While zucchinis are in season, why not try something different – quick and easy vegetarian mini burgers without the bun!
Not only are these zucchini sliders cute to look at, but they taste delicious, are healthy, and easier to make than peeling potatoes.
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As a side dish, these sliders are a perfect match for Meatless Monday nights yet elegant enough for your Thanksgiving table. If you make them ahead, while someone is carving the turkey, pop your zucchini sliders back in a warm oven for 10 minutes.
I’ve also made these as appetizers. Bake them for a little less time so they’re firmer, insert a toothpick and you’re ready to serve.
For vegans, substitute the parmesan cheese with a favourite alternative cheese.
For anyone not a fan of the herb basil, substitute the recipe with parsley.
And, if pine nuts aren’t your thing either, substitute with walnuts for a more earthy, less oily taste.
What is a zucchini?
Zucchini is sold as vegetable, used in the kitchen for both savoury and sweet dishes and is officially classified as a fruit.
In a previous post, I’d talked about the health benefits of yellow and green zucchinis and the history behind how vegetables and fruit became classified.
You can find that here.
Depending on where you live in the world you may find zucchini called, marrow, baby marrow, or courgette.
Zucchini is usually sold when they are 5-6″ long and you can find them with either green or yellow skins.
Their skin looks robust but is quite thin and fragile, so I treat my zucchini like eggs, with minimal handling. The skin is a protective layer and once broken, I find zucchini soften quicker.
However, a thin-skinned vegetable is a huge benefit for you in the kitchen.
They are tender so cook quickly and there isn’t a lot of kitchen time. This is the perfect vegetable for busy people who still like to eat a healthy meal.
And, as their skin is thin, zucchini is an easy vegetable for beginners in the kitchen. Unlike carrots, they peel, slice and dice like putty. So if you have kids who love to cook beside you, once you’ve made those initial slices, they can use a butter knife to dice the slices into pieces.
And, here’s another benefit; because they are fairly bland tasting you can add zucchini to practically anything – pancakes, muffins, bread, casseroles, lasagna – and they still taste great.
Talk about a perfect, versatile vegetable . . . or fruit.
What is pesto
Pesto is a combination of fresh herbs, spices, nuts, cheese and olive oil blended together to make a chunky or smooth paste that tastes incredible. Like zucchini, pesto is versatile.
Can’t digest cheese – leave it out or substitute with vegan cheese.
Don’t like basil – add another herb.
Don’t love pine nuts – use walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or almonds.
Sensitive to garlic – leave it out.
Want a little heat in your pesto – add chilli flakes.
Pesto is whatever you want it to be which makes it a beginner’s must-have in your kitchen.
With a jar of homemade pesto in your fridge, you’ve got an instant topper for potatoes, pizza, crackers, and these zucchini sliders!
And if you have kids, they’ll love to help you make pesto. Measuring the nuts, snipping the herbs with their own kitchen scissors, passing you the scraper or holding the jar steady while you pour.
Yellow or green zucchini - which should I use?
This recipe works for yellow or green zucchini but if you want to know which is best from a health point, there is a difference and you can find that here.
I used green zucchini for this recipe, but if you have yellow, even better as they have more antioxidants.
What I like most about this recipe
Zucchini embraces any flavours you add, so a healthy dollop of fresh homemade pesto in your slider keeps the slices moist and makes each bite interesting.
Because I made my own pesto, I was in control of the ingredients and texture.
I wanted a chunky in-your-face pesto so didn’t blend the herbs for too long and stirred in roughly chopped pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic that I ran over my zester after.
This year my basil packs a peppery punch so I tamed it down with parsley. Grab a leaf and crush it gently. If you catch a whiff of basil almost instantly you’ve probably got a spicy plant.
How to make your best ever vegetarian baked Zucchini Pesto Sliders
These sliders are sensational, bursting with rich flavours and cooked until just tender. Serve them as an appetizer or side dish, at a party or on a weeknight.
They won’t take a lot of time to prepare or cook and they’re delicious heated up the next day. Simply deconstruct them before adding to a leafy salad for that bite-sized extra pop of flavour.
- Chopping board
- Chef’s 8″ knife
- Zester if you are adding garlic
- Parchment paper
- Baking tray
- Oven mitts
- Trivet or kitchen counter protector
- Spatula for lifting slices out and stacking
- Warm serving dish
Optional: Toothpicks for testing doneness and stabilizing baked sliders
Makes: 10-12 sliders per zucchini
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes (15 minutes if you plan to reheat later)
- 1 zucchini 5-6″ long
- 1/4 cup basil leaves*
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 2 Tablespoon pine nuts*
- 2 Tablespoon parmesan cheese*
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated with a zester
- Extra virgin olive oil for the pesto and for drizzling
- Freshly cracked black and red peppercorns (Red peppercorns are milder)
Garnish: extra basil and parsley leaves
* Substitute basil with parsley or another herb you prefer.
