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Peanut Noodle Salad (With Easy Tofu)

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When you’re looking for a dish that combines health and indulgence, refreshing exotic flavors with ones from home, pasta and peanut butter (yup, that one)… well, peanut noodle salad might be your answer. 

What Is Peanut Noodle Salad?

Originating from the vibrant street food scene of Thailand, peanut noodle salad–Yum Woon Sen–has gained popularity worldwide. Originally made with glass noodles, many chefs have adapted it with linguine, plus carrots, cabbage, and a creamy yet tangy peanut butter, lime and ginger sauce. Spicy optional.

The sauce is a uniquely delicious balance of sweetness and tang. And balance is a consistent element here, as soft noodles contrast crunchy veggies. My favorite peanut noodle salad recipe includes carrots, cabbage and scallions, but there are some other options. 

Peanut Noodle Salad Recipe Ingredients 

Not going to lie, when I see a recipe with a laundry list of ingredients, something about me pulls away. I can’t help it. I’m a busy lady with lots to prioritize, and when I get the feeling that I’m going to be in the kitchen for a very long time, I kind of cringe. 

Now obviously, I love cooking. I’ve been doing it a long time. I happen to think I’m pretty good at it, even. BUT. I still don’t like slaving away all day over the oven. 

So I try to make my own recipes quick and easy.

What I’m trying to say is, please don’t shudder when you see the ingredient list. It is honestly an easy recipe, suitable for pros and beginners alike. I’ve made it so that you can make the sauce for the noodles and the tofu AT THE SAME TIME, in the same container. So all you really have to do is blend the parts together while you’re boiling some pasta, bake some tofu, buy pre-shredded veggies, and throw it all together at the end. 

No. Big. Deal. 

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So here are the required basics:

Linguine, tofu, carrots, red cabbage and scallions. Plus for the sauce, you’ll need peanut butter, orange, lime, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce (I use coconut aminos, but anything like that works). Some kind of sweetener is nice, too. I use maple syrup. And though you could skip cilantro, I absolutely love the flavor it adds. Same goes for sesame seeds (optional, but really nice).

That’s it. Not so long after all.

Many recipes call for red bell pepper. And sure, it’s a flavorful addition. A decidedly distinctive flavor. Don't get me wrong. I love red bell pepper. But I personally think the salad stands on its own well enough. Maybe I’m a purist about it. I just want that peanut sauce to really shine!

Many cooks also add jalapeno, which is another perfectly viable and delicious option. Again, personally, I leave it out because I’m not huge on spicy foods and it tastes delicious to me with or without (not my man though–he douses it in a garlicky hot sauce). 

I don’t want the ingredients to be completely bare-bones or anything, but I also don’t want them to overpower one another. 

The last thing I’ll mention here is cucumber. Cucumber may be one of my all-time favorite ingredients for anything. It’s so light, so refreshing, so juicy… but. BUT. It does not last as well in the fridge, particularly in the form of salad. And when I make this salad, I like to double the recipe for the week’s meal prep. 

The only exception I’d make for this, since I deeply love cucumber, is if you’re making a small batch and eating it the day of. Or if you’re making a large batch for a party or something. I don’t include this in the recipe, but I would grate about half a cucumber, squeeze the liquid out with a cheesecloth, and add it along with the other veggies if it wasn't going to hang out in the fridge more than a day or two.

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Peanut Noodle Salad Recipe Health Benefits

Not only is this peanut noodle salad a flavor-packed delight, it's also packed with nutritional goodness. Let's break down some of the health benefits of the key ingredients (alphabetically, since there are so many good ones!):

Cabbage: This hearty cruciferous vegetable is naturally detoxing, helping to move things along efficiently in your liver. They are high in flavanoids called anthocyanins, antioxidants that likely reduce blood pressure and heart disease, while also protecting your brain.

Carrots: Everyone’s heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but did you also know they have antioxidants that can prevent cancer? Lycopene is one such antioxidant, as is beta-carotene. Carrots are also super hydrating with their high water volume, and keep you full on fiber which feeds the good guys in your gut. 

Cilantro: Ever hear that you should eat cilantro with fish? That's because it's one of the few foods that has been suggested to naturally bind with heavy metals like mercury, helping to detox it from your body. If that's not enough for you, cilantro is not only packed with vitamins, but has been linked in multiple studies to protecting brain health.

Ginger: A superstar at moving along digestion, ginger helps with nausea, constipation, heartburn and emptying the stomach in general. It is studied and used medicinally for its loads of health benefits from being very anti-inflammatory to reducing blood sugar, heart disease and cancer risk.

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Garlic: You can smell the benefits on this one! Societies around the globe have been using garlic medicinally for ages, and for good reason. Much like the onion, it lowers blood pressure, is packed with nutrients, and some studies show it can even prevent and lessen symptoms of the common cold!

Lime: Much like their sister lemons, limes are high in vitamin C, which can protect you from sickness and inflammation. Though acidic on your tongue, these tart fruits are alkaline in your body. Lime consumption also helps prevent kidney stones and can potentionally reduce your risk of stroke.

Maple Syrup: Surprisingly high in calcium, potassium and magnesium, maple syrup also has antioxidants to keep you looking and feeling young. Though it is comparable in sugar to other sweeteners, being in its natural form it provides way more nutrition than processed refined sugar. 

Oranges: Natural compounds in citrus fruit known as liminoids have been proven to protect against a variety of cancers. Known for their immune boosting vitamin C content, oranges are also high in flavonoids that lower inflammation and blood pressure. 

