zucchini grilled cheese

A highly recommended way to be very unpopular with the people you share meals with is to tell them you’re making zucchini grilled cheese for dinner.

“Like, zucchini as the bread?”
“Zucchini instead of cheese?”
“But I don’t like zucchini!”

zucchini battenberg2 pounds of shreds2 pounds of shreds minus 2 cups liquida mix of cheesemixed with cheeseon bread

And so we’re not going to. We’re going to call this a zucchini panini when speaking to the wary and somehow, this causes less distress. Why we are accepting of vegetables inside two slices of bread when we pretend our grilled cheese has gone to Italy is not for me to question. What I can promise, however, is that this is no compromise.

toasted low and golden on stove
zucchini grilled cheese

Last summer, we discovered that grated summer squash, ridded of its significant moisture content, tossed with strands of cheese and baked together with a light crunch of breadcrumbs on top is genius and what I consider the holy grail of cooking worth telling the world about: two simple things you already have around raised to more than the sum of their parts when combined. It’s incredible as a pizza topping, but it was only a matter of time before I heaped it on bread during Sandwich Season. This is a thing, right? I think it should be. Sandwich Season is eat-outside-without-plates season, either because it’s the longest day of the year and you don’t want to rush home for dinner or because when you pack your meal with you, you get to follow the day where it takes you, which, is pretty much how I want my summer to look.

Zucchini, previously:

Zucchini Grilled Cheese

  • Servings: Makes 4 sandwiches
  • Print

For a to-go meal, grilled cheese-style is the way to go. For a meal at home, I prefer these open-faced; you could run them under the broiler for a toastier finish. The oven instructions for these tartines should work equally well here.

You can use a mix of any cheeses — although a couple that melt well is ideal for sandwich adherence — you like with zucchini, I’ve suggested three here. All gruyere (2 cups) works well too, as it did in the earlier pizza.

  • 1 pound (about 2 large) zucchini or other summer squash, trimmed
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea or table salt, plus more if needed
  • 1 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) coarsely grated gruyere cheese
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces or 70 grams) coarsely grated fontina or provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup (20 grams) finely grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 thin slices bread of your choice, I used a country-style white bread
  • A couple tablespoons softened butter or olive oil for brushing bread

Prepare zucchini: Use a food processor with a grater attachment or the large holes of a box grater to grate the zucchini. In a large colander, toss together the zucchini and salt. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, until the zucchini has wilted and begun to release liquid. Drain the zucchini in a colander and then use your hands to squeeze out as much water as possible, a fistful at a time. Place wrung-out zucchini on paper towels to drain further.

Make filling and assemble sandwiches: Mix zucchini with grated cheese, a lot of freshly ground black pepper, and more salt if needed.

Brush or spread the bread sides that will form the outsides of the sandwiches with olive oil or softened butter. Spread zucchini-cheese on insides and close the sandwiches.

Cook the sandwiches: Place sandwiches on a large griddle or frying pan over low-medium heat. I like to cook grilled cheese slowly to give the centers a chance to really melt before the outsides get too brown. When the undersides are a deep golden brown, flip the sandwiches and cook until the color underneath matches the lid. Cut sandwiches in half and dig in. Perhaps some pickled vegetable sandwich slaw on the side?

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118 comments on zucchini grilled cheese

  1. So clever! Love it. The summer squash started coming in last week’s CSA – for anyone scratching their head at what to do with some of their produce: I’ve started chopping garlic scapes into all dishes involving squash. So our fritters this week had garlic scapes and the accompanying yogurt sauce also featured them. I bet they would taste great here, too.

    I’m a little jealous of little Anna. Bea has turned two, and with that, lost her love of food completely. I’m so devastated. A little fruit and cheese, and that’s it.

  2. Johnnyseattle

    I have six zucchini in my fridge right now, and will probably be doing this tonight. I can’t help but think I’m going to sauté it with garlic and onion, and then make the melty-melty happen. I’ll report back ASAP. :)

  3. JamieinPDX

    Normally I like to read comments in addition to your blog posts, and then sometimes I do move on to trying some of the recipes you provide (we’re really enjoying the One Pan, Two Plates cookbook right now, so it’s usually your stuff or that cookbook)…but today I finally have to comment. Anna is just too cute to pass up. That child’s ringlets! I DIE. And you had me at “KEENY”. <3

    Yay Anna, you have your own fans now. :)

    1. CR

      Agreed! And to be that cute & POWER POUTING!! She’s like the *angry* child in a B&W silent film. ‘cept she’s in flaming GINGER. Got the fans, now get the agent, Deb.

