This Simple Garlic Lemon Zoodles recipe is just…the best. It can be created and cooked in a matter of minutes. There’s hardly any mess because you don’t have to prep or peel the zucchinis, and it’s got the nicest, simple flavor: garlic and lemon (plus a little spice from crushed red peppers to give it a little pop).
You really need this recipe on busy evenings for a quick, simple, delicious dinner. If you’re not into spiralizing on your own, it so easy now to buy fresh zoodles at the store or even in the frozen veggie section. Everyone loves zoodles because its a fun way to get in more veggies, it’s low-carb friendly for all you keto, Paleo and Whole 30 friends and it’s also fun for kids to prepare and eat. You can serve it over a bed of greens for extra veggies and you can top it with whichever style of protein you enjoy. I might suggest some grilled tofu or shrimp.
Have you tried spiralizing yet? Zucchini is easy because it’s really soft and creating “noodles” from them is very quick. You can also spiralize beets, sweet potatoes, carrots and other squash. In fact, I spiralized butternut squash recently. It is so much more dense than zucchini that it’s a little hard to spiralize and then it needs to cook longer as well. I’m prepping a recipe for my “Boodles” if you’re interested in checking that out as another option on the blog.
I originally created super Simple Garlic Lemon Zoodles for quick summer dinners that require minimal heat to prepare. Zucchini often grows in the garden and spiralizing makes them a bit more user friendly. Everyone always asks me about my favorite spiralizer and I say my Paderno. You’ll find them for around $30 and it is so easy to clean, assemble, and use. Get creative – this is such a fun way to eat your veggies! But it’s not summer any longer and yet, I’m still spiralizing. Citrus does come into season in the winter months so it’s a fun way to brighten up a dish like this one.
Benefits of the spiral
The nice thing about spiralizing is that you really cut back on carbohydrate and calories. Not that carbohydrates are bad! Just sometimes we get out of balance with it. Some people do over-consume carbs and in particular the kind that comes from added sugars and refined grains.
Remember that all fruits and veggies are actually carbohydrates so zoodles fall into that category as well. However, they have a high water content and also most of the carbs are in the form on indigestible fiber which doesn’t actually contribute to the ‘carbs’ that your body absorbs and uses for energy. When you’re looking at certain apps or nutritional information, you may see “net carbs” and that’s what it means.
So zoodles are incredible options for a low carb and even ketogenic diet which is very, very low carb. If you’re on a low carb diet, often the struggle will be getting enough fiber so maximizing these relatively low fiber veggies is really important. Fiber helps lower cholesterol levels so its heart healthy. It’s filling. It helps keep things moving correctly through the digestive system for proper elimination and bowel movements. It keeps our gut bacteria happy and provided with the food they need so we can keep living our wonderful synergistic lives together.
One challenge with pasta or zoodles is that there’s no protein there, really. You definitely need to add a source so I’ll do veggie crumbles or add tofu to balance it out and also stay more full for longer. If you ate zoodles on their own, the calories would be very low and without that balance of carbs, fat and protein, you’ll be missing a key piece of the meal. Make sure to think about protein when you make your zoodles.
Making Simple Garlic Lemon Zoodles
Like I mentioned before, you can make your own zoodles or you can definitely buy them to make your life a little easier. They are relatively quick to make, however. Once you prep them – or buy them – make sure to press them lightly with a paper-towel to remove any excess water. When you cook zoodles, they do release some extra water so this is an important step in not letting them get too wet.
Warm the olive oil and cook the garlic to get it nice and fragrant before adding the zoodles. It shouldn’t be fully browned but it should cook for a couple minutes on a medium-type heat. Once you add the zoodles and lemon juice, things cook fast! I originally had the cook time at 4-6 minutes but I recently shortened it because if zoodles go too long, they get really soft and lose the nice texture they should have.
Zoodles need a little salt so make sure to adjust for your own taste. Basil and oregano create a light dusting of flavor and then the crushed red peppers are just awesome on this dish. I think they’re critical but if you or someone you’re cooking for are very spice averse, then you can reduce the amount or leave them off completely.
Instead of pouring off extra liquid that the zoodles have created, what I do is lift them gently out of the pan with some tongs and place them in a bowl. You can then pour some of the extra liquid over them but once they’ve been cooked in the olive oil, lemon and garlic, they really do have a nice flavor. You can serve them as a main dish with a protein source or as a side-dish for a creative twist to normal steamed veggies. They’re fun for kids and adults alike and they taste awesome.
I did choose to add some Parmesan cheese recently when I cooked this dish and that’s up to you. It gives the dish a savory pop of flavor but it also makes it not-vegan so you’ll have to choose what’s right for you and your family.
Now you know what to make with all that zucchini in your garden (or ones you buy frozen – whatever works for you!), enjoy these simple garlic lemon zoodles for dinner this week! My other favorite zoodle recipe is tofu zoodle stir fry with peanut sauce if you need more ideas for how to get creative with your veggies.
Simple Garlic Lemon Zoodles
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 whole medium/large zucchinis (spiralized)
- 1 small/medium lemon (juiced with seeds removed)
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt (more to taste if desired)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan (if desired)
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan and add garlic, stirring and heating for 1-2 minutes until lightly golden. Add zoodles and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until noodles are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Gently sprinkle in salt, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes then toss to combine. Garnish with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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