This simple Cold Noodle Salad is an easy Asian-Inspired dish filled with fresh vegetables tossed in a sesame soy dressing. It is light, refreshing, and super simple to make.
This delicious cold noodle salad is perfect for potlucks and picnics as it travels well, can be served at room temperature or cold, and everyone loves it! It also makes a light lunch on its own or a tasty side dish for entrees like Grilled Teriyaki Chicken.
Cold Noodle Salad
I grew up eating a noodle salad made with cold noodles, vegetables, and a dressing made from a packet of ramen seasoning.
It was delicious, but high in sodium in preservatives.
My updated version of this Asian-Inspired Noodle Salad is made with tons of veggies, whole wheat noodles for a boost of fiber and whole grains, and a homemade Sesame Dressing--no seasoning packets required.
But most importantly my recipe tastes a MILLION times better and happens to be better for you. Win-win!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
Not only is this cold noodle salad good for you and delicious, it also has many other features that makes it a staple dish.
- Perfect for outdoor events. No mayonnaise in this pasta salad so can sit out at room temperature safely for hours.
- Perfect for any season. The vegetables used are easy to find year-round and can be swapped out for seasonal veggies if desired.
- Kid-friendly. Seriously, the kids gobble this up and any veggie-heavy dish kids love works for me!
- Make a great meatless meal. The whole wheat noodles are filled with fiber and a good dose of protein, making this vegetarian dish filling enough to be served as an entree.
- Travels Well. This noodle salad can be served cold or room temperature, so it transports easily. In fact, I often pack or my kids' lunches.
Notes on Ingredients
- Noodles: Classically, spaghetti noodles are the noodle of choice. I opt for whole wheat noodles for a boost of fiber and whole grains, but regular noodles work as well. I have also tried this noodle salad using Barilla Gluten-Free Spaghetti noodles and have had great results.
- Vegetables: Let your palate and produce drawer guide you! You can use peppers, green onions, fresh broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, steamed edamame, shredded cabbage, and even grape tomatoes.
- Sesame Dressing: This dressing is made with basic pantry staples. For best results, use reduced sodium-soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Feel free to use honey in place of brown sugar.
- Whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and sesame oil.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water.
- Once cook time is done, drain pasta, but do not rinse.
- After draining the pasta, immediately toss the noodles with the sesame dressing--this allows the warm noodles to soak up the dressing then add your vegetables.
- Allow the noodles to cool slightly, and then toss with the vegetables.
- You can serve this pasta immediately, and have a contrast of warm and cold flavors. But classically, a Cold Asian Noodle Salad is, just like name implies, served cold. I suggest refrigerating for a couple hours or overnight and let the flavors marry and deepen in flavor before serving.
You can store Noodle Salad in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. If serving at room temperature, do not leave unrefrigerated longer than 3 hours.
I don't recommend using vegetables cooked from frozen, with the exception of edamame. However, if your family prefers softer, or crisp-tender vegetables over raw vegetables, add vegetables like broccoli and sugar snap peas to the boiling pasta water for the last 3 minutes that the pasta cooks.
Warm pasta will absorb whatever it is tossed with. If you rinse with water, then it will lack flavor. By tossing your pasta with the sesame dressing, the pasta will have flavor. If you have ever had a bland pasta salad, my guess is they rinsed the pasta with water. That dooms pasta salads from the start.
If your noodles are a bit dry, mix together 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce together and toss with the pasta salad to moisten it up.
Yes! Use gluten-free pasta and gluten-free soy sauce, or Tamari, in the dressing.
The sesame oil gives this Noodle Salad so much flavor, so I don't recommend replacing it. Just be sure to store unused sesame oil in the fridge to keep it from going rancid.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
If you enjoyed this Cold Noodle Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and rating below.
Asian-Inspired Noodle Salad
For the Noodles
- 8 ounces spaghetti noodles I use whole wheat
- 3 cups fresh broccoli florets chopped
- 1 cup yellow pepper slices
- ½ bunch green onions sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds optional
For the Sesame Dressing
- ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, and garlic together. Set aside.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions and then drain. DO NOT RINSE!
- Toss pasta with sesame dressing and allow to cool slightly while you chop and prepare the vegetables, about 10 minutes.
- Add the vegetables to the noodles and toss to combine. Top with sesame seeds and toss again to distribute.
- While you can serve immediately, the flavors are best after the pasta salad has been refrigerated for at least 1 hour, even better after 4-8 hours.
This recipe was originally published in 2018 but was updated with new photos in 2021.