Cold Noodles with Peanut or Sesame Sauce


Makes: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish or appetizer servings

Time: 30 minutes

A crowd-pleaser and an easy starter or side—or a main course on a hot day. To make it more substantial, add 1/2 cup or so of small tofu cubes or cooked soybeans. Or top each serving with a few slices of grilled, roasted, or poached chicken. The cucumber adds nice crunch and freshness to what is otherwise a pretty dense dish. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.


1 medium or 2 small cucumbers (optional)

12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles or long pasta, like linguine

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1/2 cup tahini, peanut butter, or a combination

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (optional)

1 tablespoon rice or white wine or other vinegar

Hot sesame oil or Tabasco sauce to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

At least 1/2 cup chopped scallion for garnish

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Peel the cucumbers if you’re using them, cut them in half lengthwise, and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into shreds (you can use a grater for this) and set aside.

2. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, whisk together the sesame oil and tahini, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water until it’s about the consistency of heavy cream; you will need 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Stir in the cucumber. When the pasta is done, drain it and run the pasta under cold water. Drain.

3. Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumbers. Taste and adjust the seasoning (the dish may need salt), then garnish with the scallion and serve.


Posted in Japanese, Recipes


  1. GarlicGirlBlog said...

    Oh happiness! I’m going to try this one this weekend. Thank you!

  2. Marissa Bognanno said...

    this sounds lovely!

  3. SidMILB said...

    I only had fettuccini, I wanted it hot instead of cold, and a bit more spice.So heated it, added more spice, and enjoyed it immensely. Thanks.

  4. Margaret O'Hora said...

    The sesame oil in this recipe should be optional as the peanut butter or tahini contains sufficient oil. I made the peanut butter version of the recipe without added oil and it was delicious. I highly recommend using crunchy peanut butter!

    • Marty said...

      It’s not a question of too much or too little oil; sesame oil gives a smokey flavor that’s essential to the dish, or at least the most common version.

  5. Marianne said...

    This recipe has come out perfectly every time I make it. I have a vegetarian son and this has become his go to meal. Love it, thanks!

  6. Marisol said...

    Finally!!! A recipe for cold noodles with peanut sauce that’s a little sweet and with a little depth! Tried them and the recipe was great as is. I tried making it with half the sugar, but no go. Tried half the soy sauce. Nope didn’t work. Less sesame oil–nope not that either. Ended up using all measurements as listed with great success. Yay! Can finally make the dish I always want for cheap from a restaurant but can’t find. Thank you Mr.Bittman!

  7. Melanie said...

    I make this all the time – my favorite is half peanut butter, half tahini and honey instead of sugar. I also add extra veggies like celery and bell pepper (in addition to the cucumber and green onion) to up the nutrition and crunch value. Hot sauce to taste for me is at least 2 teaspoons 🙂

  8. David said...

    Very good recipe. I just tried it and it came out very nicely. I like the addition of fresh ginger!

  9. Kay said...

    Loved this recipe, thank you for sharing it! I posted my meal in Instagram. I had to play with the sauce and the different ingredient to get exactly the right taste and texture but it was super easy.

  10. Kaitlin said...

    This is one of my favorite go-to recipes for a quick dinner. I sometimes use soba noodles for this and will throw in some thai red curry paste for some additional flavor with the sauce. I also like to add any fresh shredded vegetables that I have available, like shredded carrots or summer squash. Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  11. Dani said...

    Delicious and so easy!!

  12. PWhite said...

    9/10/15 – This recipe is EXACTLY what I was looking for! I went to school in New York City in the 80’s and have never been back. (sadly!) I remember the cold noodles sesame that I used to get at a Chinese restaurant, I really enjoyed the dish greatly. Over the years, I asked about the dish at local Chinese restaurants, it is not offered here. A few said, “I can make…” but what they made was not as good as what I remembered. I have also tried various recipes from the internet. Finally happened upon this recipe, and it is simply perfect! I ordered toasted black sesame seeds from Amazon and used them as a garnish. Simply delicious. Thank you for this recipe. 🙂

  13. Atsao said...

    Can I use honey instead of brown sugar? And buckwheat noodles instead of spaghetti? I have a diabetic spouse to cook for, and this recipe would be so lovely for these hot summer days!

    • Karen said...

      You just need a little sweet to balance the flavour. Honey would work fine, as would just about any noodle I’d think. The fat in the tahini and/or peanut butter will help offset the high glycemic index of the noodles.

  14. Karen said...

    Eating it right now – leftovers for lunch. Used chili-garlic sauce for heat. Brushed chicken with soy sauce, ginger and oil and grilled it to go with.

  15. momofgirlswcurls said...

    I wanted to recreate the noodles from my local Chinese restaurant but without the GMO soy sauce they cook with. I used peanut butter and followed the recipe exactly (not using the optional ginger). They came out perfect! I can enjoy my favorite dish again. Thank you!

  16. Julibiologist said...

    I kept thinking about how to make this recipe, as it is my mother-in-law’s go to for hot summer days when you don’t feel like eating. I found that this was different from her recipe, but if I left out the sugar, ginger, chili and black pepper, and added about 1/3 cup of water ( I didn’t measure just added until it felt like heavy cream), it was similar. She always makes this to add to the cold noodles to taste, with chili oil in another dish to add to taste. Julienned carrot and cucumber is available in a third dish to add to taste, and finally thinly sliced pork marinated with a hint of soy sauce and garlic powder and stir fried is available in a dish for adding to your noodles. This appears to be traditional for Taiwan cooking.

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