Did you know that you can use a nifty tool called a spiralizer to turn zucchinis into an excellent substitute to traditional pasta noodles?Zucchini noodles, aka zoodles, are fewer in calories and carbs yet still taste great!
If you want to know the secrets to delicious, Pinterest-worthy zoodles, then read all the tricks to make and cook zucchini noodles that will turn out perfectly, every. single. time.
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What are zucchini noodles?
Zucchini noodles, aka zoodles, are basically strips of zucchini that are used to replace pasta noodles in traditional, carby pasta dishes.
Since they are straight up vegetable, zoodles fit as nicely (as you hope to into those old jeans) into a wide variety of dietary plans, including vegan, low carb, gluten-free, keto, and paleo.
Zucchinis are also a good source of both vitamin C & riboflavin. These and other nutrients found in zucchinis act as antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and help to lower your risk against serious diseases like cancer.
Zucchinis are low in calories too (see comparison of nutrition facts for 1 zucchini vs 1 oz of pasta below), so they can help you lose weight as they fill you up without providing your body a lot of calories to store & burn.
We could make your head spin with the many more benefits reaped from eating fresh, healthy, easy-to-make zucchini noodles, but you know, you probably care more about getting your spiralizer spinning, so let's move on.
While some people like to experiment with making noodles out of other vegetables, such as butternut squash or sweet potato, zucchinis remain the overwhelming favorite choice of vegetable because they have a mild flavor that is less likely to clash with the rest of the ingredients in your dish.
They are also fairly soft, making it easier to cut them into strips than many other vegetables, so make a great first vegetable to start with.
Tips for choosing the right zucchini for zoodles
When choosing your zucchini, it is important to choose one that is not too overripe. Squeeze the zucchini and see if it is pretty firm. The more give there is, there more it is past its ideal ripeness and could result in a noodle texture that is not ideal.
Be sure to keep the skin on because this makes your noodles more firm and release less water = non-soggy noodle bliss.
It takes about one medium-sized zucchini to make enough noodles for one adult meal portion.
Ways to make zucchini noodles
There are several ways to make zucchini noodles, each with their own pros and cons.
Let's explore five methods below, explain how each method works, what equipment is needed, and what the resulting zucchini strips will look like, so you can decide which option will work best for you and your dish.
Method 1: Electric spiralizer
An electric spiralizer is a kitchen tool that you plug in and turn on, which will then automatically cut the zucchinis you feed into it into noodle strips.
Pros: Creates zoodles for you effortlessly and in seconds.
Cons: Requires more storage space, usually has more parts to clean, and is the most expensive of all the types of equipment you can use to make zucchini noodles.
Good to know: If you love making noodles out of various vegetables and plan to eat that regularly, it may be worth the investment to get an electric spiralizer. Or, if you are specifically wanting to create spiral-shaped noodles, a spiralizer (whether electric or hand-powered) is a must.
When shopping for your spiralizer, be sure to consider the speed at which the spiralizer cranks outs noodles and what the different blade options are to ensure you are happy with your purchase.
Method 2: Hand-powered spiralizer
Hand-powered spiralizers work by having you first insert the zucchini so that it is touching the spiralizer blade.
Then, depending on how the spiralizer is designed, you manually twist either the zucchini or the spiralizer to have the blades cut out the noodles for you.
Pros: Cheaper than electric ones and often requires less storage.
Cons: Requires some manual strength on your part. If you are doing a large batch of zoodles or are trying to make noodles out of tougher vegetables like carrots, using a hand-powered spiralizer might lead you to tire yourself out.
Also, some smaller handheld versions might not fit larger vegetables.
Good to know: Some handheld spiralizers are compact enough to be held in your hand, but others are designed to rest on your countertop while you crank the handle.
If you get one with the latter type of design, it is really important to get one that has good suction cups on the base to keep the spiralizer from moving around too much.
Using a countertop spiralizer that doesn’t stay put will result in you wasting a lot of physical energy, leaving you exhausted and mentally frustrated.
Method 3: Julienne peeler
One way to make zucchini noodles without a spiralizer is to use a julienne peeler.
Pros: Most people already have this type of peeler at home, and it is fairly small making it easy to store.
