Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Syrup

By Ann Fulton

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Three key ingredients take zucchini to new heights in this convenient and economical side dish that is destined to become a seasonal standout.


When it comes to delicious, healthy recipes, my friend Justine Fontinell has a few up her sleeve.  From the time I went out on a limb and made her Cauliflower Fried Rice, I was confident that her recipes could be trusted.  

The following recipe is another way Justine lets vegetables be the star in a flavorful and filling way.

As an introduction to her recipe, Justine mentioned that grilling is the perfect way to add sweetness to vegetables that tend to be bitter and extra flavor to veggies that tend to be bland. Zucchini falls into the latter category, and it’s this lack of strong flavor that makes the summer staple so versatile.

Topped with tangy cheese and syrupy balsamic, this seasonal side dish was a hands-down hit with my family from the first time I served it. In fact, stealth fingers seemed to remove half of the bite-size pieces from the serving dish before they ever made it to the dinner table!

Since that first time, I’ve taken to slicing the zucchini in different ways and using pure maple syrup instead of honey in the balsamic syrup. Both work well, although I gravitate slightly towards the former for the way its caramel-like flavor adds nuance to the tangy balsamic.

Either way, when reduced, the result is a drizzle-able sauce that adds tangy-sweet excitement to the naturally blander zucchini. With a light tang of its own, creamy goat cheese, is the crowning touch. Feta cheese will accomplish a similar result. 

Conveniently, the balsamic syrup may be prepared in advance, making a last-minute assembly of this dish quite easy. You may also find yourself drizzling leftover syrup on sliced tomatoes (or a Caprese platter with tomatoes, sliced mozzarella and basil), chicken, pork, fish, roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts, a variety of salads–even juicy strawberries and vanilla ice cream.

Coincidentally, we first enjoyed Justine’s recipe alongside Christine’s chicken recipes, and found the balsamic syrup to be a delicious addition to the Lemon Herb Chicken.

Plentiful zucchini paired with ingredients that are easy to have on hand make this savory dish both convenient and economical. And the Fiery Grilled Shrimp is not to be missed!

Since first posting, I’ve made this zucchini recipe many times. These days, I often slice the zucchini into thick, lengthwise strips. 

Plentiful zucchini paired with ingredients that are easy to have on hand make this savory dish both convenient and economical.

 In the pictured meal, we enjoyed the zucchini with two other family favorites – Fiery Grilled Shrimp and vine-ripened tomatoes with Absolutely Famous Greek Dressing.

Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Syrup
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Syrupy balsamic and creamy goat cheese supply sweet and tangy notes that take simply grilled zucchini to new heights.
  • ⅓ cup (80ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (40) pure maple syrup or honey
  • 2 medium to large zucchini (about 1¼ pounds)
  • ½ teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (14ml) olive oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 ounces (½ cup) crumbled goat cheese, more or less to taste (may substitute feta)
  1. Prepare the balsamic syrup: (Prep ahead tip: the syrup may be prepared well in advance and stored in a jar in a cupboard. It will keep for months, so feel free to make a larger batch.) Place the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup or honey in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring often. (See notes.) Simmer until the mixture is reduced by approximately half, stirring occasionally. The balsamic mixture should be slightly thick and coat the back of a spoon. It will thicken a little more as it cools. (Tip: If using a kitchen scale, I weigh the pot before simmering and stop simmering when the weight of the pot has reduced by about 50 grams, or just under half the initial amount of ingredients.)
  2. Prepare the zucchini: Slice the zucchini lengthwise or into rounds on a slight diagonal, about ½-inch thick. In a large bowl, toss the zucchini with the salt and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes. Drain the zucchini, and then toss with the oil, black pepper, and red pepper, if using. (I like to mix with my hands to make sure that the oil is evenly dispersed among the slices. If in a hurry, you may skip the draining stage, although I find this enhances the texture of the zucchini by removing excess moisture.)
  3. Cook the zucchini: Heat the grill (or grill pan) to medium-high. Cook the zucchini for five or six minutes on the first side before flipping, and then cook for another three to five minutes on the second side. The zucchini should have nice grill marks on each side and be tender but not mushy. Note: Leaving the slices undisturbed while cooking will produce nice grill marks.
  4. Serve and enjoy: Arrange the zucchini slices on a large plate or platter. While the slices are still warm, sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese, and then drizzle with a few tablespoons of the balsamic syrup, reserving any leftover syrup for future use.

Helpful hints: A very gentle simmer over medium-low heat (or whatever heat will achieve this on your stove) minimizes vinegar fumes and possible scorching of the pan. To easily clean your pan if it becomes scorched (the vinegar mixture can leave a burned residue around the edges – and just a good anytime tip!), cover the affected areas with a paste of baking soda and water and let sit for an hour or more. If it doesn’t scrub off easily at this point, scrub with a crumpled piece of aluminum foil, adding a bit more baking soda, which acts as a gentle abrasive, as needed. (For nonstick or ceramic pots, use a scrubber that is appropriate for those pans, as the foil will scratch them.)

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For Justine’s original recipe, click here.

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  4. Mary Lou Keller

    We surely did Ann, had BBQ chicken tenders and corn on the cob. I have leftover corn and chicken to make one of your yummy salads with too..