Here is the thing – I LOVE zucchini noodles! I first had them at a potluck a few years back. They were served in a colorful cold salad dressed in a delightfully light ginger sesame Asian inspired vinaigrette. (Recipe included below!) I have been addicted ever since.
Although you can make veggie noodles from several different vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and butternut squash (and they all have their place), for some reason it is Zoodles I keep coming back to time and time again.
I think it is probably because they have such a subtle flavor that you can take them in just about any direction that you would traditional pasta – hot or cold! Or it may just be that I always make the mistake of planting too much zucchini (we call ‘em zukes) in my garden. This high yield veggie is coming out of my ears from June to August every summer.
If you spiralize a great deal, particularly if you go for tough veggies like sweet potatoes, you may want to invest in your own electric spiralizer. However, I get it that not everyone wants to invest in a kitchen appliance that really has only one main purpose. If you want to learn how to make zucchini noodles by hand, you have come to the right place!
I have put together this guide for all of the ways to make zucchini noodles without a spiralizer just for you! It features complete step by step instructions for seven ways to make Zoodles using the gear you probably already have in your kitchen.
Stay tuned to also read a few of my favorite zucchini pasta recipes below!
Choosing the Right Zucchini
It probably goes without saying that if you are picking up your zucchini at the grocery store or farmer’s market, a firm specimen with dark green skin and a pleasant smell are the main hallmarks of quality.
Another major factor, however, is the age of the gourd. Zucchini are one of these vegetables that are edible at all stages, from the pretty yellow flowers (sometimes stuffed and baked or fried) to the baseball bat sized monstrosities that grow overnight in your garden after a rainy summer afternoon.
Although the larger gourds will yield more for your efforts, they also have tougher skins and more developed seeds to contend with. For most applications, I prefer the 6-10” gourds – tender, delicious and with underdeveloped seeds. Often the seeds in these baby zukes are small enough that you can cut the entire veggie without any waste.
However, if I am making wider, lasagna style zoodles to use for wrapping manicotti or veggie lasagna, I find the larger ones to be better.
1. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Peeler
You can use either a traditional peeler or a Y-peeler for this method. They will both yield the most delicate long, thin ribbons for use with light sauces and dressings. You can also stack the ribbons and slice through with a knife to get some fettuccine style zucchini pasta.
- Wash your zuchinni thoroughly.
- Stand the vegetable on one end and using your peeler, slide from one end to the other to peel long strips away from the vegetable.
- Turn the zuke after each peel so that you are going evenly around the entire outside, working slowly to the core.
- The first round will produce ribbons that are mostly skin. I enjoy using them because they do add texture and a burst of color, however, it’s optional.
- Continue to turn and peel around the veggie until you reach the seeds at the core.
- If you prefer noodles to ribbons, just stack and slice lengthwise to your desired width.
Zoodles made with a peeler tend to be very thin and delicate. They need very little cooking. In fact, you can either toss them right in some hot prepared sauce and warm through or sauté in some olive oil for just a few minutes. Too much cooking and these will go to mush on you in no time.
If you are interested in preserving your zucchini by dehydration, these thin slices are a great choice since they will dry out in no time! Then you can crumble them up and add to dips and soups for a taste of summer during the cold months of winter.
2. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Julienne Peeler
I recently received a julienne peeler for a gift. My kitchen is pretty stocked with gear, but this was a gadget I did not have, and it turns out to be pretty handy.
One of the reasons I like it is that it is much less mess than pulling out the spiralizer or food processor. It is great for a single serving application – just some fresh zoodles tossed in a light vinaigrette with a little chopped cooked chicken makes a fast light lunch for one!
It is, however, very sharp. Follow the tips below to make sure you make your zucchini noodles without a spiralizer while you avoid cutting yourself!
- Rinse zucchini thoroughly with cold water.
- Peel if you are dealing with a particularly tough or mature gourd.
- Leave the tips on for this method. It helps to have the extra ends to keep a handle on the zucchini while you turn it.
- Lay it down on your cutting board and do a single peel with the Julienne slicer down the length.
- Turn over so the flat side you just made is on the bottom. Repeat on the top side. Then, do each of the remaining sides. If you are dealing with a very young zucchini, you may be able to just work from one side down through the entire vegetable.
- Your goal is to continue to rotate the zucchini so there is a flat side down on the cutting board for stability, while you work your way to the core with the julienne peeler.
- Once you hit the seed layer on each side (on mature zukes), you are done.
Your long, delicate zucchini pasta made with a julienne peeler will cook quickly. Either toss them in your prepared sauce and let them simmer for a few minutes or sauté them in a pan with some olive oil and your desired spices over medium heat for 5 minutes or so. Overcooking them will result in mush before you know it.
I often use julienned zoodles in cold salad applications with a light dressing and some fresh herbs. Try it with a splash of fresh orange juice, olive oil, fresh chopped tarragon and some salt and pepper!
3. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Knife
Using a sharp knife to make Zucchini pasta offers one huge advantage: You will have the most control over the size and thickness of your Zoodles when you make them with a knife. However, it is also the most time-consuming method.
That being said, if you have a pasta recipe that has a heavier sauce such as a Bolognese or wants to try a baked dish like zucchini mac & cheese, then you may really appreciate the texture that a thicker slice brings to the table. The knife method may be your best bet for these applications, especially if you do not own a mandolin.
- Rinse your zukes well with cold water.
- Peeling is optional. I for one like the color and texture of the delicate skin on young gourds, but if you are dealing with a somewhat over-mature specimen, the skin can get a little bit tough.
- Chop both ends off.
- Slice in half lengthwise so that you have a long strip of the seeds on the inside showing.
- Scoop out the seeds carefully with a spoon if you are dealing with a mature zuke.
- Place each half with the flat side from the cut-down. Using a sharp paring knife, start on one side, running your knife the entire length of the zucchini at your desired thickness. Work from one side or the other.
- If you end up with some lengths that are the right thickness, but wider than you want, go ahead and stack them up so that you can cut them to the desired width in a snap.
If you plan on doing a thick cut, consider tossing your cut zukes with a few pinches of kosher salt and letting them drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel before cooking. This will help remove the excess liquid from this veggie so that it will not water down your sauce during cooking.
4. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Mandolin
A Mandolin is kitchen gear I think every home cook needs. It is one of those pieces of equipment that you just do not realize you have needed all these years until you have one – and use it.
Here is the beauty of making zoodles with a mandolin: You can make them ribbon or thin noodle style, and you can vary the thickness as desired. They are also pretty easy to clean, I usually just rinse mine under warm water and occasionally throw the blades in the dishwasher.
- Always wash any fruits or veggies before using.
- Peel if the skin is tough (such as with really large ones).
- Cut off the two ends and cut to the desired length up to about 5” to keep it manageable on the mandolin slicer.
- Choose your blades and adjust to the desired thickness.
- ALWAYS use the safety holder. Your mandolin is much sharper than a grater. One slip and you will have a nasty cut to deal with. Prick the vegetable with the safety holders, so you have a firm grip.
- Run the zuke down the mandolin lengthwise. You will have some thin scraps that you can cut with a knife to reduce waste if desired.
If you chose thin settings for your ribbons or noodle style zoodles, then you are ready to use them in your recipe whether tossing in some piping hot sauce or stuffing for a baked dish like manicotti.
If you went for a thicker cut, you might find that dusting your zucchini noodles with some kosher salt and letting them strain for 20-30 minutes is worth the trouble. This helps get the excess moisture out which will help the zucchini pasta hold its texture for a longer cooking time.
5. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Grater
Most folks have a cheese grater on hand in their kitchen, so this is a foolproof method for making zucchini noodles. Although it will do in a pinch, it is not my favorite method since the thickness is not quite right for standing up to heating in the sauce. A grater does not tend to produce the long even noodles that most are looking for in a spiralized zucchini.
However, this is a great method for making zucchini rice – another great recipe ready way to prep this gourd. Make sure to check out my recipe below for Zucchini Patties, a delicious summer side. The steps below will explain how to make zucchini noodles or rice with a standard kitchen grater.
- Wash the vegetable thoroughly.
- Cut off the tips.
- Peel if desired. (Recommended only for large and tough specimens.)
- If your gourd is longer than 6”, you should trim it down so that it will be more manageable.
- Consider using a food safety holder so that you won’t risk cutting yourself on the grater. Another option is to use rubber kitchen gloves.
- If you want long zoodles, run the zuke lengthwise down the grater, turning each pass, repeating until you get to the seedy core.
- If you are going for zucchini rice, you can grate the cut end of the zucchini for shorter gratings better for applications like zucchini bread or patties.
6. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a Food Processor
Most food processors have a grating and a slicing blade which can make very fast work of getting your zuke sliced and ready to go. In fact, for a large project like a huge veggie lasagna or a zoodle bake for a potluck, this is my go-to tool.
Note that when you use a food processor to make zucchini pasta, you will only be able to get lengths up to the width of the feeding tube for your grating attachment. See my full article on this.
- Get your food processor set up with the slicing or grating blade that you plan to use.
- Thoroughly scrub your veggies to remove dirt and pesticides.
- Cut the tips off and peel if desired.
- Cut in half lengthwise so you have a flat surface to place downwards in the feeding tube. If necessary, scoop out seeds of more developed gourds before processing.
- Cut the length of your zuke so it will fit down in your feeder tube, taking advantage of the entire width.
- Pack the feeder tube using lengths of zucchini, flat sides down. Slice/grate according to your machine instructions.
For the grated zukes, the width of these zoodles is likely thin enough that a quick warm through with your sauce of choice will be plenty of cooking. Or, if you are making a baked dish, you are ready to jump to the assembly stage.
If you went with slices, you are probably going to want to sprinkle them with some kosher salt and then let them drain for 20-30 minutes before using. This will get excess moisture out. Pat dry with paper towels to get them extra dry before using in your recipe. If you skip this step, you may end up with a watery final product as well as a rather floppy or mushy end result.
