Cold peanut noodle salad is popping with the flavors of peanut butter, tamari, and brown rice vinegar. With plenty of crisp, cool vegetables & a handful of nuts, you get a complete meal in one bowl.
Top with cubed tofu or vegan chick’n strips for an additional satiating punch of protein. Vegan & gluten-free optional.
Everyone comes out in droves with picnic baskets, lawn chairs, and blankets. There’s a festive feeling to the air that you only get with flip-flops, vacations, and lazy days in the sun.
I tend to be in more of the bottle of wine and easy picnic food camp. Lots of bold tastes but in a laid-back form.
Today I’m sharing a dish that is a go-to of mine for such an occasion – cold peanut noodle salad. It’s a complete meal in a bowl.
Not only is it handy for outdoor concerts in the park, it’s also great for picnics and cookouts.
If you’re a person who meal preps, this peanut butter noodle salad keeps well in the refrigerator to pull from for quick & easy lunches. (If it gets dried out, add a small splash of water, tamari, rice vinegar, and/or sriracha.)
Cold peanut noodle salad is also one that I like to throw in the cooler for road-trips, as I did recently on a trip to Michigan. (More on that in a future post!)
What type of noodles should I use?
Usually recipes for a cold noodle salad like this one use long noodles like linguine, spaghetti, or long rice noodles. However, I prefer to use a shorter pasta for my cold noodle salads – like fusilli or penne.
It’s a lot easier to scoop short noodles from a bowl at potlucks & picnics, when there may be a lot of people pulling from it, including kids. Long noodles have a way of wrapping up in themselves and sticking together.
And it can be hard to take just the amount that you want. But short noodles are easy to scoop.
Of course, if you’d prefer to use long noodles instead, go for it!
What kind of peanut butter should I use for the sauce?
I always prefer crunchy peanut butter to smooth. I like having that extra crunch in the bites. But obviously a creamy peanut butter is going to give you a smoother sauce. So really, there’s no wrong answer here.
The only thing is to be sure to use a natural peanut butter that only has one or two ingredients – peanuts and salt. Some more mainstream peanut butters add a bunch of sugar, which can throw off the taste of the dressing.
I’m not keen on added sweetener in my sauce. But if you like it sweeter, you can add a drizzle of maple or agave syrup without the peanut butter itself going overboard.
How to make this pasta salad
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain & set aside to cool for a couple minutes.
While the pasta is cooking & cooling, put all of your sliced vegetables into one large mixing bowl – thinly sliced radishes, carrot, yellow onion, ripe bell pepper, minced garlic, and cilantro.
In another smaller bowl, make the peanut sauce.
Combine peanut butter, tamari, brown rice vinegar, water, sriracha, and sesame oil. Use a fork or whisk to fully combine everything.
The peanut sauce should have the texture of a thick ranch dressing.
Peanut butters vary in their viscosity. So if your sauce is too watery, add another Tablespoon of peanut butter, and incorporate it with the dressing.
Add the pasta to the mixing bowl with the vegetables. Pour on the peanut sauce, and combine everything with a large spoon.
Add a handful of peanuts – whole or coarsely chopped.
Serve right away or put it into the refrigerator in a covered container to serve later.
Make it your own
Make cold peanut butter noodle salad your own by switching up the recipe in the following ways:
- Use your preferred type of noodle – including rice noodles or spiralized vegetables for a gluten-free option.
- Use a different type of nut butter like cashew, almond, or pistachio. Then top the noodles with the same type of nut or sesame seeds.
- Add a small drizzle of maple or agave syrup into the sauce for a little sweetness.
- Add about a teaspoon of freshly zested ginger.
- Replace any of the vegetables with equal amounts of shredded cabbage, edamame, sliced green onions, sugar snap peas, or broccoli cut into thin matchsticks.
- Top with cubed teriyaki-style tofu or vegan chick’n strips.
Cold peanut noodle salad
- 8 ounces whole wheat fusilli pasta or penne
- 4 radishes thinly sliced
- 2 small carrots thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 6 to 7 Tablespoons peanut butter natural
- 2 Tablespoons tamari
- 2 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon sriracha or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
- Handful peanuts whole or coarsely chopped
- Cubed baked tofu or vegan chick'n strips Optional toppings
- Cook whole wheat fusilli pasta or penne according to package instructions. Drain & allow the noodles to cool for a few minutes.
- While the noodles are cooking & cooling, make the rest of the salad. Put the radishes, carrots, chopped yellow onion, bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro into a big mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In another bowl, combine 6 Tablespoons peanut butter, tamari, brown rice vinegar, water, sriracha, and sesame oil with a fork or whisk. The sauce should have the texture of a thick ranch dressing. Peanut butters vary in their viscosity. So if your sauce is too thin, add the remaining Tablespoon of peanut butter, and fully combine it with the sauce.
- Put the noodles into the mixing bowl with the vegetables. Top the noodles and vegetables with the peanut sauce, using a serving spoon to get everything fully combined. Top with a handful of peanuts. Serve right away or put it into the refrigerator in a covered container until serving time. Stir the peanut noodle salad before serving, and top with cubed baked tofu or vegan chick'n strips (optional).
Prefer something warm?
Check out this recipe for peanut butter noodles with fried hoisin tofu. It’s made with chunky udon noodles.