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This post has been a long time coming – the ultimate guide to zoodles! It has everything you need to know about how to make zucchini noodles and the perfect basic zucchini noodles recipe. I did a ton of research and testing to make this happen, and am so excited to finally share it with you.
Next up: the ultimate guide to boiling eggs!
What Are Zucchini Noodles?
First, what are zucchini noodles? They are simply zucchini that has been spiralized and cooked. Some people call them zoodles.
If you’re low carb, you’re probably familiar with zoodles by now. (But if you’re new, don’t miss my guide on how to start a low carb diet or keto diet plan!)
By spiralized, I mean cut into thin strips, forming long spiral strands. This turns them into a noodle shape, and you can expand on the basic zucchini noodle recipe to make your favorite pasta low carb!
Methods for How To Make Zucchini Noodles
There are a million zucchini noodles recipes out there, but first, you need to know how to make them. I’ll go over each tool you an use, so you can decide which one you like best!
Types of Spiralizers for Zoodles
There are 4 basic tools to choose from when making zucchini noodles:
- Counter Top Spiralizer – By far my favorite! This method is super fast and makes zoodles that have uniform thickness. This counter top spiralizer has the highest quality I’ve seen, and unlike others the bottom suction stays put.
- Handheld Spiralizer – A good option to save space in the kitchen. It’s small, but requires more effort and the zucchini noodles tend to come out thinner. Here’s a good hand-held spiralizer to try.
- Julienne Peeler – The solution to avoid buying a separate tool, but can be tedious and time consuming. Also, the zoodles usually turn out to be much shorter. This julienne peeler works well and swivels.
- Knife – This is basically just cutting the zucchini into thin strips. Definitely the most basic way, but also time consuming and it’s hard to get thin enough noodles.
Let’s start with the easiest, most popular way – how to make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer (the counter top style)…
How To Make Zucchini Noodles With a Spiralizer
The process for how to make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer is very easy:
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini and hold it horizontally.
- Secure the counter top spiralizer on the counter using the suction cup(s) on the bottom. (More on this below!)
- Insert the zucchini. Skewer one end onto the side of the spiralizer that has the handle, then poke the other end into the side that has the blade.
- Crank the handle repeatedly, continuously pushing the zucchini toward the blade and watch the zoodles come out the other side.
Tips For Zucchini Noodles With a Spiralizer
Here are my favorite tips for using a spiralizer:
- Get a spiralizer that has a *strong* suction cup on the bottom. It will save your sanity. I’ve tried several with the small suction cups at the bottom, and they move around at least some of the time. Super annoying. This spiralizer has a giant suction cup on the bottom, and a lever to make it stay in place – I love it!
- Make sure the zucchini is centered on the spiralizer. That way, you’ll end up with more of the “best” zucchini noodles, which are the ones that include the edges and skin. The middle ones tend to be a little more mushy. Also, this will avoid the super-short pieces that you sometimes get when the zucchini isn’t centered. You can always re-position it as you go along.
- Choose zucchini with a smaller diameter when possible. Some people prefer larger zucchini because it’s easier to spiralize them into zoodles, but I prefer small ones. Again, you’ll get more noodles that include the skin. These are more sturdy and release less water than the center ones.
- Spiralize the zucchini raw, before cooking. Do not peel it. You probably know both of these things if you’ve made zoodles before, but mentioning it in case you haven’t.
- Cut the spiralized zucchini before cooking. Otherwise, they will be too long. The easiest way is to use kitchen shears.
- What to do with the core? Toss it in a stir fry. You probably don’t want it together with the beautiful zoodles you just made, but you can save the cores and use them again in a “leftovers” stir fry.
How To Make Zucchini Noodles Without a Spiralizer
In case you can’t tell yet, I’m a huge fan of this counter top spiralizer (and am not affiliated with it in any way). But, if it’s not in your budget or you don’t have the kitchen space, you can try a hand-held spiralizer, a julienne peeler, or even a knife.
Here is how to make zuchini noodles with a hand-held spiralizer:
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini. Same as above.
- Insert one end of the zucchini into the spiralizer. If you’d like you can use the separate piece that comes with the hand-held spiralizer for the other end of the zucchini. I’ve found it’s not always required, but can help toward the end.
- Twist the zucchini with one hand while holding the spiralizer steady with the other.
To use a julienne peeler for making zoodles, simply run it across the zucchini length-wise, creating strands. This method works, but the zoodles sometimes come out uneven and it can be harder to make super long ones.
To make zucchini noodles with a knife, you’ll just have to cut long strips as thinly as you can. This can be a challenge, and takes a long time. I don’t recommend this method.
How To Cook Zucchini Noodles
Learning how to make zoodles is one thing, but I think the part that really makes a difference is the cooking method. No matter what zucchini noodles recipe you want to make, there are two methods for cooking them that stand out.
I want to show you how to cook zucchini noodles so that they are perfectly al dente, and best of all, dry! Yes, you can avoid watery zoodles.
Below is a summary of my favorite methods for cooking zucchini noodles, complete with pros and cons, and after that I’ll tell you even more about making sure your zoodles are not watery.
