I don’t usually swoon over kitchen gadgets. I avoid Pampered Chef parties, and I’m known to scoff at high-end mixers and mashers, happy to prepare my meals with a wooden spoon and a sturdy spatula.
So when I bumped into a display of food “spiralizers” at my local Costco, I was dubious. The packages depicted a blender-sized plastic device with a small handle, which cranks zucchini, sweet potatoes and other firm vegetables into thin spirals. The produce on the box was swirled to spaghetti-like perfection and placed in small bowls. Even the radishes looked appetizing.
I was curious, and for the low price of $20 I was willing to give it a shot. During the last few weeks I’ve found the spiralizer to be an entertaining kitchen toy, and a source of inspiration for creative, veggie-centric meals.
The spiralizer had its big moment last year, at least in online searches. It’s become a major presence on food blogs, especially those that cater to plant-based, paleo or gluten-free readers. Home chefs of all stripes have invented recipes around it, from chipotle sweet potato noodle salad to stringy apple crisps.
Sarah Menanix, a Bay Area-based blogger who focuses on gluten-free recipes, said the spiralizer has helped her mix up her repertoire.
“I eat a lot of vegetables anyway, but this makes it more creative,” she said. “It gets you out of your rut of eating zucchini every night sauteed with salt, pepper and olive oil. Now you have a new preparation.”
Brooke Preston, chef and owner of The Green Boheme in Roseville, said her zucchini spaghetti with faux meatballs is a crowd favorite.
“The bottom line is – who cares about the noodles?” she said. “They’re just the carrier for the sauce. You can kind of do pasta but do salad at the same time. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Let’s be straightforward here – it’s not pasta. As an Italian from New York, I appreciate a heaping plate of starchy, buttery, homemade spaghetti. But if you’re looking to lay off the carbohydrates, or just up your daily produce intake, the spiralizer can help guide you in a healthier direction.
It’s also a great way to trick kids into eating a whole plate of sauce-slathered veggies that they wouldn’t touch otherwise, Preston said.
“They’re just thinking they’re eating pasta, and instead they’re eating their veggies,” she said. “If you don’t talk about it with your kids, they don’t even really notice. So it’s a great way to get their veggies in.”
The machine is easy to use – no cords, no tiny parts, no mess. Just prep your veggies, place them on the spiralizing blades and turn the crank to create oodles of noodles (or “zoodles,” as some zucchini lovers have dubbed them).
You can spiralize most hard vegetables – cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, squash, beets, and onions – as well as fruits such as pears and plantains and some lesser known ingredients such as jicama, daikon and chayote.
My spiralizer, like most models, has multiple size settings, and it takes a few tries to find the right one. My first turns of zucchini came out in big, lazy coils, about a half inch wide. They were not what I wanted for my zoodles and alfredo sauce, so I kept trying until I had perfect, slurpable ribbons.
The coils, I later learned, are great for frying up potatoes.
If you’d like to embark on your own spiralizing adventure, here are a few creative recipes to get you started.
Ginger Zucchini Noodle Egg Drop Soup
Sarah Menanix of Snixy Kitchen said she loves serving this savory soup to dinner guests, often pairing it with her gluten-free scallion pancakes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
4 medium to large zucchini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced ginger
5 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced
8 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon water, divided
½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
5 tablespoons low-sodium tamari sauce or soy sauce
2 cups thinly sliced scallions, divided
4 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons corn starch
Salt & pepper to taste
Prepare the zucchini noodles with a spiralizer.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the minced ginger and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the shitake mushrooms and a tablespoon of water, cook until the mushrooms begin to sweat.
Add 7 cups of the vegetable broth, the remaining water, the red pepper flakes, tamari sauce, and 1 1/2 cups of the chopped scallions. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Mix the remaining cup of vegetable broth with the corn starch and whisk until completely smooth.
While stirring the soup, slowly pour in the beaten eggs in a thin stream. Continue stirring until all of the egg is incorporated. Slowly pour the corn starch mixture into the soup and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes to thicken.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the zucchini noodles to the pot and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and flexible. Serve topped with remaining scallions.
Cold Cucumber and Carrot Greek Salad
This quick, cool salad skips the lettuce and provides extra crunch.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
1 large carrot
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup kalamata olives
1/3 cup cherry tomatoes
Olive oil or vinaigrette dressing of your choice
Prepare the cucumber and carrots with a spiralizer.
Using a knife, cut the strands of cucumber and carrots into shorter lengths for ease of eating.
Slice cherry tomatoes and olives into halves.
Toss in salad bowl with your favorite dressing.
Season with pepper to taste.
Pesto Pasta with Butternut Squash Noodles
Chef Brooke Preston of The Green Boheme recommends this hearty spiralized entree. Her recipe is served raw, but butternut squash noodles can also be sautéed.
Prep time: 20 minutes
1 butternut squash
2 cups basil
2 cups spinach leaves, packed.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fermented chickpea paste
1 teaspoon garlic
Sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Peel the butternut squash, and spiralize the long end to create “noodles.”
For the pesto sauce, blend all other ingredients in a high-speed blender until completely combined. Add ¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts if desired, and fold in.
Toss sauce and noodles together, garnish with fresh basil and chopped yellow grape tomatoes.