You guys, I am so excited about Crispy Zucchini and Corn Casserole!
I have shared A LOT of summer-themed recipes in the last few months, from light and fresh salads to fruity desserts. I even put together a roundup of 45 seasonal recipes to make this August!
And, I was about to transition into developing fall-themed recipes. But, I got so many requests for zucchini recipes in the last week or two. Zucchini is at its peak right now, and it’s so affordable that many people have bushels of zucchini (or summer squash), but don’t know what to do with them.
I have to admit, zucchini is not my favorite vegetable and for the longest time, I avoided it. That’s because I was used to eating supermarket plastic-wrapped zucchini in the middle of winter. It tasted like mealy water. I used to think, why would anyone want to eat this??
But, I have stood corrected over the last few years. Because zucchini from the farmers market in late summer…that’s pretty dang good. It’s still not my favorite vegetable, but I can now clearly see the beauty of summer zucchini.
And since I got so many requests for zucchini recipes, I started doing some research. I came across one of Love and Lemons’ roundup of 35 zucchini recipes. Jeanine of Love and Lemons is a pro at seasonal recipes, so I knew I could trust her ideas. I saw her Crispy Zucchini Casserole recipe and thought it was so fun that I had to adapt it to my own tastes, ingredients on hand, and veganize it.
Hence, this Crispy Zucchini and Corn Casserole!
Why you’ll like this recipe
Texture, texture, texture! If you like crispy foods, you’re going to love this recipe. The crispy panko bread topping contrasts perfectly with the soft-baked zucchini and the chewy charred corn.
Peak seasonal ingredients. This recipe features four ingredients that are in their peak season right now: zucchini or summer squash, corn, basil, and jalapeños. The flavors are so fresh, bright, and zesty!
Fun to make and crowd pleasing. This is such a fun dish to assemble (see the GIF video below). Plus, it’s a crowd pleasing appetizer for all your summer entertaining needs.
Popular with vegetable skeptics. As you might know, my partner Max is skeptical of many vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes, kale, and apparently zucchini). When I told him I was making a zucchini casserole, he turned his nose up at me. But then he tasted it, and went back for thirds! So, I have successfully converted Max into a zucchini-lover.
Layers of flavor. Between slightly smoky charred corn, a subtle spicy kick from jalapeños, fragrant herbaceousness from the basil sauce, and umami notes from the marinara sauce, this dish is packed with lots of delicious flavors!
Watch! How to Make Zucchini and Corn Casserole
Step by Step Instructions
First, make the Basil Sauce.
This is somewhat similar to pesto, but it’s nut-free and thinner. It can also do double duty as a salad dressing! You’ll start by frying shallots and garlic in olive oil, then infusing some dried thyme and salt into the mix. Blend the mixture in a food processor, along with fresh basil, lemon juice, and water.
Second, shave the corn and char it. Use a sharp knife to shave off the kernels off two ears of corn. Heat up some olive oil in a cast iron skillet, add the corn, and cook for a few minutes until lightly charred.
Next, thinly slice your zucchini and/or summer squash into rounds.
Next, mix the zucchini/squash slices and charred corn with diced jalapeños and the Basil sauce, and toss to coat.
Now, it’s time to assemble the casserole!
First, a layer of marinara sauce goes on the bottom of a 13×9 baking dish. Use your favorite store-bought brand, or, if you have homemade marinara sauce, obviously that would be even better.
Next, a layer of the zucchini and/or squash slices in a single layer (slight overlapping is okay). Spoon some of the corn-jalapeño mixture on top. Follow it with a scattering of the vegan cheese (half the amount). Repeat the layers: zucchini slices, more corn-jalapeño mixture, the rest of the vegan cheese.
Finally, top with the panko bread crumbs. Drizzle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top, a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.
Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes, rotating the pan 180° halfway through to ensure even browning on the top. The panko topping should be nicely golden brown and crisp (the olive oil drizzled on top aids in browning). If it’s not browned enough, turn on your oven’s broiler and broil it for just a minute or two. Allow to cool for 20 minutes for digging in.
