What’s the deal with zoodles?
If you’ve tried zucchini recipes before and thought it was a mushy mess, you may be a little worried about making spaghetti out of them. Spiralizing is used on many vegetables, especially when people are attempting a gut-healing or grain-free elimination diet, BUT zucchini noodles, “zoodles,” are by far the most popular.
We’ve found that we LOVE zoodles in so many ways! People ask a lot on Facebook about how to use them after spiralizing, so I wanted to share some super easy recipes and techniques to use zoodles in your own kitchen.
They’re really not bad cold with a salad dressing, but they’re also great to have around to put into soups, with eggs in the morning, and a super quick saute with butter, ginger, turmeric and some green leafy vegs. Zoodles will keep in the fridge just fine for at least a few days.
I’ve recently seen them sold in a store, but I’m thinking they’re going to be prohibitively expensive for a kitchen steward’s budget and also probably have lost a lot of nutrients waiting for you to buy them from the deli fridge. They’re not hard to make yourself!
How to Make Zoodles
I shouldn’t get too far into this before explaining that zoodles are REALLY REALLY easy to make.
You do need a spiralizer of some sort, which can range from this very inexpensive manual version on Amazon (like twisting a pencil in a sharpener) to a KitchenAid attachment that is quite a bit more pricey but also more heavy-duty.
Then you just wash your zukes, trim the ends so they’re flat, and spiralize. Your spiralizer will have instructions on exactly how to do it, but typically it’s just twisting the veggie around for a while. You can go even more DIY with a julienne peeler, but this will be more manual labor.
On most spiralizers, including the one I use, you end up with something left over that looks like a “bolt” to me:
More on how to use that later.
PS – I don’t looooove the Oxo brand I have, but only because I cannot figure out how to get it to stick to the counter. I’ve tried the counter, a cookie sheet, a silicone mat, a cutting board – all with slippage errors. The mechanisms all work great, so if I have a willing child helper, it works out fine. Two child helpers and it’s my favorite kitchen tool ever!
My kids love the spiralizer even though it won’t stay put. If I have veggies ready to spiralize, they magically seem to get taken care of if I leave them for a half hour near the spiralizer. 🙂
This is why I teach my kids to cook! And I’d love to teach yours, too – you deserve a break!
And now for all the ways we use zoodles in our house, most of which those kids actually enjoy!
1. Zoodles Just Like Spaghetti
I promise, no mush.
I served zoodles as a pasta substitute even when my meat-and-potatoes-and-bread father was visiting, and he actually ate the meal without complaint, so trust me when I tell you I know the tricks.
First, DON’T boil them like pasta!
That’s how you get mushy zoodles.
I highly recommend one of three “pasta substitute” strategies for your zoodles:
- Quickly saute in butter for about 3 minutes and cover with hot sauce.
- Put zoodles directly in sauce in a pot and heat with the sauce. Serve when the sauce is hot.
- Steam the zoodles for just a few minutes until they’re hot but not mushy.
For leftovers, we typically just store the sauce and zoodles together and heat in a pot – still no mush.
If you must boil, add the zoodles to the boiling water and leave them for a quick 2 minutes, then drain immediately.
2. Zoodles as a Substitute for Rice
Whether you seek a grain-free or Paleo diet or just want more veggies in your life, zoodles make a great option to put under all sorts of Asian dishes such as stir fry.
This one is a Chicken Tikki Masala that had a little sauce for flavor. We simply sauteed the raw zoodles briefly in some fat (or can also steam them 2-3 minutes) and served the chicken and veggies with sauce over top.
Since our dish was in the Instant Pot, I’m guessing you could also just place the raw zoodles in the hot sauce, put the lid back on, and wait 5 minutes. They’d heat up just great! Zoodles would definitely work with some of my own Instant Pot recipes too:
- BBQ Pork (very juicy!)
- Curried Lemon Coconut Chicken
- Sweet and Sour Meatballs
- as a “side” with BBQ beef or BBQ chicken
So good, so easy, so much more nourishing than grains!
3. Zoodles in a Cold Salad
This is by far the easiest – simply snip the zoodles into bite-sized lengths with kitchen shears, add your favorite salad toppings and a homemade dressing (here’s our basic Italian that takes about 2 minutes to make a huge batch), and you’re good to go.
The zoodle salad is great on day one, good on day two, and does decline in quality as far as leftovers go after that. If you don’t like it on day 3, saute for a veggie side!
