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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 that are perfectly al dente, not watery. I did a ton of research and testing to make this easy zucchini noodles recipe happen, and am so excited to finally show you. Bookmark this post, because you can use these methods and tips for all kinds of zucchini noodle recipes, not only this one!
While you can easily turn this squash into a zucchini side dish, this method for making noodles is ideal for certain high-carb dishes you want to make low carb or keto friendly.
Why You’ll Love This Zucchini Noodles Recipe
- Lots of options for spiralizing
- Two methods for cooking zoodles
- Great veggie substitute for pasta
- NOT watery!
- Super easy to make
- Healthy, gluten-free, and low carb
- Customizable to replace noodles in virtually any recipe
How To Make Zucchini Noodles
There are 4 basic tools to choose from when making zucchini noodle recipes: a countertop spiralizer, a handheld spiralizer, a julienne peeler, or a knife.
Zucchini Noodles With A Spiralizer:
A countertop spiralizer (sometimes called a “zucchini noodle maker”) is by far my favorite method! It’s super fast and makes zoodles that have uniform thickness. This countertop spiralizer has the highest quality I’ve used, and unlike others the bottom suction stays put.
- Cut off the ends of the zucchini.
- Secure the countertop 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 Making Zoodles With a Spiralizer:
- Get a spiralizer that has a strong suction cup on the bottom. I’ve tried several with small suction cups, and they slide around, which is 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 more mushy. Also, this will avoid super-short pieces.
- Choose zucchini with a smaller diameter when possible. These are more sturdy and release less water.
- Trim the spiralized zucchini length before cooking. The easiest way is to use kitchen shears, either as you go while spiralizing or by grabbing handfuls and snipping them at the end.
- What to do with the core? Toss it in a vegetable stir fry!
Zucchini Noodles Without A Spiralizer:
If you don’t have the kitchen space for a countertop spiralizer, you can try one of these:
- Handheld Spiralizer – This is 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. You simply insert the zucchini and twist.
- Julienne Peeler – This is a good solution to avoid buying a separate tool, but can be more tedious and time consuming. This julienne peeler works well and swivels. To use it, simply run it across the zucchini length-wise, creating strands. Once you reach the core, flip and repeat on the other side. Do this with 4 sides of the zucchini.
- Knife – This is basically just cutting the zucchini into thin strips. It’s time consuming and hard to get thin enough noodles.
- Food Processor Or Stand Mixer – These have special attachments you can buy for spiralizing veggies. This one is very popular and has good reviews.
How To Cook Zucchini Noodles
This section shows how to cook zoodles using the 2 best methods, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
When most people think of zucchini noodle recipes, cooking them in a skillet on the stovetop comes to mind. However, you can also cook them in the oven (actually my favorite method!) or eat them raw in a zucchini noodle salad. (I don’t recommend boiling, blanching, or microwaving, as the results are watery.) I’ll cover the stovetop and oven methods here…
Cooking zoodles on the stovetop is a great one-pan method that works well during the summer months when you don’t want to turn on your oven. However, with this method, you do risk mushy noodles and you get a smaller volume of noodles.
- Drain. 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.
TIP: Don’t over squeeze.
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.
- Fry. Stir fry the zucchini noodles in a large skillet for a few minutes over medium-high heat. (The higher heat will help excess moisture evaporate.) It might take longer if you make a lot at once.
If you want stir fried zoodles with sauce, have your sauce pre-cooked and warm, and add to the pan after the zoodles are done. Avoid cooking them in the sauce, because they’ll water down your sauce.
Baking is my preferred method because you don’t have to drain or squeeze the zucchini and because it doesn’t shrink as much, you get more zoodles. The only downside to this method is you need a huge pan and it’s not ideal in the summer.
- Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the zoodles on a very large baking sheet, and toss them with sea salt.
TIP: Don’t crowd the pan.
Make sure the zucchini is spread out in a thin layer and not too crowded. The bigger the pan, the better! 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. Place the zucchini noodles in the oven and bake until the noodles are done to your liking.
- Pat dry. Use paper towels to pat the zoodles dry to remove any remaining moisture.
To serve zoodles from the oven, toss them with sauce and serve right away!
Tips To Avoid Watery Zoodles
The #1 thing you probably want to know is how to cook zucchini noodles that are not watery! Follow these tips to avoid this common issue:
For The Stovetop Method:
- Pat zoodles 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.
- Use a heavy pan over medium-high heat. High, even heat will encourage evaporation and reduce the chance of water remaining. Cast iron or hard anodized steel pans work great. I use this pan and love it!
- Do not cover during cooking. This will trap the moisture.
- Do not add salt to the pan. This will make the zucchini release more water. You can use a salty sauce instead, or add salt at the end.
- 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.
For The Oven Method:
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 dry at the end. 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.
Visually, below is a comparison of the stovetop vs oven method. You can see the sauteed noodles have less volume and turn out softer, but both are dry. NO water on the plate!
- 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. Pat dry and cook right before eating. They last 3-4 days this way, or up to a week if you use these vacuum glass containers (I have them and they really work!).
- Cook ahead: Cooking zoodles ahead of time is not ideal for texture, but if you must, do not mix them with sauce until ready to serve. Keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. They will continue to release water after cooking, so pat them dry again before adding sauce and serving.
- Reheat: Stir frying on the stove is usually the easiest and fastest. Use medium-high heat so that any moisture evaporates.
Can You Freeze Zucchini Noodles?
Yes, you can freeze zucchini noodles, but the texture will be more mushy than making them fresh. Blanch the zoodles in boiling water for 1 minute, immediately transfer to an ice water bath, and let sit for 3 minutes. Pat dry, then arrange on a sheet pan and freeze. Once solid, transfer to a freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.
Ways To Serve Zucchini Noodle Recipes
My basic zucchini noodles recipe (on the recipe card below) is super simple: zucchini, butter (or olive oil), sea salt and black pepper. Sometimes I add a sprinkle of garlic powder (or even sauteed minced garlic), grated parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, or fresh herbs.
You can also customize this zoodles recipe with a sauce or serve with a main dish…
- Sauce – Add your favorite pasta sauce for a comfort food meal! My favorite is alfredo sauce (pictured above) with sauteed shrimp, but basil pesto sauce or marinara sauce also work great.
TIP: Use a thick sauce for zucchini noodles if possible.
The noodles will continue to seep water as they sit and will thin out the sauce too much if it’s already thin. This tends to happen less with the oven method, though.
- Steak – Try filet mignon or New York Strip for a romantic dinner, or sirloin steak for a weeknight meal.
- Fish – Grilled salmon, flaky halibut recipes, or baked cod are delicious with zoodles.
- Chicken – Baked chicken breast, crispy chicken legs, or pan seared chicken make some of the easiest dinner mains.
- Vegetarian – Add a sauce and your favorite low carb vegetables (the easiest method is sauteed veggies) for a healthy plant-based meal.
- One-Pan Meals – Swap the pasta in your favorite one-pan recipe! Try garlic butter steak bites with zucchini noodles.
If you found this tutorial helpful, check out my other tutorials for low carb basics: quick cauliflower rice, crispy bacon in the oven, perfect (easy peel) hard boiled eggs, 5-ingredient homemade mayonnaise.
Zucchini Noodles Recipe (Zoodles)
Learn how to make zucchini noodles perfectly — not watery! Get the EASY zucchini noodles recipe, spiralizing & cooking tips, and more.
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Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
How to make zucchini noodles:
Make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer. (Check the post above for tips and other methods!)
How to cook 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 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 cook 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.
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Serving size: 1 cup
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.
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