rice noodle salad with peanut dressing

rice noodle peanut butter salad 5

I was going through a protein rut recently, where I seemed to be cooking with beans more weeknights than not. We try not to eat meat on weekdays, we take hard-boiled eggs to work everyday as snacks, and cheese has too much fat. So what does that leave me? I’d completely forgotten about soy.

rice noodle peanut butter salad 1

Think of tofu as a sponge that soaks up flavor. True, on its own, it tastes like water and has a jello-like squishiness, but when you sauté it and soak it in sauce, it’s hardly discernible from chicken, except cheaper and easier to work with. Plus, it won’t dry out like boneless skinless chicken breasts.

rice noodle peanut butter salad 3

This sauce has plenty of flavor for the tofu to absorb. Ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, and sesame oil, all mixed into creamy peanut butter, make for one heck of a combination. There are plenty of vegetables to provide brightness and crunch.  This was so good we had it two weeks in a row – alternating with dinners involving beans, of course.

rice noodle peanut butter salad 4

One year ago: Pasta Puttanesca
Two years ago: Asian-Style Chicken Noodle Soup
Three years ago: Pasta with Broccoli, Sausage, and Roasted Red Peppers

Printer Friendly Recipe
Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing (adapted from Cate’s World Kitchen)

My noodles stuck together in one big clump, so I chopped them up after cooking. I know that’s against standard noodle procedure, but in the end, it worked perfectly.

Serves 4-6

Having made this a bunch more times, I’ve found that it’s even better with the juice of a lime squeezed into the sauce.

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound tofu
8 ounces rice noodles (linguine shape)
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
¼ cup warm water
chili garlic sauce to taste (optional)
1 medium cucumber, sliced into half moons
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
2 green onions (green parts only), sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the tofu lengthwise into ½-inch thick slabs; pat dry on a dishtowel. Transfer the tofu to the oil and cook, without moving, for 4-6 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Flip the tofu and brown the second side. Remove the tofu from the skillet and cut into bite-sized cubes.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a large pinch of salt and the rice noodles; cook until tender. (Check the package instructions for exact cooking times.) Drain and rinse the pasta.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, water, and chili garlic sauce until smooth. Fold the tofu into the sauce, then add the remaining ingredients, reserving some of the green onions and cilantro for a garnish.

rice noodle peanut butter salad 6


  1. Amanda says:

    One of my resolutions this year was to get back into the meatless-weekdays, and I’m really grateful for this recipe because it looks like something I could really get into when cooking for myself. (And without missing the meat at all!)

  2. The peanut dressing looks wonderful.

  3. this sounds incredible….might just be the perfect use for the tofu sitting in my fridge right now! 🙂

  4. This reminds me a little of my Warm Asian Noodle Salad. If that’s any indication than this must be delicious. It looks gorgeous and I love the idea of rice noodles and brown sugar.

  5. That peanut dressing looks (and sounds) amazing. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. This salad sounds incredible! I find myself getting stuck in the beans & legumes rut, too, and a peanut dressing with tofu sounds like the perfect, doable, way out of it. I used to have a hard time with rice noodles until I stopped cooking them as regular pasta and tried covering them with boiling water. It can take a little longer but seems to help with the stickiness.

  7. bridget says:

    Leanne – I considered doing something like that with the rice noodles, because when I use them in pad thai, I soak them in hot water and then let them finish cooking in the stir-fry.

  8. Everything with rice noodles always looks so good to me! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  9. I’m glad you mentioned that about the noodles sticking together. Any time I’ve made rice noodles I run across that problem. This looks so creamy and rich – mmm!

  10. Aaaah the dreaded rice noodle clump. It’s so frustrating! Your photos, as always, are fantastic!!

  11. Can you please clarify how much soy sauce goes in this? It it 3 tbps plus a cup of soy sauce? This sounds delicious and I’d love to try it! Thanks!

  12. bridget says:

    Beth – It’s just 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. I’ll fix that in the recipe; thanks for pointing it out!

  13. yummm 🙂 I love tofu anyway, but anything smothered in peanut butter gets my thumbs up!

  14. Emily says:

    I made this last night and it was so delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe!

  15. Oh my goodness! I’ve been making tofu for years, cutting it into bite sized pieces then cooking it (which can be a pain to flip each one over). I can’t believe I didn’t think to cook it as thin slabs THEN cut them! Ingenious.

  16. bridget says:

    Maggie – That’s exactly what I used to do, and it was such a pain! I love this method so much more.

  17. Trust me, there are other reasons not to have beans every night…

  18. Do you eat this warm or cold? Sounds delicious!

  19. bridget says:

    Dani – I like it best at about room temperature.

  20. I cannot wait to try this recipe. You cannot go wrong with peanut sauce 🙂

  21. I just made this the other night and it was a total hit! I served it warm, but the cold leftovers the next day were just as awesome!

    Thanks for sharing!

  22. This sauce is amazing! I halved the peanut butter (used natural) and it worked perfectly.