Recipes

fried rice with zucchini, tomatoes and parmesan

Fried rice is a triumph of resourcefulness. It’s budget-friendly, all leftovers are welcome, and there’s no strict formula or ingredient list, just stir-frying cooked rice with whatever you have around — eggs, scraps of vegetables, seafood, or meat — and seasoning the lot of it with soy sauce and garlic. This single-skillet/wok dinner is ready to be torn into in 10 minutes.


what you'll needchop if bigi don't know the real name for this chop so I call it "teeth"hello pretties

Hailing from East, Southeast and South Asian cuisine, it has absolutely nothing to do with the vague Italian/Mediterranean terroir of these ingredients, but I have for almost as many years as I’ve made Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin (from a 2008 Gourmet Magazine, so: many) wished it could be a kind of wildly inauthentic Italian fried rice too. The original dish is a bit bit fussy as written — two baking sheets, one pot in which to cook the rice, saute pan for the onions and more, followed by a baking dish for the assembled gratin — and while the rewards for this effort are great, the level of effort ensures I make it approximately once every two years, a shame when all of the ingredients are so readily available in August.


get some color on those onionsdon't skimp on browning the zucchiniadd the tomatoesscramble an egg in, if you wish

This is the weeknight fix version. There are two general approaches to fried rice, one in which the ingredients are cooked separately to help them maintain their distinct flavors and to ensure each reach the ideal color/texture before assembling in the final stage and the quicker way, each into one pan in a layered manner. I made this both ways. The first, with each ingredient cooked to a brown-edged blister, was unbelievably good… and, quite hideous. Were this a photo-less food blog, it wouldn’t be a thing, but alas, it was. I then made it the quicker way and it’s, perhaps, one degree less hard on the eyes but definitely less complex in flavor. But both were devoured, a filling, delicious bowl of summer comfort food that I expect to be a new staple. I think we all need this for dinner tonight.

fried rice with zucchini, the slower methodfried rice with zucchini, tomatoes and parmesan

Fried Rice with Zucchini, Tomatoes and Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

No matter how you make this, the key thing is to season, season, season. I like to season each vegetable addition with a little salt and pepper, to build in the most flavor I can while cooking.

I approached the eggs two ways in each batch, half a frying with scrambled eggs within (more kid-friendly) and half with a crispy fried egg on top (hello, ILY).

While I’ve never been in the add-cubed-chicken-to-it camp to bulk up a meal, here, I think it could be excellent if you’re into that sorta thing. But do know without it, you shouldn’t find it to be missing a thing.

To make the rice, I actually used this method and kind of loved it, although everything on my stove cooks in less time.


  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium-large sweet onion, diced or 1/2 a large onion
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus red pepper flakes for heat if desired
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound zucchini or other summer squash (about 2 small/medium), diced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup small red cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced 1/4-inch thick if large, halved if tiny
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked, ideally day old, short-grain white or brown rice
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, divided
  • Handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large eggs (for scrambled method) or 4 large eggs (for an egg on top of each portion)

The quickest method: Heat a large, heavy frying pan to medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 to 2 tablespoons oil, then onion. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned at the edges, about 4 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add zucchini and thyme, season well with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened and a little browned at the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 1 minute more. Add a little more oil then rice. Season well with salt and pepper (sense a theme?) and stir-fry together until mixed well and a little browned. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Stir in half of parmesan and parsley.

The slower method: Heat a large, heavy frying pan to medium-high heat. Once hot, add 1 tablespoon oil, then onion and cook, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes, until quite browned at edges. Season well with salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Scrape onion and garlic into a bowl.

Add another tablespoon oil to pan. Add zucchini and spread evenly in pan. Season well with salt and pepper and cook, not stirring at all, until beginning to blister in brown spots underneath, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir and flip zucchini, then add thyme, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes more, until there are browned spots throughout. Add tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape zucchini and tomatoes into a bowl.

Add another glug of oil to the pan and add rice, pressing it in one layer. Cook until beginning to brown and crisp underneath, about 5 to 7 minutes. Give it a stir, season it well with salt and pepper, and repeat the press-and-crisp process for a few more minutes. Return onion/garlic and zucchini/tomatoes to pan and cook together for one minute. Stir in half of parmesan and parsley.

