Why the Spiralizer Has Everyone Going Zoodle Crazy

zoodles in tomato sauce
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

If you've spent any time with a "clean eater" lately, odds are you've heard of spiralizing. A spiralizer is a kitchen tool that turns raw fruits and vegetables into noodle-like strips. These days there are thousands of juice-pounding spiral evangelists touting the benefits of switching to zoodles, that's Kool-Aid-sipper for noodles made from raw zucchini. And up until two weeks ago, I didn't get how paltry vegetables could ever take the place of delicious spaghetti. At all.

I'm not saying I sit around wolfing down cheeseburgers for every meal, but I've always seen food as fun, not a means to "high-vibe" energy. And as an urban dweller with an unpredictable schedule and a tiny-ass kitchen, let's just say I'm much more familiar with India Palace's delivery guy than any stand at the farmers market.

But to my surprise, I quickly figured out that the spiralized world extended way beyond fake spaghetti, and that you don't have to be a SoulCycler to work this bizarre little machine into your life. Propelled by curiosity and a looming deadline, I sent every food I could get my hands on twisting through those sharp, shiny grates, and sauteing, baking, braising, boiling, and even frying the spiralized produce to my heart's content. And, as a result, I ate 100-200% more fruits and vegetables than normal. It was pretty great.

Interested in getting zoodling up your life? Follow my lead, learn from my mistakes, and get cranking.

spiralized sweet potato fries
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Stick to firm fruits and vegetables

The first rule of Spiralizer Club is: You do not talk about Spiralizer Club (seriously, people will make fun of you). The second rule of Spiralizer Club is: Avoid spiralizing soft, squishy foods.

My machine came with three blades: number one for cylindrical spaghetti-shaped noodles, number two for flat fettuccine, and three for thin, ribbon-like strips. I found that the best, most versatile foods were fruits and vegetables with a firm composition -- carrots, potatoes, apples, beets, squash, and, of course, zucchini. Those crunchers held up perfectly no matter which blade a chose, and cooked quickly and efficiently without turning to mush. These guys also stood up to sauces and spices while still maintaining some of their own flavor.

Some semi-soft produce can work, too

Medium-textured or somewhat watery foods like cukes, bell peppers, pickles, pears, cantaloupe, and strawberries can also work, but these required some more work on the front end -- chopping up into chunks, peeling, coring, seeding -- that kind of thing. I could also only really use one or two blades when working with these slippery suckers and if I tried pushing them through too hard, they mush-ified or straight-up refused to go through the grate. The number three (the ribbon) and number two (fettuccine) blades ended up being the most effective. However, once I figured out which blades to use with each fruit or veg and the proper amount of force to apply, these made for some of the best spiral dinners I ate.

spiralized pickle
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

But foods with looser builds or mushy insides are tough

Onions, tightly wadded greens, and big, sphere-shaped fruits and veggies can be tricky but not entirely undoable. Shoving cabbage hunks through a number-two blade gave me a hash-like mess, which just happened to be an ideal shape for my sauerkraut. Onions are a little more straightforward, but only really keep their shape when shoved through the ribbony blade, and should be used as fresh as possible to avoid turning into a sloppy white mess.

I experienced a couple stumbling blocks, but none as major as the time I tried to zoodle a salami. I just happened to have a nice salami roll lying around, the fancy kind you slice up and serve on a cheese plate. So, I figured, "Hey, this stuff seems hard enough. Maybe I can make a creatively textured meat salad out of it." And what began as a harmless inquiry ended in a fatty, coagulated mound of meat jammed into every blade I tested. My apologies, salami -- I should have known better than to try to improve upon such a perfect food.

You rarely need a knife

One of the coolest things I discovered was how little I had to use an actual knife. Watching beet noodles pour out of a metal blade into a pile of deep-red edible yarn was way, way more fun than dicing and slicing. When I was spiralizing, I only ever needed a knife before or after spiral time, either to chop something into reasonably sized pieces (see above) or to split up extra-long spaghetti strands for cooking and/or eating purposes. Trust me, yardstick-length zoodles might look cool as hell, but slurping up a never-ending vegetable strand is anything but becoming.

spiralized pickle
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Cabbage shreds like a dream

Cabbage was a fun one. I went in with apple cider-braised cabbage on the brain, so I shredded the head using the fettucine blade, collected the bits, and tossed them in a saucepan, with some chicken broth, vinegar, and spices, and let it go for a bit while I figured out what else to spiralize. I settled on a beet, turning the purple root veg into a few spaghetti-like strands and adding it to the kraut for a little color. A few splashes of hard apple cider and 40 minutes later, I was ready to take my hot dog game to the next level.

