Growing up on Long Island, our family took a once-a-year trip into New York City for dinner and a Broadway show. Forever ingrained in our memory (along with every song from Hairspray) is the enormous plate of zucchini fries from Carmine’s. Carmine’s is an iconic family-style restaurant known for its “wow-factor-sized portions” of Southern Italian food. It’s been 15 years and we’re still thinking about the massive plate of fried zucchini. Wow, indeed!
We decided to recreate the dish’s classic Italian flavors with a healthier, less-mess twist by baking instead of deep-frying the zucchini. Our version uses thicker slices of zucchini that hold up in the oven and provide layers of texture. They’re coated in a thin batter and dipped in a mix of panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasonings, and Parmesan cheese for an irresistible cheesy, herby crispiness.
Baked Instead of Fried
One of the benefits of baking is that it’s easier and less messy than frying—no oil splatter and no standing over a bubbling pot! Baking also allows the flavors in the coating to shine through while the thick zucchini slices provide a depth in texture. Once you get them in the oven, this recipe is hands-off.
The baked zucchini fries get very crispy thanks to the panko breadcrumbs. They have a drier and flakier consistency than regular breadcrumbs do, making them easy to crisp up in the oven.
Zucchini Fries Tips and Tricks
- Use parchment paper to line the pan. We tested this recipe with and without it and found that using parchment yielded crispier fries that were easier to flip.
- Keep visible space on the pan in between the zucchini fries. If they’re too cramped they will steam and won’t get as crispy.
- When flipping, wiggle the fries first to loosen them on the tray and avoid pulling any coating off.
Feel free to play around with the seasoning—add more crushed red pepper for extra spice or double up on the lemon zest for more zing.
To make this recipe vegan, you can use an alternative milk like soy (we’ve found it’s the best consistency match) and vegan Parmesan cheese.
How to Serve
You can serve baked zucchini fries like Carmine’s with a squeeze of lemon and some warm marinara for dipping. It’s also delicious with an herby yogurt dip made with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and a chopped fresh herb like parsley or dill. Serve as an app or on the side with pasta and extra sauce.
Zucchini Lovers Rejoice
- Zucchini Noodle Casserole
- Taco-Stuffed Zucchini Boats
- Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini
- Zucchini Muffins
- Cheesy Zucchini Bites
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray it with cooking spray.
Prep the zucchini:
Cut each zucchini into thirds and then cut each piece in half lengthwise. Cut each of those pieces into 3 or 4 strips, cutting at an angle towards the center so they have a triangular shape. They should be between 2 and 3 inches long and 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick.
Make the batter and breadcrumb mixture:
In a shallow bowl or baking dish, whisk together the flour, salt, and 3/4 cup of whole milk. The consistency should be slightly thinner than pancake batter, so add up to 2 tablespoons of milk as needed.
In a separate shallow baking dish, whisk together the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and lemon zest (if using).
Dredge and place zucchini on the baking sheet:
Using one hand for the wet and one for the dry, dunk the zucchini strips one at a time into the batter, shaking off any excess, and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Use your hand or a fork to gently press the breadcrumbs onto the zucchini. Line them on the baking sheet in rows, leaving visible space in between. Spray the tops of the zucchini fries with cooking spray.
Bake and serve:
Bake until crisp on the bottom, 14 to 15 minutes. Use tongs to gently flip each fry. If any appear to be sticking, gently wiggle them before grabbing with tongs. Cook until light golden brown and crispy on both sides, 12 to 15 minutes more. Serve immediately with lemon and warm marinara.
Baked zucchini fries are best served immediately. You can store them in the fridge for 3 to 4 days, then reheat in the oven for about 10 minutes at 425°F or for a few minutes in an air fryer.
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