7. How to Make Zucchini Noodles with a KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Although technically this is another way to make zucchini noodles without a spiralizer, it is cheating just a little. Did you know that KitchenAid Mixers have a spiralizing attachment that you can purchase separately? P.S. It also has a corer and apple peeler built in!
I wanted to make sure my readers knew about this option since many of us already have a KitchenAid stand mixer in the kitchen. This is probably the most powerful spiralizer you can find since it runs off of the extremely durable motor of this classic model of mixer. If you want also to be able to spiralize tough veggies like carrots, beets, sweet potatoes and butternut squash….this may be a tool worth investing in.
- Wash your zukes thoroughly.
- Peel only if the skin is tough, such as on very large specimens.
- Cut the tips off and trim as necessary to get it to work best on your attachment. (I find 5” is about the limit on thinner gourds before it becomes a little unwieldy on the spiralizer.)
- Press the zuke, end side first, onto the holding spikes and put the blade of your choice in place on the other end. (Oh, how I love the pretty ribbons this thing makes!)
- Make sure you have a bowl or cutting bowl to catch the spirals or ribbons and start the machine.
Keep in mind that very thin zucchini pasta in any shape will cook quite quickly and turn to mush if overdone. Consider salting and draining thicker cuts before cooking to make sure they keep a little bit of their texture.
One of my favorite uses of the wider ribbon cuts zoodles made with your KitchenAid is that they make amazing crunchy baked chips. Just toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes until they start to take on some color. Serve with some chopped fresh herbs or a cool Ranch-style dip!
Best Zucchini Noodle Recipes
There are a few go-to recipes that I make time and time again each summer because I always have this abundant vegetable growing in my garden. I did not think any guide preparing zucchini pasta would be complete without a few of my favorites. Here you go:
Cold Asian Zoodle Salad
This is that salad that I mentioned in the introduction. It is inspired by the chopped cabbage Asian salad that you may already be familiar with. It combines sweet and savory with just the right amount of acid for punch. It is always a hit at potlucks too.
It won’t keep much longer than a day which is just an excuse to eat more of it today! If you want to be efficient with your time, make a double batch of the dressing and store it in the fridge in a tight mason jar. It will be ready for another round when you are!
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar will do in a pinch!)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
4 cups Zoodles, works best with a spaghetti like cut or fine Julienne
2 green onions, diced
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
½ cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup carrot, spiralized or Julienned
2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
4 Tbsp peanuts, toasted and chopped
- Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together and set aside.
- Prep the base ingredients and assemble in a large bowl.
- Toss the base with the dressing and put in an airtight container in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
- Toast the toppings and let cool at room temperature. Sprinkle over the top of this salad right before serving so it will add crunch to the dish.
These warm and creamy patties make for a delightful side that can be made ahead and finished right before dinner. They are also hearty enough to serve as a brunch offering that your vegetarian friends will appreciate.
Make sure to make these in the summertime when you have access to plenty of fresh herbs. That is what makes these little patties memorable. Consider the herbs listed in this recipe a suggestion – I have made these to great effect with all kinds of fresh herbs, and they are always a big hit.
3 cups zucchini rice (best done with the grater method mentioned above)
3-4 Tbsp flour (you can use just about any gluten-free flour substitute here)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, tarragon or parsley
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil for cooking
1 cup milk
1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
1 cup flour
- Mix all of the ingredients for the patties (except oil for cooking). They should be sticky enough to hold together. Add some more flour one Tbsp at a time if they are too wet.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
- Prep 3 shallow bowls for the breading: one with the flour, one with egg and milk mixed together, one with the breadcrumbs.
- Form patties out of the mixture. I like about 1” thick, 3” diameter – but do you!
- Dip patties first in flour, then in egg/milk mixture, then in the breadcrumbs.
- Fry in the hot oil for 3-4 minutes on each side or until nice and crisp and golden brown.
Baked Zucchini Manicotti
I have a lot of friends doing low carb or keto diets these days. When I am hosting a crowd for dinner, I like to make sure there is at least one low carb main dish that does not taste like a hasty last-minute add-on.
This warm and comforting dish will be a hit with vegetarians, low-carb fans and pasta lovers alike!
3 cups ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (the kind in the green can won’t work, use real parm please!)
I cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 10 Oz. package of frozen chopped spinach or chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
5-7 medium-sized zucchini, thinly sliced using the peeler method or the mandolin method set on thin.
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
3-5 cups of your favorite tomato pasta sauce
- Preheat oven to 350° F
- Mix filling ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Grease your baking dish with a few teaspoons of olive oil.
- Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.
- Place 1-2 Tbsp of the filling on one end of your wide zoodle, then roll that end to the other. Place in baking dish and repeat, packing tightly.
- Cover all of your stuffed zuke manicotti with the rest of your tomato sauce.
- Top with cheese and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly with a little color on the cheese on top.