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I admit it. I used to be a big pasta eater before surgery. I loved huge plates of spaghetti noodles with mounds of meat sauce. I relished in lasagna noodles baked in meat sauce and ricotta. And Alfredo? C’mon! I loved it.
Since my surgery (which, as of this writing, was nearly 8 years ago), noodles don’t work for me. They actually physically hurt to digest and nowadays have the tendency to drive me into big blood sugar drops.
And before you mention it, kind Foodies, yes I’ve tried healthier variations of noodles. Dreamfields. Tried it, it hates me. Tofu shirataki noodles. Tried those too and they especially hate me!
But there’s one option that always seems to work: zoodles!
What are zoodles?
Zoodles are zucchini noodles. In reality there are a bunch of vegetables you can use to make pasta substitutes but I like zucchini the best. Why? Mostly because of the texture of zucchini, how quickly and easily it cooks and the level of control I have over the final flavor and texture (we’ll get into that in a minute). That’s not to say other vegetables don’t work well. I just find zucchini the easiest to deal with. Plus it’s green which I think is pretty.
How exactly does one make a zucchini into a zoodle?
Good question! That’s what this tutorial is for after all. My latest recipe book, Oodles of Zoodles, features lots of great recipes for using zoodles. It also features a complete tutorial in how to make them, along with tips and tricks on how to cut down your cooking time. This post is just going to go over the basics so you can get started playing with them.
All zoodles start like this.
As a zucchini, of course! The first step in making a zoodle is to cut the top and end off of the zucchini so that you are working with two flat surfaces. From there, you’re going to need some equipment. Thankfully none of it is too expensive (unless you want it to be). Here are the most popular options:
Hand-held vegetable spiralizer
These include brands like the Vegetti. These are good if you have a small kitchen or you are just starting out with your zoodling. They retail for about $15, are easy to clean and they make zoodles pretty quickly. Basically you put a chunk of zucchini in it and twist. The zoodles come out of the side (hopefully into a bowl you’ve set on the counter). While they are great for small volumes of zoodles, if you are trying to make enough for more than 1-2 people, I’d suggest the next option on this list.
Counter-top vegetable spiralizer
This apparatus is sold under many brand names, including Vegetti, Spirooli and there are even attachments you can buy for things like Kitchenaid stand mixers. I keep it simple with this small, easy-to-clean, relatively cheap version (it cost $19.95 at Wal-Mart). To use it you, you anchor it to your counter (it has a suction function so it won’t slip around while making your zoodles), cut a piece of zucchini, place it onto the crank, push it into the blade and then turn the crank to make your zoodles. This is good for large volume as it works quickly and doesn’t involve turning your wrist too much. It also sort of mimics the process of cranking out homemade pasta (which I’ve never done but still…pretty cool).
This method is good when making zoodles for zoodle lasagna. My advice on mandolin slicers. You get what you pay for. Invest in a good one. Mandolins can be dangerous if you don’t use them properly. It’s really easy to cut yourself. Better versions have safeguards to keep your hands away from the blade. They also move more seamlessly so that you aren’t having to push veggies through. You can get a mandolin slicer for as cheap as $20, but I’d suggest a model that costs more like $40 or $50. They have all sorts of uses outside of zoodling so it’s a good investment all around!
What kinds of zoodles can I make?
In my book, I mainly use three types of zoodles. Two of the three are exactly what they sound like!
Most vegetable spiralizers allow you to make spaghetti zoodles of varied thickness. So you can make thin spaghetti zoodles (that mimic angel hair pasta), regular spaghetti zoodles (like used in spaghetti and meat sauce or bolognese sauce) or thick zoodles, that are more like fettucine. These can be made either with a handheld or a counter-top spiralizer.
I call these lasagna zoodles because that’s mostly what they are used for, however that’s not the only use. In Oodles of Zoodles I have a recipe for “Zucchini Rollatini” which also uses this type of noodle. To make these, you’d need a mandolin slicer or very good hand-cutting skills. (I suggest the former!)
You’d use these in recipes where you’d normally use egg noodles. So your stroganoff, your tuna casserole, those types of things. These zoodles are hearty and fun shaped and can handle very heavy sauces. For these, you’d need a counter-top spiralizer.
How do you cook zoodles?
Let’s back up a moment and talk about prepping zoodles.
So this is a zucchini. And what are zucchini filled with? Water! So your first order of business is to get some of that water out of your zucchini. Why? Because if you don’t, your end result is almost always going to be soupy. So here’s my proven three-step method to getting a lot of water out of your zoodles:
- After cutting your zoodles, place them in an airtight container.
- Sprinkle with salt and place the cover on the container.
- Walk away for 30 minutes. (Or longer. The longer they sit, the more water comes out)
If you are on a low-sodium diet, you can skip the salt but the zoodles will need to sit a long time to release water. Put the lid on the airtight container and stick it in the fridge for 6-8 hours (or basically the day before you want to cook them).
For an extra measure of water extraction I usually run my zoodles through a salad spinner. It just helps get that last little bit of water off of them!
Now onto cooking them. How you cook them depends on how you want to use them. Here’s my best advice.
As an anchor to a sauce (as in spaghetti and meatsauce)
Put a pot of water over medium heat and allow them to come to a full boil (I call it an “angry” boil). Drop the zoodles in for 1-2 minutes max, then immediately remove. If you care at all about the zoodles staying a verdent green, you can drop them in an ice water bath from there to stop the cooking (I usually only do this when I’m cooking ahead for company).
In a casserole
Don’t cook them at all. Mix them with other casserole items and bake the casserole as you normally would.
For make-ahead lunches
Don’t cook them at all, even if they are an anchor for a sauce. They will cook adequately when you reheat your dish in the microwave.
How do you store zoodles? And for how long?
Vewy, vewy carefully. (Kidding)
Zoodles keep for about a week before they get mushy and gross. If you are storing zoodles for more than a few days do not salt them at all to remove the water. That will mostly happen on its own in the fridge. Simply place them in an airtight container with the lid securely fastened and stick them in the fridge until it’s time to use them.
So now that you know zoodle basics…
Take your zoodling to the next level – check out Oodles of Zoodles, the newest recipe book from Bariatric Foodie! In it, we go deeper into how to make sure you zoodle dishes come out perfect every time and I give you a collection of starter recipes including:
- Asian-inspired dishes
- Italian-inspired dishes
- Americana-inspired dishes
- Cold Zoodle Salads
- …and more!
Be sure to check out Oodles of Zoodles – and score your copy today!