* Substitute pine nuts with walnuts and use slightly more olive oil to compensate.
* Substitute with vegan cheese
Steps to making your Zucchini Pesto Slider masterpiece
1. Zucchini Slices
~ Wash and dry zucchini.
~ Top and tail, and compost the ends.
~ Slice zucchini into 1/4″ slices. You should get 20-24 slices per 6″ zucchini.
~ Set slices aside while you make the pesto.
2. Chunky Pesto
~ Wash and dry the basil and parsley herbs.
~ Use a board and your chef’s knife to roughly chop leaves.
~ Add leaves to a blender with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and the grated garlic.
~ Blend for 20 seconds, remove the lid and check the consistency.
~ If nothing has changed, add a dash of extra olive oil. The leaves won’t blend until there is enough liquid.
~ Blend for another 20-30 seconds, or until most herb leaves are small but mostly recognizable as an herb.
For this recipe, I’m aiming for less paste-like smoothness and more texture, but feel free to blend your pesto longer.
~ Once your herbs are ground to how you prefer, add one-half of the pine nuts and grind for a further 10 seconds.
~ Scrape your pesto mixture into a small, deep mixing bowl that allows you to stir in more ingredients.
~ Roughly chop the remaining pine nuts and add to your pesto.
~ Add parmesan cheese and stir everything until well combined.
Note: if you are making a smooth pesto, add pine nuts, parmesan cheese and grated garlic to the blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
3. Build Your Zucchini Sliders
~ Place parchment paper on the baking tray before laying half of your zucchini slices flat-side down.
~ Add a dollop of pesto to each one.
~ Once half of your slices are prepared, place the other half on the parchment paper.
~ Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over each bare slice. (Not the ones with pesto.)
~ Add a VERY light sprinkling of parmesan cheese and freshly cracked red and black peppercorns.
I use red peppercorns as they’re milder but if you only have black peppercorns that’s fine too.
~ Bake at 375 degrees F (180 degrees C) for 20 minutes or until the zucchini flesh is cooked soft and the cheese has turned golden brown.
If you prefer to test for doneness
~ Insert a toothpick into a zucchini slice before you bake and note how hard the flesh is.
This gives you a baseline.
Repeat when you feel the zucchini slices may be cooked. Your toothpick should slide in without any resistance.
~ Using oven mitts, remove the baking tray and allow zucchini slices to cool a little before handling.
~ Stack zucchini slices to look like sliders.
Press down lightly until the tops feel stable.
~ Transfer each slider to a warm serving plate.
If you are serving these as appetizers, insert a toothpick in the centre of each slider to prevent them from falling apart. And, it makes grabbing one easier for your guests.
~ Serve on a warm plate or platter beside a robust salad such as torn radicchio and carrot sticks, and wild rice slow-cooked in a vegetable stock.
~ If you like, add a drizzle of your favourite sauce for an extra special pop of flavour.
Garnish with a spring of mini basil leaves or parsley.
What do you think?
I hope you’ll try these zucchini sliders because they really are super easy to make – and so tasty.
And if you feel like sharing, please click on a button below!
Zucchini Pesto Sliders
A vegetarian twist on vegetable burgers. Using zucchini slices instead of buns, these small bite-sized sliders are ideal for a snack, appetizer or side dish. Quick and easy to make, these sliders are delicious hot, warm or cold!
- 1 zucchini 5-6"
- 1/4 cup basil leaves washed and dried
- 1/4 cup parsley washed and dried
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and grated
- red and black pepper freshly cracked
- parsley or basil leaves small
Wash and dry zucchini and herbs. Top and tail zucchini and compost the ends. Slice zucchini into 1/4" slices (20 - 24) and set aside.
Roughly chop basil and parsley. Add to a blender with olive oil. Blend for 30 seconds or until as smooth as you prefer your pesto.
Add half the pine nuts and blend a further 10 seconds. You want some crunchy lumps and texture left behind. Roughly chop the remaining pine nuts.
Scrape pesto into a small mixing bowl and add grated fresh grated garlic cloves, pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Stir until well blended.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Place half of the zucchini slices flat-side down on the paper.
Scoop approximately one tablespoon of pesto on top of each one.
Place the remainder of slices on the paper. Drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over them. Sprinkle a light covering of parmesan cheese before adding cracked red and black pepper.
Bake at 375°F (180° C) for 20 minutes or until the parmesan cheese has turned light brown.
Remove tray from the oven and allow zucchini slices to cool before assembling.
Transfer each baked zucchini slice with pesto to a warm serving plate. Top each one with a slice coated in olive oil, parmesan cheese and pepper. Press down lightly until the top slice lies firm and stable.
Insert a toothpick to keep the slices together if needed.
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