Low Carb Philly Cheesesteak zoodles with a smooth velvety cheese sauce is everything you want in a low carb pasta. It has all the goodness of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich without the carbs!
Just 9g net carbs!
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Seriously do it.
As much as I love taking old family recipes and revamping them, or “ketofying” them. I also love getting into the kitchen with an idea or flavour in mind and seeing what comes out.
For this dish I really wanted to capture the essence of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. Every bite needed to be reminiscent of the classic flavours in an all American Philly cheesesteak. Of course with a signature Adam twist, and without the carbs of course.
Although there are plenty of different low carb breads and buns that could be made, I wanted a stand alone dish. Not something that you taste and say “That’s pretty close to a “real” Philly cheesesteak sandwich” but something you taste and it on its own is just a banger of a dish.
You get the experience of a cheesesteak, the flavourful tender strips of meat, the contrast between both the tart and the sweet flavour coming through in the caramelized onions and green peppers, the rich creamy melty cheese sauce. Every bite is a wonderful mix of flavours and textures.
Let’s start with the meat. The beauty of a meal like this is that even cheaper cuts of meat such as eye of round will yield great results. You are slicing it so thin and frying it hot to lock in that flavour. I happened to have a ribeye in the fridge, and as I am sure I don’t have to tell you, a ribeye works for just about anything, it’s just a great cut of beef.
To get the meat sliced nice and thin, you are going to want to use a nice sharp knife. You don’t want to mash the meat into little pieces. A sharp knife will help make those thin shaving like cuts.
You also want to use a properly sized knife, a chefs knife or a santoku knife that is large enough to slice through the beef in one stroke, 6”-8” should do the trick. You can use other knives of course but in my experience these knives provide a clean and consistent result.
Tip: Put the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes before you slice it to make it easier to slice nice and thin.
You will often see a cheesesteak stuffed into a hoagie overflowing with caramelized onions and thinly sliced sauteed green peppers. I wanted to recreate that experience in this dish. I halved and cleaned the onions and pepper first, and used the same knife to make thin strips of each.
Caramelizing your onions
To get the nice soft flavorful caramelization, I like to start off pan frying the onions in oil or fat to get some colour, crisp, and some flavour. I then finish them off with a quick water fry.
Caramelization can take a very long time to do properly, but a quick water fry seems to speed things along and give consistent results.
For low carb Philly Cheesesteak ‘Pasta’ you can add the thinly sliced green peppers to the pan with you onions to go along for the ride, that way both the onions and the green peppers with get develop some nice colour and flavour.
How I caramelize onions quickly and consistently (Oil and Water fried onions)
- Slice onions into thick rings or half circles, at least 1/4″ [6.5 mm] thick
- Heat oil or animal fat in a skillet on medium heat, bacon fat is particularly good
- Add onions and salt well, salt draws out the water and adds great flavour
- Onions should be lightly sizzling, cook onions for 5-10 minutes until translucent and starting to brown, don’t let them burn or crisp too much, add oil as needed
- Cook until onions are golden brown all over but not crispy, they should be limp and soft.
- Add 1-2 tablespoons of water to water fry onions. Fry until water is mostly gone, this breaks down the onions and speeds up the process
- The whole process can take anywhere from 15-25 minutes depending on your onion, how much, and how you like them done. Give them a taste along the way and see, they’re delicious.
Instead of a traditional cream sauce found on other pasta, this low carb cheesesteak sauce is just bursting with rich melty, and gooey cheese just like a traditional cheesesteak. A few slices of red chili, or chili flakes adds a nice kick that makes this sauce really pop.
Cheese sauces can take a bit of patience and attention. It only takes a few seconds for them to turn from a nice creamy thick sauce, to a chunky oily mess. This is called splitting, and its when the fat from the dairy separates to the top under high heat and the rest kind of coagulates together. It still tastes good but it’s not what we are going for.
To avoid this you bring the cream to a bubbling simmer, and slowly add each of the cheeses while stirring the mixture. This allows the cheeses to slowly melt into the sauce and give you that smooth velvety texture.
If your sauce does start to split don’t panic! You can add some more cream a bit at a time (keep stirring!) to try and bring it back, no guarantees though. On the bright side it will still taste good!
If your cream reduces too much before you add the cheese you can add a few tablespoons of water or beef stock to bring it back.
