These Greek zucchini fritters, kolokithokeftedes, are a tasty combination of zucchini combined with bright herbs and gently salty feta. They're perfect to snack on or serve as a side, as well as being a great way to use up some zucchini.
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While some of the Greek dishes that are better-known internationally are more meat-heavy (like keftedes, Greek meatballs, gyros/souvlaki and moussaka), traditionally vegetables are a large part of the Greek diet. It's not really so surprising, given the abundance grown particularly in summer.
Greens may be made into pies and pastries, like spanakopita, or used in spanakorizo, a deliciously simple rice dish. Other vegetables like eggplant or zucchini might be simply grilled, stuffed with rice or other fillings, and combined into dishes like briam (similar to ratatouille). Then there are these tasty fritters.
You'll find zucchini/courgette fritters in a number of different cuisines, with most involving grated vegetable, egg to bind along with some flour to make less sticky. The flavors then vary a little from there. It's a simple way to make this vegetable into a tasty (and cost-effective) snack or side.
What does the name kolokithokeftedes mean?
The name kolokithokeftedes comes from "kolokitho" meaning squash more generally, including summer squash like zucchini, and "keftedes" meaning meatballs. Meat keftedes are another tasty bite worth trying, also flavored with herbs, but these zucchini bites are entirely vegetarian.
In many ways, the way you make them and cook them is similar to meatballs, adding binders, flavorings and forming into balls then frying. But the flavor of these is that bit lighter and lets the feta and herbs shine through.
Variations in the ingredients
The basic ingredients for these are pretty simple and consistent. They have a base of zucchini with egg to bind, feta and herbs to flavor and flour/breadcrumbs to help with the texture and to absorb excess moisture. Most add some onion, especially scallions/spring onions as well which adds aromatic flavor.
You'll find two main herb flavorings in these: dill or mint. Some of which you use is down to family tradition or taste. You can also use multiple herbs and or adapt based on what you have or prefer. The main ones that are popular to add in and that work well are dill, parsley, mint, oregano and sometimes basil.
Occasionally some recipes skip the feta, but I feel it is worth including. It is after all such a classic Greek flavor, but also adds a nice contrasting texture and slight saltiness. This recipe is relatively light on the feta so you can increase the amount as you prefer.
I highly recommend buying a block of feta and crumbling it yourself. To me, both the flavor will be better and it's less likely to be dry than pre-crumbled. Some versions add some additional hard cheese for a little more cheesy flavor - kefalotyri is most traditional but you can substitute parmesan or romano.
Tips for making these vegetable fritters
These are pretty easy to make but a couple tips to help them turn out just right:
- Salt the grated zucchini to help draw out liquid. Typically in Greece, these are made with the paler skinned zucchini that retain less water. But if you can't find them, the darker green skinner version works too.
- Squeeze as much liquid out of the grated zucchini as possible. With a regular zucchini I found I reduced the weight by almost half. It's important the zucchini doesn't retain too much liquid as it will make the mixture too wet. You might then try to compensate with extra flour but it dulls the flavor and makes the fritters more dense. So best to squeeze!
- You can bake if you like, but frying in olive oil is more traditional and adds flavor. The oil also helps them crisp up a little, so to me it's a good trade off, even if not quite as healthy. Shallow frying rather than deep frying allows you to use less oil.
- Cook on relatively high heat. This helps them to become crisp on the outside while still soft in the inside. They also absorb less oil this way. But do make sure to keep a close eye on them as they can cook quickly.
- Fry in small batches. Adding too much batter reduces the temperature which can make it difficult to control. It also then means you will have a number needing turned around the same time so it's more likely you might accidentally overcook some.
- Drain on kitchen paper after cooking. This helps to drain off any excess oil to stop them being greasy.
How to serve zucchini fritters
You'll often find these served as a meze dish to snack on either before a meal or alongside drinks, particularly ouzo. These would fit in well as part of an appetizer or buffet selection, maybe with some tiropita (cheese pastries) and you could try this calamari recipe, too. But you could also serve them as a side dish with for example grilled meats.
The most popular way to serve these little bites is with some tzatziki on the side to dip them in. The extra creaminess works really well. Alternatively, you could also use baba ghanoush or other sauces/dips.
I really like these served warm, freshly cooked, but they work at room temperature, too. You can also make them ahead and reheat them briefly in a skillet or in a low oven before serving.
Greek zucchini fritters are more than just a way to use up some zucchini, they are also a deliciously tasty snack. With bright flavors from fresh herbs and slightly salty feta, kolokithokeftedes are a great mix of flavors and textures. Especially dipped in tzatziki, they're addictively easy to enjoy.
Try these other tasty zucchini dishes:
- Marinated zucchini and summer squash
- Zucchini corn fritters (a long time reader favorite)
- Green pizza (which includes zucchini as part of the green topping!)
- Israeli couscous salad with grilled vegetables (yep, including zucchini)
- Plus get more appetizer recipes and Greek recipes in the archives.
Greek zucchini fritters (kolokithokeftedes)
- 1 lb zucchini courgette
- ¼ onion
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 scallions spring onions
- 2 tablespoon chopped dill
- 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta ⅓c = approx 1 ½oz), can use more, to taste
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup flour approx, or a little more, if needed
- 1 pinch pepper or more to taste, optional
- 2 tablespoon olive oil for frying (approx)
- Cut the smooth end off the zucchini, leaving the stem end attached to hold while grating. Peel the onion, leaving the stem on for the same reason. Coarsely grate the zucchini and onion and place grated vegetables in a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle over the salt, toss gently and set aside for around 10 - 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, slice the white and light green parts of the scallions, finely chop the dill and parsley and crumble the feta. You can lightly beat the egg to make it easier to incorporate but it's not completely necessary.
- Take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze out the liquid with your hands. Turn the zucchini in your hands and squeeze again to get as much liquid out as possible. Place the squeezed-out zucchini in a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the zucchini-onion mixture. You may want to re-squeeze some after you are done to get a little more liquid out. Discard the accumulated juices.
- Add the scallions, dill, parsley, feta, egg and flour to the drained zucchini and mix well to combine. You can add a little pepper, as you prefer. The mixture should be relatively stiff - if it seems very runny, add a little more flour.
- Warm the olive oil in a small-medium skillet over a medium-high heat. Once it is hot, take tablespoonfuls of the zucchini mixture and place them in the oil. It can be helpful to smooth off the spoonful before adding so it is a little compacted, then press a little with the back of a spoon to flatten. Cook roughly three or four at a time to avoid overcrowding the skillet and having too many to keep an eye on at once.
- Let the fritters cook for around 3- 4 minutes until lightly browned then turn and cook on the other side for around the same time. Once cooked, remove from the skillet, draining off excess oil, then drain on paper towel to remove any additional oil.
- Repeat cooking the remaining fritters and serve, either warm or room temperature, suggested with tzatziki on the side for dipping.
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I first shared the recipe for Kolithokeftedes (Greek zucchini fritters) on Curious Cuisiniere where I am a contributor.