These Brothy Dandan-ish Zucchini Noodles are an easy, delicious and healthy riff on the classic Sichuan dish. Perfectly textured zucchini noodles get tossed in a spicy, nutty broth with lots of crispy bits of ground meat and aromatics. It’s a low-carb recipe that’s high in protein, super satisfying to eat and happens to be Paleo and Whole30 compliant.
What You Need for Dandan-ish Zucchini Noodles
- Zucchini: Instead of the traditional white wheat flour noodles, try substituting zucchini noodles for a low-carb, Paleo and Whole30 option. If you salt and drain them of excess moisture, you don’t need to cook them. The heat from the brothy sauce will warm them through just enough that they’re no longer completely raw. As far as serving size goes, I would portion around 3 medium sized zucchini per person.
- Ground Meat: You can use just about any type of ground protein you like in this recipe. The best texture will likely come from using ground pork because the fat content prevents the meat from drying out as it gets crispy in the pan. But ground beef, chicken, turkey, lamb or veal would all be great.
- Aromatics: A combination of fresh ginger, raw garlic and plenty of scallions form a delicious and flavourful base for the brothy sauce and dandan-ish zucchini noodles.
- Chicken Bone Broth: To concentrate the flavours without increasing the cooking time, I like to use a chicken bone broth for the sauce. Homemade is best but to save time and energy I always have several cartons of Kettle & Fire broths on hand in my pantry. My wife and I usually warm the bone broth and drink it like a cup of tea, but it’s also a great way to enhance the flavour of recipes like these dandan-ish zucchini noodles.
You can find Kettle & Fire broths in many local markets or you can shop online and use code PRIMALGOURMET for 20% off your order.
- Cashews: It’s optional, but I love the added crunch and nutty flavour of cashews in this recipe. If you’re not worried about keeping things Paleo and Whole30, you can substitute raw, unsalted peanuts.
- Coconut Aminos: Try using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for a naturally gluten- and soy-free option. I actually like it much more than soy sauce because it is much less salty and has a slightly sweet flavour that balances the savoury notes.
- Rice Vinegar: A splash of rice vinegar will help cut through the richness of the meat and add a delicious tang to the dish.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Careful, a little goes a long way when it comes to using toasted sesame oil. If you overdo it, the sesame oil can overpower the other flavours so I recommend adding a little at a time and adjusting at the end depending on your desired taste.
- Sesame Seed Paste (Tahini): Using a couple tablespoons of tahini not only enhances the sesame flavours in the dandan-ish zucchini noodles, but it also helps thicken the sauce as it cooks.
One thing to keep in mind when making the sauce is that tahini has a tendency to split or curdle when added to a large amount of liquid. To avoid this you can either whisk it with a few tablespoons of the broth until clumpy, then gradually add the remaining liquid while whisking to emulsify.
The other and much easier option is to add all of the sauce ingredients to a mason jar and shake it like it owes you money.
- Red Finger Chili Pepper: I take a bit of liberty here by using a red finger chili pepper instead of a Sichuan chili oil (see below). You can use any chili pepper your heart or taste buds desire. I like red finger chilis because they are fairly mild and have a beautiful colour. It just means I can use more of the pepper without adding a lot of intense heat.
To be clear, using a punchy, spicy and aromatic oil made with Sichuan peppercorns isn’t exactly optional in traditional dandan noodles. In fact, it’s more of an essential ingredient. However, most store-bought Sichuan chili oils are neither Paleo nor Whole30 compliant. You can, of course, make your own and there are some great recipes online. I chose to just use a fresh chili to make things as easy as possible. The flavours aren’t as complex, but it’s still delicious.
How to Make Perfect Zucchini Noodles
- Get a Spiralizer: This seemingly obvious step is probably the most overlooked one. I like this model from OXO and have had it for years. It makes great, long, luxurious strands of vegetable noodles that dance between your mouth and plate.
- Salt the Zucchini: Zucchini are waterlogged and the best way to release that excess moisture is to massage them with a few pinches of salt and let them drain in a collander. For best results, them the zucchini drain for around 30 minutes.
- Do Not Cook The Zucchini: It may sound counterintuitive, but you really don’t need to cook the zucchini noodles in most recipes. Instead, try warming them up by tossing them in whatever sauce you’ll be serving them with. You should end up with a perfect, toothsome bite of zucchini noodles.
Brothy Dandan-ish Zucchini Noodles – Paleo, Whole30
- 6 zucchini spiralized
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more as needed
- 1 cup Kettle & Fire Classic Chicken Bone Broth plus extra as needed
- ¼ cup coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame seed paste tahini
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 pound ground pork substitute beef, chicken, turkey, veal, or lamb
- ¼ cup raw unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
- 4 green onions thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
- 1 red finger chili pepper thinly sliced, substitute fresh chili of choice
- Add the spiralized zucchini to a colander set over a bowl. Season the zucchini with 1 teaspoon of salt and massage thoroughly to coat. Set aside and let the zucchini drain of excess liquid for at least 30 minutes.
- In a mason jar, combine the bone broth, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, sesame seed paste and sesame oil. Seal with a lid and shake vigorously until well combined and emulsified. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired.
- Preheat a large wok or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the avocado oil and heat until shimmering. Raise the heat to high, add the ground pork and cook, undisturbed, until a golden-brown crust as formed, around 5 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break the pork apart into very small bits and cook, stirring regularly, until the meat is golden brown all over and slightly crispy, around 7 more minutes.
- Add the cashews, white parts of the green onion, garlic, ginger, and chili pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Add the prepared sauce and cook, stirring, until the liquid has thickened and reduced in volume by ¼, around 2 minutes. If the sauce has reduced too much or you would like it to be more brothy, add more chicken bone broth as desired. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt as desired.
- To serve, arrange the drained zucchini noodles into individual serving bowls. Pour the meat and sauce over top and garnish with the green parts of the green onions. Toss well to coat and serve immediately while hot.