Cons: Can only make very thin, delicate noodles. Because of how thin the noodles are, that means it takes longer to get through an entire zucchini. Also, using the julienne peeler does not allow for you to create curly noodles.
Good to know: When using a julienne peeler, be sure to handle it carefully, especially when you are getting towards the end and are almost done with the entire zucchini.
It is easy to accidentally nick your skin if you don’t pay close attention.
Method 4: Mandoline
The fourth way to make zucchini noodles is by using a mandoline.
Pros: Much easier to use than a julienne peeler and will allow you to get through a zucchini in half the time.
Cons: Does not allow for the option of making curly noodles.
Good to know: Using a mandoline will result in slightly thicker noodles than using a julienne peeler. Mandoline blades are quite sharp, so you need to take extra care when using one, or purchase special safety gloves.
When buying your mandoline, look at the blade options they come with to ensure it has the options and thicknesses you want.
Method 5: Knife
The "simplest" method is to just use a knife and cut strips out of the zucchini yourself.
Pros: Only equipment you really need are a knife and a chopping board, which you probably already have.
Cons: Very difficult to get thin noodles that all have a consistent thickness. Also, it takes a lot of time to cut your zoodles manually this way so you’ll need to allot yourself extra prep time.
Can you eat zucchini noodles raw?
Zucchini noodles are perfectly edible raw and keep more of their nutrients intact when consumed that way. Of course, eating your zoodles raw is also the easiest and fastest way to prepare them.
Compared to cooked zucchini noodles, raw zoodles tend to be firmer in texture and have a more pronounced zucchini taste.
Here's a spiralizer hack: use a flavorful sauce can make the zucchini less pronounced.
Also, you can warm them slightly without really cooking them by stirring them into your freshly-cooked sauce that’s still hot after you’ve taken the sauce off of the stovetop, letting the residual heat do some work.
It basically comes down to personal preference whether or not you decide to eat them raw versus cooked.
How to make zoodles not soggy
If you decide to cook your noodles, the number one problem people encounter is that their zucchini noodles end up soggy, wet, and mushy.
Remember: zucchinis are over 90% water, whereas dried pasta has no water, so you cannot cook them the same way. If you throw your zucchini noodles into boiling water and cook them the way you cook regular pasta, the zoodles will simply have way too much water.
The texture you are aiming for is al dente, an Italian term meaning “to the tooth.” It describes a texture where there is firmness and chewiness when you bite into it, so that it doesn’t seem like it’s too hard or too soft.
To achieve this with zucchini noodles, you want to use heating methods that don’t draw out too much water or avoid adding too much water.
The centermost part of the zucchini is is the section with the highest water-content, so just reserve the center for another dish such as stir fry and not include them in your noodles.
Some methods of cooking the zucchini will draw out more water than others. Using paper towels to pat-dry the zoodles is recommended for many of the methods. Some may even involved letting the noodles drain a little first.
Here's a pin from Wholesome Yum showing how nicely your zucchini noodles can turn out:
It is helpful to remember some basic cooking science principles:
- Using a water-based cooking method (such as blanching) will add more water for you to remove, whereas a dry cooking method (such as baking) does not.
- Heating a vegetable will ultimately draw out water so it is best not to heat them too long or pair them with a very hot sauce
The goal of cooking the noodles is only to heat them up slightly, which will soften up the texture a little and mute the zucchini flavor a bit.
Let’s cover a few common methods that people use to cook their zucchini noodles:
Method 1: Stovetop (Saute)
Before sauteing your noodles, it is helpful to toss some salt on the raw zoodles and let them sit for about 15-30 minutes.
You can then gently squeeze them in a colander or pat dry any moisture that is drawn out, but be careful not to handle them too roughly otherwise you’ll smash the noodles.
When you are ready to actually cook the noodles, throw them into a pan over medium high heat with a little bit of olive oil and cook for only 1-2 minutes.
If you keep them in for much longer than that, the heat will suddenly and rapidly start to draw out a lot of water which is actually what you don’t want.
Cooking the zoodles this way on the stovetop is great if you need time in between to cook sauce or some other part of your recipe, since you need time to let the salted uncooked noodles sit for a bit.
Don't cook the noodles in the same pot as you are cooking the sauce, because that is too much heat and again this will draw out lots of moisture from the zucchini, leaving you with both soggy zoodles & watery sauce.
