Sesame Noodle Salad

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Great warm or cold, Sesame Noodle Salad features springy noodles in a creamy, savory, peanut sauce. These flavorful noodles are better than take-out and can be made ahead as meal prep or to serve as a side dish at your next potluck. 

Sesame Noodle Salad in a clear bowl with salad spoons

Last week was absolute chaos at our house – starting with the discovery that our basement was filling with water from what, we discovered, was the pipe running from our kitchen sink and all the way under the basement floor. The cast iron pipe had completely collapsed. If you’ve ever had this happen (and I’m told that many people have), you know that it was a messy, loud, and expensive problem to fix. And we were without a working kitchen sink for almost a week and a half which, around here, is a rather significant problem. 

As we all have to do when life throws us those proverbial lemons, we muddled through. There were more take-out orders than usual, more than one meal of Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, and quite a few big batches of chilled salads we could serve for lunch or dinner. This Sesame Noodle Salad was a clear winner for all five members of our family, as I hope it will be for yours. My kids loved the peanut flavor in the rich sauce, and I loved that it was easy to “sneak” some vegetables in alongside the noodles.

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cabbage, carrots and green onions on a white plate on a white table

It’s worth noting too, that Sesame Noodle Salad is potluck perfection. If you’re looking for something different to set out and serve, this is unexpected but holds up great to making ahead and serving at any temperature. 

Here’s how to make it. 

Ingredients for Sesame Noodle Salad

  • Spaghetti – Spaghetti noodles hold up well to the rich sauce and vegetables here. Soba noodles, ramen noodles, or udon noodles would be great too.
  • Red Cabbage – Red cabbage adds a nice color and crunch to the noodles. Green cabbage would work just fine as well.
  • Carrots – Like the cabbage, these add great texture, color, and flavor. 
  • Sesame Peanut Sauce – This creamy, savory, slightly sweet sauce is made with Asian pantry staples. See below for more details on how it’s made. 
  • Green Onions – These add some fresh herb flavor to the finished noodles. Fold them in right before serving. Cilantro would also be great. You can skip this if needed.
  • Roasted Peanuts – Buy roasted peanuts and roughly chop them to add great crunch over the finished noodle salad.
  • Chicken – Totally optional but if you want to add some protein, try this with shredded cooked chicken. Cubed and seared tofu is great on this too!

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Ingredients for Sesame Noodle Salad including noodles, peanuts, chicken, carrots, cabbage and green onions on a white table top

How to make Sesame Peanut Sauce 

This savory, slightly sweet Sesame Peanut Sauce is everything. Make it by combining soy sauce, rice vinegar, creamy peanut butter, fresh ginger, white sugar, and garlic in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave it just until the peanut butter melts, about 1 minute. Whisk in sesame oil until the sauce is smooth and creamy. 

If you like your sauce spicy, add some Sriracha or another hot sauce!

This recipe was tested with commercial (JIF) peanut butter. It will work with natural peanut butter, but those often are less sweet and salty than the commercial varieties, so taste your sauce and add some additional sugar or salt, if needed.

Sesame noodle salad in a mason jar on a white table

How to Finely Shred Cabbage and Carrots

One key feature of this noodle salad is that it gets crunch, flavor, color, and nutrition from shredded cabbage and carrots. To make the salad easy to eat, you have to make sure that the vegetables are shredded finely enough to be about the same width as the cooked spaghetti strands. That means you need to pay close attention to how you shred them.

To easily shred cabbage and carrots, use the shredder attachment on a food processor, a box grater, or a mandolin.

cabbage and carrots in a food processor

Make-Ahead Sesame Noodle Salad 

This is one of my potluck favorites because it can be easily made ahead. Combine the noodles, grated cabbage and carrots, and sauce. Store in the refrigerator for up to a day. Add the green onions and peanuts right before serving. 

