This Cold Noodle Salad is a simple Asian-inspired noodle salad filled with fresh vegetables and a light sesame soy dressing. It is a refreshing, flavorful, wholesome dish that is perfect for lunch, a light dinner, or potlucks.
I grew up eating a cold noodle salad made with ramen 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 Noodle Salad is made with tons of veggies 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 Asian Noodle Salad irresistibly flavorful, but it also has many other features that make 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.
- Allergy-Friendly. This Asian Noodle Salad features a tasty Sesame Soy Dressing instead of a peanut dressing, making this salad peanut-free. It is also dairy-free and can easily be made vegan-friendly.
- Travels Well. This noodle salad can be served cold or at room temperature, so it transports easily. In fact, I often pack in my kids' lunches.
Notes on Ingredients
Do not be intimidated by the list of ingredients in this Asian Noodle Salad. Most of the ingredients are for the Sesame Dressing and are likely things you already have on hand.
- Noodles: I recommend using spaghetti noodles, as they are easy to find, inexpensive, and hold up well. For a gluten-free option, I have used Barilla Gluten-Free spaghetti noodles with great results.
- Broccoli Slaw: Broccoli slaw keeps the prep work to a minimum, yet fills the salad with nutrients and texture from the crisp broccoli to the shredded carrots. Feel free to replace the bag of broccoli slaw with up to 3 cups of broccoli florets and shredded carrots.
- Bell Peppers: Select red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, not green bell peppers, as you want to add a pop of color and sweet, fresh flavor to the noodle salad.
- Green Onions: Green onions are the perfect choice to add a nice, mellow onion flavor that doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavors of the Asian Noodle Salad or the sesame dressing.
- Cilantro: Cilantro adds a bright, herby flavor to the salad, but feel free to omit it if you don't care for the herb.
- Soy-Sauce: Use reduced-sodium soy sauce to control the sodium level. Replace the soy sauce with Tamari for a gluten-free dressing if needed.
- Honey: A little bit of sweetness is needed to balance out the acidity in the noodle salad dressing. Feel free to replace the honey with maple syrup, brown sugar, or agave for similar results.
- Rice Vinegar: You must use rice vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or mirin for the best flavor. Do not substitute white vinegar or apple cider vinegar, or your Asian Noodle Salad will not have the best flavor.
- Sesame Oil: Be sure to use sesame oil that is labeled toasted sesame oil for the best flavor.
- Ginger: Use grated fresh ginger, NOT ground ginger. I keep a peeled knob of ginger in my freezer at all times. You can grate the gingerroot from frozen using a Microplane and always have it on hand for recipes.
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: Adjust or omit to control the level of heat you prefer. The small amount used in this recipe simply adds a dimension of flavor, not overwhelming heat.
- Sesame Seeds: Adding sesame seeds to the noodle salad before serving adds a nice crunch and slightly nutty flavor, but can be omitted if you don't have them on hand.
- To begin this recipe, cook the noodles in heavily salted boiling water, according to package directions.
- While the noodles are cooking, prepare the sesame soy dressing by whisking together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and honey in a small bowl.
- Once the noodles have cooked, drain the noodles in a colander over the sink. DO NOT RINSE!! Even though we are using this pasta for a cold dish, we don't want to rinse away the starch that formed on the noodles. This will help our sauce to adhere to the noodles better.
- After draining the pasta, immediately toss the noodles with the sesame dressing in a large mixing bowl. The warm noodles will soak up the dressing, making them SUPER flavorful.
- Let the noodles cool to room temperature, and then add in the broccoli slaw, peppers, onions, and cilantro and toss to coat.
- Cover the Noodle Salad and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, overnight is best, to allow the flavors to meld together.
- Right before serving, top with sesame seeds and a side of sriracha for those that crave a little heat.
Recipe Tips and Modifications
- Gluten-Free Cold Noodle Salad: To make this Asian Noodle Salad gluten-free, use gluten-free spaghetti noodles and gluten-free soy sauce or Tamari.
- Vegan Noodle Salad: Use maple syrup or agave in place of the honey in the dressing and be sure your noodles are egg-free.
- Options for Veggies: Let your palate and produce drawer guide you! I personally love to use broccoli slaw, red peppers, and green onions, for maximum flavor, texture, and nutrients. However, you can use fresh broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, steamed edamame, shredded cabbage, and even grape tomatoes in this noodle salad.
- What if my Cold Noodle Salad becomes dried out? Noodles will soak up the dressing the longer they sit. To remedy this, mix together 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar and 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and toss with your noodles to moisten as needed.
Cold Noodle Salad is a dish everyone loves. It makes a delicious side dish or hearty lunch and is perfect for potlucks and picnics as it travels well and can be served at room temperature or cold. Below are some of my favorite dishes to serve with this Asian Noodle Salad.
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If you enjoyed this Cold Noodle Salad, I would love for you to leave a comment and rating below.
Asian Noodle Salad
For the Noodle Salad
- 8 ounces spaghetti noodles
- 3 cups broccoli slaw
- 1 cup thinly sliced red or yellow bell pepper
- ½ cup sliced green onions
- ½ cup chopped cilantro optional
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds optional
For the Sesame Dressing
- ¼ cup reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey or agave, brown sugar, or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger root
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
- To prepare the dressing, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes together in a large mixing bowl. Set aside
- Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Add a large pinch of salt and pasta to the water once boiling. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Once the noodles are cooked, drain well in a colander but do not rinse the noodles.
- Add the pasta to the large bowl with the prepared dressing and toss to coat. Allow the noodles to cool slightly (10-15 minutes) before adding the vegetables.
- Add the broccoli slaw, peppers, green onions, and cilantro, if using, to the noodles and toss to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours before serving.
- Before serving, add sesame seeds.
This recipe was originally published in 2018 but was updated with new photos and a video in 2022.