The Best Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella and Calabrian Chili


I’m not going to lie, zucchini is not my favorite vegetable. It’s just ok. But every year I find myself in an abundance of it, so finding ways to easily change it up becomes the name of the game (goodbye balsamic grilled zucchini standby). To me this Best Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella and Calabrian Chili, really takes your average grilled zucchini to the next level! There’s something about the combination of fresh garlic and punchy white wine vinegar, alongside creamy mozzarella, and spicy chilis, that just transforms that humble squash into something spectacular.

A corner of a white rectangular platter with grilled zucchini, fresh mozzarella, basil and Calabrian chili paste next to a yellow napkin a lemon and zester.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to get a little excited about grilling zucchini this summer.

Now let’s talk about the ways to take this to the next level. Fresh herbs have GOT to play a role. I’ve used basil, but you can easily change this up. Lemon zest? You bet! The brightness that lemon zest adds to this is irreplaceable. And lastly, Calabrian chilis, the exclamation point on the dish.

If you’re not familiar, Calabrian chilis are grown in southern Italy in the Calabrian region. They are small red peppers that are fruity and a little smoky in flavor with a medium level of heat. In other words, DELICIOUS!

I used the one from Trader Joe’s (Bomba sauce), but you can certainly find them in regular grocery stores, too. They’re usually located where you see jars of roasted red peppers, pestos, pickled vegetables and those sorts of items. They really are worth seeking out and are great to have on hand all throughout grilling season.

And if you’re looking for another side dish idea for grilling season, check out this Easy Cold Asparagus Orzo Salad with Lemon-Parmesan Vinaigrette.

Why I think you’ll love this recipe:

  • QUICK & EASY – Less than 10 ingredients and less than 5 minutes of prep – this just might be your next favorite summer side dish!
  • DIFFERENT FLAVOR PROFILE – Instead of drowning everything with sweet balsamic vinegar, this is a welcome changeup with great acidity and heat.
  • GREAT AT ROOM TEMPERATURE – I LOVE a great room temperature side dish! It’s a great complement to the rest of your meal keeping you busy at the grill.
  • GREAT WAY TO USE ALL OF THAT ZUCCHINI – If your garden is over flowing every summer (or you have a very ‘generous’ neighbor), this is a great way to work your way through it.

Recipe ingredients

You’ll need the following ingredients to make my favorite Grilled Zucchini:

An overhead view of a sheet pan with the ingredients required to make the best grilled zucchini with fresh mozzarella and Calabrian chili.

Ingredient Notes

The ingredients to make this grilled zucchini are easy to find and readily available at most any grocery store. Grab your zucchini and basil from your local farmer’s market, if you can, for the best flavor and to support your local food economy. If you can, grab your mozzarella there, too!

Here are a few ingredient notes:

Zucchini: This recipe calls for approximately 1 pound of zucchini. If they are larger, you will need fewer than 3, and if they are smaller, you will need more than 3. The exact weight is not important – only that you have the correct amount of the rest of the ingredients if you scale the recipe up or down.

Fresh Mozzarella: One ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced thin, should be sufficient for this recipe, but feel free to add more, if you like.

White wine vinegar: This ingredient, in my opinion, is the key in the recipe. So many grilling recipes rely on sweet balsamic vinegar for everything. Using a punchy white wine vinegar is a great way to add a different kind of acidity and kick to this zucchini.

Calabrian chili paste: Adding some heat to the mellow flavors of the zucchini and cheese is a perfect counter point, in my opinion. I used Trader Joe’s Italian Bomba Sauce (I’m crazy for it!), but you could substitute any other calabrian chilis, a different chili paste, or even sliced fresh fresno peppers.

How to make Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella and Calabrian Chili: STEP BY STEP

Be sure to check out the full recipe and ingredient list in the recipe card below

Steps 1 & 2:

Preheat a charcoal grill, gas grill, or grill pan over medium high heat.

Remove the top and bottom of the zucchini and then slice, lengthwise, into 1/4 inch slices.

Toss the slices with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season generously with kosher salt and black pepper.

A cutting board and knife with zucchini sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices.
A stainless steel bowl with 1/4 inch zucchini slices seasoned with olive oil and salt and pepper.

