These low-carb spiralized zucchini noodles with pesto is a no-cook vegetarian meal you’ll just love this summer! The pesto adds so much flavor, yet the garden fresh noodles and tomatoes are super light. And the best part is you don’t even have to turn on the stove! (That and that this recipe is low-carb and vegetarian!)

A blue and white plate with zucchini noodles topped with colorful cherry tomatoes

I originally shared this recipe on June 28th, 2016. I have updated some of the text and added step-by-step photos and a video today. This post contains affiliate links.

Why We Love This Recipe

When it is really hot out, the last thing you want is to heat the house up even more by turning on the oven or stove. Amiright or amiright? So these no-cook zoodles (zucchini noodles) are just the thing to make your bellies and taste buds happy on hot summer evenings.

But I’ll be honest, these zucchini noodles with pesto were such a hit with my family that I am planning to make it all the time no matter the temp. We devoured the whole batch in 7.5 seconds. That’s why I’ll just tell you right now, it is not a bad idea to plan on doubling the recipe.

The trick to this easy recipe is to soften the raw zucchini noodles, or zoodles, with a little salt and let the excess moisture drain out of them. Then just rinse them and squeeze out any moisture. They will be perfectly tender, and no cooking is necessary!

To season all that we used is classic basil pesto and fresh tomatoes for a totally effortless summertime weeknight dinner.

You can serve this as a vegetarian meal, or you can top it off with grilled garlic herb chicken for a low carb entree.

Ingredient Notes

Zucchini

You’ll want about 4 medium Zucchini for this recipe. If you have an overgrown zucchini, save it for Zucchini Soup because the texture is too dry and fibrous for zoodles or zucchini noodles.

Pesto

I like the flavor of classic basil pesto in this recipe. I always make batches of it through the summer, and keep it in the freezer year round. Store bought pesto works just as well too. And you can choose another pesto variation such as that made with another herb, like sorrel, or spinach. You will also need olive oil to loosen up the pesto.

Tomatoes

You can use either a large diced ripe heirloom tomato or 1 cup of chopped cherry tomatoes for the no-cook “pasta” sauce.

Seasoning

To season the zucchini noodles, you’ll want to drain them with ½ teaspoon salt first, but most of this will get rinsed drained away. At the end use a nice crunchy coarse salt to season it before serving. I like Maldon Celtic Sea Salt Flakes. We also used a generous amount of freshly ground pepper to season the zoodles.

Parmesan Cheese

We love to add freshly ground parmesan at the table. Another dry hard Italian cheese would be a good substitute. Romano or Asiago would work well too!

Zucchini noodles twirled on a fork

Steps To Make Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

Soften the Zucchini Noodles with Salt

  1. Once you have cut your zucchini noodles. Trim them into pieces that are not too long to eat gracefully.
  2. To soften the zucchini noodles, you do not need to cook them! All you have to do is set them into a colander in the sink or over a bowl. Sprinkle them with salt and toss them to let them get coated in the salt.Then leave them in the colander to drain for ten minutes. The salt will wilt the zucchini and make them softer (more like the texture of al dente cooked spaghetti.)
  3. To get rid of the excess salt, run cool water over the zucchini noodles to rinse away the salt. Then just shake the colander to get the excess water out and give the zucchini a good squeeze to get rid of the water.
tossing pesto with zoodles

Mix The Zoodles with Oil and Pesto

  1. Since the pesto is thick, you’ll want to thin it out a bit without diluting the flavor too much. (I used my 5 Minute classic basil homemade pesto recipe.)
  2. Drizzle a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the zucchini noodles and toss to coat.
  3. Add on the pesto and then use kitchen tongs to work the pesto into the zoodles.
zucchini noodles with pesto in a blue bowl

Top with Tomatoes, Parmesan and Salt

  1. To finish the dish add on fresh chopped tomatoes. In these photos you can see I used red and yellow cherry tomatoes but I also like to use a diced slicing tomato such as Beefsteak or Brandywine.
  2. Add on Parmesan for a savory touch.
  3. Finish with coarse Maldon Celtic Sea Salt Flakes for a crunchy savory finish.

