These are the three best ways to cook zucchini noodles that are crisp, springy, and easy to pair with your favorite healthy pasta sauces for a low-carb meal.
One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is, “What’s the best way to cook zucchini noodles?”
Zucchini can be tricky to cook well. That’s because the vegetable contains over 95% water. It can easily become watery and mushy when cooked. However, it’s also flavorful, low-carb and easy to turn into noodles with your spiralizer.
If you’re struggling with mushy noodles, be sure to read the tips in my post all about How to Avoid Watery and Soggy Zucchini Noodles.
And below, you’ll find my three best ways to cook zucchini noodles that come out bright, crisp and refreshing every time. After years of careful testing countless zucchini, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned!
Tips for Spiralizing Zucchini Noodles
Before I go over the three best ways to cook zucchini noodles, here are the best tips for making zoodles.
Should I Peel Zucchini before Spiralizing?
Don’t peel the zucchini before spiralizing. Once you peel the zucchini, the flesh is exposed and the moisture will start to seep out. This will give you a mushier noodle when you cook them. Instead, keep the skin on so that the noodles maintain their shape and all of the nutrients in the dark green skin.
Should I Salt Zucchini Noodles?
Don’t pre-salt your zucchini noodles.
First of all, one of the benefits of spiralizing is that it’s SO quick (just spiralize, cook, and enjoy pasta in under 5 minutes!). Salting adds extra prep work. In addition, it also leaves your noodles limp and overly salty. Whatever you do, do not let your cut zoodles sit in salt before cooking.
Likewise, never salt the zucchini once it’s heating in the pan.
If you are cooking your zucchini in a skillet, don’t salt it! The salt will cause the water in the zucchini to release and thus, a soggy mess. Instead, season your noodles just before serving.
How Long Do Zucchini Noodles Cook For?
Make sure you don’t overcook your zoodles.
The longer zucchini cooks, the more time it has for its moisture to leak out and become mushy. As with normal pasta, shoot for al dente zoodles. And remember, they’ll continue to cook after you remove them from the pan.
What’s the Best Zucchini for Zoodles?
It’s very important to choose the right zucchini.
Make sure your veggie is firm and fresh. Soft or older zucchini are more likely to become soggy because they’ve lost some of their structure over time. On the other hand, an underripe zucchini may come out too dry and delicate.
Now that you know best practices, here are the best ways that I recommend cooking zucchini:
The Best Ways to Cook Zucchini Noodles
Now, grab your spiralizer and start spiralizing! It’s time to make the best zucchini noodles you’ve tried yet.
1. Sautéed Zoodles
My favorite way to cook zucchini noodles? Sautéing.
Here’s how to do it perfectly:
- Place a skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil or cooking spray. When the skillet is hot (flick water in, it should sizzle), add in the zucchini noodles.
- Toss the zucchini noodles lightly with tongs and cook for for 3-5 minutes or until al dente. Don’t let the noodles cook for longer or they’ll wilt. Embrace the crunch! If you’re cooking more than 1 spiralized zucchini, it may take up to 5-7 minutes to cook the zucchini thoroughly. Just keep tossing so that all zucchini noodles hit the bottom of the hot skillet and cook through.
Best Sautéed Zucchini Noodle Recipes:
- Zucchini Noodles and Arugula with Bacon, Corn and Ricotta
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo with Zucchini Noodles
- Caprese Zucchini and Quinoa Skillet with Chicken
2. Simmer in a broth
While you would think that adding zucchini noodles to liquid would make them mushier, it’s the exact opposite. Thanks to osmosis, when you add zucchini to liquid, the zucchini doesn’t release as much moisture, because it’s floating in moisture.
Without getting too technical, the broth or soup liquid will keep the zucchini firm. However, moisture release is inevitable and does happen, so it will thin out and dilute your broth a bit. To combat this, add extra flavor to your soup at the beginning.
For example, add an extra couple of teaspoons of soy sauce to your ramen to counteract the water from the zucchini. If you’re serving your soup immediately, you don’t need to worry about this. But the longer a zucchini noodle soup sits, the more diluted the flavor will become.
Best Simmered Zucchini Noodle Recipes:
- Easy Coconut Green Curry with Zucchini Noodles
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Zucchini Noodle Soup
- Bacon and White Bean Zucchini Noodle Soup
3. Raw Zucchini Noodles
One of the most beautiful things about spiralizing is that it makes raw veggies into edible pasta! Save yourself the headache of cooking and toss them in a dressing or sauce raw!
One of my favorite ways to eat zucchini noodles raw is in a pesto. The pesto is creamy, flavorful, and coats the zucchini well. Aside from pesto, I love nut butter-based sauces (like my Thai Zucchini Noodle Salad, using almond butter.) It’s thick and creamy and the acids in the sauce “cook” the zucchini so it naturally softens.
However, a simple vinegar-based dressing will work wonders too. Try my very popular Italian Zucchini Pasta Salad. With these types of dishes, the longer they sit, the more the noodles soften to the perfect consistency. Bonus points: they save well in the fridge for leftovers!
When I’m in a rush, I’ll heat up a sauce and toss the zucchini noodles with the hot sauce and as the noodles sit in the heat, they’ll soften slightly. The zoodles will still mostly be crunchy, and it’s an easy way to prepare pasta without the worry of overcooking them.
Best Raw Zucchini Noodle Recipes:
- Pesto Caprese Zucchini Noodle Salad
- Easy Three Bean Zucchini Macaroni Salad
- Zucchini Noodle Cobb Salad
What about Roasted Zucchini Noodles?
Roasting zucchini is totally doable, just don’t roast the noodles alone! You won’t get the crisp al dente texture you’re looking for.
However, If you do want to roast the zucchini, I recommend you do it in a casserole, like here: Chicken Tetrazzini with Zucchini Noodles.
If all else fails, if you’ve never seen my video on How to Avoid a Watery Sauce with Zucchini Noodles, check it out here:
Can I Boil Zucchini Noodles?
Never boil your spiralized zucchini noodles! If you’re serving the zoodles in a liquid or sauce, that’s ok. But boiling noodles for other dishes, like sauces or salads will guarantee that they come out soggy and watery.
Instead, use one of the three best ways to coo zucchini noodles above!
Other Ways to Cook Zucchini Noodles
If you’re not as concerned about texture and crispness of your zucchini noodles, you can always bake them or cook them into oatmeal.
These are my favorite baked recipes with zoodles:
- Chocolate Chip Zucchini Banana Bread
- Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Zucchini Noodle Muffins
- Summer Egg Muffins with Zucchini Noodles
- Luca’s Zucchini Oatmeal Bowls
Get more recipes like these in my cookbooks: