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Zucchini crisps up nicely in this simple air-fryer zucchini recipe. The interior is creamy and soft without feeling mushy, with the outside remaining crispy. A squeeze of lemon after cooking adds brightness and tang.

EatingWell.com, June 2022


Credit: Jacob Fox

Recipe Summary

10 mins
30 mins

Here's how we made over this recipe to be healthy and diabetes-friendly:

1. Used the air fryer in place of traditional frying methods. Unlike deep-frying or shallow-pan frying, the air fryer requires less oil to cook food, which helps keep the overall calories in check. Plus, using a small amount of oil (depending on the type) can help limit the overall saturated fat content. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of your daily calories.

2. Amped up the spices while keeping salt in check. Cooking with spices adds flavor without salt. That's important, since people with diabetes are at risk for developing high blood pressure and heart disease, conditions exacerbated by consuming too much salt.  

3. Made a smarter coating. Rather than opt for a thicker, batter-style coating, we paired our spice mix with just enough Parmesan cheese to create a savory, flavorful coating. 

4. Omitted any dipping sauce and opted for a squeeze of lemon. To amplify the natural goodness of our air-fryer zucchini, we turned to citrus. This cooking trick adds bright acidity to food, which means you don't really need any sauces for dipping.

Tips from the EatingWell Test Kitchen

I'm vegan. Can I omit or replace the Parmesan cheese with something else?

The Parmesan provides a bit of salty umami to this dish, but you can definitely omit it. Otherwise consider replacing it with a vegan variety of Parmesan. And while we haven't tried it, nutritional yeast could be a good substitute. Start small, though; about 1 to 2 teaspoons for the whole recipe should do the trick.

How can I keep my cooked zucchini hot and crisp while cooking the other batches?

If your air fryer doesn't have a lot of space, there's a good chance you'll have to cook your food in batches. The best way to enjoy this zucchini is right after you pull it out of the air fryer. Otherwise, before you begin cooking, place a cooling rack over a baking sheet and set it next to your air fryer. Once a batch is done, transfer it to the rack, allowing ample space between the pieces so they don't "steam." Pop them in a 200°F oven to keep warm.

The spices used here sound good, but are there other combinations that also work?

Of course! We love that you want to experiment. If you're hesitant to create your own concoction, consider a commercial, preferably salt-free, spice blend. A few to try include Italian seasoning, herbes de Provence and Jamaican jerk seasoning. But feel free to scope the spice aisle and try something new. Include up to 1 teaspoon spice blend, and omit other spices in the recipe. 

I liked this recipe! Would it work with another vegetable?

A fantastic question! Yes, you absolutely can try this with another vegetable. Summer squash is an easy substitute. You could also try eggplant, carrots and green beans, but you may have to adjust the cooking time a bit. And remember, if slicing a vegetable, cut no larger than ¼-inch thickness so that vegetables cook uniformly. Get more recipes for air-fried veggie sides here

I'm worried I'll lose the coating when flipping the zucchini, do you have any tips?

Fortunately there's not much coating here to lose. But we recommend using long-handled kitchen tongs to flip your food. Take your time and flip individually instead of stirring, which will result in lost coating.

Should I squeeze the lemon on the zucchini right after it comes out of the fryer or just before serving?

For the best experience, we recommend adding that squeeze of lemon juice right before serving the dish. Adding it too early will soften up any of that delightful crispiness you achieved in the air fryer. 

Additional reporting by Sara Haas, RDN.

Having diabetes doesn't mean you have to give up all of your favorite foods. You just need the know-how (and easy cooking tips) to make better choices. In Make Over My Recipe, a fun cooking show geared toward beginner cooks, Mila Clarke takes classics like mac and cheese, meatloaf, brownies and more comfort foods and uses simple tricks to make them healthier—but just as delicious as ever.


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Preheat air fryer to 400°F for 5 minutes. Combine Parmesan, oil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl. Add zucchini and toss to coat.

  • Working in batches if necessary, arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer in the fryer basket. Cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve with lemon wedges.


Air fryer

Nutrition Facts

1/3 cup
64 calories; protein 2g; carbohydrates 5g; dietary fiber 1g; sugars 3g; fat 5g; saturated fat 1g; mono fat 3g; poly fat 1g; cholesterol 2mg; vitamin a iu 278IU; vitamin b3 niacin 1mg; vitamin c 21mg; vitamin d iu 1IU; vitamin e iu 1IU; folate 28mg; vitamin k 6mg; sodium 345mg; calcium 43mg; iron 1mg; magnesium 22mg; phosphorus 61mg; potassium 312mg; zinc 1mg; niacin equivalents 1mg; selenium 1mcg.