Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Dressing

Have you tried kelp noodles before? With a chewy texture, similar to rice noodles, they're perfect for Asian noodle salads. Even better - no cooking required! Try them in this peanutty salad with strips of sweet mango and zucchini noodles. 

I was first introduced to the world of food blogs back in college, when a friend turned me on to the site Hungry Girl. It was perfect timing. I had just moved into my first apartment and was learning to cook. Around the same time, I made the decision to double major with nutrition. Packed with simple, quick recipes, and low calorie versions of popular comfort foods, I was instantly hooked.

After a year of eating all Hungry Girl, all the time, I moved on. If you've ever been to the site, you know her secret to reducing calories is using low calorie ingredient swaps, like fat free cheese, sandwich thins and sugar free pudding. Pretty much the antithesis of my current food philosophy. Now, anything that reminds me of Hungry Girl leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

One of the ingredient swaps I remember most were low calorie, tofu shirataki noodles. At 10 calories a serving, they were a low carb dieters dream. All the pasta you want, minus the guilt! Just load them up with laughing cow light and fat free sour cream for fettucine alfredo or fat free cream of mushroom soup for tuna noodle casserole. I've never tried the noodles, so I can't really hate, but just that association makes me pass them by.

A few years ago I noticed

kelp noodles

at the grocery store. Although the ingredients list was fine, at 10 calories a serving, I put them in the same "Hungry Girl foods" category and bypassed them. But last week, curiosity got a hold of me and I picked up a bag. Looking to bulk up a "

zoodle

" dish I had planned, I thought they might make a fun addition.

Y'all, I am officially obsessed.

Made from kelp and sodium alginate (an extract from seaweed that sounds chemically, but it's perfectly fine),

kelp noodles

have long been popular with people on low carb, gluten free or raw diets. Being on none of the above, and very much satisfied with my standard 100% whole grain noodles, I never thought to try them. Now I see them as a new way to sneak in nutrient dense sea vegetables.

Seaweed, or sea vegetables (the more appetizing term) is something we all should be eating more of. It is a concentrated source of unique minerals, notably iodine, crucial for thyroid health. Sea vegetables also contain large amounts of iron. Since it also contains vitamin C, which aids iron absorption, is particularly useful for anyone on a plant based diet, looking to boost their iron intake. There is even some evidence regular consumption of sea vegetables may reduce risk of cancer, especially hormone dependent cancers like breast cancer.

Now, for the important part. What does it taste like? If you've tried cellophane noodles in any Asian dishes, it's almost exactly the same. Right out of the bag, they have a crunchy, almost al dente texture, which was beginning to make me regret my experimenting. But as soon as you soak them in sauce, they soften right up. The flavor is similar to wheat noodles, but the texture is a bit chewier and less starchy. Even better - kelp noodles require no cooking whatsoever, just a brief rinse in water. One less dirty dish for you!

For this dish, I took an Asian spin, tossing them with "zoodles" or zucchini noodles for those not hip to the lingo, sliced mango and a Asian peanut sauce. I was really surprised with how filling the dish was. I was worried the low calorie noodles would leave me famished in an hour, but it kept me satisfied! To save time, use a premade peanut sauce (I like this one from Trader Joe's), just be careful about the ingredients and sugar content! I used a mandolin to make my zucchini noodles, but I know the internet is all abuzz with spiralizers which quickly and efficiently make raw vegetable noodles without risking cutting off your finger.

Kelp and Zucchini Noodle Salad with Mango and Peanut Dressing

Serves 4.

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 lb bag of kelp noodles, rinsed
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 mango
  • Sliced scallions (optional, for garnish)
  • Toasted unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional, for garnish)
  • Chopped peanuts (optional, for garnish)

Dressing:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanut butter (look for one made with only peanuts)
  • Juice from half a lime
  • 2 tablespoons naturally brewed/fermented soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili oil or 1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions

  1. Rinse the kelp noodles briefly in water and drain in a colander. Using a mandolin, carefully julienne cut the zucchini (or use a spiralizer to make zoodles). Place in a large serving bowl along with the drained kelp noodles. To slice the mango, cut down the wide side of each mango. Scoop away the flesh using a spoon and slice into thin strips. Run your knife along the thin side of the mango. Use your spoon again to scoop the flesh away from the skin, then slice the flesh into thin strips. Place the mango in the bowl with the kelp and zucchini noodles.
  2. To prepare the dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. The kelp noodles will quickly soften with the dressing. Garnish as desired, with scallions, toasted coconut or chopped peanuts.

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