Did you grow up eating peanut or sesame noodles from a local Chinese restaurant? If so, you’ll love making this dish fresh at home. These Cold Takeout-Style Noodles with Peanut Sauce are a picnic favorite or something to serve with Asian-inspired stir fries, ribs or chicken.

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Like most people right now, I’ve been thinking about pantry-friendly recipes.   These spicy peanut noodles can be made with what is in most kitchen cupboards. For many of the ingredients, I have suggested an alternative. Switch out thick spaghetti for the Asian noodles. Sesame oil adds that nutty and smoky undertone associated with Chinese cooking.  But you can make the sauce without it. A toasted nut oil would be a flavorful substitute. Chili-garlic paste may not be in every cupboard but Sriracha might be.  It’s sold in every grocery store where we live.

Here is the prep laid out before mixing.  If you make the salad ahead, I have a tip. Add only half of the sauce to the spaghetti because it will absorb the flavors while it sits. Then add the vegetables. Refrigerate the cold noodles until ready to serve. Right before serving, add as much of the remaining sauce as you need to bring out all of the flavors.

Cood takeout style noodle prep

You could add finely shredded cabbage, bok choy or spinach to these Cold Takeout-Style Noodles with Peanut Sauce Finely diced red or yellow bell peppers would add color and flavor.  Or peeled cucumber cut into fine 1-inch long strips. Just make sure there is enough sauce. In other words, if you double the volume of the salad, you might need to make a double batch of sauce.

Kitchen Notebook

Numerous trips to A Dong Supermarket, the Vietnamese grocery in West Hartford, Connecticut, have packed out cupboards with cellophane noodles, prawn crackers,  tamarind paste and fish sauce. But we don’t have any square noodles. These are sold fresh or dried and what would be used for this dish. A Dong market continues to serve its customers. If you are in the area, consider shopping there for something.

Cold Takeout-Style Noodles with Peanut Sauce

Yield: 4 – 6 servings, approximately 12 ounces sauce

Cold Takeout-Style Noodles with Peanut Sauce


Spicy Peanut Sauce:

1 tablespoon peanut butter, smooth or chunky

1 tablespoon sugar*

3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or white vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil**, peanut or olive oil

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste or Sriracha* to taste OR ½ teaspoon hot chili flakes

* Eliminate or reduce the sugar to ½ teaspoon, if you use Sriracha.

Noodle Salad:

½ pound thick spaghetti

Sesame oil

salt and pepper, to taste

½ cup cilantro or parsley leaves

2-3 scallions, trimmed and cut into thin 1-inch long strips

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into thin 1-inch long strips

chopped roasted peanuts, optional

sesame seeds, optional

** If you do not have sesame oil but you do have tahini, simply add a tablespoon of tahini to the sauce.


  1. To make the Spicy Peanut Sauce: Whisk together the peanut butter, sugar, soy sauce and vinegar in a small bowl. Stir in the garlic, ginger and chili paste.
  2. To make the cold needles: Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water until just cooked yet still somewhat chewy. Drain the spaghetti in a colander set over a bowl. Reserve the liquid. Rinse the spaghetti under cold running water. Drain well and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Toss the cooked spaghetti with some sesame or peanut oil.
  4. Stir in half of the Spicy Peanut Sauce. Using serving tongs or two forks, lift and fold over the spaghetti until it is well coated. If the noodles seem dry, add a few tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten them. Check the seasoning adding more of the reserved Spicy Peanut Sauce and salt and pepper as needed.
  5. Add the cilantro, scallions and carrot, lifting and folding over the spaghetti until well distributed. Serve garnished with chopped peanuts and sesame seeds, if using.


Make Ahead Notes: When making the sauce ahead, add half of the peanut sauce to the cooked spaghetti. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving add as much of the remaining sauce as needed. Then stir in the cilantro and vegetables before serving.