Easy Healthy Dinner: Peanut Chicken Zucchini Noodles
Mixing up weeknight dinners with this wildly flavorful and healthy Asian inspired peanut chicken and veggies dish!
I made a resolution this year to cook more creatively. Meaning, try fresh new flavors and dinners I wouldn’t usually make. So far, I’m hardcore losing. 2016 has seen a ton of chicken chili, cereal, more chicken chili, and leftover chicken chili. Don’t get me wrong, I love chicken chili and honey nut cheerios, but I desperately need to break free of this uneventful dinner situation.
Enter: simple, light, refreshing, ready in 40 minutes, wildly flavorful peanut chicken zucchini noodles. Nothing but pure protein, colorful veggies, and the most delectable and savory peanut sauce. Anything but boring, bland, and routine.
Because, friends, there is nothing worse than a boring dinner. And if that boring dinner falls on a Monday. (Ahh!) So we’re doing new, fun, and fresh things tonight! This is my lifesaver meal.
I think you’ll really love this dish because (1) it’s mind-blowing simple, (2) couldn’t be any healthier, and (3) you can change up the vegetables and protein. We’re replacing regular noodles with zucchini noodles and TRUST ME when I say you won’t even miss regular pasta. The zucchini noodles completely soak up every bit of the savory peanut sauce.
And one of the best parts of this healthy meal? You control the sodium. I usually feel the size of a whale the morning after ordering similar Asian inspired dishes out. Know what I mean?
Ok, let’s talk about the vegetables. Have you joined the masses in this crazy amazing incredibly strange yet totally awesome zucchini noodle movement yet? I’m obsessed. I’ve never been one to like pasta and I know you’re probably like WHAT is wrong with you Sally. But it’s the truth. I don’t like pasta. I said it! But Kevin, who is a regular human being and loves pasta, didn’t miss the regular pasta at all.
To make the zoodles, I use my beloved Inspiralizer. I’ve tried out 3 different spiralizers in the past 2 months and let me tell you… you need to get this thing. It’s smaller than other spiralizers I’ve seen, but just as handy. And can I just say how easy it is to use? To change the settings for different noodle sizes, you don’t have to pull out the blades or anything like that. Rather, you just turn a simple switch. And suctions on the sides help keep it in place on the counter as it’s spiralizing. Ok, can you tell I’m a fan? Highly recommended if you’re into healthy foodie dishes and enjoy trying new things.
If you think zoodles are looney, like the author of this blog, you can use regular pasta or cut the zucchini into thin strips. See the recipe notes.
So you’ll cook down the vegetables first (keep those zucchini noodles aside for a sec). You can use any vegetables, really, but I like using shredded carrots, cabbage, and thinly sliced pepper. Cook them down with some garlic and sesame oil. The sesame oil is key in this dish; it cannot be skipped! That unmistakable flavor of this dish comes from the sesame oil, so don’t substitute. You can buy it in the Asian section of your grocery store. You’ll also need a little in the peanut sauce.
Once those veggies are cooked down, add the chicken and zucchini noodles. Instead of chicken, you can also use beef, shrimp, salmon, tofu, whatever your heart or diet desires. Use pre-cooked meat to save time. What I do is boil some chicken until cooked through right before I begin the other steps in the meal. Or you can use leftover chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken and shred yourself. So simple.
You’ll only want to warm the chicken and zucchini noodles for a few minutes. Then, you’ll pour in that peanut sauce. The peanut sauce is made from only a few, yet highly imperative ingredients: peanut butter, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, fresh ginger, and rice vinegar. I like to add a little Sriracha to kick things up a bit. Don’t stray from the ingredients listed. Each one serves a purpose to round out the flavors in this Asian inspired dish. And you’ll definitely be making this meal more than once, so my advice is to keep your pantry stocked with the sauce ingredients!
PS: the peanut sauce made with fresh ginger tastes 3927x better than peanut sauce made with ground ginger.
The peanut sauce is easily the star of the show. It’s obviously flavorful– as you can imagine from the ingredients used– but it’s also sweet, savory, and lightly spicy. You’ll just need to whisk all of the ingredients together on the stove for about 5 minutes until the peanut butter has melted down and the flavors fully combine. I usually do this as the vegetables cook to save some time.
Look at all the colors! And yes, my skillet has hot pink edges.
It’s saucy, creamy, satisfying, healthy, and flavorful to the max. For a little crunch and extra pizazz, let’s add some garnish in the form of: sesame seeds, cilantro, crunchy peanuts, and green onion. The whole shebang because F-L-A-V-O-R!
Peanut Chicken Zucchini Noodles
Mixing up weeknight dinners with this wildly flavorful and healthy Asian inspired peanut chicken and veggies dish! Keep in mind that the sauce ingredients are each important for the flavor. I do not recommend substitutions.
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil (you'll need more for the peanut sauce below)1
- 2 teaspoons minced or chopped garlic
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1 cup thinly sliced cabbage (I use red)
- 1 large bell pepper, thinly sliced (I use red)
- 3 large zucchini, spiralized into noodles4
- 2 large chicken breasts, cooked & shredded (about 2-3 cups)2
- Toppings: 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds, handful of cilantro, 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped green onion
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (I use reduced sodium)
- 2 Tablespoons sesame oil1
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar3
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha or any hot chile sauce
- Spiralizer (I love the Inspiralizer!)4
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil and the garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, cabbage, and pepper slices. Cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are a little tender. (I usually begin the peanut sauce, step 2, during this time.) Once tender, add the zucchini noodles and shredded chicken to the skillet. Cook and stir for about 3 minutes until the zucchini is a little softer and chicken is warm. Turn off the stove and remove from heat. Set aside. (*If your skillet isn't quite big enough, you can do this step in batches.)
- Combine all of the peanut sauce ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the peanut butter has melted and everything is combined. I usually use 2 teaspoons of Sriracha, but use the amount of heat you like.
- Once the sauce is heated through, pour over chicken/vegetables. Toss everything around until combined. Place on a serving dish (or not!) and top with sesame seeds, cilantro, peanuts, and green onion. Serve immediately.
- Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for a few days. Reheat to your liking.
- Sesame oil is KEY in the signature flavor of this dish. I highly advise against using any other oil; the recipe will not taste the same. You can find it in the Asian section of grocery stores.
- I simply boiled chicken until cooked through-- about 12-15 minutes, then shredded it. If you have leftover shredded, chicken from another recipe, use that! Or buy a rotisserie chicken from the store and shred the meat.
- Rice vinegar is also KEY in the signature flavor of this dish. It's a sweet and delicate vinegar you can find in the Asian section of your grocery. Do not use white wine or white vinegar-- they're much too harsh. Rather, you can use cider vinegar because it is more mild but your sauce will not taste the same. Again, rice vinegar is best.
- My spiralizer recommendation: I love the Inspiralizer! If you do not have a spiralizer, just cut the zucchini into super thin strips instead. Or use 1 pound pasta. If using regular pasta, you'll want to cook it before using.
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