Pesto Zoodle Salad

white bowl filled with Pesto chicken zoodle salad topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, pearl mozzarella and toasted pine nuts
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Loaded with the very vegetables that are overloading your garden box (or CSA box, or neighbor’s garden) right now, this stunningly beautiful, twisty-twirly pesto zoodle salad with fresh mozzarella and toasted pine nuts is a textural, colorful study in how to make the most of the late-summer harvest. 

Zoodles Are Not Noodles! And That’s Just Fine.  

This is one of the best zoodle recipes we can think of, because it treats zoodles as a  celebration of zucchini season rather than a tool of deprivation. Tossed with chicken, ripe cherry tomatoes, and pillowy fresh mozzarella, pesto zoodles aren't pretending to be a bowl of spaghetti. Spirals of raw zucchini, plucked at their ripest best, these zucchini noodles are not disguised as anything—and who would want them to be? Instead, these pesto zoodles are a joyful send up of seasonal eating at its finest. Even if you’re drawn to this zoodle salad recipe because you’re looking for low-carb recipes, we hope you’ll love it because it’s just good—not good “for a low-carb zoodle recipe” but good, period. 

white bowl filled with Pesto chicken zoodle salad topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, pearl mozzarella and toasted pine nuts

Chicken and Zoodles: A Low-Carb Love Story. 

Perfect Poached Chicken and zucchini noodles are two of our favorite “blank-slate” ingredients. Both are mild in flavor and play well with others—meaning they easily adapt to whatever flavor profile we throw at them. We’ve paired them up with Thai peanut sauce, and here—swirled into a salad with garlicky basil pesto and mozzarella—they just as easily take on an Italian accent. Zucchini noodles provide low-carb, vitamin-rich bulk and a fun texture, and poached shredded chicken brings the protein this salad needs to be filling and satisfying. 

In other words, chicken and zoodles are the low-carb, high-protein pairing your body craves.

glass bowl filled with zucchini nodles

How to Make Zoodles NOT Watery

The secret to making zoodles not watery is not so much a “secret” as it is a reason to use zoodles in a fresh salad instead of as a pasta substitute. Keep them from being watery by simply not cooking them! Zucchini has a lot of moisture. 

When you cook zucchini—when it encounters heat—it’s going to release that moisture, and thus you end up (sometimes) with watery zoodles! We avoid the issue entirely by enjoying our zoodles raw. We love the bite of raw zucchini, as well as its mild, slightly sweet flavor.

Pesto Zoodles : Two Summery Words that Belong Together. 

And while you’re marrying the words “pesto” and “zoodles” in your mind, you might as well go ahead and add “milky fresh mozzarella” and “ripe-to-bursting cherry tomatoes” to the mix, since all of those beautiful foods are absolutely MFEO. We’ve talked about how to make zucchini noodles, and about how deliciously satisfying the addition of simple shredded poached chicken makes this zoodle salad, but there are a few other reasons this pesto zoodle salad is the best zoodle recipe ever. Reasons like: 

  • Fresh pesto! Right now, fresh basil is positively jungle-like in our backyard, not to mention at the market. It’s impossible to pass up that clean fragrance and brilliantly green, sun-warmed leaves, so we always wind up with too much basil. Well, we end up with what would be too much basil if there were such a thing. But, since we know how to make pesto (and how to freeze pesto) there’s no such thing as too much basil. 
  • Fresh tiny mozzarella balls! Also known as ciliegine (“cherry-sized”) or “pearl” mozzarella. You could also use the larger fresh mozzarella balls and cube them—the goal here is to have the mozzarella bites be about the same size as the chicken and cherry tomato bites. And speaking of....
  • Cherry tomatoes! Our cherry tomatoes are ripe, ready and plentiful right now. While we could always roast them, or make sauce, our favorite way to eat them is fresh. Fresh cherry tomatoes are such an ethereal pleasure, it feels wrong to enjoy them any other way than ASAP after picking. Tossed into a zoodle salad like this, along with all of the herbs and vegetables that have ripened at the same time—cherry tomatoes and zoodle salad is a pairing that’s just meant to be.  
  • Toasted pine nuts. This is optional, but if you make your own pesto, just buy a few extra pine nuts and plan to use them both in the pesto and in the salad. They add a lovely crunch, and their toasty, nutty richness is a nice contrast to fresh, brightness of this salad.
white bowl filled with Pesto chicken zoodle salad topped with fresh cherry tomatoes, pearl mozzarella and toasted pine nuts

Tools You’ll Need: 

  • A spiralizer is really handy for making zucchini noodles, but not 100% necessary. If you’re willing to spend $10, you can get this nifty hand-held zoodle maker..
  • Otherwise, you’ll need a good, sharp knife for cutting the zucchini into thin noodles.
  • Big bowl for mixing and serving. 

Other Super Satisfying Low-Carb Recipes: 

We have shared many low-carb recipes over the years—we’ve even rounded them up for you! Here are a few of our very favorites: 

  • Easy Breakfast Egg Muffins. If you’re trying to stick to a particular diet (keto or paleo or something similar) you’ll want to make these so you can start the day on the right foot without putting much thought into it. 
  • Grilled Steak Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing. The fact that this salad is keto and Whole30 approved is probably reason #1 we’d be willing to try either of those diets.
  • Lasagna Stuffed Zucchini Boats. For when you need a change of pace from the zoodle salad, but still have zucchini coming in hot and heavy. 

Would You Canoodle With These Zoodles Again?

Did you love this pesto zoodle salad? We hope so! Snap a photo of your pesto zoodle salad and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you feed it to, and then tag us on Instagram using @themodernproperand #themodernproper so we can see! Happy eating.

Pesto Zoodle Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 cups zucchini noodles (about 4 medium zucchini)
8 oz pearl mozzarella (or cubed mozzarella)
1 cup homemade pesto
1 pint cherry tomato
2 cups shredded chicken
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Method

  1. In a large bowl toss zucchini noodles with homemade pesto. Top with mozzarella, tomatoes, shredded chicken and toasted pine nuts.

If meal prepping leave the pine nuts on the sides and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.