Zucchini noodles, or zoodles, make a great substitute in pasta dishes and salads. They cook in minutes, making them a quick weeknight meal option.
Whether you are trying to incorporate more vegetables into your diet, going gluten-free, or simply cutting down on refined carbs, replacing wheat pasta with long, skinny spirals of zucchini – sometimes called zucchini noodles or zoodles – is a healthy and delicious option.
But if you are unfamiliar with how to make and cook zucchini noodles, this healthy trend can seem a bit intimidating. Luckily, zucchini noodles are actually super simple to prepare – if you have the right tools.
Below, we tell you everything you need to know to about how to make, cook and serve zucchini noodles. To get you started, I have even included the recipe for a quick-cooking vegetarian dish of sautéed zucchini noodles with garlic, cherry tomatoes, and parmesan cheese that will make you want to jump on the zucchini noodles bandwagon.
How To Make Zoodles
There are many different ways to make zucchini noodles and you can even make them in several different shapes. Imagine long flat sheets of zucchini, which can be used in the place of noodles in lasagna. Or curly strands of zucchini that can substitute for spaghetti in your favorite pasta dish. The possibilities are nearly endless!
By far the easiest way to make zoodles is with a spiralizer, which is a kitchen tool designed exactly for this purpose. Spiralizers can transform many different vegetables, including carrots and sweet potatoes, into noodle-like shapes, so they are quite useful. But which spiralizer to choose? Just to make matters confusing, you have several different options when it comes to spiralizers.
The most popular option – and the one I recommend – is a stand-alone or tabletop spiralizer (like this), which typically comes with multiple blades and attaches to your kitchen counter via suction cup for stability. These gadgets range in price from $25 to $50 dollars. They can be a bit bulky to store, but they are versatile and easy to use. In my opinion, tabletop spiralizers strike the best balance between value and convenience, especially if you plan to make a lot of vegetable noodles.
If you own a KitchenAid stand mixer, you can purchase a spiralizer attachment (like this) for your mixer. This attachment is pricier than a tabletop spiralizer, but it comes with multiple blades to make different kinds of vegetable noodles and is certainly easy to use. If your KitchenAid lives on your countertop and you plan to do a lot of spiralizing, this may be a worthwhile investment for you.
Lastly, there are small, handheld spiralizers (like these) which resemble nothing so much as a giant pencil sharpener. These gadgets are the most budget-friendly and easiest to store, but they lack the versatility of a standalone spiralizer. Moreover, it can be quite time-consuming to spiralize a lot of vegetables with a handheld spiralizer. These are best for occasional use and small batches.
Beyond spiralizers, there are a few other kitchen tools which, in a pinch, can also transform vegetables into noodle-like shapes. One is a julienne peeler (like this), which you may already own. Of all the ways to make zucchini noodles, a julienne peeler is by far the cheapest and takes up the least amount of space in your kitchen, but it is time-consuming to use. In addition, a julienne peeler only produces very thin, delicate zoodles and you end wasting a lot of the zucchini core.
Finally, if you already own a mandoline, you can use it to make zucchini noodles as well. (If you don’t own one already, we highly recommend this one.) As always with a mandoline, exercise extreme caution because the blades are razor-sharp. Use the safety guard or wear a cut-resistant glove to protect your fingertips!
Regardless of which tool you use to make zucchini noodles, there is no need to peel the zucchini. Indeed, the green exterior contains a lot of the squash’s nutrition and fiber. The only preparation you need to do is trim off the ends of the squash. Then place the zucchini in the spiralizer or prepare it by hand with a julienne peeler or mandoline.
Once you reach the core of the zucchini, which contains the seeds, stop. The seeds can be bitter and watery, so simply discard this part. Your zoodles are now ready to serve or cook. You can spiralize zucchini a day or two in advance to save time. Store the zoodles in the refrigerator in an airtight container lined with a paper towel to absorb excess liquid.
How To Buy Zoodles
Overwhelmed by all the different ways to make zucchini noodles at home? Not sure if you want to invest in a new piece of equipment just for making zoodles? If so, then you may want to purchase pre-made zoodles at the grocery store – at least until you are sure that you want to incorporate zoodles into your regular repertoire.
Many grocery stores now carry bags of zucchini noodles right in the produce department. This is a great option if you are pressed for time or lack the equipment to easily make zucchini noodles at home. Do not plan to store pre-made zoodles for more than a day or two as they can dry out after prolonged storage.
