It’s hot, the dog days of summer, and you’re basking in the seasonal bounty of sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes. “All I want to eat is salad,” you say to your co-workers with a wistful sigh as you spear a fork through your fourth leafy melange this week. Pasta is the last thing on your mind.

But I’m going to change what you crave with cold sesame noodles. It’s the endlessly adaptable back pocket recipe I reach for when it’s too humid to move and I have to admit to myself with a glimmer of shame that I don’t really understand the fuss around heirloom tomatoes. (Yes! I get them from the farmers market! I tried them with flaky salt!).

Why cold sesame noodles? The sauce is addictive - with a bracing glug of white vinegar, boosted by the double punch of sriracha and sambal oelek, rounded out by creamy peanut butter and accented by the savory depth of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Also, the sauce is made from pantry staples, which means it can be made on a moment’s notice.

Then there’s the garnish. Here’s where you can let your favorite veggies shine. I favor slices of cucumber, but almost anything will do. Use what you have on hand! Add a protein! Don’t add a protein! Noodles? Similarly flexible! I like a thin wheat noodle, but buckwheat soba, wide rice noodles, or even spaghetti would work fine.

All of the elements are easily assembled in advance for maximum meal prep success, but they also come together quickly for a satisfying weeknight meal.

Emily Balk

Cold Sesame Noodles


For the sauce:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (natural not recommended)
  • 6 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup white vinegar (rice vinegar, white wine or red wine vinegar can also be used)
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

For the noodles:

  • 1 package long noodles of choice (lo mein noodles, soba noodles, rice noodles, spaghetti)
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame oil

Suggested toppings:

  • Thinly sliced cucumbers
  • Julienned carrots
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Minced scallion
  • Shredded cooked chicken
  • Cooked shrimp
  • Cooked broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Edamame
  • Toasted sesame seeds


Cook noodles according to package. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water to stop the cooking. Put noodles in a large bowl if using immediately or in a large food storage container for meal prep and toss cooled noodles with a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame oil to prevent noodles from sticking to each other. Cover with plastic wrap if using a bowl or the container lid if using a storage container and place noodles in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Add peanut butter to a large bowl. Mix in the rest of the sauce ingredients a little bit at a time until homogenous.

When ready to serve, toss noodles with desired amount of sauce. Add toppings of choice.