  4. These look amazing! I never would have thought to put those two things together, but I want to try it when all the zucchini in our garden comes in!

  5. Rachel

    Your zucchini pizza is our absolute favorite recipe ever. We made it at least once a week after you posted it last summer. I know we will LOVE this! I’d love to try them open faced like you mentioned. Yum!!

  6. Sarah Aldrich

    Deb, I’m sure you don’t have one being in a NYC apartment and all, but for those of us who have a larger kitchen with room for single use tools, a POTATO RICER makes an exceptionally good tool for squeezing moisture out of veggies. I’ve used it for both spinach and zucchini in the past. These are going to be made for dinner tonight.

    1. Jaime

      WHERE HAS THIS TIP BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?!? That is genius!! I have had a potato ricer for YEARS and have only used it to….rice potatoes. No more sore hands for this gal when trying to wring out spinach or zukes! Thank you for this tip!

    2. mirandamidas

      that tip about the potato ricer for veggie squeezing is actual genius. Thank you Sarah! (And thanks Deb for a great sounding recipe that I am now going to make for my lunch!)

    3. Liz L

      Thank you Sarah! this is the tip I’ve been missing. Because even with the cheesecloth, or tea towel, or other suggestions, I end up with pruny hands after squeezing all the moisture out!

    4. deb

      I have one! (And yes, it never fits properly anywhere so I can never find it.) I will try it next time. I did try it once for potatoes for latkes under commenter advisement but found it didn’t do as good of a job. Zucchini that’s salted is much easier to rid of liquid; it might do the trick.

  7. jan

    An alternate way to dehydrate veggies is to dump the shredded veg into a clean cloth tea towel. Fold diagonally to get the bias, then take opposing corners and twist until the whole towel becomes a firm “log” of towel with veggies inside. Do this over the sink or a bowl! If you continue turning until the towel twists up on itself you can get about a half a cup of liquid out of a zucchini without needing to use any salt. The dehydrated pieces can be carefully shaken out over a bowl when needed and even if they remain in the towel for awhile they do not end up tasting like paper as they would with a paper towel. Better for you, better for the planet

  8. Megan

    Looks great. Where were you during the great zucchini glut of 2016. In summer people see me coming with bags of zucchini and cucumbers, despite the great refrigerator pickle recipe! This summer we had twice as many fruit from one plant where we had previously had two, but the zucchini was not as prolific.

  9. Kathe

    I made this with one yellow summer squash and about 1/2 cup roughly grated gruyere equivalent (it’s a local cheese) and about 1/3 cup finely grated pecorino romano. I did it on multigrain and it was a+ , though a bit greasy. I might try putting green apple slices in next time. bread + butter pickles (bubbie’s brand) made the perfect accompaniment. love!

  10. Stephani Sexton

    I can’t wait for the plants in my garden to start producing zucchini! Maybe I’ll have to make a trip to the store in the mean time…

  11. Kat


    That was exactly the conversation we would have in my house if I said we were having zucchini grilled cheese. Thank you for an awesome recipe and for making me legitimatly laugh out loud. :P

  12. Growing up, we’d sometimes make grilled cheese sandwiches, but with eggplant instead of the bread! It was delicious, and I bet it could work okay with zucchini, too. But I definitely need to give this a try!

  13. Em

    Sounds delicious. One of my favourite lunch options at the hospital where I work is zucchini, cheese, and poached egg toasted (grilled) sandwiches. Something I never would have thought of combining, but it works!

  14. Liz L

    Oh no, the image for the fritters links to the bread (which I only realized because I am obsessed with those fritters and wanted to drool over the original recipe again)

  15. alex

    The most important thing that I need to know Deb is what you think of this whole conspiracy to get us to use mayo to make grilled cheese sandwiches?! Even Gabrielle Hamilton, one of my favorite ladies of all time, is pushing it, and trust me, I love mayo. But I find something missing. Obviously you suggest butter or olive oil here, but curious minds want to know!

      1. deb

        I have heard this again and again and haven’t tried it. I have absolutely no problems with mayo, I just love butter? I suspect, given the frequency that I hear the mayo tip, that they’re onto something. Perhaps next time?

  16. Jamie

    Oh glory, how did I forget the summer squash pizza?? And now ZUKEY GRILLED CHEESE?!!! Putting gruyere on my shopping list for tomorrow’s dinner…

  17. Laura Goodman-Bryan

    This brings to mind a sandwich I recently had at Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans. They make a collard melt. That sandwich alone is worth the trip to NOLA.

