Zoodles, zucchini noodles—whatever you want to call ’em—are the Internet’s favorite pasta substitute. The lean, green spirals are thin slices of zucchini, styled to mimic the look of pasta.
Confession: When I first saw this trend take off I was boggled. In my carb-loving mind, I thought, why would anyone want to forsake the cozy comfort-food flavor of, say, a fettuccine Alfredo or saucy skillet with penne pasta?
After a tiny bit of investigation, I discovered why. Zucchini’s flavor is mild, so zoodles take on the notes of your sauce and toppings. (Here are more ways to sneak vegetables into your life.) They’re also a super healthy choice: low in carbs, low in calories and completely gluten-free. Just look at the numbers.
According to the USDA nutritional database…
- 1 cup of cooked spaghetti has about 200 calories and 40g of carbohydrates.
- 1 cup of raw zucchini noodles has around 20 calories and 5g of carbohydrates.
That means it would take roughly 10 times the amount of zucchini noodles to equal the same amount of carbs and calories as a single plate of pasta. Simply put, you can layer on loads of these spindly spirals, practically guilt-free.
Sold yet? Yep. Me, too.
To learn how to make zucchini noodles, I teamed up our experts in the Test Kitchen. They know that it’s not just important to learn how to make these veggie noodles, but also understand how to make them taste great. Let us walk you through, step by step.
How to Make Zucchini Noodles
(and Make Them Taste Great)
- 2 large zucchini (about 1-1/2 pounds)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
About the Spiralizer
Our Test Kitchen’s favorite way to make picture-perfect zucchini noodles is to use a spiralizer. At first glance, this contraption looks a little medieval, but it’s easy to use. There are several types of low-cost spiralizers you can buy at the store. (We use this brand.) And the tool isn’t just for zucchini. Spiralizers are fantastic for creating spaghetti-like strands from other firm vegetables, like sweet potatoes or carrots.
Step 1: Spiralize your zukes.
Begin by trimming off the ends of the zucchini. Depending on your preference, you can keep the skin on or peel it off before carving the vegetable into noodles.
Align your zucchini sideways so its end meets the blade. Then poke the claw insert into the opposite end of the vegetable so it’s held steadily in place. Crank the handle and apply light pressure, feeding the zucchini into the grating blades. Keep turning until the zucchini is completely spiralized.
That’s it! Those long curly strands are zucchini noodles.
Test Kitchen tip: If the zucchini is crooked, cut it in half. This will leave you with two straight pieces that are smaller, but easier to spiralize.
Don’t have a spiralizer on hand? Never fear. There are ways you can create zucchini noodles without a spiralizer.
- Use a vegetable peeler. Apply light pressure with a vegetable peeler along the sides of the zucchini. You’ll end up with wide, fettuccine-like slices. Here’s a guide to peeling vegetables quickly, with no cut fingers!
- Use a knife. Carefully carve strips from the zucchini, working until you reach the core. These zoodles will look more rustic and have a thicker bite than peeled zukes.
- Use a grater. For short, ricelike zucchini noodles, roughly shred the vegetable lengthwise against a box grater. Press away excess liquid.
Test Kitchen tip: With all the above methods, be sure to omit the soft seeded core of the zucchini or your zoodles will end up soft and mushy.
Step 2: Saute the zoodles
Add oil to a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Throw in the zucchini noodles (with minced garlic if you want some flavor). Cook for about 1-2 minutes. Make sure that the zucchini only cooks slightly, to preserve its fresh, crunchy texture. As the zoodles cook, constantly toss them with a pair of tongs so they don’t overcook. When finished, sprinkle with salt.
Now what? Cooked zucchini noodles are fine to eat plain, but just as with pasta, the addition of sauces, proteins and shaved cheeses are what really makes your dish great.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to serve cooked zucchini noodles:
- Toss in tomatoes and your favorite seafood. I love this one-pan Feta Shrimp Skillet recipe. It’s filling, but feels light and refreshing enough to be paired with zoodles.
- Double down on the green with a homemade pesto sauce. Add grilled chicken and plenty of parmesan for a winning combination.
- Make it extra hearty by adding your zoodles at the last moment to a beefy stir-fry. Try this extra delicious Thai recipe.
Need more? Check dozens of our favorite recipes to serve with zucchini noodles.
After trying zucchini noodles out a few different ways at home, I’ve certainly turned into a believer. I love the simplicity and crunchy texture. But the thing I like the most about this dish is how it makes serving vegetables so incredibly fun. Instead of adding the same old boring zucchini rounds to my dinner, these bouncy green strings brighten up the plate. And sometimes, simple changes in presentation can make a world of difference when it comes to making healthier choices. Now when I think zucchini, I think oodles of zoodle-y fun.