Both methods, for scrambled eggs: My super-lazy method is to push the fried rice to the side and crack eggs directly into the cleared area. Use a fork or spatula to break them up and half-scramble them (I like them a little unmixed) in the pan, then stir the chopped scramble back into the fried rice. Serve with remaining parmesan on top.

Both methods, for fried eggs: First scoop the rice into bowls or onto plates before cooking them as you prefer (or as I prefer), and top each portion with an finished egg. Serve with remaining parmesan on top.


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89 comments on fried rice with zucchini, tomatoes and parmesan

  1. Mix406

    So somehow, when I got to the end of this recipe there were no comments, so I scrolled down through the miscellany I had never seen at the bottom of the page. I noticed something: on the cover of your new book, the byline under your name. “New York Times Best-Selling Author.” I just wondered how it feels for you to have that under your name! Congrats, Deb, and you continue to be my go-to for every recipe need. =]

    1. deb

      Thank you. And to answer your question: awkward! I didn’t want them to put it on (and then argued it should be smaller) because it sounds braggy about something I imagine publishers care about a lot more than people who buy books.

      1. TheFoxWithNoSocks

        Wether or not we care, your book is amazing and you EARNED the epithet, bask in it! speaking of books… do you know if you’ll do a tour for book 2?

        1. deb

          Thank you. Sorry, I probably didn’t express my awkwardness well because: awkwardness. Re, book touring: yes! I hope to have a partial or full tour announcement ready (but at least the partial) after Labor Day.

          1. Mimi

            Can I put in a good word…ahem…pathetic beg…for Fort Lauderdale? Or anything within like a day’s driving distance? My teenage daughter and I fangirl over your blog and cookbook pretty much every day and would just plotz to come see you :)

            1. deb

              I would love to come to Fort Lauderdale! Or Miami. Or anywhere warm. :) I’ll see what we can do. I am not sure it’s on the list for the early (fall) book tour but if there’s enough interest, the might/could be a second (there was last time, but these are different times) in Feb/March. When I’d probably get a on plate to Florida long before being asked!

  2. Mary

    We love fried rice, and have the usual glut of gorgeous summer veggies, so this is very welcome! And many congratulations on the new cookbook!

  3. This looks fantastic (I’ve bookmarked it because I know my parents have a glut of courgette/ zucchini in their garden when I head over to them on Thursday) – and it is also very salient. Because I’m heading away from home, dinner is going to be fried rice to use up any latent fresh items in my fridge. I’m not sure if I’m going to go in the Chinese direction, using the recipe from my book as a template (https://thehappyfoodie.co.uk/recipes/pea-prawn-and-mushroom-egg-fried-rice), or go Korean and pad it out with kimchee yet!

  4. Natalie

    So we’ve been making fried “rice” recently a good bit on weeknights, but with cauliflower rice. I know – sacrilege – but its actually pretty tasty and this looks like a super tasty different direction to go with the mound of zucchini that is the only thing I can grow this year. Thanks!

    1. Anne

      Mind blown! I have rices cauliflower waiting to be used and all the other fresh veggies from my farm basket. This meal must get made!

  5. Becksa

    I’m not usually one to do those substitutions where you are pretending one food is a different food, usually for health reasons (ex spaghetti squash – nothing wrong with it, as long as you don’t pretend it’s spaghetti!). I’d rather just eat an apple or something in it’s original form, and enjoy the less-healthy food (pasta) for real on occasion. That being said, my friend made cauliflower “fried rice” recently and I really like it. Maybe because I am not a huge fan of rice to begin with, but hey. So maybe I’ll try that here.

  6. Katrin

    Were you inspired by your food network episode? :) I’m having the galette for dinner tonight and already now exactly what I’ll do with any leftovers.

    PS. Your food network episodes are awesome. Hope to see more in future!

  7. Megan

    This is the best thing ever. I just got diagnosed with a soy allergy and have been craving my local Chinese place’s veggie fried rice ever since. I love the idea of just using salt, pepper, and garlic to replicate that flavor. Can’t wait to try it!

  8. Rachael

    You are a triumph! I love how your recipes have changed post kids – so many hacks and tricks to getting a deeeelicious supper on the table, without such a fuss! I chuckle when I look back at recipes I used to make before I had kids… things that started like “Day 1…. ” or had like 30 ingredients, 5 that have to be special ordered ahead of time, or 3 course meals every night. It was fun while it lasted but ‘ain’t nobody got time for that now there’s 3 young’uns running amuck ;)

  9. Amy

    I make something like this (less tomato and courgette, more peppers and ginger and soy sauce) and it’s amazing with some fish fillets fried in and flaked up. I think it works better than diced chicken – it keeps the light flavour. You want something hearty, like smoked cod loin or even mackerel – something that’s going to flake up a bit and mix in, but not be completely indistinguishable with everything else. Looking forward to trying this take on rice!