  18. sparkgrrl658

    recipe names are funny, aren’t they? zucchini grilled cheese? maybe not. summer squash gruyere tartine? whole other ballgame!

  19. Kate Deyst

    I did not have all the cheeses listed in the recipe. I used shredded Gouda in place of the Gruyere and Provolone. Just for fun, I also added ~1/8 t mustard seeds, 1/8 t nutmeg, and 1/4 t smoked paprika to the zucchini and cheese mixture. Made it in the panini press with sourdough bread. Lunch reviews included the comments “fiendishly good” followed by “I’m making another.

  20. Learn the difference between grating and shredding. Grating is used for hard things, like parmesan cheese, and lemon zest. Most other things are grated: cheese, vegetables, etc. When I see them misused in a recipe, I generally assume the author does not know much about food preparation, so I can skip reading any further.

    1. Then why do we grate (excuse me, “shred”) that zucchini with a “box grater” rather than a “box shredder?” Jump off the pedantic soapbox – things are just as tasty down here whether the food is shredded or grated! :)

    2. fliss

      Actually it looks like the difference between grated and shredded is the final product not the starting product.

      This is what I found (and it makes sense to me). Read more: Difference Between Shredded and Grated | Difference Between

      By definition, a grated material is something that has been grated or reduced into tiny fragments to the point of being powdery. This is done by rubbing the material (like cheese) against a rough and abrasive surface like the grater (as mentioned above). Parmesan cheese is one of the most common food products being grated.

      By contrast, a shredded material is achieved by using the same equipment but on a different side or surface. As a result, shredded items tend to become longer, thread-like strips that are torn or cut away from the sharp edges of the grater surface. That’s how the terminology “shreds” came to be, which literally means “long strips.” In practical application, it is better to prepare shredded carrots when making coleslaw because you can really feel its smooth texture unlike when using grated carrots for the same type of dish.

  21. Sue

    That was simply delicious! Used sharp cheddar, colby, and gruyere cheese. Added loads of black pepper and red chilli flakes to spice it up. So much more fun than plain grilled cheese.

  22. humanthem

    Hey Deb! Do you think that once the filling is made and combined, it could hang out in the fridge for a few days?

    I’m about to do meal prep for the week, have extra bread and zucchinis, love grilled cheeses, but am definitely not gonna be able to eat that many sandwiches in one night. Thanks for having a great site :)

    1. deb

      Sorry I didn’t see this sooner but I definitely think so. It might seem more wet and harder to, say, “sprinkle” on the bread, but it’s a great idea and a great way to get it out of the way. Also please come over and prep some for us? :)

      1. Ellen

        I saved some filling in the fridge for 2 days. It was definitely soggier but still worked pretty well. Not quite as tasty as on day one.

    2. Jamie

      I made up all the sandwiches and stuck the extras in the fridge. They reheat pretty well in the microwave at work, though I think I’ll try re-grilling one next time I’m at home with the leftovers. = )

  23. Jamie

    I used mozzarella instead of fontina/provolone, a multi-grain bread, and we dipped them in pizza sauce. I LOVED these. Hubs didn’t like them as much so now I’ve been heating leftovers in the microwave for 30 seconds and they’re still good. Score!

    1. jjjeanie

      I bet leftover filling + a few eggs would make a great improvement over plain scrambled eggs–or fold it into an omelette!

  24. Rachael

    Deb, your collection of zucchini recipes has confirmed that I’ll be headed to the greengrocer (where it’s all on sale!) to have it every night this week! Thanks for continuing to inspire!

    1. deb

      I haven’t because usually when I just mix the salt, it feels like salted zucchini shreds, i.e. no difference, little could be squeezed easily. After a wait, it’s like a water-logged sponge — it almost pours out just when you pick them up, and squeezing them is very productive.

  25. Ellen

    Delicious! Meat loving husband and meat loving, vegetable suspicious toddler both agreed with my verdict. Had extra filling that I’m hoping will keep for a day or two. (If the filling could be made in advance it would be a super fast week night dinner.)

    1. LD

      I could have written this exact comment! I’ve made this several times and it’s always a hit with my own meat-loving husband and vegetable-suspicious almost-4-year-old. :) I can add that the filling does keep for a day or so in the fridge, no problem.