How To Pan Fry Zucchini Noodles
The most common method for cooking zucchini noodles is to pan fry them. If you do it right, they can be nice and dry, like the picture above!
But, before you dump them right into a pan after spiralizing, we need to get some of the moisture out. Do not just pan fry them right away, because they will definitely be watery! I’ve heard about some people throwing them right into the pan, and I’ve tested this multiple times, each time with a watery zucchini soup on my plate.
So, don’t skip the step of getting the moisture out first!
To do this, place the zoodles in a colander over the sink and toss with salt. Let them sit for 30 minutes. The salt will bring out the water. After half an hour, squeeze the zoodles gently to release some additional water.
Important – do not keep squeezing them to get out every last drop. This will make them too mushy and lifeless. Just get most of it out and you’re good.
Finally, pan fry zucchini noodles (stir fry them) for 3 to 4 minutes over medium-high heat. It might take longer if you have a lot of zoodles.
Pros of Pan Frying Zucchini Noodles:
- This method creates dry zucchini noodles that are not watery.
- You don’t have to turn on your oven when it’s hot. It’s only a few minutes on the stove, so not much heat there either.
- The hands-on time is super short – only the time to make zoodles and stir fry. The time to drain is hands-off, so you can do something else, like make one of my low carb dinner recipes for the main dish.
- This is a good option if you zucchini noodles recipe requires cooking the sauce. You can do that first, set it aside, cook the zoodles, then mix together. Just don’t cook them together because your sauce likely needs to be cooked a lot longer than the zucchini.
Cons of Pan Frying Zoodles:
- Cooking zucchini noodles using this method can be just slightly on the mushy side.
- Because we squeeze out so much moisture, the result has a smaller volume of zoodles compared to the oven method.
How To Make Zucchini Noodles in the Oven (Preferred Method)
Surprisingly, the best method I’ve found for how to cook zucchini noodles is in the oven! And, I’m super excited about it, because it requires no draining and no squeezing, yet the zoodles still turn out super dry.
To begin, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the zoodles on a very large baking sheet, and toss them with sea salt.
Which pan to use? The bigger, the better! The reason is to make sure the zucchini is spread on the pan in a thin layer and not too crowded. Here is about how spread out they should be:
… And here they are afterward:
For pan choices, I love this hard-anodized oven-safe griddle pan or if you want to make more servings, this extra large sheet pan. If your non-stick surface isn’t great or you want easier cleanup, line your pan with parchment paper first.
Bake the zucchini for about 15 minutes, or until the noodles are done to your liking. Fifteen minutes in my oven was al dente! Feel free to do a bit longer if you want yours softer. Pat them dry with paper towels to remove any remaining moisture.
To serve zoodles from the oven, toss them with sauce and serve right away!
Pros of Cooking Zucchini Noodles in the Oven:
- This method also creates dry zucchini noodles that are not watery.
- No squeezing! This is the best part. Waiting for zoodles to drain and then squeezing them is kind of a pain.
- You don’t have to warm your sauce or cook it separately. Just tossing the zucchini with sauce after baking will heat the sauce and you can serve immediately.
- The result from cooking zucchini noodles in the oven has more volume than the above stovetop method.
- The total time is faster. You don’t have to wait half an hour for the zoodles to drain over the sink.
Cons of Cooking Zoodles in the Oven:
- The biggest disadvantage is you have to turn on your oven! I know this isn’t the most desirable in the summer when zucchini is in season.
- You need a huge pan to properly dry the zucchini noodles in the oven.
Visually, below is a comparison of the stovetop vs oven method. You can see the sauteed noodles have less volume and turn out just slightly more mushy, but both are dry. NO water on the plate!
How To Cook Zucchini Noodles - Comparison of the Best Ways:
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Other Methods for Cooking Zucchini Noodles
In my testing, the best way to cook zucchini noodles was in the oven, and the next best was pan fried zoodles. But just for completeness, I want to tell you about the other two methods some people use to cook them:
- Eat them raw – You can easily skip cooking altogether and turn your favorite pasta salad into a zucchini noodles recipe! You totally don’t have to cook them.
- Boiling or blanching zucchini noodles – The end result is usually watery. Not necessarily right away, but the zucchini oozes water easily and quickly becomes too wet on your plate. Only use this method if you are making soup.
- Zoodles in the microwave – This can work in a pinch, but it’s a lot harder to avoid making them watery. If you want to do it anyway, the best way is to follow the draining and squeezing method just like you would when pan frying (above), then microwave. You may still need to drain or pat additional moisture afterward. Once the zucchini is hot, you can add sauce after. Adding it before placing in the microwave would mean you can’t get rid of extra moisture at the end.
Tips To Avoid Watery Zucchini Noodles
I’ve touched on this a bit already, but the #1 thing you probably want to know is how to cook zucchini noodles that are not watery! So, I put together tons of tips for you:
Avoiding Watery Sauteed Zucchini Noodles on the Stove
If you want to know how to cook zucchini noodles on the stove, follow these tips to ensure they don’t end up watery:
- Pat zucchini noodles dry with paper towels after spiralizing them. In fact, this is a good idea as a starting point no matter how you’ll be cooking them afterward.