4. Zoodles as a Quick Veggie Side
Even my husband, who never liked zucchini before, goes back for seconds when I saute zoodles in butter. Pictured above from Instagram is homemade chicken shawarma, kale chips, steamed broccoli and buttered zoodles. We hit our veggie intake that day!!!
The trick is to saute quickly, 3 minutes maybe, plenty of butter or ghee, and add some favorite seasonings, like:
- turmeric, ginger, and garlic
- Italian seasoning
- smoked paprika and black pepper
- ground fennel and sage
- curry powder or any Asian blend like garam masala
- add fresh greens to sneak some more of those important vegetable in!
- this is a great way to experiment with the spice blend you have in your cupboard that you have no idea what to do with! If you like the scent, sprinkle some on your zoodles and taste it.
We teach about how to consider seasonings and create-your-own in our online kids cooking lessons so you can delegate this side 100% to your kids after our classes!!
This pic above shows our zoodles as a “side” for a chicken stir fry. We had so many veggies that night that I shared a pic of the table on Instagram with 3 pans: One for chicken and greens, one for stir fried veggies, one for zoodles:
The zoodles look like I might have boiled them, but no – they just do tend to release a lot of liquid which I didn’t give time to boil off or I overcooked them slightly (it happens with 4 kids in the house! My timing isn’t always perfect for dinner!). Typically a quick saute results in zoodles coated in delicious butter and seasonings. This time we just used tongs to get them out of the juicy-ness.
We also reheat them easily on our favorite cast iron griddle (that thing seriously gets used 2-3x/day!) – you can see a quick lunch here that I shared on Instagram with some other leftover veggies, and we had some meat on a salad as well:
5. Zoodles Instead of Noodles in Soup
This “Italian Wedding Meatball Soup” originally used shredded zucchini, but I knew zoodles would look even better. So beautiful!
And of course you don’t have to wait 10+ minutes for zoodles to cook, so you can practically serve this thing as soon as you add them in.
I made a HUGE double batch:
To go grain-free, substitute zoodles for any noodle-based soup and see how it goes! If you have green-phobic kids (or adults) in your household, peel the zukes first, then spiralize.
Can You Freeze Zoodles?
Simple answer: Yes!
The zoodles freeze fine without blanching, but they will create quite a bit of moisture in the bag.
I recommend thawing most of the way and then squeezing the water out while still in the bag, then open one corner and drain the zoodles into the sink. You can’t eat them raw of course, but they still work awesome as a super quick rice, noodle or pasta substitute (even faster than the originals!).
What Kind of Spiralizer Should I Buy?
I started with a fairly inexpensive Oxo brand, and while it does the job and I’m hearing from others that it may actually perform ok compared to some on the market, I’m not overly thrilled.
I’ve also heard mixed reviews on the KitchenAid attachment. For a while, everyone who shared about it loved it, and then a slew of readers reported that it was breaking or not able to handle things like sweet potatoes. Eek!
I DO have a very affordable spiralizer now, and it was experiencing this brand that showed me some of the pitfalls of the Oxo (Oxo doesn’t stay “stuck” to the counter very well and is more gangly and hard to control/store). I love how the different blades store right in the apparatus instead of separately, and the material feels really thick and durable, like I won’t break it anytime soon. It really does everything right! BUY IT HERE!
The same brand also has this tiny mini spiralizer, which is just amazing for those of you who can’t handle one.more.thing. in your cupboards! 😉 It’s not much bigger than a 1-cup measuring cup, and for spiralizing just 1-3 zukes, it has become my tool of choice. It’s super easy to twist a zucchini (like a pencil in a sharpener, if anyone still uses pencils?) or delegate it to a child or husband. They can even work over a regular plate at the table with no setup, which means more kitchen space for my messes.
I don’t think it would do hard veggies like sweet potatoes or carrots well, but I highly recommend trying this little tool as a great intro to zoodles! BUY IT HERE!
How to Use the Leftovers from Spiralizing
As a good kitchen steward, I don’t want to waste a morsel of food. Sometimes my kids will grab these “bolts” and eat them raw, depending on what vegetable I’m spiralizing. Most of them don’t love the zucchini though, so I have a different strategy.
I simply chop them all small like the pic above and add them to whatever I’m making, if it would work. If I’m planning a raw salad OR know that my kids would pick out the little chunks from the “pasta” sub or whatnot, then they just go in the veggie saute we’re making or in eggs in the morning.
Here are some “bolt” zoodle leftovers with some asparagus, which I prefer to saute very quickly to be al dente so the timing is right for small pieces of zucchini:
A little bacon grease never hurt zucchini anyway.
Are you ready to try zoodles?