Zucchini noodles, loving known as zoodles, are one of the best ways to use all your summer zucchini. From a pasta substitute to a salad star, these healthy and low carb noodles make for some delicious meals. Here’s everything you have ever wanted to know about the zucchini noodle – prepping, cooking, storing, freezing, nutritional benefits, and plenty of zucchini noodles recipes.
When I was younger, my parents let me have a little patch of land in our backyard for a garden. I picked out a few veggies to grow, along with strawberries and some basil. I am not sure I really knew how the plants would grow, nor did I supply them with adequate room, I’m sure.
I do, however, remember the zucchini plant. I remember how surprised I was at how it grew in a big, long vine that stretched beyond my garden parameters. I can still see the giant leaves of this particular zucchini plant, so big, they practically dwarfed some other plants nearby. So big, they hid their own fruit, to the point that I didn’t think to look underneath the leaves. Until, one day, I did.
That’s when I found the biggest zucchini I’d ever seen, the biggest zucchini my parents had ever seen. I don’t remember its exact dimensions, but I do remember it was about as long as my 12-year-old arm, and about five inches wide. At that time I think all I knew to do with it was to make five loaves of zucchini bread. If I had only known then about zucchini noodles. That big guy could have provided me enough noodles to last me through every salad, pasta stand-in, or stir-fry I could muster up that week and beyond.
Today I’m happy that I now know zucchinis are good for more than just bread (though, that’s yummy, too). Spiralized, ribboned, or sliced thin, creating zucchini noodles is a great way to add a low-calorie, low-carb, and nutritious vegetable to a myriad of meals.
Are Zucchini Noodles Good for You?
Heck yes! Zucchini is one of the lowest-calorie vegetables when compared to the same serving size as other nutritious vegetables like broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Coming in at only 19 calories per cup, zucchini also packs a nutritious punch. The bright green summer squash contains potassium, vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, and iron, no cholesterol and almost zero fat. Zucchini is also a super low-carb fruit, containing only 4 grams of carbs per cup when eaten raw. Plus, its high water content means it’ll keep you feeling fuller, longer with every bite.
If you’re looking for a low-carb, low-cal, weight-loss friendly, healthy alternative to pasta or fun way to sneak in those five servings, look no further than the fabulous zucchini noodle.
The Nutritional Makeup of Zucchini Noodles
According to the USDA nutrient database, one cup of sliced zucchini contains 19 calories, 1.5 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber, and 3 grams of sugar. It also provides calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and a host of other vitamins and minerals your body needs to maintain optimum function.
The Health Benefits of Zucchini Noodles
- They are low-carb. If you were to compare one cup of zoodles to a cup of other cut squash, you’ll find that it’s one of the lowest-carb squashes available. For this reason, you’ll often find zucchini noodles being used in recipes as a substitution for other high-carb foods such as pasta.
- They are high in hydration. Zucchini noodles are made up of 95 percent water. (Kind of makes you wonder how they squeeze all the other good-for-you nutrients into the other five percent, doesn’t it?) When you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, why not fill up on a good food that has the bonus of keeping you hydrated?
- They are low-calorie. Part of any good weight loss or maintenance diet is watching your calorie intake. When a cup of zoodles contains only 19 calories, and one cup of spaghetti contains 200 calories, which would you rather eat?
- They contain potassium. Four cups of zucchini noodles contain 1,180 milligrams of potassium, which is about 25 percent of your daily needs–all in one meal. Potassium is an electrolyte that occurs naturally. Your nerves and muscles need it to perform at their peak. Potassium also helps control your blood pressure and your digestive and kidney health.
- Zoodles are a good source of vitamin C. Put down that orange and reach for a cup of zucchini noodles instead. For every serving of the squash you eat, you’re consuming 20 milligrams of vitamin C. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is water-soluble (good thing it comes in such a water-filled vessel) and is known for its antioxidant properties. The vitamin helps your body to both grow and repair your connective tissues, blood vessels, bones, and skin. It also aids in the absorption of iron and can help decrease bad cholesterol levels.
- They are low fat. Really, really low fat. As in, .36 grams per cup low. That means you can enjoy your zucchini noodles with a side of healthy fats, like the kind you get from eating avocado, nuts, and eggs.
- They are good for your bones. The calcium found in zoodles can help keep your bones strong and aid in the prevention of osteoporosis. Calcium is an important mineral that your bones cannot do without. It is also responsible for contracting your muscles, making new bone tissue, and helping your blood to clot.
How to Pick Zucchini for Noodles
When choosing zucchini, make sure that the squash is firm and has a glossy look to the skin. Discard or do not purchase any that are flexible, soft, or turning brown. When you slice into a ripe zucchini, it should have a buttery texture and the inside will look yellowish, white, or slightly green.
