You might not believe it, but I was once an air fryer skeptic. I couldn’t see uses beyond getting frozen spring rolls or chicken nuggets super crispy. Thankfully, the tides have turned. The air fryer, thanks to the combination of its concentrated heat and blowing fan, makes cooking foods to golden perfection a breeze—as long as you’re using the right recipe.
Enter air fryer zucchini. The sweet summer squash is sliced into rounds and coated with oil and a flavorful breadcrumb mixture that, when air fried, is tender on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside.
Although air fryer zucchini does need to be cooked in batches (the recipe can be halved if needed), I promise it’s super simple and unforgettable. Make it as a side for dinner, an accompaniment to lunch, throw it on a salad, or even enjoy it as a snack. Just make sure to eat them while they’re hot!
Fire Up the Air Fryer
This air fryer zucchini is so wonderful because the contained, more concentrated heat from the air fryer in combination with a flavorful breadcrumb coating creates the most delicious, golden brown, tender zucchini. The coating that’s created from a combination of a little olive oil, cornstarch, and traditional breadcrumbs becomes delicately crisp in the air fryer, making this zucchini a family favorite.
A Note on Air Fryer Models
This recipe was developed in a 6-quart air fryer, which is large enough to cook the zucchini in two batches. If your air fryer is smaller, you may need to cook the zucchini in three batches. Just divide the zucchini and breadcrumb mixture into thirds.
Sometimes you don’t have time to cook in batches, and that’s okay! Almost all the ingredients in the recipe can be divided in half easily, aside from the 1/3 cup breadcrumbs. For that, use 3 tablespoons—it’s a little over half, but it works the same.
Tips for Making Air Fryer Zucchini
My favorite part about recipe development is discovering all the tricks to make a recipe as good as it can be. These thoughtful techniques ensure this zucchini comes out tender, crisp, and golden every time.
- Cut the zucchini as close to 3/16-inch thick as possible. I know how fussy that measurement sounds, but in testing I found this thickness to yield the best results. 1/4-inch is okay if you mis-cut, just note that cooking may take a few more minutes.
- Make sure to use plain, traditional breadcrumbs, not panko. Panko won’t cling to the zucchini the same.
- Don’t skip quickly salting the zucchini. Zucchini has so much excess moisture that if you don’t salt it first it can lead to a soggy end result.
- This recipe calls for air frying at 325°F, which is lower than many air fryer recipes. In testing, I found this temperature to be the sweet spot—low enough that the zucchini has time for the excess moisture to cook out, but high enough to get golden brown and tender.
- Don’t bread the zucchini until just before air frying. This keeps the breadcrumbs from becoming oversaturated and clumpy and ensures the zucchini cooks evenly.
Easy Recipe Variations
While salt and pepper are non-negotiable in my book, feel free to swap the other seasonings and the Parmesan to suit your fancy. Swap gluten-free breadcrumbs if needed, go with vegan cheese, swap cayenne for a different chili powder (or skip it altogether if you like things mild), add dried herbs, finish with lemon zest or juice for a bit of brightness—the possibilities are endless.
Air Fryer Magic
- Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts
- Air Fryer Hamburgers
- Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
- Air Fryer Salmon
- Air Fryer Hash Browns
Prepare the zucchini:
Trim the ends off the zucchini. Slice the zucchini into 3/16-inch thick rounds. Transfer the zucchini to a medium bowl followed by a pinch of salt. Use a rubber spatula, a large spoon, or your hands to toss the zucchini with the salt and set aside to sit for 5 minutes to draw out some of the moisture.
Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumb mixture:
In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan (if using), cornstarch, granulated garlic (if using), freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of cayenne (if using), and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to combine.
Dry the zucchini and prepare the air fryer:
After 5 minutes, there will be some moisture on the zucchini and a little in the bowl. You don’t want to draw all the moisture out, just a bit of the excess. Use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to dab away the excess moisture off the zucchini rounds as much as possible. No need to go one by one or transfer it out of the bowl.
Preheat the air fryer to 325°F if your air fryer requires preheating. If your air fryer has different settings, use the “air fry” setting.
Coat the zucchini in oil and divide into batches:
Add the olive oil to the zucchini and use your hands (or a spoon or spatula) to toss until the zucchini rounds are coated. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you will need to coat and cook the zucchini in batches (see recipe note). Divide the oil-coated zucchini into 2 batches.
Toss the zucchini in the breadcrumb mixture:
Add about half of the breadcrumb mixture to the first batch of zucchini and use a large spoon or spatula (the breadcrumbs tend to stick to your hands) to toss until the zucchini rounds are coated in the breadcrumbs.
Air fry the zucchini:
Spray the basket of the air fryer with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the coated zucchini rounds in an even layer. If a few overlap just slightly, that’s okay. It’ll shrink as it cooks. Return the basket to the air fryer and cook at 325°F for 10 minutes.
Flip the zucchini rounds and continue to cook until the zucchini is tender and the coating is golden brown and crispy, 8 to 12 minutes more.
Transfer the zucchini to a plate, sprinkle with more Parmesan if desired, and serve immediately or move to a wire rack if not eating immediately so it doesn’t get too soggy. Repeat coating and air frying the rest of the zucchini.
Leftover zucchini can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.