  26. Claudia

    Huge hit! I cooked them low and slow as you recommended. I’ll use this method from now on. Paired it with Jose Andres’ wife gazpacho recipe for my summer version of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

  27. Susan

    Uh oh, your post just reminded me – I think I still have half of a giant zucchini a coworker gave me from her garden. I wonder if it’s still good? (I hate wasting food but sometimes things get forgotten.) If it’s still good, I’m making this sandwich tonight. If it’s not, I’ll still make this sandwich later this week after I get to the grocery store for a new zucchini.

  28. Bee

    We are actually going to call it a zucchini “paninO,” not a “paninI”! If it is one single sandwich, panino. Panini is plural. Nothing drives real Italians crazier than this mistake, unless it is the almost universal ignorant mispronunciation of “bruschette.” Brus-KET-a, not “brush-etta.” Please. Per favore.

  29. Magdalena

    I make similar grilled cheese but using lacto-fermented cucumbers (ogorki malosolne) instead of zucchini and adding some minced garlic.

  30. Shelby

    Having lived in the South my entire life, squash has always been a staple food in summer. Simply sprinkled with cornmeal and fried is delicious,as well as stewed or microwaved with onion, butter or sour cream added. Hard to believe after all these years you have given me yet another delicious recipe to make with summer squash! Thank you, Deb! PS I was happy last week finding a yellow squash and onion soup. Have you tried that? Delicious, also.

  31. Amy

    This inspired me to make zucchini mac and cheese by mixing the shredded, dehydrated zucchini with a gruyere/cheddar cheese sauce. Success! The sandwiches are next on the list.

  32. Robin vv

    I just took this idea (zucchini & cheeses) but made stuffed potato skins instead. Add tomatoes, green onions, hot sauce & sour cream. Yum!

  33. Alexis

    Great idea! We used pepper jack cheese and a crusty bread. We put them on the grill and ate with tomato soup. A definite keeper and seems like it’ll work with any cheese/bread on hand. Thank you.

  34. Shira

    Loved it. What a hit! I used multigrain bread and whatever cheese I had in the fridge (old cheddar and Monterey jack). For a twist, i buttered the bread with leftover dill butter mix, served it with pickeled tomatoes. How will i ever go back to plain grilled cheese?

  35. Smarge

    I’ve made these grilled cheeses thrice since you’ve posted the recipe. I absolutely love it & quite honestly, there isn’t a thing I would change. I do a quick soak of the zucchini and press additional moisture out with a paper towel — works like a dream if you’re in a pinch.

    Thanks, Deb!

  36. Athina

    Perhaps it was due to my lack of interesting cheeses, ( I only had sharp cheddar) but I found that the zucchini did not add anything special to my grilled cheese, except for possibly a bit of different texture. Maybe using the cheeses that are suggested in the recipe would make me think differently. This is the first and only time that one of your recipes hasn’t “wowed” me, but for whatever it’s worth- it’s just my opinion. Just thought I’d share. For the record, your zucchini gratin is one of my favorite things ever!

    1. Jennie

      I had the same experience, and I used the cheeses in the recipe (Gruyere, Provolone, and Parmesan). My daughter left quite a lot of hers. I suspect that I might have enjoyed it more (just personally) if the zucchini had been cooked. We had a NYT recipe the night before with barely-cooked zucchini in it and the zucchini had absolutely zero flavor–but when we warmed up the leftovers, the now-cooked zucchini had transformed into something flavorful that made a great contribution to the dish. Oh well, I remain a fan, Deb, of both your recipes and your writing!

      1. sillygirl

        I sauteed my zucchini like in the quesadillas recipe but not add cheese to mix in. Instead this will go on bread with cheese on top and broiled. That way I can pre-cook and have ready the filling. We are trying to eat less bread so one slice instead of two although pan-frying a sandwich is not a no-no!

  37. I have loved just about every one of the hundreds of recipes I’ve made from this site, but this one just didn’t do it for me! It took nearly an hour from start to finish and was just meh. I guess it used up extra zucchini and made the grilled cheese a bit more nutritious… but definitely way too much work for just grilled cheese.

  38. Kim

    Wow, I think I just figured out what I’m eating this weekend. I LOVE your summer squash pizza, but it’s been too hot for me to want to turn on the oven. Now I’m wondering why I didn’t think of turning it into a sandwich.

  39. Wendy H.

    The smile on my 8-year-old’s face when I said “Zucchini Panini” was priceless. Made it using rosemary bread and she ate every bite. Thanks!

  40. vivian

    So delicious! We had garlic mayo on the table, so, to guild the lily, a little of that went on the sandwich. I used my ricer to squeeze the zucchini dry after salting it and letting it sit, and it was so dry that I’m sure this filling could be made ahea if time and kept in the fridge. Thanks for a great recipe!