How to Make Zucchini Noodles
You don’t have to peel the skin off of a zucchini to make noodles. As the flesh contains most of the water of the squash, you’ll want to eat the skin to retain the zucchini’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Just rinse, pat dry, then slice off the stem and a bit of the end and decide which way you’d like to craft your noodles.
- Spiralized. A spiralizer is a tool that takes the cylindrical zucchini and twists it as it cuts the entire squash into spirals. They come in many different varieties, from tabletop models to hand-held versions. No matter which spiralizer you choose, the end result will be fabulous spirals of zucchini, ready to be sauced, sauteed, or stir-fried.
- Matchstick. You’ll have to get out your knife and cutting board to create these long stick noodles. Cut each zucchini lengthwise into three or four sections, then cut each of those sections into strips until you achieve your desired length. These make a great addition to a salad.
- Julienned. I recommend using a kitchen mandolin for this method (though you can also use a vegetable peeler). You’ll want to be sure to use the knuckle guard as well — trust me. As you slice the zucchini alongside the blade, you’ll notice your zucchini will be transformed into nice, long ribbons. Add these ribbons to any recipe you choose — or eat them as-is with a nice vinaigrette. It’s up to you.
- Ribboned. The other side of your vegetable peeler may also have a wider option for creating long, wide ribbons of zucchini with each pass of the tool. These long noodles work great as a wider-noodle substitute (as in lasagna noodles).
- Pre-cut. Can I just give a shout-out to the geniuses behind pre-cut everything? Whether you’re running low on time or don’t own the tools to create your own zucchini noodles, look for pre-packaged options in your grocer’s produce section.
How to Store Zucchini Noodles
You can keep whole, unwashed, ripe zucchini for up to one week in the refrigerator in a loosely tied or perforated plastic bag. If you’d like to freeze it, you can blanch it first to keep the frozen squash from turning brown and mushy.
After you’ve made zucchini noodles, you can store them in a plastic or glass container or plastic bag in the fridge for three to four days. Be sure to line the storage container with a paper towel to absorb any extra moisture from the zucchini noodles. The paper towel will also keep them from becoming too soft.
You can freeze the zoodles, but they do end up thawing into kind of a mushy mess. This is okay if you want to add them to sauce or “hide” them in your children’s food. When faced with mushy zucchini noodles, you can always blend them right into a sauce or cook them down and add them to other recipes.
How to Cook Zucchini Noodles
Just like other recipes that contain squash, there are many ways to cook a zoodles…or to not cook them at all. Although like any vegetable, cooking zucchini noodles does strip the squash of some of its nutrients, they still make a great low-carb, low-calorie food that tastes great any way you serve it.
I do recommend salting and draining your zucchini noodles on a paper towel or over a colander before cooking them. This results in a much firmer noodle, as some of the liquid is drawn out of the zucchini before cooking.
- Raw. Simply slice your zucchini in spirals, ribbons, matchsticks…however you like and add to any salad, or skip the other salad ingredients and toss the noodles in a simple dressing, like this Lemon-Feta Vinaigrette.
- Sauteed. This is easily one of my favorite ways to enjoy zucchini noodles. When choosing between rice or noodles in an Asian dish, I always go for the noodle. Simply prepare your sauce according to the recipe, then toss the noodles in toward the end for just a few minutes to cook them until al dente. Some of my favorite recipes using this method include Asian Zucchini Noodles, Pesto Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles, Garlic Parmesan Zucchini Noodles with Sausage, and Thai Red Curry Tofu with Zucchini Noodles.
- Microwaved. When you’re in a hurry nothing beats the microwave. Place a desired amount of noodles into a microwave-safe bowl and heat for approximately one minute, then toss with your favorite sauce, like this one for Parmesan Zucchini Noodles.
- Baked. When you’re craving a nice, hot, cheesy pasta dish, sometimes you gotta have it. But, you don’t have to give in and toss your healthy diet to the side completely. Simply substitute zucchini noodles for pasta like I did in this recipe I created for Low-Carb Zucchini Lasagna, sit back, and enjoy every delicious morsel.
Where to Buy Zoodles?
If you don’t want to make your own zucchini noodles at home, there are plenty of places to buy them pre-cut these days. Check in your grocery store in the fresh produce section first. Many stores now offer spiralized veggies that are ready to grab and go. You can also check the freezer section since big brands have started making zucchini noodles as well. They are flash frozen and turn out pretty great when prepared correctly.
Looking for more zucchini noodle recipes?
We have over forty amazing recipes for main dishes, side dishes, and more. Check out all our zoodle recipes.