Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce is the perfect, easy recipe for those days (and nights) you want to put in no- to low-cook effort for maximum return on flavor. With whatever cold, crunchy fresh vegetables you have on hand and a brilliant hack for an easy peanut sauce...shall we?
- What is Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce?
- Ingredients You Need
- What are Soba Noodles?
- Where to Buy Soba Noodles
- How to Make Soba Noodle Salad
- Pro-Tips and Tricks
- Substitutions and Variations
- Tools and Equipment You Need
- Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
- Favorite Other Dressings and Sauces for Soba Noodle Salad
- Are Soba Noodles Healthy?
- Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
What is Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce?
Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce is a chilled, or at most room temperature, dish of soba noodles, fresh crunchy vegetables, a protein if you'd like to make this a main dish, and a savory, garlicky umami-rich Peanut Sauce made with ingredients that you more than likely already have in your pantry.
This recipe weighs pretty heavily toward the fresh vegetables, which is why I call it a "salad."
Ingredients You Need
Like most salads, this Soba Noodle Salad recipe and the Peanut Sauce recipe are more like templates and are highly adaptable with substitutions to fit your taste preferences!
Here is exactly what you need for the version pictured in these photos:
- Soba noodles
- Crunchy salad vegetables, 4-5 different kinds
- Shredded cooked chicken breast
- Green onions or other onion
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Peanut Sauce, which is made of:
- Peanut butter
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
- Sesame oil
- Maple syrup
What are Soba Noodles?
Soba noodles are Japanese thin noodles made primarily of buckwheat flour. "Soba" actually translates to "buckwheat," though we use the Japanese term to refer to the buckwheat noodle.
Buckwheat gives soba noodles their characteristic color, texture, and flavor. Soba noodles range in color from light beige to dark brown, depending on what percentage of buckwheat flour is in the noodles. Unlike the bounce of thick udon noodles and spring and chew of ramen noodles, which are both made with regular wheat flour, soba has a texture that's tender and brittle. Their flavor is nutty and earthy and uniquely delicious.
The noodles sometimes have a squared off shape because of the way they are cut. Sometimes, the noodles have a round, tube shape. The shape does not define soba noodles.
Are Soba Noodles Gluten-free?
100% buckwheat soba noodles are gluten-free.
Buckwheat is not wheat. Though buckwheat has the word "wheat" embedded in its name, it is not related to wheat, or grains in general, at all. Buckwheat is actually the large seed of a plant in the rhubarb family. Buckwheat itself contains no gluten, i.e. buckwheat is gluten-free.
However, most dried and packaged soba noodles sold in grocery stores have some regular wheat flour to help with texture. If you eat gluten-free, make sure to read the ingredients list on the package.
What Kind of Soba Noodles for Salad?
The noodles in the photo above are all labeled "soba," but contain varying proportions of buckwheat (if any at all).
I have made Soba Noodle Salads with everything from 100% buckwheat noodles to noodles that had the barest tint of brown to pale green "cha soba," a version of soba made with green tea blended in. Because "soba" is now becoming a sort of catch-all term for a category of noodles, you might even see versions with wither grains like rice included.
One quick cook's note if you're new to buckwheat soba: 100% buckwheat soba is very fragile. If you are ok with regular wheat, use a soba noodle that contains some regular wheat or other starch so the noodles don't break apart in the salad.
If you can't find soba, try any long thin noodle, about the same diameter as cappellini pasta.
Where to Buy Soba Noodles
Soba noodles are sold both dried and fresh and increasingly can be found in conventional grocery stores. I have seen soba noodles in "Asian" sections as well as in the pasta aisle at my grocery stores. Obviously, you can find soba noodles at Asian grocery stores, as well as online.
Here are some soba brands I like, usually leaning more toward 100% or high percentage of buckwheat:
- 100% buckwheat, organic by King Soba
- 100% buckwheat, organic soba by EdenFoods
- Buckwheat and brown rice soba, organic and certified gluten-free, this one has a slight "transparent" texture like other rice noodles
- Organic, buckwheat, also contains regular wheat
- Buckwheat plus sweet potato starch, organic
Additional Ingredients Notes and Resources
Here are some helpful notes about ingredients for the Peanut Sauce:
Peanut butter. For the best texture, use creamy peanut butter, preferably with no salt and no sugar added so you can add the salt and sweetness yourself. The brand I used in these photos is this organic one.
Rice Vinegar. I use this brand organic brown rice vinegar. If you don't have rice vinegar, use any other light/mild vinegar or even lemon/lime juice. Do not use distilled white vinegar, which you should only ever use to de-scale your coffee-maker.
Soy sauce or tamari: Tamari is Japanese-style soy sauce brewed without the use of wheat so it is gluten-free. If you are not sensitive to wheat, the two are essentially interchangeable, though tamari has a slightly high-toned tartness to it. I use this brand, which is organic. For most soy-based products (soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, etc), try to buy organic or non-GMO, since soy beans are one of the crops that are more often sprayed with harmful weed-killing chemicals.
Maple Syrup. This recipe uses maple syrup, a vegan-suitable natural sweetener, that replaces refined white sugar. Though still "sugar," maple syrup has a lower glycemic index (GI) than white sugar, may provide antioxidant benefits from naturally occurring phenols, and because it tastes sweeter than refined white sugar, you can use a little less in certain recipes like this one. (source)
Sesame oil. Use toasted sesame oil, which is dark brown and adds a nutty, umami fragrance to the vinaigrette. I use a non-GMO toasted sesame oil, this one is organic!
Sesame Seeds. Sesame seeds add texture and when toasted, a layer of umami in addition to the toasted sesame oil. You can buy sesame seeds plain or toasted. Make sure the seeds are toasted. If they are not toasted, toss them in a hot, dry skillet over medium heat for about 90 seconds or until they are fragrant.
Garlic, green onions and all other fresh herbs and produce from either the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on Wednesday, or Whole Foods Market.
Other Kinds of Vegetables You Can Use for Soba Noodle Salads
- Romaine lettuce
- Napa or green cabbage
- Red or green bell pepper
- Sprouts of any kind
- Red onions
- Pickled red onions
- Lightly blanched broccoli
- Sautéed shiitake mushrooms
- Chopped kimchi
How to Make Soba Noodle Salad
Making Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce is pretty easy, and there's a fun hack for making the Peanut Sauce at the end!
Whisk together the ingredients for the Peanut Sauce—nut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, maple syrup if using, sesame oil, and hot water—in a small bowl.
Taste and adjust rice vinegar, soy sauce and/or maple syrup. The sauce should be more intense than is comfortable for you since the remaining salad ingredients are all unseasoned. Whisk in extra water 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce is the consistency of a thin dressing.
Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Depending on the brand of soba noodles, cooking time can vary anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes.
Drain cooked soba noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
Place cooked soba noodles, vegetables and chicken in a large bowl. Stir Peanut Sauce and add more water or vinegar if the texture is no longer thin enough to pour. Drizzle salad with Peanut Sauce and gently toss—your hands might be the best tools for the job here—until everything is uniformly distributed and coated with the sauce.
Transfer dressed Soba Noodle Salad to serving platter or individual bowls. Garnish with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Pro-Tips and Tricks
Vegetables in thin strips. Use crisp, crunchy vegetables that can be julienned into thin strips, to match the shape of the noodle—this is a general guideline for most noodles and pastas. Thin strips make for an aesthetically balanced presentation, of course, but more importantly, it makes the Soba Noodle Salad easier to pick up with a fork or chopsticks and eat. I have seen ingredients like peas and shelled edamame, which are great sources of protein and fresh flavor if you already have them, but they are not as easy to eat with long noodles!
Double or triple the sauce. The amount of ingredients in the recipe for the Peanut Sauce make about ⅓ cup, which fits this specific recipe for Soba Noodle Salad. If you have enough nut butter, I highly recommend scaling up to make double the amount of the sauce! Use the amount you need for the salad, then store the rest in an airtight glass jar in the refrigerator. The sauce is great as an all-purpose spicy dressing over greens, grains, or even dip for fresh vegetables!
Pro-tip: Nut Butter Jar Hack
This pro-tip deserves its own section!
If you have about 1-inch of peanut butter or other nut butter left in a standard size jar, this Peanut Sauce is the perfect way to use it up and get every last bit of that (probably expensive!) nut butter out of the jar.
One-inch of peanut butter in the bottom of the jar is equal to ABOUT ¼ cup, or 4 tablespoons. Add the ingredients of the Peanut Sauce directly to the jar, screw on the lid, and shake until all the nut butter dissolves off the sides of the jar into your sauce! If you have some leftover, you can store it right in the jar in the refrigerator!
