The biggest scam of the 21st century is not cauliflower crust. It’s the idea that zoodles (zucchini noodles) are delicious.
Look. I know going low-carb is more popular right now than hating on Taylor Swift. And there’s nothing wrong with eating more vegetables, or looking to find healthy swaps for traditionally less-than-healthy foods. (I’m all about that cauliflower mac and cheese life.)
The idea that you can take something that is literally 95 percent water, cut it into spirals that vaguely resemble spaghetti, cook it like pasta, toss it with tomato sauce, and have it magically taste just as good as Sunday dinner at Nonna’s without being a soggy, watery mess…I’m not buying this conspiracy.
Every single time that I have eaten zoodles (and reader, I have tried them so many times, in so many different ways, for the sake of healthy food journalism), they are uniquely bland, soggy, and capital b Bad.
Why do you think there are so many blog posts and food mag articles dedicated to how to properly cook zoodles? (Hell, Women’s Health has even done one.) It’s because it CAN’T. BE. DONE.
Welcome to my TED talk.
The fault with zoodles lies not in the idea of vegetable noodles per se, but with the fact that they’re made with zucchini, the worst summer produce item. Its entire identity is a lie—it’s savory like a vegetable, but it’s actually a fruit. First red flag right there.
I see you opening your mouth to argue with me. Just stop right there and try to think about the last time you ate a zucchini and thought, “Wow, that was mind-blowingly delicious! The best veggie/fruit I’ve ever eaten!”
Yeah. You can’t. That’s because it’s full of water and has no taste (like a cucumber), but unlike a cucumber, zucchini has zero structural integrity and immediately turns into a tragic, mushy mess when you try to do anything with it. FFS, at least cucumbers crunch when you bite into them.
And those fundamental issues make turning zucchini into pasta a nightmare. Because zucchini is, like I mentioned, mostly water. Once those noodles are salted, or even start to heat up in a pan, it starts to release that water—flooding everything it touches with zucchini brine that ruins even the spiciest, most flavorful sauces.
In the name of humoring my low-carb-plan-following boyfriend, I have tried EVERY method. I’ve tried pressing the zoodles between paper towels to drain off the excess water before cooking. I’ve avoided salting them until the very end of the cooking process. I’ve given them only mere seconds in the frying pan to heat them up. I’ve tried the pre-spiralized zoodles you can get in the freezer section. I’ve hand-spiralized them myself at home.
I’ve done ALL of your zoodle cooking tips, Internet. They don’t work. And they don’t change the fact that:
The only time I ever vaguely enjoyed zoodles was when I DIDN’T cook them. I tossed the spiralized zucchini with homemade pesto, and served it as a cold side with chicken.
And honestly, it was…fine. Not cooking the zucchini helped it retain some sort of texture (i.e., it had some bite) and prevented the water from seeping out of the fruit.
It worked. But it just wasn’t the same as eating actual pasta with homemade pesto, which is truly a divine experience. It was just…mediocre. Flavorless. A filler vehicle for the pesto. And that’s ultimately the problem with zoodles.
For the record, I’ve eaten other veggie pastas and actually enjoyed them. Cooked spaghetti squash tossed with olive oil, feta, and roasted cherry tomatoes is divine. And butternut squash noodles in a peanut sauce stir fry are genuinely awesome. I’m not just a biased vegetable hater. And I do realize that for people with gluten intolerances, veggie noodles are the best alternative to traditional wheat pastas. I get it!
But zoodles…there’s nothing to love there, in my book.
Food is my love language. I’d rather eat a little less white pasta and actually have a meal I’ll enjoy rather than frown my way through a bowl of zucchini pasta just because it might be healthier for me.
So if you love zoodles, good on you. Eat your heart out. Just don’t expect me to join you for dinner any time soon.
Jessie Van Amburg is the senior associate editor at Women’s Health, where she shares strong opinions about Bad food trends, and the importance of wearing sunscreen every day.
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