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Thai-Inspired Peanut Noodle Salad

Thai-Inspired Peanut Noodle Salad

Pasta salad is a staple food in the summer. This type of dish is easy to make, can always be made ahead and there are an almost infinite number of variations out there for it. It’s great to take to a barbecue or picnic, but because they keep for a couple of days are served cold, they’re also something that you can keep in the fridge at home and have for lunch without much additional fuss.

The salads always start with cooked pasta, to which a variety of veggies and sometimes meats are added. The whole mixture is tossed in a usually mayonnaise-based sauce and chilled before serving. I didn’t want to go with this traditional route for a pasta salad this summer and took inspiration from a pack of Thai rice stick noodles – the same type of noodles used in dishes like pad thai – and made a lovely dressing using some of my favorite asian/Thai flavors.

The dressing for this salad is mostly made with soy sauce and peanut butter, with some honey thrown in to sweeten things up and take a bit of the edge off of all that salt. Creamy and chunky peanut butter both work really well here, although using crunchy will guarantee you a bit of extra texture from chopped peanuts. Supporting flavors are sesame oil, ginger and garlic. I used all kinds of vegetables in here and have also made the salad non-vegetarian by including thin slices of cooked tri-tip steal; the base recipe is vegan. From start to finish, it only took me the time that I needed to boil water and cook the noodles!

Thai-Inspired Peanut Noodle Salad
1 package (12-oz) Thai rice stick noodles
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup peanut butter
2-3 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 1/2 tsp minced fresh garlic)
1/4-1/2 tsp chili oil
1 cup broccoli florets, raw or steamed
1 cup thinly sliced red bell peppers
1 cup sliced and seeded cucumber
1/2 cup chopped scallions
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles according to package directions, or until tender (6-10 minutes). Drain noodles and rise with cold water. Drain again and transfer to a large serving bowl.
While noodles are cooking, whisk together soy sauce, peanut butter, honey, ginger, garlic and chili oil (can substitute red pepper flakes, or use them in addition) until smooth. Adjust amounts of chili oil and honey to taste.
Toss veggies and sauce with the noodles until everything is evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve, at least 1 hour. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.

Serves 4-6 as a main or 8 as a side.

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  • Chris
    July 1, 2008

    Looks delicious! I’ve never actually made Asian food, although I often enjoy it, and maybe this will be my first foray into the world of Asian cuisine. Do you know if other nut butters can be substituted for peanut butter (e.g., almond butter)?

  • Nicole
    July 2, 2008

    Other nut butters will definitely work out here, like almond or cashew, but I think that peanut butter will give it the most Thai-flavor, since peanut sauces are quite common in Thai food. Feel free to play around with it!

    Also, if anyone was wondering, both “natural” and regular peanut butters will work in this recipe.

  • Liz
    July 2, 2008

    This looks absolutely fantastic! I’ll definitely have to try it out.

    Also, just a note – I noticed you tagged this one as vegan, but many vegans don’t eat honey. Any suggestions for a substitute?

  • Nicole
    July 2, 2008

    Liz – You can easily use agave or brown rice syrup in this recipe instead. I’ve actually made the sauce with agave and it works out very well. Should have made a note of it before! Thanks.

  • Bridget
    July 10, 2008

    Thank you for this recipe! I made it tonight and it was very tasty! A great way to work in a few veggies, too! Thank you! 🙂

  • banji
    September 12, 2008

    This recipe is great! Even though my friends aren’t vegan, they love any asian noodle dish I give em, especially this one! Here’s another asian dish from wailana.com in case you are interested! Thanks Nicole so much for all your awesome recipes!

    1/2 lb. uncooked fettuccini or any flat noodles
    1/2 cup green onion, finely sliced
    1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
    1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
    2 Tbsp. raw sugar or granulated fructose
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. black pepper
    2 cups green cabbage, shredded
    1 cup tomato, cubed
    Carrot slivers (optional)

    1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Rinse in cold running water and set aside to drain well.

    2. In a small bowl combine the green onion, vinegars, oil, sugar, salt, and pepper.

    3. In a large bowl mix the vegetables together. Add the noodles and the vinegar mixture and toss well to combine. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

    Serves 6

  • Lesley Huntley
    October 3, 2008

    Thank you so much for this recipe, it sounds fantastic. I read a book recently about how there is a distinct correlation between Alzheimer’s and the increase in our consumption of red meat. They pump chicken full of hormones as well, so unless you can afford organic meat, humans really need to cut down on their meat consumption. I can’t wait to try this recipe!

  • Merleon_C
    November 24, 2008

    Wow this recipe sounds delicious! I have been vegan for eight years and I love Thai food. I am always looking for more variations and this looks perfect. I can’t wait to try it!

  • asian recipes
    February 20, 2009

    I have tried this in the weekend and it taste marvelous! thanks for sharing.

  • cannesjas
    April 13, 2009

    I tried this pasta dish tonight. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing. Love, love, love Thai food. can’t wait to mix it up from time to time. Great new summer staple for me.

  • Deborah
    October 15, 2012

    This salad looks great, however the rice stick noodles in the store are very thin and look nothing like the noodles in your picture. Is there a thicker type of rice stick noodles that you used?

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