  10. Amy

    I made this for dinner tonight and WOW was it amazing!!! I skipped the cheese because of a dairy allergy and it didn’t seem to lack any flavor!! The yolk with the fried rice is magical -THIS is a keeper :D

      1. Amy

        I used the slower – cook each ingredient separately- method because that’s how I do my stir fry. I was delicious and the browning was perfect. I didn’t think it was too hard on the eyes Deb! ;)

  11. yay! old rice savior! y mum used to serve her fried rice in little bowl-shaped mounds, too :) Thanks for the memory.
    I make something like this with any vegetable I have, but a favorite is eggplant. To get the eggplant to cook, I let it stew in some ginger tea (eggplant after onions, before rice). the ginger tea – pretty sure it’s purchaseable, but I always have a jar of brew in the fridge – lets the eggplant cook through without using all of the oil, and as the water evaporates, it adds spicy gingery-ness to the fly rye. As well as the fried egg, I also like to serve this with little sides like chopped cilantro/green onions, crushed nuts, balachan, sambal oelek, shrimp crackers, etc. fave kind of leftovers!

  12. Julia

    Made this last night – followed recipe exactly and it was PERFECT! It was a great summer meal that was filling and so satisfying! It is going to become a summer staple in my house!

  13. Kristy

    This dish looks so yummy and easy to make, even on a “school night”. But all of your recipes are so accessible. I am looking forward to cooking from your new cookbook.

  14. I happen to have all the ingredients for this recipe on hand and can’t wait to make it tonight!! I actually just made your farro with tomatoes last night when I had an impromptu dinner guest and she RAVED about it. So easy too!

    Totally random question, but in that recipe and this, I noticed you call for cherry tomatoes and was just curious what the rationale is? I used roma last night and will tonight, too, just because it’s what I have, but was just interested in how you think that changes the dish.

    1. deb

      Wetness, mostly, and better structure. And maybe it’s not the case but I feel like they’re the default tomatoes people keep around these days? Regardless, definitely use what you have.

  15. Yum! I love the way gooey egg yolks run through dishes like this. I can often get a free pass from my family if I sub cauli rice for traditional rice by sticking an egg on top;) Love these flavors and use of fresh summer flavors!!

  16. Angie

    Yum, I will defo make this! Ta! Have you thought of using a rice-cooker? They’re not expensive and cook rice perfectly. Great as a quick-cheat method.

    1. deb

      Yes! I have one and love it. Stupid story, I made the rice as directed on the bag I’d bought and it turned out to be insanely too much water — it made a glop that overflowed everywhere. I didn’t feel like cleaning out every part of the rice maker at that point and made it on the stove (with the correct amount of water) instead. I don’t always have great luck on the stove so I consulted those directions I link to in the notes; I love the technique!

  17. Rebekah

    This was dinner tonight, with a broccoli crown instead of a second squash and fresh basil instead of thyme. Suuuuper good. I might just add cheese to all fried rice dishes…

  18. Candice

    Made this tonight, delicious! I was looking for another way to make my CSA squash and tomatoes. I did a hybrid of the two methods, I roasted the squash in the oven on aluminum foil to save time, sauteed shallot and garlic, added the tomatoes, then dumped the squash and rice in with parm. Of course the egg on top made it for me! I was able to make this with my one year old running around.

  19. Meghan

    This dish was amazing. A new weeknight staple. I used the slow method, but I can’t imagine the quicker way would be any less divine. Thanks for pulling me out of a dinner rut once again Deb!

  20. Wendy H.

    We loved this comforting dish. Without an onion on hand we decided to caramelize a couple of shallots in its place and we still loved it. By the way, my sister-in-law pre-ordered your cookbook for me for my birthday. Can’t wait!!! Thanks for all the great past and future meals.

  21. April

    Stumped for dinner ideas yesterday, I clicked over to your site and you did not disappoint. Grabbed the few ingredients I needed on my way home and was super happy with how this came together. I took the time to cook my ingredients separately and it was worth the few extra minutes. Plus it gave me more time to chop the rest of what I needed! I added some oregano to the tomatoes and zucchini, just because, and it was a nice addition.
    Thanks for the dinner rescue!

