Zucchini ribbon salad is an elegant side dish to add to your next summer meal. Zucchini is thin sliced into ribbons, then tossed with red onion, fresh basil, sunflower seeds, and shaved parmesan in a homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing.
This zucchini ribbon salad is a great way to use up extra garden zucchini. It can be prepared in about 15 minutes and requires no cooking! It's perfect for when you can't bear to turn on the stove in the middle of summer.
This raw salad has a light, fresh flavor that will help cool you down on a hot day. Zucchini has a very mild flavor and takes on the flavors of the other ingredients. Today we're using red onion, fresh basil leaves, parmesan cheese, and sunflower seeds.
Topping this salad is a simple lemon vinaigrette dressing that's bright and citrusy. The best part? It's made with only five ingredients (including salt and pepper).
Serve zucchini ribbon salad with your next summer meal, whether it's burgers on the grill or baked salmon.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Zucchini - You'll need about two medium zucchini for this recipe, plus a mandoline slicer or a vegetable peeler.
- Red onion - Adds flavor and color to your salad. If your red onion tastes a bit harsh or sharp, rinse the slices under cold water. This mellows their flavor.
- Parmesan - Shaved parmesan works best in this recipe.
- Basil - Fresh basil leaves add a bright, summery flavor to your salad. I don't recommend omitting them. Basil can be substituted with mint leaves for a different flavor.
- Sunflower seeds - Can be substituted with sliced almonds or pine nuts if desired.
- Olive oil - Extra virgin olive oil is used as the base for your salad dressing.
- Lemon juice - Adds a light, citrusy flavor to your salad dressing. This can be substituted with apple cider vinegar if needed, but I think lemon juice adds the most complementary flavor.
- Dijon mustard - Adds tanginess and acts as an emulsifier for your dressing.
- Salt & pepper - Enhances the flavor of your salad.
How to make zucchini ribbons
Zucchini ribbons can be made using several different kitchen tools. I used a mandoline slicer for the zucchini shown in the photos.
To prepare your zucchini for slicing into ribbons, give them a quick scrub and pat dry. Then, slice off both ends of your zucchini. Then, using one of the three tools below, carefully slice your zucchini into thin, ⅛" ribbons.
- Mandoline slicer - Easy to use and makes consistent ribbons of the same thickness.
- Vegetable peeler - Quick and inexpensive. If you don't have a mandoline slicer, you likely have a vegetable peeler in your kitchen for peeling potatoes and other veggies.
- Chef's knife- I'd recommend a mandoline slicer or vegetable peeler over a knife, but thin ribbons can be (carefully) made using a sharp chef's knife.
- Spiralizer - If you prefer, you can also spiralize your zucchini instead of slicing into ribbons. The salad ingredients cling to the ribbons better than noodles, but either shape can work as a raw salad. I'd recommend grating the parmesan if using spiralized noodles.
Can zucchini be eaten raw?
While zucchini is most commonly cooked into recipes like bread and stews, it is perfectly safe to eat raw. Eating zucchini raw, rather than cooking, can help preserve some of the nutrients that are reduced slightly by cooking, like Vitamins A and C.
Making ahead and serving
Like most salads, zucchini ribbon salad is best served immediately for best flavor and texture. However, your salad can be prepared and tossed, then refrigerated for several hours before serving if needed.
Your salad will begin to absorb the dressing and lose its texture after about one day. I highly recommend making your salad the same day as serving.
Zucchini Ribbon Salad
- 2 medium zucchini
- 10 fresh basil leaves, julienned
- ½ small red onion, thin sliced
- ¼ cup (33 g) sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup (25 g) shaved parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Gently clean your zucchini, pat dry, and trim both ends off. Using a mandoline slicer or vegetable peeler, carefully slice zucchini into thin, ⅛" ribbons. Pat ribbons dry with a paper towel, then set aside.
- In a serving bowl, add your dressing ingredients: olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.
- Add zucchini ribbons, basil, onion, sunflower seeds, and parmesan cheese to bowl with dressing. Toss to coat. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Ribbon salad is best served immediately, or within several hours of preparing. To make ahead: prepare as directed above, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Give your salad a toss once more just before serving to redistribute dressing that settled at the bottom of the bowl.
- Once prepared, salad is best within 24 hours. Leftovers will soak up dressing and get soggy as it sits.
- If making salad with zucchini (spiralized) noodles instead of ribbons, I recommend grating parmesan instead of shaved parmesan.