Pickle ribbons are the new relish

With my homemade sauerkraut simmering away on the stove, I was suddenly inspired to try my luck with a whole dill pickle. And a few cranks later, I had a handful of paper-thin dill pickle ribbons to finish off one epic hot dog.

sweet potato fries
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Spiralized fries > hand-cut fries

So it might not have been the healthiest idea, but potatoes are potatoes and let's not kid ourselves -- they're not exactly God's gift to the waistline. I leaned into the carbo-love and spiralized my potato into long, loopy rings using the spaghetti blade. Then I dropped all those lovely curls into a cast-iron pan full of bubbling oil. You probably already know what happened next. (Yes, I ate all of them in one sitting and refused to share.)

When it came to sweet potatoes, though, I decided to honor the tuber's superfood rep by treating it with a tad less vulgarity.

I spun a whole, unpeeled 'tater through the fettuccine blade, splitting any extra-long, noodly bits into French fry-sized curls. Then I threw them on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and Old Bay and let them get nice and crunchy in a hot oven. Curly fries for days.

butternut squash macaroni and cheese
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Butternut squash makes a mean macaroni

I took my fettuccine blade to a few bright-orange butternut squash hunks one night, driven by the unsubstantiated notion that I could transform the heavy gourd into some sort of mac & cheese situation. And it worked! The squash was on the softer side, so the blade produced a sizable amount of bite-sized noodles, each about 2in long. It looked exactly like Kraft mac & cheese. I boiled them for a few minutes in salted water, stirred in some Velveeta sauce (don't hate), and dropped in a few frozen peas. Mission accomplished.

canteloupe strawberry ice cream
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Cantaloupe and strawberries are ice cream revolutionaries

When I first brought these fruits home, I honestly had zero plans for them. But after a few experiments, I ended up freestyling a bowl of softened vanilla ice cream, dressed with cantaloupe noodles and fresh strawberry strips. Not too shabby for a Wednesday night, if I do say so myself.

Prep work pays off

Spending a few extra minutes figuring out how each fruit or veggie best fits through the machine is well worth it. Depending on your gear, chopping a hulking cabbage into quarters might make for a smoother ride than attempting to spiralize an entire head. Likewise, peeling and coring is essential for certain foods, and obviously can't be done after the fact.

If you're not sure what form works best, experiment with a section of your desired spiralizee to see how it turns out. If it goes through like a dream, you probably ought to cut the rest of that sucker up. And if it has trouble sticking to the spiky holder thing or gets caught in the blades, leave it intact.

Expect lots of cleanup

It's not all shaved radishes and rainbows. Almost everything I spiralized clogged up the blade and made a mess of the machine’s base, sneaking into crevices I didn’t even know existed and covering the countertop in a thick film. You have to wash it often and it's not the easiest beast to wrangle. I’d imagine a sprayer would be best, but those of us without chi-chi sink attachments are sentenced to a life of struggle, awkwardly trying to thoroughly rinse each plastic component under the stationary stream without nicking an errant finger.

Also, and this might go without saying, wash this stuff immediately. Like, directly after use. That is, unless you enjoy spending your Sunday mornings scrubbing off layers upon dried layers of superglued zucchini skins.

zucchini end
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

The weirdest thing about spiralizing? What's left over.

Hands down, the most puzzling and unexpected part of my spiralizing adventure was seeing what happened to the vegetable after it was all spiraled out. The fact that the process resulted in a bit of food waste wasn't surprising, exactly, but it was the shape of the remaining produce that really got me.

Each blade features a dime-sized hole in the metal above the slicer that keeps the food in place while you crank. The leverage is helpful, but it also carves a dense, pencil-like rod out of the top of the vegetable. What's more, this oblong piece is attached at its base to the butt of the vegetable, usually a stumpy, quarter-inch-thick disc, depending on the source. It ends up resembling some sort of miniature toilet plunger, primed and ready to unclog the world's tiniest toilet. I'm sure some good steward of the earth would dice this weirdo up and find a use for it, but I couldn't figure out what to do with it.

In the end, though, if my only qualm was with a strangely shaped veggie tail, I think it's safe to say that this machine sufficiently wooed me. It's not like I'm giving up my Nikes and moving to an ashram in the Poconos anytime soon, but, damn, who knew eating your fruits and veggies could be so damn fun?

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Meredith Heil is a staff writer for Thrillist. The money turned her into a monstah, the money turned her zoodles into pasta. Chop it up with @mereditto.