  22. Maria de Lourdes Araujo

    Hum quantas delicias !!!!
    Amei de paixão nossa tudo delicioso hum.
    Ki maravilha obrigada por todas essas receitas ,amo fazer belos…

  23. Made this wonderful rice yesterday evening for dinner, adding diced cooked chicken breast so it would be a complete meal. Excellent change from my 20+ years of making traditional Asian-style fried rice. Thank you for that! Will be adding it into regular rotation.

  24. rodittis

    This is the magic of fried rice : I don’t like cabbage and I especially don’t like it cooked. \xF0\x9F\x98\xA3
    But I will eat it in fried rice.

  25. Pearl Berman

    This was a huge hit tonight – a great use of seasonal vegetables. Do you think you could substitute another grain for the rice, like faro?

  26. Bonnie Cassidy

    Thanks, Deb! This was an easy and delicious way to help use an excess of zucchini from our CSA! I followed the quickest method with the scrambled egg…didn’t take Deb’s admonition about seasoning well with salt and pepper seriously enough at first, but that was easy enough to fix!

  27. Joni

    DE-Lish! Made this tonight exactly as the recipe states except, I used cauliflower pearls instead of rice. (rather have rice, but it’s a long dietary story) It was seriously delicious. Husband had seconds and he doesn’t care much for zucchini. Guess that’s all in the past now! Thanks, again, Deb.

  28. Simon

    Loved this recipe, I couldn’t help but add a big dose of greek yoghurt which was a welcome addition! This might be my new favourite quick dinner.

  29. Laura in CA

    We made this the fast way with the scrambled egg method to save time. We also added broccoli that we roasted with olive oil, red pepper flakes, and garlic. We used dry thyme because it was all we had. The parmesan was important to give it more flavor, I thought. I heavily topped my serving with cheese. Next time I might try some brighter/bolder flavors – maybe cilantro. This dish reminded me more of risotto than of fried rice. It was very tasty, filling, healthy, and fast and will go into the regular rotation.

    I’m always struggling with how to get dinner on the table on weekdays with two working parents and a toddler… we all arrive home around 6pm, and we have a very small amount of time to feed the toddler and ourselves (we aim for family meals), have some playtime, have bath time (it only happens a few times per week), pajamas, books, and bed… then clean the kitchen and collapse into bed oursleves. This meal, however, if I were to cut the zucchini and onion in advance, could DEFINITELY be on the table in my short time frame. Plus, it is healthy and tasty! This meal is going in the regular weekday rotation for those reasons. I

  30. Kora

    This was great! I kept it more “Asian” by leaving out the cheese and thyme and adding mirin, rice wine vinegar, and tamari. It was amazing, and you have literally changed my life by scrambling the eggs directly in the pan.

  31. Caterina

    This was fantastic! I made it using the slower method with the scrambled eggs. So good as a full meal on its own with corn on the cob as a side. As much as I adore your “zucchini rice gratin”, the numerous pots and pans also discourage me from making that more often.

  32. Elle

    I love fried rice and this is a great way of incorporating seasonal stuff into a weeknight dinner! as someone who is not a fan of the texture/taste of cooked eggs, I create a mound of rice with a flat/dimpled top, crack the egg into that, let it sit a minute and then stir-fry until you can’t really tell the egg is there: an even lazier method.

    [minor note: in the 2nd sentence, “jus stir-frying” should be “just” ]

  33. Yummlicious Dish Deb! Time saving and for sure very easy to make. I wanna ask do we serve it as a side dish with BBQ or Steak? as my kids will never taste it without some combination of meat or chicken. Thanks !

