How to Make and Cook Zucchini Noodles (the Most Popular Methods)
Posted by Lisa on December 15, 2015 / 23 Comments
Just because you’ve decided to ditch wheat-based spaghetti doesn’t mean you really have to give up pasta. How so, you ask? Well, let me introduce you to zucchini noodles. Also known as “zoodles” – zucchini noodles are the most brilliant noodle base for, oh, a gazillion different meal options.
But if you’re new to the world of zoodles, you may be overwhelmed with all the whose-its and whats-its. Questions like: What’s the best tool to make zucchini noodles? What do I do after I’ve made them? How do I cook them? And should I even cook them?
Ahh, lots of questions. And trust me, they’re all the same questions I had years ago. So today, I’ve put together the ultimate guide to zucchini noodles. A mini-resource guide, to help you navigate the wide world of zoodles.
Listed below are the most popular methods for making and cooking zucchini noodles, along with a few “seasoned zoodler” tips. I’ve listed them in order from my favorite to least favorite, along with the pros and cons of each. And at the very end of the post, I’ve included my favorite zucchini noodle recipes. So let’s dive in!
How to Make Zucchini Noodles
The Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer is far and away my favorite tool! It creates curls of your favorite vegetables, literally in seconds. It’s the fastest tool of the bunch and requires the least amount of strength or effort (with suction cup feet to keep it in place). You simply cut off the ends of a zucchini, place it next to the blade and spin. In less than 8 seconds you’ll have spiral sliced the entire zucchini. Now, I know these reviews are for zucchini noodles, but keep in mind other vegetables you may want to slice up. Carrots, sweet potato, apples, pears…the list is endless! With this spiralizer, you can create your favorite carrot pasta, curly sweet potato fries or apple chips with easy to swap out blades. Yes, it’s bigger than the rest and will take up more space in the kitchen, but considering how I often I use it, the pros far outweigh the cons in my book to make it my ultimate favorite.
Pros: requires little effort/strength, performs the fastest, is the most sturdy and offers different blades/slicing options.
Cons: will require more storage space and is the most expensive on the list.
2. Julienne Peeler
The great thing about a julienne peeler is you most likely already have one in your kitchen. Win! A julienne peeler frequently does double duty with a vegetable peeler. One side juliennes, the other side slices. And that’s perfect for when you want thick, flat slices of zucchini pasta. The single biggest benefit of a julienne peeler is that it’s small. It takes up virtually no space in your kitchen and will most likely reside in your utensil drawer. When it comes to the actual zucchini noodles, a julienne peeler slices the thinnest, most delicate noodles. Then, you simply pull the strands apart with your fingers. The reason this tool makes #2 on my list is that it takes longer to slice (you rotate the zucchini, creating a rectangular shape) and the potential of nicking a finger is high (yep, I’m clumsy).
Pros: cheap and easy to store.
Cons: takes longer to slice.
I actually hummed and hawed about making the mandoline #2 on my list (because I love it that much!) – but the julienne peeler won for size. I’ve had this mandoline for several years and it gets used a ton in my kitchen. The mandoline creates julienne noodles that are slightly thicker than a peeler, but does it in half the time. The blades are SUPER sharp on a mandoline, so please please always use the plastic holder or a cut-resistant glove. I’ve sliced a massive divot out of my thumb before – and it ain’t fun! The mandoline also creates the best flat zucchini pasta slices and allows you to vary the thickness. Similar to the Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer, it has several blade options, giving you options for perfectly consistent noodles, slices or rounds (and easily cuts through any “harder to slice” vegetable). Alright, maybe this is actually a tie for #2.
Pros: slicing is easy/fast (due to sharp blade) and consistent sizing/width of output.
Cons: sharp blade (be careful with your fingers!) and medium size for storage.
4. Handheld Spiralizer
The handheld spiralizer is the newest kid on the block and the solution for curly noodles in a small contraption. It produces zucchini noodles most similar to the Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer, though they tend to be flatter and not as consistently sized. I was really hoping to love this little device, but with all the other options on the market, I had to rank it last. If you’re spiralizing several zucchini, your wrist can become sore from all the twisting and it’s hard to keep the zucchini slicing straight. Also, if you plan to spiralize other vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes), this tool will be the most difficult as it requires the most strength and effort. Sure, it’s cheap, but sometimes you get what you pay for.
