So I realize that I have fallen into a bit of a cooking rut lately. I know I can’t be alone in this, but I have noticed that when I get really busy in my day-to-day life, healthy cooking tends to be pushed aside in favor of meals that are fast and require little forethought. Sadly, those fast and easy meals are typically high in fat and calories too and come from a restaurant or out of a box.  Well, I refuse to continue living in this unhealthy cooking rut!  Tired of feeling gross and tired because of a crappy diet, I decided to experiment with a recipe that is actually good for you and still full of flavor – Healthy Southwestern Marinated Chicken and Zoodles!

A mound of Zoodles

Some of you may be asking yourselves, “What heck is a ‘zoodle’?” Well my friends, a zoodle is a spiralized zucchini.  Using a spiralizer in the kitchen is a trend that many have jumped on already; in fact, I personally think I was a little late to spiralizing game.  This handy, dandy little kitchen gadget takes all sorts of produce (think sweet potatoes, carrots, apples, zucchini – pretty much anything you could think to use) and turns them into tasty little ribbons of goodness.  These produce ribbons can then be used in place of noodles for a healthier, carb free dish!  If you are in the market to purchase a spiralizer, there are two primary types: the larger tabletop machines with crank handles or the more compact handheld version.  (I have the handheld version.)  Neither are crazy expensive, so it really depends on how you anticipate using the gadget as to which version is best for you.

Look at that spiralizer in action!

Anyhoooo…. Now that the PSA on spiralizers is over, we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming:  talking about this super easy and delicious Healthy Southwestern Marinated Chicken and Zoodles recipe!  The active portion of this recipe is less than 30 minutes.  If you want to cut back on prep time even further, you can skip the step where you make your own pico de gallo salsa and just buy some from the pre-prepared produce section at your supermarket and call it a day.  (I always recommend making your own versus buying pre-prepared whenever possible though.  It just tends to taste better.)  Also, I have cooked my chicken on both the grill and in the oven with excellent results both ways, so feel free to choose the cooking method that suits your needs.

The marinade not only provides excellent flavor, but also helps to ensure tender, juicy chicken.

For best results, I recommend marinating the chicken for approximately 6-8 hours, so it does require you to plan ahead, but it’s definitely worth it! You can make the marinade in the morning before you head to work and have it ready when you get home.  Honestly, I am insanely jealous if you have the time to do this step in the morning before work because I barely have time to get out the door fully clothes and with makeup on my face. If you are more like me, I would prep the marinade the night before and then leave it in the fridge overnight WITHOUT the chicken.  Then just take 2 minutes to pop the chicken in your prepared marinade before you run off to work or wherever you are headed.  Just an FYI – I have tried marinating my chicken overnight, but found that the meat came out a little too soft on occasion.  (Sitting in the salty, citrusy marinade for a full 24 hours works a little too well in breaking down the tough fibers and can create some softer, almost mealy areas in the chicken.  The flavor is still great though!)  The best part is that you can marinate and cook up  extra boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use those in a Southwestern style salad the next day.  AND GUESS WHAT?!  I will be posting THAT recipe tomorrow.  How about that?!  You get two recipes with one simple step!  Now I can fully support that idea.

I swear there is a chicken breast underneath all that pico de gallo!

Healthy Southwestern Marinated Chicken and Zoodles

Makes approximately 4-6 servings (depending on how many chicken breasts you use)

Ingredients for the Marinated Chicken:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil  Printable-Recipe-dark
  • Juice from 3 large limes (approximately ½ cup)
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Cholula)
  • Zest from one lime
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4-6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 gallon size Ziploc baggie

Ingredients for the Pico de Gallo:

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for the Zoodles:

  • 3 large zucchini, stem removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Special equipment: Spiralizer (You can substitute with julienned zucchini if you don’t have a spiralizer)
That pico de gallo looks so fresh and delicious.


  • Make the marinade and cook the chicken:
    • Pour the olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce, and hot sauce into a medium mixing bowl and whisk until thoroughly combined. Add the lime zest, cilantro, shallot, garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes and whisk until incorporated. Pour the marinade into a gallon size Ziploc baggie. Add the chicken to the marinade approximately 6 to 12 hours before you want to cook the meat.
    • When you are ready to cook your meat, preheat your oven or grill to 450 degrees. Remove the chicken from the marinade and thoroughly pat them dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. If cooking the chicken on the grill, cook until the meat reaches 165 degrees, flipping once.  If cooking your chicken in the oven, line the bottom of a broiling pan with foil and spray the top portion with cooking spray to prevent the meat from sticking. If you don’t have cooking spray, lightly brush the pan with olive oil. Place the chicken on the prepared broiling pan and place in the center of your oven to cook until the thickest part of the meat registers 165 degrees on a meat thermometer (approximately 20 minutes). When ready, remove from the oven and allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes.
    • NOTE: If you chose to cook one or two additional chicken breasts for a salad tomorrow, set them aside and allow them to cool to room temperature. Once cool, place the extra chicken in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
  • While the chicken is cooking, make the pico de gallo and zoodles:
    • Place all of the ingredients for the pico de gallo in a bowl and stir gently to incorporate. Set the bowl aside until plating.
    • Take each zucchini and spin through the spiralizer until you can’t spin it any more. Set the zucchini ribbons aside.  (If you don’t have a spiralizer, julienne the zucchini instead.)
    • As the chicken is resting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the “zoodles,” and salt and pepper to taste. Occasionally toss the zoodles with tongs until they are heated through and slightly softened. Remove from heat and proceed with plating.
  • To Serve
    • Place a mound of zoodles in the center of each plate. (You may need to cut the zucchini ribbons with a knife or kitchen shears as you are plating to create your desired serving size.) Place a chicken breast on top of each zoodle mound. Spoon the pico de gallo all over the chicken and zoodles. Feel free to pour some of the liquid from the pico de gallo over the zoodles for extra flavor. Then serve and dig in to feel good about delicious, healthy eating!
I know what I’m making for dinner tonight – Healthy Southwestern Marinated Chicken and Zoodles!