  34. Jennifer

    Oh my gosh – I messed this recipe up in so many ways, it doesn’t seem fair that it still ended up awesome and delicious! I kinda skimmed the recipe, made mental notes about which child liked which vegetables, and proceeded from there. Meanwhile, I was also trying to make a soup – and the bottom line is, you can’t multi-task when you’re stir frying. My lamely sautéed, not crispy stir-fried vegetables still seemed fine. My gotta-use-up-these-garden-but-not-cherry-tomatoes were, though I seeded and drained them, still overly ‘damp.’ The one thing I did right was crisp the heck out of the rice (which I had wisely made the night before) in a cast iron pan. I then fried it with 4 beaten eggs, separated the fried rice into piles to ‘customize’ for each picky (ewww – onions!) eater, added all the appropriate vegetables (which I had forgotten to salt and pepper along the way) to the appropriate piles, as well as a bunch of parmesan, fresh basil, and, for those non-vegetarians, lots of shredded chicken ( I know, I know….but the carnivores must be appeased.) Finally, I decided, sometimes more is more – why not add some basted eggs on top, too?? So, I did. It was wholly amateur and rife with mistakes, but looked beautiful and tasted wonderful (adverb grammarians, hush.) Plus, it pleased every one of the six individually and distinctly picky members of my family – even the one who says she ‘just isn’t a fan of rice.’ Next time I’m going to serve with with a side of bacon, just to please myself.

  35. Jen

    This was outstanding!! I doubled the recipe for a dinner party and made 8 “jammy eggs” to serve on top. Absolutely spot on delicious recipe. I liked the idea of the slow method but was in a hurry so I used two pans cooking the onions and zuke simultaneously. Once the onion/garlic mixture was complete I turned off the heat and added the blistered zuke and tomatoes to that pan and crisped the rice in the zuke pan. The leftovers were calling my name this morning, so I can say with conviction that this is also excellent cold the next morning for breakfast.

  36. claudia

    Hi Deb, I am not someone who usually leaves comments but today I suddenly felt that I should show you some appreciation! I made this fried rice for a friend and our kids last week and everyone loved it. It took no time at all and I enjoyed the departure from the usual soy based fried rice recipes. I love to cook from your blog and your first cookbook. As a lapsed vegetarian myself I really appreciate your love and constant inclusion of vegetables and vegetarian recipes. Thanks!

  37. ER

    I made this tonight, following the quick method almost exactly. It was good, but it didn’t blow me away like weeknight Smitten dishes usually do; like another commenter, I found it somewhat bland. Maybe I was subconsciously expecting the Asian flavors that I associate with fried rice? Maybe my mushy zucchini was disappointing, and broccoli or asparagus would have been better? I will add it to my rotation, since it gets my toddler to eat egg, but I’ll try tweaking it next time, perhaps adding tamari and cilantro and nixing the parmesan.

  38. Anna

    I made this last week and it was delicious! This will definitely be my go-to rice dish for parties since it can be prepped in advance so easily. It (obviously) doesn’t taste like Chinese fried rice at all, but it is very adaptable and neutral flavored so it could go with any cuisine. I’m sure it would be just as good without the eggs as well if you needed to keep it vegan.

    A quick tip to anyone wondering about the “day-old” rice thing– I always freeze extra rice in little ziplock sandwich baggies. I do this a lot with takeout Indian/Chinese since they send so much extra. It defrosts quickly and would be perfect with this dish!

  39. Dana

    This was DELICIOUS. I skipped the egg(s) on top (for no particular reason) and served with lemon chicken – my husband said it was one of the best meals he’s had in awhile. Thanks, Deb!

  40. John

    This was absolutely delicious and quick to whip up! Have you ever made rice with coconut milk instead of water in the rice cooker? Highly recommend. It added a nice touch!

  41. Deb, this was perfect — just what I needed. I had no idea what to make for dinner tonight and I felt like trying something new, but it’s been a while since I’ve done groceries so I didn’t have much food in the house. Miraculously, thanks to my generous gardening friend, I had all the ingredients I needed for this, substituting fresh basil for the parsley. It was totally delicious, and a hit with my kid! THANK YOU!

  42. JP

    Made this tonight, using the slow method. Added broccoli; didn’t have flat parsley. It was incredibly flavorful. The salt and pepper at every stage, and making it in a cast iron skillet, made the flavor I believe. Used only a smidgen of cheese because one family member isn’t a fan. The runny egg on top – amazing. Thank you, Deb, for a great way to use the in season squash and tomatoes!

  43. Laura

    I made this a few nights ago, using the quick cooking method. I threw is some cremini mushrooms when I added the zucchini because I had them around. Thanks for another great recipe – especially to use up the random veggies in my fridge!

  44. We’ll definitely try this recipe out over the weekend! I was wondering if substituting the white or brown rice with black rice would make a drastic difference in flavor?

    Congratulations on your upcoming book tour, Deb! And here’s to hoping for more in the future!