Sesame Noodle Salad in a clear bowl with 2 large spoons

More Variations

  • Gluten-Free – Make this gluten-free by using gluten-free noodles (gluten-free spaghetti or soba noodles) and Tamari instead of soy sauce.
  • Add Protein – Fold in cooked chicken or seared tofu to make this a complete meal. 
  • Change the veggies – Try it with thinly sliced red bell peppers or chopped cucumbers.

Mason Jar Sesame Noodle Salad

This makes a great mason jar meal for meal prep, to pack for lunches, or just to easily serve in individual portions. Pack the jars with dressing on the bottom, then noodles, and vegetables on top. Store the peanuts on the side so they stay crunchy and just add them to the salad when you’re ready to eat it.

6 jars of sesame noodle salad on a white table

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Sesame Noodle Salad in a clear bowl
4.19 from 94 votes

Sesame Noodle Salad Recipe

Great warm or cold, Sesame Noodle Salad features springy noodles in a creamy, savory, peanut sauce. These flavorful noodles are better than take-out and can be made ahead as meal prep or to serve as a side dish at your next potluck. 
Want to adjust the size of this recipe? Click on the number next to “servings” and use the slider to scale up or down.
Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Microwave Safe Bowl
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Food Processor, Box Grater or Mandolin

Ingredients 

Sesame Peanut Sauce

  • 5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (I used regular JIF peanut butter, but natural peanut butter should work)
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil

Noodle Salad

  • 8 ounces spaghetti, uncooked (see note)
  • 4 ounces red cabbage, finely shredded (see note)
  • 4 ounces carrots, finely shredded (see note)
  • 2 stalks green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Instructions 

  • Cook pasta: Boil pasta according to package directions. (Note: Don't salt your water before cooking the noodles as the peanut sauce will add plenty of flavor and seasoning.) Drain (do not rinse). Allow pasta to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Make sauce: Combine low-sodium soy sauce, peanut butter, rice vinegar, ginger, sugar, and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, just to soften the peanut butter and heat the mixture. Remove from microwave and whisk until smooth. Stir in sesame oil.
  • Combine: Combine cooked spaghetti, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots, and sauce until evenly combined. If the sauce doesn't easily coat the noodles, add some water as you stir to thin it out. (At this point, the noodles can be refrigerated up to a day before serving.)
  • Top and serve: Just before serving, stir in green onions. Top noodles with roasted peanuts. Serve noodles warm or chilled / room temperature.

Notes

Low-Sodium Soy Sauce – If using regular soy sauce, reduce the amount you add by half and then slowly add more to-taste to prevent the sauce from becoming overly salty. 
Spaghetti – Measure the dry pasta by weight (8 oz is usually half a package of spaghetti). Many other types of noodles are great here – soba noodles, ramen noodles, or udon noodles.
Cabbage / Carrots – I think it’s worth pulling out the food processor and using the shredder attachment to shred the cabbage and carrots together. It makes quick work of shredding. You can also use a mandolin or box grater, but just make sure the vegetables are very finely shredded since they will be served raw in the salad.

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 11g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 923mg | Potassium: 333mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3408IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $4.00
Calories: 315
Keyword: easy recipe, easy salad recipe, Entree Salad, lunch, make-ahead meal, meal prep, pasta salad, potluck recipe
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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11 Comments

  1. I was looking for good meal prep options but I see at the end you mention it lasts up to a day in the fridge. Am I misunderstanding or does it actually spoil within 24 hours?

    1. Oh no – it absolutely won’t spoil. It tastes the best within the first 24 hours because after that the noodles will start to soak up the sauce and it will be a bit more dry, but it will still be delicious as long as you’re okay with this change in texture. It’s a great meal prep option!

  2. 5 stars
    I love this recipe! I added chicken and all the chopped up veggies I had in the fridge. It’s the perfect way to use up any leftovers you have. I’ll double the recipe for the dressing next time just because I added so many extra veggies and chicken. Thanks for sharing

    1. Interesting – thanks so much for the feedback. Was it the spiciness from the ginger you think? This does call for a large amount of ginger.