Use a grill pan set over medium-high heat and proceed with the recipe as directed.
Grilled Zucchini with Mint Salsa
For the grilled zucchini
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons kosher salt for brining
- 1 quart water
- 2 pounds (3 large) zucchini halved lengthwise
- Oil for the grill grate
For the mint salsa
- 1 cup fresh mint chopped fine
- 1 cup fresh parsley chopped fine
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more if needed
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and minced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Make the grilled zucchini
- In a large bowl, dissolve the salt in 1 quart of water. Add the zucchini to the brine. Weigh the zucchini down with a plate to keep them submerged.
- Let sit at room temperature for at least 45 minutes or up to 1 hour. Transfer the zucchini to a paper towel–lined plate and pat dry. Discard the brine.
- If cooking on a charcoal grill, open the bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When the top coals are partially covered with ash, pour them evenly over half of the grill. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vent completely. Heat the grill until hot, about 5 minutes.If cooking on a gas grill, turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all the burners on high.
- Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place zucchini, cut side down, on the grill (directly over the coals if using charcoal) and cook until the zucchini are well charred on the bottom and the flesh just begins to soften, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Flip the zucchini and continue to cook until the skin side is charred, and the zucchini is slightly soft at the edges but firm in the center, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer to a serving plate.
Make the mint salsa
- In a small bowl, stir together the mint, parsley, oil, vinegar, capers, garlic, and pepper flakes. Season with salt to taste, and add more oil, if desired. Spoon the mint salsa over the zucchini and serve.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
What a lovely surprise! My Italian family eats a lot of zucchini (especially in the summer when the garden is plentiful!) but we have never brined it before grilling it.
This method produced a well-seasoned zucchini that didn’t fall apart when cooking. It was tender, juicy, and incredibly flavourful.
The mint salsa verde was a nice touch. This would be great for entertaining – it literally takes no time to prepare and cook, and was great eaten hot or at room temperature. I found the salsa verde to be a bit too vinegary, so I simply adjusted to my taste. Overall, a wonderfully simple technique that will take your zucchini to the next level.
Brining the zucchini halves is simple and genius. Compared to previous (over-charred) efforts at grilling zucchini, the end result here was a perfect balance of grilled outers and al dente interiors. The mint salsa was quick and simple to stir together and made a delicious and fresh addition to the dish.
My only recommendation would be that if you cook this at the beginning of a longer bbq session, hold off on finishing the salsa until just before you serve and eat. The vinegar and capers will turn the herbs a little brown after time, so you might want to have everything ready to stir together, but keep the acidic ingredients separate until the end.
I am a fan of grilled zucchini, even though it sometimes disappoints, being either mushy or watery. Could brining zucchini really make a difference? Well, yes, it can! And it takes almost no additional effort.
The mint salsa was bright and refreshing. I liked the simplicity of it, without a lot of extra ingredients. My one comment would be that this makes a lot of salsa, way more than you need to spread on top of the zucchini. So unless you know you’ll find other uses for it I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. I also felt that the salsa could benefit from additional oil, so I ended up adding a couple of extra tablespoons.
Recipes for grilled zucchini topped with some variation on salsa, chimichurri, pesto, or another green condiment are a dime a dozen. But this one has a twist that makes it stand out, which is the step of brining the zucchini, and then cooking it in thicker halves, rather than thin planks. This has the effect of producing zucchini that is both well-seasoned and not overcooked.
The mint salsa verde is a good accompaniment, but if you want to take the technique and then get creative, there are plenty of condiments that would be great with this zucchini. Harissa, chimichurri, schug . . . you can go anywhere. Whatever topping you make, I would advise making it as soon as you put the zucchini in the brine, so the flavors will meld while you are waiting to cook the zucchini.
Although brining and grilling the zucchini results in a great-looking and well-flavoured vegetable, it is the mint salsa verde that really makes them shine! The sweet and savoury aspect of that combination of ingredients works magic on the zucchini.
Between the visual aspect of the grilled zucchini and the assertive flavours in the salsa verde, there will be no problem accompanying whatever you serve with it. I used salt-cured capers and found that there was no need to add extra salt (to taste), once the other ingredients were put together.
You also might want to start this recipe by making the salsa first. That gives a good amount of time for the ingredients to “get comfortable with each other” while you prepare the zucchini. Oh, and they are fabulous at room temperature, too!
Originally published July 28, 2022