One Skillet Mexican Zucchini

Spice up your summer zucchini with tomatoes, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, and cotija cheese.  Easy one skillet, vegetarian and gluten-free, One Skillet Mexican Zucchini includes all your favorite flavors.

large skillet full of zucchini, tomatoes, and jalapenos

If there’s one thing ubiquitous with summer, it has to be zucchini.  We’ve all experienced the zucchini overload, right?

Too much zucchini in your CSA box.  Giant, zucchini growing in your garden.  Grocery stores practically giving it away.  Summer is all about the zucchini.

Don’t like zucchini?  You’re not alone.  The other members of my household are most definitely not zucchini lovers the way I am.

If I’m looking to appease them, I make Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread, Streusel Topped Zucchini Muffins, Zucchini Bundt Cake, or Frosted Zucchini Brownies.

If, however, you’re like me and do like zucchini when it actually tastes like a vegetable, you need this Mexican zucchini in your life.

Summer zucchini and cherry tomatoes, red onion and garlic, fresh cilantro, jalapeños, and cotija cheese.  It’s all my favorite Mexican flavors, paired with fresh zucchini.  And the perfect way to get through your giant zucchini stash.

skillet filled with raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and red onion

Quick and Easy Zucchini Side

Did I mention that this is quick and easy? As in, sauté in one pan in just 10 minutes quick?

All we’re doing here is sautéing garlic, red onion, and zucchini until just slightly softened. Then add in some cherry tomatoes and jalapeño and cook just a few minutes more.

Remove from the heat and top with some cilantro, lime juice, and crumbled cotjia cheese.

That’s it. Serve warm, right off the stove, or cook ahead and serve later. (Pro tip: this is delicious for lunch the next day!)

sauteed zucchini, tomatoes, and red onion in a skillet next to a jalapeno pepper and cotija cheese

Optional Ingredient Substitutions

This recipe yields well to substitutions. Want to use yellow summer squash instead of zucchini? Great! No red onion? Use yellow. Can’t find cotija cheese? Feta is a great substitute.

If you’re serving this room temperature or chilled, I love cutting an avocado into bite-size cubes and mixing it in.

And yes, of course, cilantro haters: you can leave it out. If you have Mexican oregano on hand, it makes a great substitution.

Let’s also talk for a second about this hatred of cilantro, because someone brings it up any time I post a cilantro recipe! Time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry.

Kitchen Chemistry

Some individuals have a genetic variant in their olfactory receptor genes that is extra sensitive to the aldehydes present in the cilantro leaves.  While these people often say cilantro tastes soapy, new research shows this is actually from smelling the cilantro and the airborne odor molecules reaching the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity.

mexican zucchini mixed with cotija cheese and cilantro
  • Saute Pan: A large heavy-bottom saute pan will provide enough surface area to cook the zucchini and help prevent any accidental burning.
  • Garlic Press: If you mince or press a lot of garlic, this heavy-duty garlic press is well worth the price!
  • Citrus Juicer: My favorite manual citrus squeezer to extract all the juice from small citrus.
  • Chef’s Knife: The best all-around knife in my kitchen.
bright green cooked zucchini ready to serve

Tips and Tricks for the Best Mexican Zucchini

  1. For the best zucchini, look for a smaller, brightly colored zucchini for the best flavor and texture.
  2. Store the zucchini in a paper bag in the refrigerator — keeping it in a plastic grocery bag will trap too much moisture and cause the outside to become slimy.
  3. Cook just until the zucchini starts to soften; it should still hold its shape ad not feel ‘mushy’.
  4. If you can’t find cotija cheese, feta is a perfect substitute!

More Vegetable Dinners and Side Dishes:

One Skillet Mexican Zucchini

One Skillet Mexican Zucchini

Yield: Serves 4-5
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Spice up your summer zucchini with tomatoes, red onion, jalapeños, cilantro, and cotija cheese.  Easy one skillet, vegetarian and gluten free, Mexican zucchini includes all your favorite flavors.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 pound zucchini, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • salt + pepper, to taste
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 6 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and sautee, stirring frequently, until fragrant.  Add in the red onion and zucchini, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until slightly softened.  Add in the tomato and jalapeno and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.
  2. Remove skillet from the heat and add in the cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.  Squeeze the juice of the fresh lime over the vegetables, followed by the crumbled cotija and serve warm or at room temperature.


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Mexican Zucchini: spice up your summer zucchini with tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, cilantro, and cotija cheese.  An easy vegetarian skillet recipe for dinner or a side.

This One Skillet Mexican Zucchini recipe was originally published on 06/25/2014 and republished with updated text and helpful tips on 08/20/2021.