This light and fresh Italian Zucchini Salad recipe is bursting with crisp, refreshing flavors! It features cool zucchini noodles, charred corn, pungent red onions, juicy tomatoes, fresh basil and creamy mozzarella all tossed with a silky Italian dressing!
It’s healthy, incredibly fast to prepare and a delicious light lunch or side for easy dinners! Plus it travels well, making it perfect for BBQs, picnics, potlucks and all your summer entertaining! Serve it alongside chicken, pulled pork, or fish.
Updated: This post was originally published in May 2017. I took new photos and updated the post below to include more information about this summer salad. Plus, I added a recipe video and step by step photos to show you how easy this zucchini salad recipe is to make!
Hi friends! Today we are celebrating the impending start of summer with one of my favorite simple and fresh salads! And, I couldn’t be more thrilled!
Who else is super jazzed about the official start of the summer season!? I mean, is there anything better than dining al fresco? Entertaining by the romantic light of candles and those warm, glowy, summer vibes? The smell of the grill and all its smoky, charred delicious glory? A perfectly displayed smorgasbord of fresh, sensational sides? And, bottles and bottles of wine chilling in a lovely galvanized bucket of sparkly ice?
No, there is nothing better! Obviously, right? Because, all that aforementioned glory, that is what summer is all about!
Zucchini Salad Recipe
Cool, crisp, thick zucchini noodles tossed with smoky charred sweet kernels of corn, juicy tomatoes, creamy pearls of mozzarella, pungent slivers of red onion, fresh herbaceous basil and salty, crispy pine nuts. Generously drizzled with a silky, smooth Italian dressing and topped with shatteringly crisp baked prosciutto, this salad is light and healthy yet packed with flavor and texture!! It’s tender, crisp, juicy, crunchy, creamy, crisp and delicate yet totally filling and absolutely satisfying! Basically, it’s an addictive salad perfect for celebrating summer! And, it’s something you can actually feel good about eating!
Plus, it’s crazy simple to prepare, however it looks super fancy and tastes amazing! It’s the perfect healthy side to balance out all those heavy mayo-laden sides at your next summer picnic, potluck or party! Or, you can just do what I do and eat this on repeat for lunch! Because, fresh summer produce packed in a dainty salad with tons of cheese?! That’s a salad that gives me life!
No matter how you serve it up, pair this zucchini noodle spaghetti salad with your favorite chilled wine, cold beer, or icy mocktail, and I can guarantee this will be your new go-to side for all of summer!
Can you eat zucchini raw?
Zucchini, also known as courgette, is a type of summer squash. While zucchini is commonly treated as a vegetable, it is technically the fruit of the zucchini flower.
Zucchini is commonly served cooked, however it can also be enjoyed raw! Raw zucchini is crisp and refreshing with a very mild flavor. It can easily be enjoyed on its own, however it can also complement the flavors of other ingredients in a recipe! Fresh raw zucchini can be sliced into thick sticks and used as a dipper for sauces, or thinly sliced and used in sandwiches, soups and salads!
The garden fresh zucchini in this salad is spiralized to create low-carb, gluten-free noodles. The thin, noodle-like portions of zucchini, known as zoodles, can be eaten raw and do not need to be boiled like pasta!
Do I need to peel zucchini?
Zucchini skin is very thin, soft and perfectly edible! The vibrant skin holds healthy carotenoids, so for the most health benefits, do not peel it off! Also, once you peel the zucchini, the flesh is exposed. This will cause the moisture to steep out and lead to soggy noodles. When ready to use raw zucchini, wash it with cool water, then slice off both ends.
However, there is one situation where you may need to peel zucchini! If the skin of the zucchini has been waxed to extend its shelf-life at the grocery store, peel and discard the skin!
How to make zucchini noodles?
Spiralized zucchini noodles are so popular these days you can easily find them in the produce aisle of most major grocery stores. But, they taste so much better when freshly cut, plus they are cheaper to prepare than purchase at the store!
While making fresh zucchini noodles may seem intimidating, it is really easy and fast to do at home! In case you don’t own a spiralizer, have no fear, it isn’t necessary to transform raw zucchini into fun pasta shapes!
- Spiralizer: The easiest way to make zucchini noodles is to use a spiralizer. You can use a countertop or handheld spiralizer. Either type of spiralizer will make curly spaghetti-like noodles.
- Julienne Peeler: Julienne noodles look more like angel hair. They are much thinner and straighter than spiralized noodles. However, julienne peelers are much cheaper to purchase!
- Mandoline and Knife: You can use a mandoline to slice zucchini into thin planks. Then, use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the planks into thin zucchini strips.
