This Roasted Zucchini recipe is based on the pan-seared, oven-roasted method that has gone viral across social media as the "Thomas Keller method." Meltingly tender, to the point that it's custardy enough to eat with a spoon, it will be the only way you will ever want to make and eat zucchini for the rest of your life. Is that an exaggeration? Try it and you tell me. (Spoiler alert: not an exaggeration). Shall we?
- What is the Thomas Keller Roasted Zucchini?
- Ingredients You Need for Roasted Zucchini
- How to Make Roasted Zucchini
- How To Make a Larger Batch or Roasted Zucchini
- What Kind of Zucchini is Best for Roasting?
- Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Roasted Zucchini
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment
- What Else to Serve with Roasted Zucchini
- Roasted Zucchini Recipe
What is the Thomas Keller Roasted Zucchini?
What exactly is the "Thomas Keller method" of roasting zucchini? It's a method that world-renowned Chef Thomas Keller shared via Masterclass, that then went viral on tiktok.
- slices the zucchini length-wisescores zucchini in a cross-hatch pattern
- salts and drains the zucchini
- pan-sears the zucchini in a pan on the stovetop, then
- oven roasts the zucchini in a high-heat oven until the zucchini becomes meltingly soft and tender.
Tiktokers called the roasted zucchini "life-changing" and while that's not a surprising description for any dish that comes from the mind of Chef Keller, it is surprising that it's for zucchini which is sort of an NPC of the vegetable world, and that the method is actually fairly simple. Chef Keller's recipes are famously long and complicated, to say the least.
Peep more of Chef Thomas Keller's recipes here:
- Thomas Keller's Blowtorch Prime Rib
- Thomas Keller's Garlic Confit
- Cauliflower Gratin recipe
- Charenteis Melon Sorbet recipe
- All the recipes from Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook
- All the recipes from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook
The complete recipe from the Masterclass includes a sauce vierge, a French fresh chopped tomato sauce, something like a salsa, to top the Roasted Zucchini, which I've included with the recipe. However, the only thing that matters is the zucchini roasting method.
Ever one to lean toward Asian flavors, I brush the Roasted Zucchini with a miso glaze for a savory, subtle sweetness. In this house, it gets demanded for dinner as "Melting Miso Zucchini."
Ingredients You Need for Roasted Zucchini
For the Roasted Zucchini, you only need:
- Zucchini, obviously!
- Sea salt
- Cooking oil
That's it! Seriously!
Chef Keller serves the roasted zucchini with a chopped tomato sauce, but if you'd like to take it in a more umami direction with a Miso Glaze, which I always do because why wouldn't you, you still only need a few ingredients. Here's what you need:
- Maple syrup
- Sesame seeds and/or sliced scallions as final garnish
How to Make Roasted Zucchini
This method for slicing and oven-roasting zucchini is so easy! There are a couple of steps, none of which are complicated at all. Most of the steps are non-active, "waiting" time.
Pan Sear Zucchini
Heat oven on 400°F. Slice zucchini into halves length-wise. You can leave the stem end on for aesthetics if you'd like, or cut it off, which might be necessary to fit the pan.
Using the tip of your knife, cut a cross-hatch pattern into the cut-side of each zucchini half. Each cut only needs to be about ¼ to ⅛-inch deep.
Sprinkle the cut side of each zucchini with a little bit of sea salt. Turn the zucchini halves over so the salted, cut sides are face down on a paper towel, or in a colander set over a bowl to catch any water. Let the zucchini drain 15-20 minutes. The salt and paper towels will pull out a LOT of water from the zucchini.
Very quickly rinse the cut side of each zucchini under running tap water to get rid of any salt. You don't want the zucchini to re-absorb any water after you just spent 20 minutes trying to drain them! Blot the cut sides with an absorbent kitchen towel or fresh paper towels to thoroughly dry them off. Make sure the zucchini are as dry as possible.
Heat a cast iron skillet or other oven-proof pan over medium heat, add 1-2 teaspoons neutral cooking oil with a high smoke point like avocado oil, and place the zucchini cut-side down in the pan.
