We all love pasta and noodles, right? From tiny little noodles in our alphabet soups, to long and slurpy noodles like spaghetti, we can’t get enough of them. Noodles are cheap, easy to make, and taste fantastic. So what’s not to love?
Well, for those who are trying to cut down carbs, noodles are mostly off limits. And although there are many alternatives to noodles made with gluten, they may be unavailable where you are, or out of your price range, leaving those with gluten sensitivity and allergies with no options. Plus, noodles are processed so not an option for those following whole food plant based diet.
Believe it or not, here vegetables can help. First of all, there is the spaghetti squash that makes – and yes this is true – thin spaghetti. I used this squash to make a really authentic Pad Thai. And then there is a range of vegetables that can be transformed into noodles with a spiralizer, one of my must-have kitchen gadgets. By now I have tested a number of vegetables and my favorite are zucchini noodles.
What are zucchini noodles?
Zucchini noodles, or zoodles for short, are spiralized zucchini that’s been growing in popularity in US so much so that you can now get them from your local grocery store. Next time you are grocery shopping, check our your produce section, more specifically the area where you can find pre-chopped packaged produce. This is where I found my first box of zoodles. I really loved them, so I made a long-term investment and acquired a spiralizer – mine is a KitchenAid attachment and works OK (3 out of 4 stars if I had to rate it; if anyone wants me to elaborate feel free to leave a comment below)!
As a side note: the investment into a spiralizer has been worth it, since I use it frequently to create zoodles and other types of spiralized veggies, like summer squash, potatoes and carrots.
Zucchini are my favorite vegetable to spiralize because they create these nice, long noodles that hold their shape well, taste great and look amazing. They are delicious with meatless meatballs, and thats a fact!
How to cook zucchini noodles?
If you google “zucchini spaghetti” you will find a ton of great recipes. But, you will also find posts and warning that you should not be fooled, and that zucchini ain’t pasta! To that I say – you are right, zoodles are no noodles. What I mean by that is that in order for noodles to come out really great, they can’t be cooked the same way, so no boiling big pots of water allowed. To get to great zoodles, you need to sauté them for just a few minutes. These noodles are soft and gentle, and if you push them to far you will end up with a mushy mess. So, cook them only briefly and handle with care!
And what about using zucchini noodles in a stir-fry?
That’s the question I wanted to answer myself. The recipe below is the result of figuring out how to use zucchini noodles in a stir-fry, as well as how to make gluten-free hoisin sauce. For a great result with zoodles in a dish like stir-fry add the “noodles” last and let them cook for only 2-3 minutes than turn the heat off and let them rest for couple of minutes before serving. This will soften them up but not make them mushy.
The main secret to a perfect stir-fry in general is a great wide and deep pan, like a wok, that allows a nice temperature gradient from the bottom, usually kept really hot, to the top of the sides, that are cooler. For this stir-fry I recommend medium high heat, which allows me better control and decreases the likelihood that something will get burned.
Another tip is to add things gradually, starting from those ingredients that need longer stir-frying times, in this case red and orange pepper sticks, to those things that need just a couple minutes, like the noodles. Taking it step by step will help all the vegetables cook at just the right level of doneness.
Homemade gluten-free hoisin sauce
Another ingredient that makes this stir-fry over the top delicious, is the hoisin sauce. It may come as a surprise to some that most hoisin sauces out there are not gluten-free, so if you are avoiding gluten, you will need to read your labels carefully. Although you can find brands that make gluten-free hoisin sauce, it is actually very easy to make some yourself. All you need is a bit of miso paste (check your miso paste label to make sure it is gluten-free since some may not be depending on what grain was used for fermentation), liquid aminos (or tamari sauce, a gluten-free alternative to soy sauce), dark molasses, and a dash of toasted sesame seed oil – whisk it all together and you are done! Here, I skipped sesame seed oil since I am using actual sesame seeds, but you can change it up as you like.
I recommend adding the sauce, mixed in with some arrowroot powder as a thickening agent, before the zoodles. The arrowroot needs few minutes to start working, so getting the sauce nice and thick before adding the more fragile zucchini noodles helps. At the end, all is left to say is – grab yourself a plate and pile this stir-fry high!
Simple Vegetable Stir-Fry with Zucchini Noodles
What you’ll need:
FOR GLUTEN-FREE HOISIN SAUCE
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 cup tamari sauce (or liquid aminos)
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil (optional)
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 inch (2.5 cm) piece ginger root, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) strips
1 orange pepper, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) strips
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups peas, frozen
4-6 cups spiralized zucchini, store-bought or homemade
What you’ll do:
- Spiralize the zucchini – to make 4-6 cups of zoodles you will need to start from 2 medium size zucchini. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl combine all the ingredients for the hoisin sauce (except arrowroot powder/flour – that is not part of the sauce recipe, it is a thickener for the stir-fry), mix well and set aside. Note: this is a basic hoisin sauce recipe and if you are not gluten-sensitive/intolerant, you can definitely use the store-bought variety, in which case use 3/4 cup of the sauce. Plus: you can use this sauce recipes for any other dishes you are making, like fried rice and similar.
- Place a large wok, or a large and deep frying pan with curved sides, over medium high heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and sauté for 1 minutes, then dd thinly sliced ginger and let garlic and ginger release their aromas, about 1-2 more minutes.
- Add red and orange pepper strips, and sesame seeds. Mix well and let the peppers sauté for 10 minutes.
- Add frozen peas and continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the arrowroot powder (flour) into the hoisin sauce and mix well to make sure the mixture is smooth and there are no visible clumps. Note here: if you don’t have arrowroot powder, corn starch will work as well.
- Add the hoisin sauce slurry into the stir-fry, and keep stirring for 1-2 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Add the zucchini noodles last, lower the heat to medium, and using a pair of kitchen tongs fold the zoodles in gently. Let the noodles cook for 2-3 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the stir-fry cool for couple of minutes before serving.
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018
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