With its mild flavor and tender flesh, you could fill a week of meals with zucchini and not have the same side twice. Baked into bread, fried as fritters, scooped into boats, and spiralized into noodles, zucchini is a seriously versatile vegetable. But I propose that the role this humble summer squash is meant to play is crispy baked fries. Make a double batch, because after an audible crunch into a crisp, golden fry packed with herbs and salty Parmesan cheese, you will be reaching for more.
Zucchinis are 95 percent water. This is great feature for adding hydrating bulk to smoothies, but problematic when the goal is a crunchy yet tender fry. Don't worry, though — you just need to follow a few simple steps and make a smart ingredient swap for the crispiest zucchini fries.
Slice zucchinis into thin batons or spin them in your spiralizer, snipping the spirals with kitchen shears into bite-sized pieces. Cutting the zucchinis down to a smaller size means the inside of the fry maintains a tender bite without becoming soggy.
The 3-Step Approach for Bigger Crunch
A standard three-step breading is the next step.
- A initial dusting of flour and cornstarch gives the egg something to cling to.
- The main trick here is using only egg whites for this step since yolks are too rich and disrupt the crunch we're after.
- Light, flaky panko breadcrumbs bake up crunchier than finely ground dried or tender fresh breadcrumbs.
Curl the spiralized zucchini into swirls or line up the batons onto cooling racks to set the coating before a quick bake in a hot oven. Bake a batch or freeze them for a quick side ready for weeknight dinners.
Whether you make them classic or curly, look no further than the humble zucchini for veggie fries so crisp you won't believe they come from the oven.
Baked Zucchini Fries
1 1/2 teaspoons
freshly ground black pepper
large egg whites
grated Parmesan cheese (3 ounces)
- For serving:
Chopped fresh parsley
Set up your breading station: Place the flour, cornstarch, salt, oregano, garlic powder, and pepper in a gallon zip-top bag and stir or whisk to combine. Place the egg whites in a shallow dish and whisk until frothy. Toss the Parmesan cheese and panko together in a separate large bowl. Place the three breading dishes aside.
Trim the ends off of the zucchini then cut them into desired shape.
For batons: Slice the zucchini in half crosswise, and then lengthwise into planks about 1/4-inch thick. If you have a mandoline, this is the time to use it. Working with two of the stacked planks at a time, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide batons. Repeat with the remaining zucchini planks.
For curly fries: Spiralize the zucchini using the thick blade on your spiralizer. Use kitchen shears to cut spirals into 2-inch pieces.
Toss 1/3 of the cut zucchini into the flour mixture until evenly coated. Transfer the zucchini, a few pieces at a time, to the egg white and toss to coat. Move the pieces to the bowl of panko and Parmesan and toss to coat. Repeat with the remaining zucchini in 2 more batches.
Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 425°F. Coat 2 wire racks with cooking spray, fit them inside 2 baking sheets. Place the zucchini in a single layer on the racks, arranging the spiralized zucchini into curls to set the shape of the fry as they bake. Let sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes to let the coating set.
Bake the batons for 18 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Bake the curly fries 10 to 13 minutes; there is no need to turn these fries. Once golden-brown and crisp, transfer to a plate, sprinkle with parsley, and serve hot with ranch dressing.
Make ahead: Arrange breaded, unbaked fries on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until solid and then transfer to a gallon zip-top freezer bag. Bake from frozen as directed above for the curly fries and add an additional 3 to 4 minutes for the batons.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat at 400°F for 5 minutes on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet.