Sesame noodles (peanut style)

February 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Chinese, Derek's faves, Isa C. Moskowitz, Nancie McDermott, Other, Pasta, Peter Berley, Seitan, Starches, Tofu, Website / blog)

I make Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodles all the time. It’s one of Derek’s favorite dishes. Tonight when I asked him what he wanted for dinner he said “chiliquiles!” but all my tortillas were frozen, so he went with his second choice–sesame noodles. I agreed, but didn’t tell him that I wasn’t going to make our standard recipe. I had recently come across a recipe for cold sesame noodles from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese: 70 Everyday Recipes. I really like McDermott’s Real Vegetarian Thai cookbook, so I decided to give it a try.

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons Asian sesame paste or peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons very hot water
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the noodles:

  • 8 ounces fresh Chinese-style egg noodles, or dried spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, roasted, salted peanuts (optional)
  • 1 cup cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon of hot sauce or chili paste (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  While you wait, make the sauce.  In a medium bowl large enough to toss the noodles with the sauce, combine the sesame paste or peanut butter, the soy sauce, hot water, vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and salt. Whisk or stir well to combine into a smooth, thick sauce.
  2. When the water comes to a boil drop in the noodles and cook until tender but still firm, stirring now and again to separate them and help them cook evenly, about 2 minutes for fresh Asian noodles, and 8 to 10 minutes for spaghetti or linguine (cook only until al dente).
  3. When the noodles are tender but still firm, drain well and place them in the bowl. Toss well to coat the strands evenly. Add a little more hot water if needed to soften the noodles and distribute the sauce.
  4. Add the green onion, and the peanuts if using them, and toss well. Transfer to a serving bowl or plate, and arrange cucumber slices around the noodles. Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.
  5. Serves four.

My notes:

I left out the cucumber (since it’s February).  For the nut paste I used a mix–2 Tbs. peanut butter and 1 Tbs. tahini. For the noodles I used a vermicelli, which I thought was like angel hair but ended up being a really fat spaghetti. It was the perfect pasta for sesame noodles. I added the peanuts but not the cilantro or hot sauce. Next time I’d add all the optional ingredients.

This recipe was good. As Derek said “it tastes like restaurant food.” He thought it was very salty, but I thought it was less salty than our normal recipe. I did salt the pasta cooking water, which McDermott doesn’t say to do. Maybe that was why they ended up so salty. The noodles were actually pretty similar in flavor and consistency to the cold sesame noodles at China Palace in Pittsburgh, except less oily. It was certainly a lot prettier than our normal (tahini style) recipe. Rating:  B+.  Derek rating:  A-.

Rather than cook the broccoli with the noodles, I cooked it separately in a skillet. I also fried up some tofu, a jalepeno, mushrooms, and sesame seeds, and mixed them together with the broccoli.  Then I tossed all the veggies with some cilantro, scallions, and bean sprouts. I threw in some big flame raisins at the last minute. They were a bit odd but I liked the sweetness they added to the dish.


Update March 2010:  I made this again using all peanut butter.  I used 9 oz. noodles, but only had 1 scallions and around 2 Tbs. of peanut butter.  I didn’t add cilantro but I did add the cucumbers.  Unlike the last time, I rinsed the pasta before adding it to the sauce, so it would be a cold sesame noodle.  Neither Derek nor I liked it as much as last time.  It tasted more watered down, maybe because of rinsing the noodles?  Derek thought it tasted less peanuty, but we weren’t sure why.  I still enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite perfect.  I also salted the pasta water much less than last time.

Update July 2010: I made this recipe with 8.8 ounces of noodles.  I drained (but didn’t rinse) the noodles and then added them to the sauce.  I let them sit a while, and the result was an overly thick, dry peanut sauce.  I don’t remember it tasting like this before.  I think that if you let the noodles sit in the sauce then maybe the recipe needs more liquid or oil?  The sauce was still tasty, but the texture wasn’t right at all.

Update March 2012:  Derek decided to make this recipe instead of his standard version.  He used all peanut butter and 8 ounces of whole-wheat spaghetti.  I added the scallions but none of the other additions (no peanuts, cucumbers, cilantro, or hot sauce).  We ate the noodles right away (along with tofu, broccoli, and a cabbage/bean sprout/chili/sesame slaw).  The noodles were nice and saucy when we ate them, but I let the leftovers sit out for a while and after an hour or so they were again dry—the noodles absorbed all the sauce.  Derek thought the noodles tasted the same as the first time I made the recipe—like restaurant food.

Nutrition stats for this version (without the peanuts, cucumbers, cilantro, or hot sauce):

Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
Saturated Fat
Trans Fat
Total Carbohydrate
Dietary Fiber
Vitamin A
Vitamin C

Other recipes

Random web recipe

I found this recipe on the web somewhere a while ago, and it’s pretty similar to the McDermott one above I think.

