are made with a simple, but oh so flavorful homemade pesto sauce and we have added buttered shrimp making it a complete meal that the whole family loves. The best part is dinner is ready in under an hour with only 10 minutes of actual hands-on cook time.
This time of year, zucchini season is in full swing and you may be looking for an easy recipe to use up the rest of your fresh produce. Pesto zoodles take the place of traditional pasta, making it a great dish for those following a low carb keto diet or if you just want more veggie-packed meals. Think of this recipe as a skinny shrimp scampi because we are adding lemon garlic butter shrimp to make it an easy dinner.
Serve this pesto zoodle recipe with our favorite pull apart garlic bread and a strawberry feta spinach salad. You will have leftover pesto sauce, so I like using it in pesto pasta salad and when I make grilled pizza. It’s also fantastic with my homemade gnocchi recipe.
- zucchini – if you are low on time, check the produce section for pre spiralized zucchini.
- raw shrimp – if using frozen, make sure they are thawed completely.
- butter – we used salted.
- minced garlic – can also use garlic paste or garlic powder if you don’t have fresh.
- salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and red pepper flakes – omit the red pepper if you don’t like a little spice.
- cherry tomatoes
- lemon basil pesto – you’ll need pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese.
- heavy cream – makes the pesto sauce super creamy.
- grated parmesan cheese
- Juice of 1 lemon – we recommend using fresh lemon juice for best results, it adds so much flavor to the dish.
- Basil leaves for garnish
For a full list of ingredients and their measurements, 📋 please view my printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Garnish these delicious zucchini noodles with fresh herbs (our favorite is basil) and parmesan cheese.
Substitutions and Variations
- Using a vegetable peeler – if you do not have a spiralizer, you can use a vegetable peeler to cut the zucchini into thin ribbons.
- Other protein: this zucchini recipe is great with chicken breast and broiled scallops.
- Vegan pesto – use my pesto recipe and substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan. Also, omit the shrimp here, use a vegan butter, and plant-based heavy cream.
- Store-bought pesto – if you don’t want to make your own pesto, you can find it in grocery stores on the pasta aisle.
- Regular pasta – if desired, use spaghetti noodles in place of the zucchini. Prepare them according to the instructions on the box or until al dente, then add back to the skillet just as you would the zucchini.
- Various sauces – zucchini noodles can be used in many different ways. Because of their mild flavor you can add them to tomato sauce or a cream sauce like with fettuccine alfredo.
- Other veggie noodles – use this same method for yellow squash, butternut nut, sweet potato, cucumbers, carrots, or beets.
PREP: Wash and dry zucchini. Add the shrimp to a bowl with 4 cups of water and about a tablespoon of kosher salt. Let the shrimp soak for 15-30 minutes then, drain, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.
Step 1: Use a sharp knife to cut the ends off each squash. Sprialize the zucchini.
Step 2: Place the zucchini pasta in a colander or sieve and toss with a tablespoon of salt. Set the sieve over a large bowl so the spiralized zucchini can weep for 30 minutes. Press gently on the zoodles or squeeze them with paper towels to remove the excess water. Set aside.
Step 3: In a large sauté pan, add two tablespoons of butter and the minced garlic. Cook over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Place the shrimp in the garlic butter sauce in a single layer and season with black pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Flip the shrimp as soon as they turn to opaque pink. Remove from the skillet when they are opaque and pink all the way through.
Pro Tip: Shrimp cook really fast and even with brining, they can still get tough. Watch them closely.
Step 5: Add the remaining butter to the saute pan and toss in the raw zucchini noodles and tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the veggies start to soften.
Step 6: Stir in the heavy cream, pesto, and cheese. Let the zucchini pesto mixture simmer for 1-2 minutes, and stir to coat the zoodles in the sauce.
Step 7: Add the sauteed shrimp back to the pan just until they are warmed through. Remove from the heat and squeeze the lemon over top.
Step 8: Stir in the lemon juice with the shrimp and zoodles.
SERVE: Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh basil, then serve.
Tips for the Best Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp
- We use our Kitchen-Aid attachment to make the fresh zucchini noodles. You can also use the OXO handheld spiralizer or see above in the variations for using a julienne peeler. We also recently discovered and fell in love with this all in one veggie chopper and spiralizer; it’s awesome for a manual option.
- Brining the shrimp in salt water adds moisture, and is the best way to keep them tender after cooking. However, shrimp cook very quickly and will be done in just 3-4 minutes. They can still be overcooked easily and become tough, so watch closely.
- Squeezing out all of the water from the zucchini spirals helps to ensure you don’t end up with soggy noodles. It also makes for creamy pesto sauce instead of one that is watered down.
- Avoid overcrowding the pan with the shrimp. If needed, work in batches.
There’s a world pesto competition that is held every two years that has 100 competitors who sign up.
Keep leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Zucchini noodles are generally considered healthier than traditional pasta because they are lower in calories and carbohydrates while providing more vitamins and minerals. They are also a great option for those looking to reduce gluten or overall carb intake. However, the nutritional benefits depend on the other ingredients used with them.
Zoodles can be eaten both raw and cooked, depending on personal preference. Raw zoodles have a crunchy texture and a fresh flavor, similar to a salad. Cooking zoodles makes them more similar to pasta, as in this recipe.
Letting them weep and squeezing the moisture out ensures they are not steamed while cooking. It’s also important to not overcrowd the pan and not to overcook them. They take just a few minutes to cook.
If you tried these Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp or any other recipe on my website, please please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how you liked it in the 📝 comments below.
Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Shrimp
- 4 medium zucchini
- 1 pound raw shrimp thawed and deveined
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt divided
- 4 tablespoons salted butter divided
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- ¼ cup lemon pesto
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Basil leaves for garnish optional
- Wash and spiralize zucchini. We used a Kitchen-Aid attachment to make spiral zucchini recipes. Cut the ends of each zucchini off and place into the spiralizer attachment. Run on low speed using the medium spiral blade.
- Place the zoodles in a sieve or colander and toss with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Set the sieve over a bowl and allow the zucchini noodles to weep for about 30 minutes. Press down gently on the zoodles or wrap in a clean towel and squeeze out as much excess water as possible. Set aside. (I did not rinse and therefore, did not add more salt to my skillet)
- Meanwhile, place the shrimp in a bowl with 4 cups of water and the other tablespoon of kosher salt. This is optional, but soaking the shrimp in a salt brine does add moisture and results in tender, shrimp once cooked. Allow the shrimp to “marinate” for 15-30 minutes. Rinse, drain and pat dry.
- Add two tablespoons of butter and minced garlic to a large skillet over medium heat. Saute 1-2 minutes.
- Add the shrimp to the garlic butter, sprinkle with black pepper and red pepper flakes, and saute for 1-2 minutes on each side. Flip the shrimp as soon as they turn from translucent blue to opaque pink and remove from the skillet as soon as they are pink and opaque all the way through – shrimp cook very quickly (3-4 minutes total). Work in batches, if needed, so that the pan is not overcrowded. Set the shrimp aside.
- Add the remaining butter to the skillet and toss in the zucchini noodles and tomatoes. Saute for 2-3 minutes, just until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Add pesto, heavy cream, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to the pan and simmer 1-2 minutes longer, coating the zucchini noodles with the sauce.
- Add the shrimp back into the skillet, tossing to warm through. Remove from heat.
- Squeeze lemon juice over the dish and garnish with remaining parmesan cheese and fresh basil, if desired.
- Serve immediately.