Tips for making this Crispy Zucchini and Corn Casserole
Slice the zucchini into thin rounds, but not paper thin. If they’re too thin, they’ll get soggy in the oven.
Use your hands to arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer, instead of just spooning the zucchini-corn salad on top. Yes, it takes a little extra time, but you want a single layer. Plus, it makes for a beautiful presentation.
If there’s extra liquid in the zucchini-corn salad when you’re done layering the zucchini, don’t add it to the mixture – you don’t want extra liquid to water down the casserole.
Speaking of the zucchini-corn salad, if you have leftover zucchini or corn, do not try to fit them all in the pan. The best part is that the salad is DELICIOUS and makes an excellent snack.
After adding the panko bread crumbs, drizzle on some extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil aids in the browning and crisping-up process, so don’t skip it (see those beautiful browned pockets below – those are thanks to the olive oil).
Substitutes for this Crispy Zucchini and Corn Casserole
For the basil sauce, if you don’t have shallots, use 1/2 of a small onion. If you don’t have dried thyme, you can omit it or substitute with dried oregano.
As you can see from the photos, I used both zucchini and summer squash. They are basically the same. You can use both, or just one or the other.
If you don’t want to buy vegan cheese or can’t find it, I recommend using my Tofu Ricotta recipe, which you can find in this blog post. Instead of sprinkling on the shredded cheese, spoon dollops of it on top (it’ll be difficult to spread out, but try as best you can).
If you are gluten-free, you can try gluten-free panko bread crumbs, though I haven’t tried it myself. I do recommend panko (Japanese bread crumbs) instead of regular bread crumbs, as they make the texture extremely crispy and light.
If you give this Crispy Zucchini and Corn Casserole recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
- 3 cups of thinly sliced zucchini (about 3 small-medium)*
- 2 medium-large ears of corn (about 1 1/2 cups corn kernels)
- 2 small jalapeños, finely chopped (omit seeds for a very mild version)
- Basil Sauce (recipe below)
- 2 cups (228g) shredded vegan cheese (I used Violife mozzarella)**
- 1 cup (240-250g) of your favorite marinara sauce
- 1 heaping cup (65-70g) panko bread crumbs
- Flaky sea salt and black pepper for serving
- Thinly sliced basil, for serving
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups tightly packed (32g) basil leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 (120 mL) cup water
- Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C.
- Make the Basil Sauce (recipe below).
- Prep the vegetables. Slice the zucchini and/or squash into rounds, but don’t slice too paper thin, or they’ll get soggy in the oven. Using a sharp knife, shave the kernels of each ear of corn.
- Char the corn. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Add the corn kernels. Cook the corn for 3-5 minutes until charred in spots, tossing just once or twice to get a nice char on them.
- In a large bowl, toss the zucchini and squash slices, charred corn, and jalapeños with the Basil Sauce. Mix well.
- Assemble the casserole. Pour the marinara sauce on to the bottom of a 13x9-inch (33x22 cm) baking pan. Spread out half of the zucchini/squash slices on top in a single layer (slight overlapping is okay). Then spoon some more of the corn/jalapeño mixture on top. Sprinkle the zucchini with half of the shredded vegan cheese on top (or dollop with blobs of the Tofu Ricotta, if using). Repeat the layers one more time, zucchini slices and corn first, then cheese.
- Sprinkle the top with the panko bread crumbs, a light sprinkle of flaky sea salt, some freshly cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (the olive oil aids in browning, so don’t skip it). Bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pan 180° halfway through to ensure even browning on the top, or until the top is crispy and golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Top with sliced basil.
Basil Sauce Directions
- In a small skillet, heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic just starts to turn golden.
- Add the thyme and salt. Cook for 30 seconds, tossing frequently to combine and to prevent burning. Remove from the heat.
- Transfer the shallot mixture and oil to a food processor. Add the basil, lemon juice, and water. Blend until the mixture is relatively smooth, adding a bit more water if needed to bring the sauce together. Taste for seasonings and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.