- Vegetable Peeler: A vegetable peeler is the most universal option, as most people have a vegetable peeler tucked away in a kitchen drawer! Use your peeler to peel the zucchini into thin strips. These noodles will look more like wide pappardelle noodles, however they are just as delicious!
What to put in zucchini salad?
This recipe is incredibly simple, however there is no shortage of flavor! The delicious taste of this recipe begins and ends with the quality of ingredients!
Ingredients in raw zucchini noodle salad:
- Zucchini: Fresh zucchini is the main ingredient, so select good ones at the store! Zucchini should feel relatively heavy for its size. The skin should look smooth, with a dark green color, and be free of blemishes.
- Corn: If corn is in season I highly recommend fresh corn! You can use white, yellow or bicolor corn on the cob, depending on your preference. Or, you can use a can of fire-roasted whole kernel corn if you are in a pinch!
- Tomatoes: Plump cherry or grape tomatoes work best.
- Red Onion: If you do not like the taste of raw red onion, you can soak the slices of onion in cool water for 15 minutes before using. Or, you can substitute shallot if desired!
- Basil: Fresh basil is must! It provides a robust flavor that is sweet and slightly peppery.
- Cheese: Fresh mozzarella cheese pearls add a creamy, delicate flavor. You can substitute torn burrata or torn fresh mozzarella if you’d like!
- Prosciutto (optional): While entirely optional, baked prosciutto adds a delicate crisp texture and fragrant flavor.
- Nuts (optional): Toasted pine nuts give the salad the perfect crunchy, nutty finishing touch!
- Homemade Italian Vinaigrette: A pantry-friendly combination of olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, honey, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
There are a plethora of ways that you can customize this spiralized salad. Feel free to get creative and use whatever ingredients you love or need to use up in your kitchen! I encourage you to make this salad your own, just make sure your ingredients are fresh!
- Leafy greens: Shredded radicchio, baby romaine or spring mix.
- Extra fresh vegetables: Cucumber, bell peppers, celery and radishes.
- Marinated or jarred vegetables: Sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pepperoncinis and olives.
- Beans: White beans, chickpeas and kidney beans.
- Cured Meats: Use salami or pepperoni instead of prosciutto!
- Seafood: Omit the prosciutto and use cooked shrimp, canned tuna or grilled salmon.
- Make it vegan: Leave out the cheese and add in a generous sprinkle of nutritional yeast instead!
What is the best way to eat spiralized zucchini salad?
The easiest way to eat zucchini noodles is to leave them raw. However, you can cook them if you prefer!
- Raw zucchini salad: Zucchini noodles are delicate with an al-dente bite similar to pasta. However, once they are tossed with dressing, they become softer and tender-crisp in texture.
- Sauteed zucchini salad: If you prefer cooked zucchini, you can quickly pan saute the spiralized zucchini. Place a skillet over medium heat and add a bit of olive oil. Add in the noodles and cook, tossing constantly, for 3 minutes, or until noodles are warmed through and al dente. Do not cook the noodles for longer or they will get soft, watery and lifeless.
How to make zucchini salad?
Aside from the taste, the best thing about this summer noodle salad is how easy it is to prepare!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Crisp prosciutto (optional): Place torn prosciutto on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degree F for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Assemble salad: In a large mixing bowl, toss together the zucchini noodles, corn, onion, tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Season with ground black pepper, but do not add salt! Toss well to combine.
- Add dressing: Add Italian dressing to the salad. Toss well to coat.
- Serve: Transfer salad to a platter and sprinkle with prosciutto and toasted pine nuts (if using). Add flaky sea salt to taste. Serve and enjoy! Just don’t forget the napkins and bottles of wine!
How to make zucchini salad recipe step by step photos:
Tips for the best zucchini salad recipe:
- Chop the zucchini: Make sure you roughly chop the zucchini noodles before preparing the salad! Spiralized zucchini is very long and the noodles will be difficult to toss and serve unless you roughly chop them up first!
- Do not pre-salt: Do not add salt to the zucchini noodles or to the salad until you are ready to serve! Salt causes moisture to steep out of the zucchini, which will make your salad very soggy!
- To customize: This salad is totally customizable and you can easily add whatever fresh summer produce you have on hand! Try using summer squash instead of zucchini! Substitute torn burrata for mozzarella! Use shallots instead of red onions! I encourage you to make this salad your own!
- Dressing: You can use your favorite store bought Italian dressing or you can make your own. I always recommend making your own dressing so you can tailor it to your taste and control exactly what’s in it. I’ve included a recipe for easy homemade Italian dressing in the notes section of the recipe below. But, if you’re in a pinch, there is no shame in the store bought stuff!