Peanut Butter: A great way to get in your healthy fat, peanut butter is what turns a snack into a filling meal. The fat and protein help protect your blood sugar from spiking when you eat fruit. Peanut butter offers a healthy dose of B vitamins to keep your skin, hair and nails looking beautiful (and your mood nice, as b6 is a go-to hormone-balancer). 

Tofu: The heart-healthy soybean curd has been applauded for its health benefits for centuries. Tofu is high in protein, making it a perfect meat substitute, and high in calcium, making it a perfect dairy substitute. It’s dense with minerals and vitamins, super filling and safe to be eaten daily. 

Scallions: Also known as green onions or spring onions, scallions are not only a delicious flavor to add to any dish. They are high in vitamin A, C and K and, like all onions, contain compounds that are antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. They even have minerals like iron, calcium and copper.

How To Make Peanut Noodle Salad

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare the noodles:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add half a box of noodles (half a pound) and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. (This is a COLD dish!) Set aside.

Prepare tofu and veggies:

  • While the water is boiling/noodles are cooking, get out a 16oz square of tofu and pat it dry. If you want your tofu extra firm, place the whole tofu square between two plates and let the weight of the top plate drain it for about ten minutes. You could also skip this step. 
  • Chop tofu into equal bite-sized squares by starting from the center, both length- and width-wise. Spray or oil a baking sheet, then place the tofu on it. 
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  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the carrots and cabbage. (I buy these pre-packaged and shredded so it’s no extra work to grate.) Chop cilantro and scallions, and add to the bowl. Measurements for the veggies don’t have to be EXACT, but use about 3-4 cups of carrots and cabbage (combined), even 5 would be fine. I use about a ½ cup of chopped cilantro and a ¼ cup scallions.

Make the tofu AND peanut sauce:

  • We’re going to do this all in one, and all in a blender! First, add to your blender (I use a Nutribullet cup for this), 8 thin slices of ginger, 4 cloves of garlic, ⅓ cup sesame oil and ½ cup coconut aminos or other liquid aminos/soy sauce. Blend.
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  • Pour out ⅓ cup from the blender and use it to coat the tofu right on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 minutes. If you want the tofu a bit more crispy, you can broil for an additional 5 minutes at the end. 
  • While the tofu is baking, let’s finish the peanut sauce. Add to the remaining sauce (still in the blender) ½ cup peanut butter, ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, ¼ cup fresh-squeezed lime juice, ¼ cup maple syrup and ½ teaspoon salt. 

Assemble the salad:

  • Add the cooked noodles to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and vegetables, and toss everything together until well-coated.
  • At this point you can gently stir in the tofu or keep it separate and just top the salads individually with about ½ cup each of tofu as you serve. 
  • Garnish with peanuts.
  • Store in the fridge for 3-5 days.
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Looking For More Delicious Tofu Recipes?

Try this easy tofu and broccoli stir fry with a quick and delicious homemade teriyaki sauce. It's healthy and surprisingly simple. Not to mention, good! So good, in fact, you'll think it's takeout night.

View Tofu and Broccoli Stir Fry

Love A Quick, Healthy and Oh-So-Yummy Dessert?

Try this strawberry banana peanut butter smoothie. It's the fastest you'll ever make an after-dinner treat. Just use a really ripe banana so it's extra sweet. So classic, so tasty.

View Strawberry Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

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Ratings 5 from 2 votes
Difficulty Intermediate
Time
Prep Time: 5 mins Cook Time: 25 mins Total Time: 30 mins
Servings 5
Description

This peanut noodle salad with tofu is an indulgent yet super healthy dish to spice up any table. It can be served as a main or a side, and stores for several days for yummy meal prep. 

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces linguine noodles
  • 1 16oz package tofu
  • cooking spray or oil
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (see notes)
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (about half a big bunch, but feel free to use as much as you'd like)
  • 1/4 cup scallions (about half a bunch of scallions)
  • 8 thin slices ginger (about a1-2 inch knob)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (1 orange)
  • 1/4 cup lime juice (1-2 limes)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup peanuts (optional topping)
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. (This is a COLD dish!) Set aside.

  2. While the water is boiling/noodles are cooking, get out a 16oz square of tofu and pat it dry. If you want your tofu extra firm, place the whole tofu square between two plates and let the weight of the top plate drain it for about ten minutes. You could also skip this step. 

  3. Chop tofu into equal bite-sized squares by starting from the center, both length- and width-wise. Spray or oil a baking sheet, then place the tofu on it. 

  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pre-shredded carrots and cabbage. Chop cilantro and scallions, and add to the bowl. 

  5. Add to your blender ginger, garlic, sesame oil and coconut aminos or other liquid aminos/soy sauce. Blend.

  6. Pour out ⅓ cup from the blender and use it to coat the tofu right on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 25 minutes. If you want the tofu a bit more crispy, you can broil for an additional 5 minutes at the end. 

  7. While the tofu is baking, finish the peanut sauce. Add to the remaining sauce (still in the blender) peanut butter, orange juice, lime juice, maple syrup and salt. 

  8. Add the cold noodles to the bowl with the vegetables. Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and vegetables, and toss everything together until well-coated. Gently stir in the tofu or keep it separate and top the salads individually with about ½ cup each of tofu as you serve. 

  9. Garnish with peanuts. 

  10. Store in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Note

Measurements for the veggies don’t have to be EXACT, but use about 3-4 cups of carrots and cabbage (combined), even 5 would be fine. I use about a ½ cup of chopped cilantro and a ¼ cup scallions.

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