Some additional tips if you are cooking your zucchini noodles on the stovetop:
- Don’t cover the pan while cooking, to allow water to evaporate
- Don’t overcrowd your saute pan with the noodles. This is zucchini, not sardines! Give yourself ample room to stir and allow all the noodles a chance to catch the heat quickly so that you don’t have to leave them into too long just so the last few noodles can reach the same heat as the rest of the batch
- Don’t add salt to the saute pan, as that will cause the zoodles to release more water
- Use a pan that conducts heat well, like cast iron
- Take your zoodles out of the saute pan as soon as you are done cooking them. If you keep them in, the residual heat will continue to cook the noodles and again release moisture
Method 2: Oven (Bake)
Another way to cook your zucchini noodles is to bake them.
Line paper towels in the largest sheet pan you have with, then spread the zucchini out as much as possible and sprinkle with salt.
Bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees, which is low enough that the paper towel won’t catch on fire. The salt will draw out the water, then the paper towel will collect it.
Because you don’t have to let the noodles sit first like with the stovetop method, cooking your zoodles this way is faster.
The other benefit is that you end up with more zucchini noodles compared to the stovetop method, since squeezing the zoodles against a colander during prep tends to reduce its physical volume.
Method 3: Microwave
Microwaving your zoodles is one of the speediest ways to cook your zoodles, but like with all methods it is important not to cover the noodles so that you don’t end up with soggy and mushy results.
Since every microwave can be different, it’s recommended to zap the zucchini noodles in 30-second increments and check on them until you reach the firmness you want.
If you have sauce to add to your noodles, it is better to heat the sauce separately. If you microwave them together at the same time, any moisture that gets released could result in watery sauce.
Method 4: Boiling/Blanching
This method is most ideal for soup dishes where you will be putting the zucchini noodles in some type of soup, since boiling or blanching is a wet cooking method that involves added water.
Or, you can use this method to reheat noodles that you previously froze.
Again, all you need to do is put the noodles in for a minute or two. You don’t want to keep the zoodles in too long otherwise you run the risk of ending up with a texture that is too mushy.
Here's a pin from Downshiftology showing how zucchini noodles look when prepared in the different ways:
Meal plan ahead and freezing
The longest part about making zucchini noodles is actually cutting the vegetable into the noodle shape, but this can easily be done ahead of time to cut down on meal prep time during weekdays when you are busier.
Create the zucchini noodles using one of the tools to make spiralized noodles we discussed earlier, then salt them and let sit in a colander for 20-30 minutes.
Again, the salt draws out moisture, so pat dry the noodles with paper towels before portioning them out and keeping them in the refrigerator. For maximum convenience, you can separate the portions out into individual ziplock bags.
Please note that it is possible to freeze the noodles, but the noodle texture will change and lose some of its crisp.
Also, any ice that forms on the zucchini noodles will obviously make it a lot harder to avoid the soggy zoodle problem, so it isn’t really the ideal way to go if you can avoid making such a huge batch that you need to preserve them.
It is not recommended to cook the noodles ahead of time. Instead, wait until you are ready to eat them, as it only takes a minute or two to cook them.
When you are ready to reheat, it is best to use either the blanching or microwave method of cooking zucchini noodles we covered above.
Where to buy zoodles?
Given the popularity of zucchini noodles, it is now more common to see pre-cut zoodles (as well as noodles made with other vegetables) sold at your local grocery store in the refrigerated section.
The main benefit of using premade noodles is that you save time and effort. Using premade zoodles also means you don’t have to have any special equipment whatsoever to make them.
Of course, all convenience comes at a price - pre-cut zucchini noodles are more expensive than just buying the raw vegetable.
You also have to review the package to see if any preservatives and other additives were included, whereas that wouldn’t be an issue if you made the zucchini noodles yourself.
Zucchini noodle recipes
Now that you know how to make these bad boys, try them out in this array of zoodle recipes, ranging from pastas to soups and more.
This ultimate guide to zucchini noodles covers everything you need to know to make perfect zoodles in lots of ways that will make your mouth water, not your noodles.
Learn the right methods on how to make zucchini noodles and cook zoodles. No soggy zucchini noodles ever again!