- Do not add dressing until serving: Much like salt, do not add the dressing until just before serving unless you prefer a watery salad!
What to serve with zucchini noodle salad?
This colorful salad is bursting with fresh flavor and will perfectly compliment just about any entree you will find on this website. You can serve this salad as a light, healthy main meal or as a side to accompany your favorite summer recipes!
- Soups: Soup and salad is a delicious, light combination perfect for summer! Fresh gazpacho or creamy tomato soup is my personal favorite pairing!
- Subs: Looking to keep dinner simple? Pair this fresh salad with a hearty meatball sub or a loaded Italian hoagie!
- Burgers or Hot dogs: It wouldn’t be summer without perfectly grilled burgers and hot dogs! Just don’t forget to keep things vibrant and fresh with a side of this salad!
- Pizza: Life is all about balance! This delicate salad provides the perfect balance to a heavy, cheesy pizza! If you want to keep things summery, fire up the grill to cook your pizza!
- Grilled Meats, Chicken or Fish: Anything from a grilled ribeye or chicken breast to a cedar plank salmon! Pro-tip: The homemade Italian dressing recipe below can double as a delicious marinade for meats, chicken and fish!
Celebrate the unofficial start of summer in tasty style with this raw zucchini salad recipe and a few bottles of wine. Life is short, and you’ve earned it, friends! 😉
Until Thursday, cheers – to the sides of summer!
Looking for more salad recipes?
If you love this dish, try one of these light and fresh salad recipes next:
How to make the best Zucchini Salad recipe plus step by step video👇
Easy Zucchini Salad recipe
- Baking Sheet (optional)
- Mixing Bowl
- 3 ounces Prosciutto - torn (OPTIONAL)
- 3 medium Zucchini – spiralized & roughly chopped (SEE NOTES)
- 2 large Ears Corn – grilled and kernels removed from cob (SEE NOTES)
- ½ Red Onion – thinly sliced
- 8 ounces Mozzarella Pearls (or torn burrata)
- 1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes – halved (about 25 tomatoes or 5 ounces)
- ½ Cup Fresh Basil – roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
- Flaky Sea Salt and Ground Black Pepper - to taste
- Italian Dressing - to taste (SEE NOTES)
Optional Mix-ins: Avocado, Cooked & Crumbled Bacon, Bell Pepper, Chopped Cucumber, Olives
Optional Garnishes: Toasted Pine Nuts, Microgreens, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Crisp prosciutto (OPTIONAL): Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the prosciutto in an even layer so that they are not overlapping. Bake for 9-11 minutes, or until the prosciutto is golden and crisped. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on a wire rack. Allow prosciutto to cool.
- Assemble salad: In a large mixing bowl, add the zucchini, corn, red onion, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil. Season with a pinch of pepper (do not add salt). Toss well to combine.
- Add dressing: Add dressing to the salad to taste. Toss well to coat.
- Garnish and Serve: Transfer salad to a serving platter or individual plates. Sprinkle with crispy prosciutto, flaky salt and more fresh basil. Enjoy!
- Zucchini: If you don’t have a spiralizer you can use a vegetable peeler to create long strands of zucchini. Or, you can use a sharp knife to thinly slice the zucchini lengthwise. Make sure you roughly chop the zucchini noodles before using them in the salad - it will make the salad much easier to toss!!
- To grill corn: Preheat grill to medium. Spray corn all over with cooking oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Place corn on the grill and cook, rotating every 2-3 minutes, until corn is charred all over, about 10-12 minutes total. Remove to a clean work surface and set aside until cool enough to handle. Once cool, use a serrated knife to cut kernels of corn from the cob.
- Option to cook noodles: If raw vegetable noodles scare you, feel free to quickly cook them for a of couple minutes in large sauté pan. Just make sure you do not season them with salt! Place a saute pan over medium heat, add noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook the noodles! Allow them to cool slightly before proceeding with recipe.
- To customize: You can easily add whatever fresh summer produce you have on hand to this salad. You can substitute summer squash for the zucchini or use a combination of both. I encourage you to make this salad your own! Please see the post for a complete list of ingredients to add.
- Dressing: You can either use your favorite store bought Italian dressing, or you can make your own. I always recommend making your own so you can tailor it to your taste, and control what is going into it. But, if you’re in a pinch there ain’t no shame in the store bought stuff!
©No Spoon Necessary. All images and content are copyright protected. Please do not use any images without prior permission. If you want to reference this recipe, please do so by linking directly to this post.