- Cook zoodles over medium-high heat. This will encourage evaporation and reduce the chance of water remaining.
- Do not cover the zucchini during cooking. This will trap the moisture.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook in batches if you have to, but make sure there’s lots of room. You want as much surface area of the zucchini noodles touching the pan as possible. Crowding the pan = wet zoodles!
- Do not add salt to the pan. This will make the zucchini release more water. You can use a salty sauce instead.
- Use a pan that conducts heat well. Again, high heat will cook the zoodles quickly instead of simmering them in their own moisture. Cast iron or hard anodized steel pans work great. I use this pan and love it!
- Don’t overcook the zoodles. You want them to be al dente! Usually this takes just 3 or 4 minutes. The longer you cook them, the more water will seep out and render watery zoodles.
- Consider residual heat. If you finish cooking them and leave them in the pan, they’ll continue to soften and release moisture.
The Easiest Way To Avoid Watery Zoodles
That was a long list! If you want an easier way that barely requires any tips at all, cooking zoodles in the oven is best. You only need a few tips to get that right, and you can do this for almost any zucchini noodles recipe:
- Use an extra large sheet pan. The oven method dries the noodles, and this only works if they are in a very thin layer.
- Pat the zoodles dry afterward. Don’t forget this step! The zucchini will be mostly dry when you take it out of the oven, but as a last step, lay two layers of paper towels over the entire pan and pat gently.
The Best Sauce for Zucchini Noodles
The sauce you put on zoodles makes a difference if you want to avoid a wet result.
Most sauce types will work to a degree, but it’s highly recommended to use a thick sauce if possible. The noodles will continue to seep water as they sit and will thin out the sauce too much if it’s already fairly watery. This tends to happen less with the oven method, though.
How To Store Zucchini Noodles
Do you want to meal prep zucchini noodles? Or just be able to handle leftovers? Surprisingly, you can! I did lots of testing on this as well, so you’ll know exactly when to cook them, when to add the sauce, how to store them, and how to revive them later if needed.
How To Make Zucchini Noodles For Meal Prep
The best way to make zucchini noodles for meal prep is to spiralize them in advance and keep them in the fridge uncooked. Then, when you’re ready to cook, pat them dry first.
Cooking zoodles ahead of time is also not recommended, but if you must, do not mix them with sauce until ready to serve. They will continue to release water after cooking, so pat them dry again before adding sauce and serving.
Can You Freeze Zucchini Noodles?
Do not freeze zoodles. Trust me, I’ve tried! If anyone finds a way to do it I’m happy to post an update here, but my attempts resulted in a watery mess and weird texture.
The Basic Zucchini Noodle Recipe
Now that you know all about ways to make zoodles and how to cook them so they aren’t watery, it’s time for a zucchini noodles recipe!
I’m keeping this one super simple. Zoodles are totally delicious with simple grass-fed butter, sea salt and black pepper. Serve them with filet mignon for a romantic dinner or on a weeknight with crispy oven baked chicken thighs.
And don’t forget, you can always skip the cooking step altogether to make a raw zucchini noodle salad.
How To Make Zucchini Noodles - The Best Guide to Making Zoodles!:
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More Low Carb Recipes To Love
Simple Low Carb Zucchini Noodles Recipe
Everything about how to make zucchini noodles! Includes an easy zucchini noodles recipe, how to avoid watery zoodles, spiralizer comparison, cooking methods, best way to store them, and more.
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RECIPE TIPS + VIDEO in the post above, nutrition info + recipe notes below!
Prepare The Zoodles
Make zucchini noodles with or without a spiralizer. (Check the post above for tips!)
How To Make Zucchini Noodles in the Oven
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease an extra large baking sheet. (Use parchment paper if it's not excellent non-stick.)
Arrange the zucchini on the baking sheet in a thin layer, making sure not to crowd the pan. Sprinkle with sea salt lightly and toss.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until al dente. (You can cook longer if you want them softer.)
Pat the zoodles dry with a double layer of paper towels.
Toss with melted butter, black pepper, and more sea salt to taste if needed.
How To Make Zucchini Noodles on the Stove
Place zucchini noodles into a colander over the sink. Sprinkle with sea salt and toss. Let sit for 30 minutes to drain.
After half an hour, squeeze the zoodles gently over the sink to release more water. No need to get out every last drop, but just the majority.
Heat butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and stir fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until al dente. (Cooking time may vary depending on how much zucchini you have and the size of your pan.) Season with black pepper and more sea salt to taste.
- Check the post above for lots of tips on choosing a spiralizer (and how to use it), tips specific to each cooking method, how to avoid watery zucchini noodles, and storage or making them ahead of time.
Serving size: 1 cup
Video Showing How To Make Zucchini Noodles - 2 Ways:
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NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database. You can find individual ingredient carb counts we use in the Low Carb & Keto Food List. Carb count excludes sugar alcohols. Net carb count excludes both fiber and sugar alcohols, because these do not affect blood sugar in most people. We try to be accurate, but feel free to make your own calculations.
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