Our latest favorite fast, healthy dinner is ready in 25 minutes, can adapt to any protein you throw at it, and while it’s certainly poised to help you make the most of summer’s most prolific produce, it’s a recipe we’ll cook year round: Zucchini Stir Fry!
Sliced zucchini (or a combination of zucchini and squash) stir fried in a quick garlic ginger soy sauce with onions and a pinch of red pepper flakes, it’s quick to make and obsessively good to eat.
We added chicken (I have pro-tips below for making the meat super tender), though you can just as easily cook this zucchini stir fry with shrimp, pork, or beef.
Need a quick side for dinner tonight? Leave out the meat and serve it alongside your favorite grilled entree.
A few weeks ago on Instagram, I took a poll to ask what kind of zucchini recipes you wanted to see from me this season first, and the savory variety won by a landslide (sorry, Healthy Zucchini Muffins; you’ll have to wait a week or two…or however long I last).
But for tonight: this easy chicken zucchini stir fry has our number!
It’s low maintenance and super healthy (just look at all that veg!). You don’t even need to peel the zucchini to make stir fry.
How to Stir Fry Zucchini
Zucchini does not need long to stir fry, just three minutes to warm the slices through.
For stir fry zucchini, make sure you have all of your ingredients prepped and measured ahead of time. Once this recipe starts moving, the steps come in quick succession.
The Stir Fry Ingredients
- Chicken. Perfectly tender and juicy pieces of chicken breast are coated in the flavorful, sticky sauce. For the most tender stir fry meat, let the chicken rest in the soy sauce and vinegar for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients. I used chicken breasts, but boneless skinless chicken thighs would work well too.
- Zucchini. With its mild flavor and soft texture, zucchini is a delicious addition to stir fry. Plus, it’s packed with Vitamin-A and antioxidants (read more about the health benefits of zucchini here). You can also use yellow squash or a mix of the two for this recipe.
- Onion. One of my favorite easy additions to any stir fry, and it tastes especially yummy paired with zucchini.
The Sauce Ingredients
- Soy Sauce. With its delectable salty, umami flavor, soy sauce is the star of our stir fry sauce (and many of these other stir fries). Be sure to use low sodium soy sauce to keep the sauce from becoming too salty.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. Adds a touch of acidity and tanginess to balance the sauce. The vinegar also helps tenderize the meat.
- Sugar. A pinch of sugar helps enhance the other flavors and balance the sauce further.
- Ginger + Garlic. Must-have ingredients for stir fry sauce.
- Cornstarch + Water. To thicken the sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes. For a touch of heat.
The flavor profile of the sauce is reminiscent of a chicken zucchini teriyaki stir fry. Texture-wise, when compared to my go-to Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry, this sauce is a bit lighter. It makes for a fresh, lovely meal.
- Place the chicken in a bowl with soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Let it hang out while you prep the rest of the stir fry.
- Stir the remaining sauce ingredients together. Chop the zucchini and onion.
- Brown the chicken in a skillet. Once cooked through, remove it to a plate.
- Saute the onion. Pour the sauce into the skillet.
- Add the zucchini, cooking until just softened. Remove from the heat, then add the chicken. Top with sesame seeds and green onion. DIG IN!
How to Cut Zucchini for Stir Fry
- No Need to Peel. Thankfully, you do not peel zucchini for stir fry, which saves a step and adds nutrients to the dish. The skin is thin and mild.
- Cut Thin Slices. Due to zucchini’s high water content, it won’t get as crispy as other vegetables. Cut it into thin slices so it cooks quickly and won’t become soggy.
- Work Quickly. Zucchini can go from tender to mushy in a hurry, so be careful not to overcook it. Three minutes at medium high heat is all you need.
Recipe Variations – Change Up the Protein + Tips for Tender Stir Fry Meat
We opted to make this a chicken and zucchini stir fry, though you could swap any meat you like, or use tofu or shrimp.
- If using chicken or a different sliced meat such as beef or pork, my biggest tip is to soak it in the soy sauce and vinegar mixture while you prep the other ingredients. Even a few minutes of marinating will make for more tender stir fry meat.
- Slice the meat thinly to help it cook more quickly and tenderize.
- If you want to use ground chicken instead, check out this easy Cabbage Stir Fry.
- If using shrimp, you can skip the vinegar in the marinade. Let the shrimp sit in the soy sauce, then be careful not to overcook them.
Recipe Variations – Change Up the Vegetables
I most often stir fry zucchini and onions, which is the version of the recipe you see here. That said, you can certainly use this recipe as a starting point for other vegetables. A few suggestions:
- Zucchini and Squash Stir Fry. Use a mix of zucchini and yellow summer squash (I used one of each).
- Zucchini Eggplant Stir Fry. Swap the onions for the eggplant, cutting the eggplant into short strips that are about 1/2 inch wide. Eggplant may need longer to cook than the onions. Make sure it’s tender before proceeding with the recipe.
- Zucchini Bell Pepper Stir Fry. Swap the onions for 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin slices.
- Zucchini Mushroom Stir Fry. Swap the onions for 10 ounces of sliced or diced cremini mushrooms.
- Carrots, Broccoli, Snap Peas, You Name It! As long as the veggies are chopped to cook in a similar amount of time (meaning harder vegetables like carrots are cut smaller/thinner), you can toss in or swap out just about any fresh vegetable.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To Make Ahead. Chop the zucchini, onion, ginger, and garlic up to 1 day in advance. Store in separate airtight storage containers in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.
- To Store. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm zucchini stir fry in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave, though the microwave will make the zucchini a little soggy.
- To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating (note that zucchini isn’t ideal for freezing, due to the soggy factor, but if that doesn’t bother you, please feel free).
More Favorite Savory Zucchini Recipes
- Zucchini Fries
- Zucchini Enchiladas
- Creamy Polenta with Zucchini and Tomatoes
- Vegetarian Pad Thai with Zoodles
- And all of these healthy zucchini recipes!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Large Skillet. An investment piece that will last a lifetime.
- Liquid Ingredient Measuring Cups. Use these to measure and mix your sauce ingredients.
- Extra Large Cutting Board. It has all the space you’ll need to prep veggie-heavy recipes like this one and Stir Fry Noodles.
Zucchini Stir Fry
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs or tenders), thinly sliced then cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce divided
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar divided
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 3 cloves minced garlic about 1 tablespoon
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 medium zucchini yellow squash, or a mix
- 1 large red or yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Sesame seeds optional for garnish
- Chopped green onion for garnish
- In a large bowl, combine the chicken, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar. Set aside while you prep the remaining ingredients.
- In a small bowl or large liquid measuring cup, stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, the ginger, garlic, water, cornstarch, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
- Trim off the ends of the zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise, then place the flat, cut sides on the counter. Slice crosswise into ¼-inch thick half moons. Thinly slice the onion.
- In a wide skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and its marinating liquid. Saute until the chicken is golden brown on the outsides and fully cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onion. Cook until tender and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Give the sauce one more stir, then add it to the pan. Let cook 30 seconds, then add the sliced zucchini. Cook just until the zucchini begins to soften, about 3 minutes more.
- Remove from the heat, then stir in the reserved chicken. Serve hot with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and green onion as desired.
- TO STORE: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm zucchini stir fry in a large skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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