Pros: cheap and takes up little space.
Cons: inconsistent noodles, requires strength/wrist power and lacks the versatility of the other options.
How to Cook Zucchini Noodles
Congratulations – you’ve made zucchini noodles! Now the big question is what to do with them, right? And you might be thinking, how do I cook them? But the question should be asking is, “how do I heat them up.” Because you don’t really want to cook zucchini noodles. At least not too much.
Zucchini are comprised of 95 percent water (yes, 95%!). So when you cook them, you may end up with a soggy, mushy mess of watery noodles – just by cooking one minute too long. The exact opposite of al dente. So when you’re cooking zoodles, remind yourself that your intention is simply to heat them up and not really to “cook.” I failed miserably at this in the beginning.
Today, I end up with perfectly crisp, al dente noodles every time. Here’s how…
The best way to get the crispiest, most al dente noodles? Keep ’em raw! Yep, that means no cooking whatsoever. Spiralize, mix with your favorite ingredients and serve. Not only is raw the easiest and fastest method, but the noodles are just as delicious cold as they are warm. Think of raw cucumber – you don’t need to cook that to eat it do you? Cold zucchini noodles are no different. And mixed with a cold avocado cucumber sauce or pesto sauce for zucchini pasta caprese….they’re delish!
If your zucchini is room temperature, simply mixing the noodles with a hot sauce, like a bolognese, also warms the noodles. So you’ve cooked without cooking! Isn’t that the best? And that’s why raw always wins as my favorite “cooking” method.
For the speediest cooking of your zucchini noodles, a microwave can’t be beat – which is why it’s my second favorite cooking method. Just pile all your zucchini noodles in a microwave-safe dish and cook for one minute. Depending on the amount of noodles you have you may need to cook longer, though I would recommend 30-second increments to prevent over-cooking. Then, divide your noodles between serving plates and top with your favorite sauce.
If you’re already cooking on the stovetop, sautéing your noodles may be the easiest. Just add one tablespoon of olive oil or avocado oil to a pan and sautee for 1-2 minutes. This is a perfect cooking method if you’re making zucchini pasta with lemon garlic shrimp – or something similar. But I find that if I’m adding a bolognese or other sauce to the noodles, I’d prefer not to have the extra oil on the noodles.
When I first started making zucchini noodles, this was the method I used the most. It’s quite simple to boil a pot of water, toss in your zucchini noodles and cook for one minute. It’s similar to cooking frozen veggies on the stovetop. And once your noodles have cooked, drain the noodles in a colander and serve. If you’d like them super dry, blot them with a paper towel before serving.
Baking zucchini noodles is the method I use the least as it’s the most time-consuming and labor-intensive. At first, I thought the noodles would be crispier and more spaghetti-like, but the difference is negligible. For the added time and energy, I much prefer any of the other methods.
But if you want to give it a go, preheat your oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a paper towel and evenly distribute your noodles on top. Then, sprinkle with sea salt. The sea salt helps to draw out the moisture while the paper towel soaks it up. And no, the paper towel won’t catch fire at such a low temperature. Cook for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently squeeze the noodles in the paper towel to wring out any additional water.
My Favorite Zucchini Noodle Recipes
Zucchini Noodle Tips & Tricks
After making, eating and cooking zucchini noodles for several years I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- If you’re using my favorite spiralizer to make your noodles, you’ll end up with SUPER long strands. In order to more easily serve your guests, just use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip through some of the strands.
- Make your zoodles ahead of time! This the best time-saving tip. After you’ve spiralized several zucchini, line a large plastic or glass storage container with a paper towel, add your noodles and place in the refrigerator. They’ll stay fresh for 2-3 days.
- Larger zucchini are easier to spiralize and will yield more noodles. For serving sizes, plan on one medium zucchini per person.
- To peel or not to peel the zucchini? I don’t peel the zucchini before spiralizing as I love the added green color in my dish and extra nutrients it provides, like dietary fiber.
- Don’t forget to make zucchini ribbons and spiralize lots of other veggies, such as carrots, squash, eggplant, potato, beets and parsnips. Get creative!
What zucchini noodle tool do you use? And what’s your favorite zoodle recipe? Share in the comments below!