Steps 3 & 4:

Grill the zucchini, turning only once, on each side for about 4-5 minutes or until tender and caramelized.

Remove the zucchini and add the fresh garlic, white wine vinegar and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Gently toss everything to coat and then let it cool.

A grill pan on the stove with zucchini slices being grilled.
A stainless steel bowl with the grilled zucchini slices tossed with fresh garlic and vinegar.

Steps 5 & 6:

To serve, lay the mozzarella slices in a line. Then tuck the grilled zucchini in between.

Garnish with fresh lemon zest, Calabrian chili paste, and hand-torn basil leaves.

A white rectangular platter with zucchini slices and fresh mozzarella slices.
A rectangular white platter with grilled zucchini, fresh mozzarella slices, grated lemon zest, and drizzled Calabrian chilis.

Chef Notes & Tips

  • The zucchini should be pliable enough to gently fold in half, but shouldn’t be overly-soggy.
  • Be sure to use fresh garlic! Don’t use garlic from a jar – the taste is just not the same. It’s just one clove and will take you less than a minute to mince it.
  • Use white wine vinegar for best results! The acidity and lack of sweetness provide the right punch for the grilled zucchini. You could also consider sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar for a similar level of acidity.

A bottle of olive oil and a jar of Calabrian chiles next to a white platter with grilled zucchini and mozzarella with a yellow napkin, lemon and lemon zester.

Storage & Reheating

STORAGE: Store any leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

REHEATING: I would not recommend reheating this dish – I would just let it come to room temperature and enjoy.

Leftover Hack!  If you have any leftovers, they are AMAZING straight out of the refrigerator onto a thick crusty piece of sourdough bread!


Zucchini: Yellow summer squash would be a fine substitute for the zucchini.

Fresh mozzarella: For a creamier texture, you could use burrata (obviously, not sliced). Alternatively, you could used crumbled feta or goat cheese. You could also make it dairy-free and omit the cheese altogether.

White wine vinegar: I would recommend sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, both of which have strong acidity. You could also use balsamic if that’s all that you have.

Calabrian chili paste: You could substitute another red chili paste that you like. You could also use fresh thinly sliced red fresno pepper or even jalapeno pepper. Lastly, you could also sprinkle dried red pepper flakes to add some heat.

Basil: Italian flat-leaf parsley or chives would be great fresh substitutes for the basil in this recipe.


Partly. You can grill the zucchini ahead of time and dress it with the garlic and vinegar and let it sit. And then, just before you are ready to serve, assemble the rest.

Yes. You can substitute a vegan mozzarella or omit the cheese altogether.

Yes, that works!

No, I really would not recommend that.

I hope you love this Grilled Zucchini! If you make it, be sure to leave a rating so I know how you liked it!

A closeup view of a corner of a white rectangular platter with grilled zucchini and fresh mozzarella next to a yellow napkin, lemon and zester.

The Best Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella and Calabrian Chili

To me this Best Grilled Zucchini with Fresh Mozzarella and Calabrian Chili, really takes your average grilled zucchini to the next level! There's something about the combination of fresh garlic and punchy white wine vinegar, alongside creamy mozzarella and spicy chilis, that just transforms that humble squash into something spectacular.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 196 kcal


  • 1 lb zucchini (about 3 medium)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (divided)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella (thinly sliced)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves (torn by hand)
  • 1 lemon (zest only)
  • 2 tsp Calabrian chili paste (or to your taste)


  • Preheat your charcoal grill, gas grill or grill pan over medium-high heat.
  • Remove the top and bottom of the zucchini and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices.
  • In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
  • Grill the zucchini, turning once, until it’s tender and caramelized – about 4-5 minutes per side.
  • When the zucchini is done, add it back to the bowl and toss the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper.  Let the zucchini cool.
  • To a platter, add the mozzarella slices in a line.  Fold the zucchini slices in half and tuck them in between the pieces of cheese.
  • Add the  lemon zest all over the whole dish.  Add Calabrian chili paste in a thin line down the center of the cheese from one end of the plate to the other.  Lastly, sprinkle with salt and torn basil leaves.  ENJOY!


Calories: 196kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 10gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 437mgPotassium: 261mgFiber: 1gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 481IUVitamin C: 24mgCalcium: 211mgIron: 1mg
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