  • 40 g creamy peanut butter (about 2.5 Tbs.)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (maybe more?)
  • 28 g water (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 20 g soy sauce (about 4 tsp.)
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. toasted sesame seed oil
  • smidgeon cayenne
  • thinly chopped scallions as a garnish

Recipe 3 (Vegan with a Vengeance Cold Sesame Noodles)

Notes from August 2007: I recently tried the cold peanut noodles in Vegan with a Vengeance. It calls for udon noodles, seitan, black sesame seeds, cucumber, mung bean sprouts, 1 red bell pepper, and 2 cups scallions, as well as a peanut sauce. I found the seitan extraneous, but Derek said he liked it. The 4 cups of bean sprouts sounded like a lot but were delicious–they kind of echoed the noodle shape and feel, while being much lighter. I’d never used black sesame seeds before, and I couldn’t really taste them in this dish–maybe I should have toasted them first? The bell pepper was pretty, as was the cucumber, but I couldn’t really see adding 2 cups of scallions. I suspect it’s a typo, and should be 2 scallions, or 2 Tbs. of scallions? The peanut sauce was tasty plain, but I felt like the noodles ended up undersauced and a bit bland. I did cut down on the soy sauce though, which I probably shouldn’t have done as Derek thought the final dish needed salt. I also didn’t have peanut oil so used olive oil–maybe it would have been better with the peanut oil. I also might have mis-measured the noodles, as my scale was broken and I had to eyeball the 10 ounces called for. Overall, I didn’t love this recipe, but it has some good ideas, and I’ll try it again. Derek thought it was tasty, but not as good as Madhur Jaffrey’s sesame noodle recipe above.

Recipe 4 (Modern Vegetarian Kitchen)

My modern vegetarian kitchen cookbook also has a recipe for sesame noodles, which we tried once but I can’t remember how it compared.


  1. jenny said,

    Wait, I thought you were doing the 101 cookbooks one! Tease!

    Do try it, I’m curious what you think. The tofu takes a while, but even Mike agreed it was worth it (I don’t love the sauce as much just on its own, but with the flavors of the tofu, it’s nicely balanced, I thought). And we really liked having it over napa cabbage instead of noodles—it was so nice and light (and it would even be nice to do a mix of noodles and cabbage).

    • captious said,

      I was going to, but when I went to make it I saw that the tofu has to sit for about 6 hours beforehand. Whoops!

  2. jenny said,

    Aha. Now I’m worried I’ve talked it up too much, but one thing all this talk has done is leave me certain that I’m having one of these versions for dinner…

  3. austingardener said,

    How is Asian seasam paste different from American tahini?

  4. trh said,

    I just made this for 20 people. It was good hot. It is currently cooling in the fridge; I’ll see how it is cold in a few hours (for some reason people aren’t ok with dinner being served at 4:30 rather than the usual 7-8).

    I liked this a lot. I did a 1:2 ratio on tahini/peanut butter, and next time I might do less tahini and more peanut butter. But it tasts good the way it is.

    When I multiplied it out it became 2 and 3/4 cups sesame oil, which surely is more than needed (though it tasted good). Next time I’m going to try with less, or subbing some less expensive oil for part of the sesame oil. I also used three packages noodles, which is less than your recommendation by weight, but it worked well.

    The green onions in it were really good. Next time I’ll add more than your amount (times my multiplication).

    I did include the peanuts, but not the cilantro, and that worked well.

    Thanks for great recipes! I’ve been slowly working my way through them as a coop cook.

  5. trh said,

    oops, wrong e-mail. If you say anything back please respond here.

    • captious said,

      Trh, your numbers don’t make sense to me. I assume to serve 20 you multiplied the recipe by 5. That would give 2.5 pounds (or 2.5 packages) of noodles, but you said that 3 packages was less than my recommendation. I don’t understand. Did you multiply the recipe by more than 5?

      Much more baffling is that 1 tsp. x 5 equals only 5 tsp. of sesame oil, or 1 2/3 Tablespoons. Even if you made 6 or 7 times this recipe, I cannot for the life of me figure out where you got 2 3/4 CUPS of sesame oil from?? I’m very much hoping that was a typo.

      • 2hours20people said,

        I’m still learning to multiply recipes, so maybe I made some errors. I’m not sure how many times I multiplied it, but it was more than 5. The mistake with the sesame oil was not a multiplication error- it was a reading the menu wrong error.

        This was a really well received meal. I hope it holds up when a reasonable amount of sesame oil is used. I plan to re-serve it soon.

  6. Restaurant-style sesame noodles | The captious vegetarian said,

    […] The first recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook, and uses tahini. The second recipe is from Nancie McDermott’s Quick and Easy Chinese cookbook, and uses peanut butter. But lately […]

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