  41. Vanessa

    I made this open-faced style using the technique you suggested (bake 10 minutes at 425, then broil top for a couple minutes) and loved it. First time I had it with a fried egg on top, second time I cut it into triangles and shared it as a snack. I think that it would make fantastic finger food at a party, cut into squares or triangles!

  42. I can’t seem to get a complete print of the recipe Zucchini Grilled Cheese. When I print the first page, it ends at towels to drain further. When I print the second page, it starts at cheese, a lot of freshly ground black pepper.

    1. deb

      I’m sorry, I’m not seeing the same thing. When I hit Cntrl+P, it takes me to a one-page recipe. Is it still happening? (I realize this is a late response!)

  43. Oh!!! I never thought to do anything even close to this, despite often being overwhelmed by garden zucchini. Luckily I still have a few to harvest, and this is their fate!

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  45. As I’m in Southern California, I am blessed to have farmer’s markets that carry zucchini and/or summer squash (almost) year round. Since you originally posted it, this has become a frequent and absolutely delicious lazy weeknight dinner. Sometimes I add in some fresh herbs for a little extra flavor. Between this, your avocado toast, and your crispy fried eggs on top of EVERYTHING (especially sweet potatoes), I eat very well in a pinch! Thank you!

  46. Novia

    Yours is the first site I visit for zucchini inspiration and this did not disappoint. I added garlic to the zucchini mix and I think next time I’ll add a layer of caramelized onions. I think that savory/sweet will help balance the saltiness from the cheese. Thanks, Deb!

  47. Amazing! No grater, so I diced the zucchini. Following another poster’s suggestion, after letting the water out I sauteed the zucchini with a bit of garlic. This had so much flavor.

  48. Abby

    Deb! I could weep tears of joy. My 2yr old and 5yr old who were adamant they hated zucchini ate this happily! I did turn it into a quesadilla and used the sharp cheddar and mozzarella I had in the fridge but still so good.

  49. Liz

    Just made these for the first time last night and am happy to report (from the trenches of maternity leave) that making extra sandwiches and reheating them in the toaster oven works beautifully for those of us who need to be able to eat one-handed. I added a small garlic clove and some minced fresh thyme to the mix, and both were welcome additions.

  50. Midge

    Delicious on a sourdough batard. I often add a tiny bit of grated nutmeg to squash recipes and it worked well with this. Thanks!

  51. FBartol

    Speaking of stress, it is stressful to me when I hear Panini referring to a single sandwich. Panino is singular for panini. Please!

  52. evl

    As usual I’m late to the party. I’ve had this recipe in my “Try It” folder for ages since I love both zucchini and cheese. But I hesitated to serve my meat-and-potatoes husband a *zucchini* sandwich for dinner. Today I found myself with all the right ingredients and no plan for dinner, so zucchini grilled cheese it was. I couldn’t resist adding a handful of caramelized onions since I had some, but otherwise made the recipe as written. We both loved it; hubby requested that I make it again tomorrow. Another Smitten Kitchen hit at our house!

  53. Ashley

    Thanks for the idea! I added onion powder and garlic powder to mine, along with a couple of slices of plant-based “bacon”. Yummy!

  54. C

    I was skeptical. But I have a few zucchini just sitting there and I’m the only eater of them in my house. Well. This is delicious! I’m so glad I made enough filling to have it tomorrow as well!

  55. k

    I’ve never made grilled cheese from a recipe, and I’ve now had the best grilled cheese I’ve ever eaten. It turns out that shredded, de-watered, seasoned zucchini is the thing that lifts a heavy, decadent, rich sandwich into the most more-ish (to borrow some British English) all-in-one hot sandwich. Even with necessary substitutions! Used soft “whole wheat” bread (that actually had a few sunflower seeds, which played along well), shredded mostly gruyere & parmesan with a nubbin of dill havarti, and mixed in leftover artichoke relish at the last minute. This filled three sandwiches to a decadent, satisfying level – but what put mine over the top was thinly-sliced red onion and jalapeños inside. Good god, this was worth the work and wait!

    For anyone thinking 30-45 minutes is too long for grilled cheese: valid point, but combine it with other tasks. I made a crave-worthy ranch dressing, started a load of laundry, and washed dishes while the stove did the work.

    Thank you, Deb, for continally providing a place to remind me that others around the world are interested in kitchen creativity, self-expression, and kind and helpful communication.