If you have a spiralizer like myself, you can go ahead and create your favourite alternative noodle. The zoodles used here carried the sauce really well and if you like the taste of zucchini its really nice in this dish. Store bought or frozen zucchini noodles could also be used.
How to cook zoodles
I prefer to leave the zoodles raw and let the heat of the sauce soften them for a few minutes. If you want to cook them, lightly fry them in butter or oil for a minute or two. I do not recommend boiling them.
I talk about preparing zucchini noodles a little more detail in the Low Carb Spaghetti & Giant Italian Meatballs recipe, which, if I must say so myself, is yet another scrumptious low carb pasta recipe to add to your repertoire.
Thinly sliced fried cabbage makes a great “noodle” for this or any low carb pasta. I highly recommend savoy cabbage for making low carb noodles. Like we did in the Sour Cream and Onion ‘Pasta recipe, slice the leaves into strips the size of linguine and soften in a pan with some butter.
What we are really after here is a vehicle to shovel the amazing sauce into our mouths so be creative.
Cooking for Carb Eaters?
Speaking of linguine, once upon a time before the girlfriend also adopted a low carb lifestyle, I used to make dishes like this all the time. The sauce is universal, it is just the sauce vehicle you need to change up. A small batch of zucchini noodles for me and a small batch or traditional dry pasta for her. This is great for families of mixed eaters, or the home cook looking to cut out carbs, because you don’t have to make two separate meals.
Time To Dive In!
It’s time to get the everyone on the plate and get them acquainted.
Coat a bed of fresh zucchini noodles with your zesty cheese sauce and layer on your meat and veg. Garnish with fresh parsley, chopped scallions, and chopped red chilies to add bright flavours, and a touch of texture.
That’s it, dive in!
I hope you enjoy this low carb pasta recipe based on the classic Philly Cheesesteak sandwich, I know we did.
If you did to then consider sharing this recipe with others who may enjoy it as well. It helps me, and it helps them.
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Low Carb Philly Cheesesteak 'Pasta' with zoodles
- Spiralizer (optional)
- Cutting board
- Frying Pan
- Sauce Pan
- Stirring Spoon
- 12 oz (340g) beef, ribeye cut into thin strips
- 1 medium (120g) onion cut into strips
- 1 medium (120g) green pepper cut into strips
- 2 cloves (10g) garlic minced
- 2 tbsp (30g) oil/butter/ghee for cooking
- 2 medium (550g) zucchini 6-7 inches long, spiralized into zoodles or store bought
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup (240g) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (120g) chicken/beef broth
- 6 tbsp (75g) cream cheese cut into small chunks
- 3/4 cup (100g) mozzarella cheese grated
- 1/2 tsp red chili flakes
- salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp (20g) hot chili diced
- 3 tbsp (10g) parsley, fresh chopped
- 1 stalk (10g) scallion chopped
Low Carb Zucchini Pasta
- Thinly slice beef in 2-3" long strips and season with salt and pepper - see note for tips
- Heat oil/butter/ghee in fry pan on medium-high heat and brown beef strips. Remove cooked beef from the pan and set aside for later
- Add sliced onions, green pepper, and garlic to same pan and fry for 10-15 minutes or until onions are nicely caramelized. Stir occasionally to cook evenly and add water or oil as needed to prevent sticking and burning. Season to taste
- If using fresh zucchini, use a spiralizer to make zoodles
Zesty Low Carb Cheesesteak Sauce
- In a sauce pan, heat the heavy cream and broth until bubbling
- Continuously stirring, slowly add chunks of cream cheese until it melts into the sauce. Repeat for grated mozzarella cheese. Add slowly and keep stirring. - See note for tips
- Add red chili flakes and let simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until thick and velvety smooth, season to taste
- Arrange uncooked zucchini noodles on a plate, add sauce, meat, veg, and desired toppings. After a minute or so the sauce will soften the zoodles
- Placing the meat in the freezer for 20 minutes will make it easier to make nice thin slices
- Keep the sauce moving and add cheeses slowly to get a nice smooth velvety cheese sauce
- If your sauce splits add more cream and stir on low heat
- You can use any noodles you like for this, you could even make traditional pasta for the rest of the family
- Cheeses other than mozzarella may be used as well