When spiralizers started to become popular I dutifully went out and bought myself one, spiralized myself a zucchini and sat down to a bowl of low-calorie “pasta” with high expectations. And… I was totally underwhelmed by it. I tried a few more recipes, and they were tasty enough, but I was always left wanting more. And so my spiralizer sat, sad and neglected, gathering dust on my kitchen shelf for many months.
Then one day it dawned on me that I might enjoy vegetable noodles more if they were warm, and in a flash I was enjoying a comforting and much more satisfying meal. Still, it was a tough sell to my endurance athlete husband who can’t comprehend a meal without carbs, and I’ll admit that even when eating on the lighter side I sometimes crave something with a little more stick-to-yer-ribs to it, if you know what I mean. In a best of both worlds compromise, I started making the pasta dishes we love, but replacing half (or more!) of the pasta with veggie noodles. And lo! A light in calories but still totally satisfying meal was born.
When thinking about the kinds of noodle dishes to cut with veggies, Pad Thai immediately comes to mind. I love Pad Thai in all it’s white-rice noodle glory, but the nutritionist in me freaks out at the lack of vegetables in it. Replacing half of the rice noodles with spiralized carrot and zucchini not only cuts down on carbs and calories, but it also adds a lot of nutritious, high-fiber vegetables to the dish. Add some tofu for protein, bean sprouts, and a tasty vegan sauce, and you’ve got a lightened up Pad Thai packed full of flavour.
While the ingredient list may be on the long side, this recipe comes together quickly and makes for a perfect weeknight dinner. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
A lighter version of everyone's favorite Thai dish, made with spiralized zucchini noodles.
- 4 ounces flat rice noodles
- 1 medium zucchini, spiralized
- 3 large carrots, spiralized
- 1 (15-ounce) package firm tofu, cubed
- 2 to 4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
- 2 to 3 cups bean sprouts, well rinsed
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 Thai red chile
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, for frying
- 1/4 cup liquid aminos or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons agave or other liquid sweetener
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 4 tablespoons chopped almonds or peanuts (optional)
- Start by preparing all of your ingredients so they're ready to go when it's time to stir-fry. Spiralize the zucchini and carrots (or shred with a julienne peeler), cube the tofu, slice the scallions, crush the garlic, and dice the chile.
- In a small bowl, whisk together soy, water, tomato paste, rice vinegar, honey, and red pepper flakes. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Fill a large saucepan or stock pot with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Add the noodles and allow them to simmer until not quite al dente, 8-10 minutes. Once the noodles are cooked, drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil, and then cook the tofu cubes until they are golden brown, stirring occasionally. When the tofu is nice and golden, slide it out of the pan and onto a plate lined with paper towels.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same skillet. Add the garlic and chile and fry for about 1 minute. Quickly add the scallions, bean sprouts, and peas. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the spriralized zucchini and carrot and toss the mixture to combine well. Fry for about 2 minutes until the zucchini and carrot noodles are just beginning to soften.
- Now add the rice noodle, tofu and about half of the sauce.
- Stirring constantly, let the mixture cook about 2 minutes more. At this point your vegetables should be just ever so slightly on the soft side, still with some crunch.
- If your mixture is not very wet you may want to add a bit more sauce. It should be moist, but not swimming in sauce.
- Spoon into individual bowls, garnish with cilantro, chopped nuts (if using), and a wedge of lime.
- Serve immediately, with with extra sauce on the side.
You may be able to find brown rice noodles, which would add a little more nutrition to this recipe. Alternately, skip the noodles altogether and add an extra spiralized zucchini in their place.