FAQs and Expert Tips For This Zucchini Noodles with Pesto Recipe

How to Make Zucchini Noodles

zoodles coming out of the blades

No matter what you have in your kitchen, you should be able to easily make a batch of zucchini noodles from scratch. (You can also buy them pre-made in some stores, but making them yourself is much cheaper!). A few easy ways to make zucchini noodles are:

With a countertop spiralizer

  • The larger countertop spiralizers are the fastest way to make zoodles, and you can choose from a few blade options to make your zoodles whatever shape you want. I have this one. 
  • The only downside to countertop spiralizers is that they take up a lot of storage space and they can be a little expensive.
  • To make zucchini noodles with a countertop spiralizer, simply cut the ends of the zucchini off, attach it to the machine, and crank out those zoodles!

With a handheld spiralizer

  • I’ve seen a few different handheld spiralizers at places like Target and Bed, Bath, & Beyond. They’re much smaller than the countertop ones, so they don’t require a large amount of kitchen space to store them.
  • I haven’t ever had much luck with mine, and my mom hated hers so much she declared it was “bogus” (that’s a direct quote) and threw hers out! That’s said, Food and Wine has reviewed the latest spiralizing gadgets and they do recommend them for folks who don’t plan to use theirs much.
  • To make zucchini noodles with a handheld spiralizer, you’ll need to cut off one end of the zucchini and then place it in the spiralizer.
  • Then, twist the zucchini around by hand, pushing slightly on the veg to keep it close to the spiralizer blades.
  • Keep in mind that you’re doing the twisting by hand so this will take a while. Thankfully zucchini is soft so it won’t be as bad as a hard veggie like a sweet potato.

With a Mandoline

  • I love my Oxo Mandoline and use it for julienne cut veggies. They won’t be as curly but have a very similar texture. I use it for my cucumber and Napa cabbage slaw too and it works great!
  • To cut the zucchini into noodles, cut of the blossom and stem ends of the zucchinis. Then making sure your mandoline is firmly in place with good grip, hold the zucchini against the blade lengthwise. Holding it lengthwise will ensure the longest noodles.
  • If you are nervous about cutting yourself you can get a special cut resistant food safe glove to protect your hands.

With a vegetable peeler

  • Don’t have any fancy equipment? No problem! Whip out your trusty vegetable peeler and start shaving off slices of zucchini. That’s what I did for my Zucchini Ribbon Salad recipe. It works great!
  • If you want a thinner zoodles, use a knife to cut the wide, flat zucchini noodles into smaller strips.

How to Make this Recipe Ahead

The great thing about this zucchini noodles recipe is that you can make the components for it up to five days in advance. You should store the pesto and tomatoes separately (if you don’t, your zoodles will get soggy!).

  • Keep the pesto in a jar. The top layer will darken, but under the surface it will stay nice and green.
  • Once you make the zucchini noodles, do not toss them with salt. (Keeping them as dry as possible will actually help them stay fresh longer.) Then them into an airtight container or ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge.

Keep in mind that Zucchini noodles shouldn’t be frozen.

What To Serve With Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

This no-cook recipe is essentially your main course and vegetable side rolled into one amazing dish.

More Low-Carb Recipes:

a blue bowl with a pile of green pesto zoodles with a fork in it

Thanks so much for reading. If you are new here, you may want to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter where I share weeknight meal plans delivered right to your inbox. Or follow me on Instagram. If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It is very appreciated. Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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zucchini noodles with pesto in a blue bowl

No-Cook Zucchini Noodles with Pesto

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 5 cups 1x
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: Italian

Description

These no-cook zucchini noodles with pesto are such a breeze to whip up on a hot summer night. They are low-carb, vegetarian and primal friendly!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 1 large ripe heirloom tomato, chopped or 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • freshly ground parmesan to taste
  • Coarse Salt, preferably Maldon Celtic Sea Salt Flakes

Instructions

  1. Cut zucchini into long strands with a spiralizer.
  2. Set noodles in a large colander. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt on top and toss to coat. Let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse and drain well, gently squeezing out the excess moisture.
  4. Transfer the zucchini to a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil; toss to coat.
  5. Add pesto and toss to coat evenly.
  6. Divide zucchini among 4 pasta bowls. Top with a scattering of chopped tomato. Top with Parmesan, pepper and Morton sea salt.

Notes

Make Ahead Notes

You can make the components for it up to five days in advance. Keep the zoodles separate or they will get get too watery.

  • Keep the pesto in a jar. The top layer will darken, but under the surface it will stay nice and green.
  • Once you make the zucchini noodles, do not toss them with salt. (Keeping them as dry as possible will actually help them stay fresh longer.) Then them into an airtight container or ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge.
  • Cut the tomato at the last minute.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 side dish servings or 2 entrees
  • Calories: 242
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Sodium: 583 mg
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated Fat: 4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 10 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 7 g