How To Cook Zoodles
Zucchini are mostly water, so you want to be very careful about cooking zucchini noodles. Cook them for too long and they end up mushy and waterlogged, which is not appetizing. Because zoodles are best raw or when cooked for, at most, a few minutes, they are a great option for hectic weekday dinners or warm summer nights when no one wants to stand over a hot stove!
Zucchini noodles are perfectly safe to eat raw and for some recipes, raw is definitely the way to go. If you are using zoodles as a substitute for pasta in a cold or room temperature dish, such as a pasta salad, I recommend simply leaving the zoodles raw. The crunch of the raw zucchini adds a pleasant textural component to the dish.
Alternatively, if you are serving zoodles under a cooked sauce, such as a bolognese or marinara sauce, forego cooking the zucchini and simply allow the heat of the sauce to wilt and soften the zoodles to perfection. It doesn’t get much easier than this!
Lastly, for recipes such as this one where the zoodles are cooked together with aromatics and other vegetables, sautéing is the preferred method of cooking. Do not be tempted to boil zucchini noodles like pasta! That will turn the zoodles to mush. Instead, a quick sauté in a hot skillet is the best way to impart flavor to your zucchini noodles while not overcooking them.
One of the most important tips to keep in mind when cooking zucchini noodles is to avoid salting the zucchini prior to cooking. The salt will draw the water out of the squash and create a lot of excess liquid. Instead, season the zoodles with salt just prior to serving.
How To Serve Zoodles
Zucchini noodles are surprisingly versatile and you can incorporate them into all kinds of dishes, from soups to nourish bowls!
When serving zucchini noodles, plan on one medium-sized zucchini – one that is 6 to 8 inches in length – per person. You can see why it is helpful to have a tabletop spiralizer if you are making zucchini noodles for more than one or two people!
You can use zucchini noodles in almost any dish that would ordinarily include pasta as a one-to-one replacement. Or, if you want to lighten up a certain dish, but not give up the pasta completely, sub in zucchini noodles for half of the pasta. This is a great way to ease your family into eating zoodles if they are new to the idea and may be skeptical.
Because zucchini has such a mild flavor, you can serve zoodles with any of your favorite pasta sauces from marinara to pesto. As I mentioned earlier, if your spiralizer comes with different blades, you can even shave zucchini into long flat sheets that can be substituted for the noodles in lasagna.
But do not limit yourselves to Italian flavors: swap zucchini noodles for rice or wheat noodles in Asian-inspired noodle dishes and stir-fries. If you are making a hearty stew that you would ordinarily serve over pasta or egg noodles, you can lighten up the dish, and add some extra vegetables, by replacing the noodles with zoodles. The heat of the stew will wilt and soften the zucchini, so you don’t even have to cook it.
Raw zucchini noodles work especially well in salads and as the base for a fresh, satisfying nourish bowl. Just add your favorite healthy ingredients and protein, such as chicken, canned tuna, beans, hard-boiled egg, and extra veggies. Zoodles stand up well to both creamy or vinaigrette-type dressings.
Lastly, try zucchini noodles in soups, such as chicken noodle, ramen, or even Vietnamese pho. Add the zoodles to the soup just prior to serving to avoid overcooking.
There you have it! Everything you need to know to begin preparing and serving zucchini noodles AKA zoodles to your family. Wondering where to start? Check out the recipe below for Zoodles with Cherry Tomatoes, Garlic and Parmesan. This dish comes together in a matter of minutes and feels super light and fresh. It’s a great introduction to zucchini noodles.Print
- 4 medium (6-8 inches) zucchini
- 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- Trim the ends of the zucchini and using a spiralizer, julienne peeler, or mandoline, make noodles from the zucchini, discarding the core. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet set over medium heat. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and the zest from the lemon. Sauté the aromatics until fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
- Add the zucchini noodles and cherry tomatoes and toss to combine. Raise the heat to medium-high. Sauté the vegetables until the zucchini noodles are tender and some of the tomatoes have begun to break down, approximately 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Add the parmesan, the juice from the lemon, and the salt and toss to combine. Serve the zucchini noodles right away using tongs or slotted spoon, leaving behind any liquid that has accumulated in the skillet.
- Do not salt the vegetable until right before serving to prevent the zucchini from becoming watery.