Cook zucchini until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes, as pictured above. You can use a pair of tongs to gently lift up an end of the zucchini to peek at the underside, but try not to completely flip the zucchini over. The zucchini will be fairly tender, and might fall apart.
Roast Zucchini in Oven
Once the cut sides are deeply golden brown, place the cast iron skillet or oven-proof pan in the 400°F oven. Roast for 15 minutes or until zucchini are meltingly soft when pierced with a fork. If your zucchini are larger, you may need to add a few more minutes.
Make Miso Glaze (if using): While the zucchini are roasting in the oven, make the Miso Glaze by whisking together miso, maple syrup or honey, and sake in a small bowl. Add filtered water one teaspoon at a time until the glaze is the consistency of a thin barbecue sauce.
When the zucchini are meltingly tender, remove the pan from the oven. If you are going to use the Miso Glaze, turn the zucchini over so they are cut side up, and brush lightly with miso glaze. Otherwise, if you are not using the Miso Glazing, serve the zucchini as is or with any other sauce or condiment.
Return skillet with zucchini cut, glazed side up to oven under the broiler for 3 minutes until miso glaze just starts to bubble. Remove pan from oven. Garnish zucchini with toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions if using.
How To Make a Larger Batch or Roasted Zucchini
Squeezing two or three zucchini into a large oven-proof skillet that goes from stovetop to oven in a single sweep works for making a couple of servings as a side dish. But if you want to make more servings, you'll have to brown zucchini on the stovetop in batches and transfer to a sheet pan before roasting in the oven. Here are the tips:
- Drizzle a sheet pan that will fit all the zucchini with 1-2 tablespoons of oil, and place it in the oven when you start to pre-heat. This ensures that the zucchini will stay hot on when it transfers from the skillet to the oven.
- Brown 2-3 cross-hatched zucchini in a skillet on the stovetop following the recipe.
- Once a batch of zucchini are finished browning in a skillet on the stove top, transfer them face-down to a plate and continue browning the rest of the zucchini.
- Place all the browned zucchini face down on the pre-heated sheet pan, then return the sheet pan to the oven and roast, following the recipe.
What Kind of Zucchini is Best for Roasting?
Any regular green zucchini, about 1½-inches to 2-inches in diameter each is best for this Roasted Zucchini recipe. Yellow zucchini or summer squash also work perfectly well. I prefer buying zucchini organic not only because we keep the skins on, but also because there are some genetically modified zucchini and summer squash available in grocery stores.
The type of zucchini is less important than the size. A little smaller is ok, but zucchini that are too large, like the ones you get toward the end of the summer season that are the size of your forearm, are going to be bitter and full of too much water to work very well for this recipe. Use those oversize zucchini for Zucchini Bread and stick with regular sized zucchini for this recipe.
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
- Miso. There are several different types of miso, which vary in color, depth of flavor, saltiness, and "funk." I use white miso, which is lighter in color, and less salty. This brand, and this brand are the two organic brands I buy most often.
- Maple Syrup. Most Miso Marinades contain sugar, and quite a bit of it. I prefer the sweetness of natural maple syrup to refined sugars, and use a very little amount. I use an organic maple syrup like this. you can substitute an equivalent amount of honey.
- Sake. Sake, aka Japanese rice wine, is a type of alcohol made by fermenting rice. Just like regular wine made from grapes, sake comprises a wide variety of styles, brands, quality, and price points. As with any wine in cooking, use sake that you would be happy to drink. Sake is now fairly widely available in grocery stores in the wine section or in liquor stores. The organic sake pictured above is available here.
- Any other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market when I can't find what I need at the farmers' market.
Health Benefits and Dietary Considerations of Roasted Zucchini
Zucchini's biggest health benefits are fiber and the hydration it provides with its over 90% water content by volume. And while it's not particularly nutrient dense, zucchini does provide measurable amounts of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and the mineral potassium.
The Oven Roasted Zucchini recipe as presented with the miso glaze, is:
- 100% plant-based, suitable for vegan lifestyles
- low calorie, low fat
- refined sugar-free
- keto and paleo adaptable
Substitutions and Variations
With so few ingredients in this recipe, there aren't a lot of substitutions. That being said, you can substitute:
- Different Squash. Substitute any kind of summer squash for the zucchini in this recipe. I have tried everything from yellow summer squash, which basically looks like a yellow zucchini, crookneck squash, and dark green completely spherical 8-ball squash. Cooking times will vary across all squash, even zucchini, based on size and shape.
You can also make small adjustments to the Miso Glaze to suit certain diets or lifestyles:
- Sugar-Free. The roasted zucchini itself is completely sugar-free. To make the Miso Glaze sugar-free, simply leave out the maple syrup or other natural sweetener. Miso, particularly white or "shiro" miso has an inherent natural sweetness, so you may not even miss the sugar anyway!
- Keto-Friendly. To make this Miso Glaze recipe keto-friendly, leave out the sake, which is an alcohol and not compliant with keto lifestyles. You do not have to substitute a different ingredients, though you may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to get the right consistency for brushing onto the zucchini. You can substitute in rice vinegar (keto-compliant) since the marinating time is fairly short for this recipe, though the flavor substitution is not 1:1 and the taste of vinegar is much stronger than sake. Use half to one-third the amount of sake, so for this recipe, 1-2 tablespoons of rice vinegar.
Tools and Equipment
As I always say, you don't need any special equipment to make almost any recipe. However, that's not to say there are a couple of gadgets and tools that might make it a LOT easier to get Roasted Zucchini from your fridge to fork.
- Vegetable wash
- Chef's knife
- Small paring knife
- Cast-iron skillet
- Stainless steel skillet
- Silicone brush
- Mini ¼-cup liquid measuring cup
- Glass mixing bowls for making marinade
- Mini whisk
- Glass storage container with airtight lids
What Else to Serve with Roasted Zucchini
Paired with a bowl of steamed rice or quinoa, this Roasted Zucchini can be a perfect, light vegetarian meal in the summer. However, if you'd like to add some protein, more color, or make the zucchini a full side dish to a larger main dish, here are some ideas for what else to serve with Roasted Zucchini:
- Add Whipped Feta, walnuts, and a loving squeeze of fresh lemon (pictured above)
- serve alongside Miso Salmon
- Gochujang Salmon
- Nobu's Miso Marinated Cod
- Roasted Ginger Tofu for a vegetarian meal
Roasted Zucchini Recipe
- 2 large zucchini or summer squash
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil with high smoked point like grapeseed or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon miso
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup or other sweetener
- 2 teaspoons sake
- garnish: toasted sesame seeds, sliced scallions
- Halve the 2 large zucchini or summer squash lengthwise and score the the cut side in a crosshatch pattern so that salt can penetrate it.
- Rain 1 teaspoon sea salt onto the cut and scored side of the zucchini from a height so that it is evenly distributed. Leave the zucchini for 15 minutes to draw out moisture.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (degrees Fahrenheit). Pat the zucchini dry with paper towels.
- Pour just enough oil to coat the bottom of a cast iron skillet or oven-safe frying pan and heat until it's shimmering but not quite smoking. Add the zucchini, cut side down, in the oil and adjust the heat to allow the zucchini to sear and brown without burning. Cook about 5 minutes, checking occasionally, until it is browned but not burnt.
- Transfer the entire pan with the zucchini in it to the oven. Roast zucchini for 20 minutes or until zucchini are soft. Larger zucchini may take a few minutes longer
Make Miso Glaze
- While zucchini are roasting, prepare the Miso Glaze. Combine miso, maple syrup or other sweetener, and sake in a small bowl. If needed, add filtered water one teaspoon at a time until the glaze is the consistency of a thin barbecue sauce.
- Remove pan from the oven. Flip the zucchini over so the cut and scored sides are face up. Drizzle or brush each zucchini half with about ¼ teaspoon of the Miso Glaze. Return pan with zucchini to oven under the broiler for 3 minutes or until the miso starts to bubble and caramelize. Remove pan from oven, transfer zucchini to serving plate. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then serve.
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Sarah is a professional recipe developer, writer, editor, and digital content creator with almost 20 years of experience cooking both at home and in professional kitchens, entertaining, and catering for private clients. She studied Nutritional Science in college and promotes happy healthy living through food.