Substitutions and Variations
This Soba Noodle Salad, as with most salads, is forgiving, flexible and great for customization by making ingredient substitutions or additions. Here are some favorite suggestions, including some for dietary restrictions and preferences:
- Noodles. Though my personal preference is always for buckwheat soba, use whatever noodle or pasta that will work in a chilled or room temperature preparation. You can try regular wheat pasta, cooked ramen noodles, udon noodles, and even rice noodles as long as they are slightly wider or thicker so they don't break apart.
- Alternative Nut Butter. You can use any unsweetened nut butter that suits your taste. Try almond butter, cashew butter, sun butter, or even sesame butter/paste or tahini. If you make it with almond butter, change up the garnish at the end from sesame seeds to sliced almonds!
- Rice Vinegar. If you don't have rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar is a pretty good substitute! You can also substitute in the equivalent amount of lime juice, which will add a very subtle sweetness and slightly change the flavor.
- Alternative sweetener. Though the recipe includes maple syrup, I almost never use it because vegetables like carrots, radishes, and snap peas have some natural sweetness. If you like a little more sweetness, use whatever sweetener works for your dietary needs or preferences. Honey and agave syrup are great. For regular granulated sugar or sugar substitutes, you may need to whisk a little longer to dissolve the sugar.
- Spicy. You can absolutely make this spicy by adding a few teaspoons of your favorite chili oil, chili paste, or hot sauce like sriracha or gochujang to the Peanut Sauce. If you want to take it to another level of funk and fire, add chopped kimchi with the vegetables to the salad!
Modifications for Dietary Needs
- Gluten-free - You can make this Soba Noodle Salad gluten-free with a few adjustments. Use 100% buckwheat soba, and make sure it says "gluten-free" on the packaging and use tamari instead of soy sauce.
- Vegan - To make this recipe 100% plant-based suitable for vegans, omit the shredded cooked chicken and use an alternative plant-based protein. I LOVE this Soba Noodle Salad with thin slices of firm tofu.
Tools and Equipment You Need
There are no special tools required for this recipe. You only need a stable cutting board and a sharp knife for the vegetable prep. Here are a few of the other tools I use when making this recipe, all of which you probably already have.
- salad spinner
- vegetable wash
- over-sink colander that CHANGED MY LIFE to wash vegetables and drain cooked soba noodles
- regular stainless steel colander
- Y vegetable peeler
- Boos block extra large cutting board
- chef's knife the one I use every single day for almost every situation
- garlic press
- mini whisk to making Gochujang or other dressing
Advance Prep, Leftovers, and Storage
Once you dress the Soba Noodle Salad with the Peanut Sauce, leftovers do not keep well, so make what you think you can eat in one meal.
However, individual components of the Soba Noodle Salad DO keep well! Each of the prepped vegetables and Peanut Sauce are great to make in advance, making them great for weekly meal prep.
You can make the Peanut Sauce up to five in advance. Store it in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.
You can prepare most of the harder, crunchier vegetables up to five days in advance, e.g. carrots, radishes, snap peas, Romaine lettuce. Cucumbers and spinach are slightly more delicate and can be prepped one day in advance.
This recipe does not freeze.
Favorite Other Dressings and Sauces for Soba Noodle Salad
- Ginger Miso Dressing, gingery, bright, highly drinkable
- Bibimbap Sauce, spicy with gochujang
- Bibim Naeng Myeon Sauce, spicy, tart and brighter than Bibimbap Sauce
- Sesame Soy Vinaigrette
- Miso Tahini Sauce
- Cilantro Lime Dressing isn't the first, second, or even third flavor profile I'd think of for a Soba Noodle Salad because Cilantro Lime leans Mexican for me, and soba noodles feel Asian. But I saw someone on social media drizzle Cilantro Lime over soba noodles and why wouldn't we combine flavors of any kind that taste good and are available to us?
More Soba Noodle and Buckwheat Noodle Recipes, Cold, Chilled, and Otherwise
- Ginger Miso Soba Noodle Soup
- Soba Noodle Salad for a Saturday Night Party
- Ginger Scallion Meatballs and Soba Noodles in Broth
- Kimchi Soba Noodle Salad
- Bibim Naeng Myeon Recipe | Korean Style Chilled Buckwheat Noodles with Spicy Sweet Gochujang-based Sauce
- Mul Naeng Myun Recipe | Korean Style Chilled Buckwheat Noodles in Iced Broth
Are Soba Noodles Healthy?
The question "Are soba noodles healthy?" always, inevitably comes up. And as I always, inevitably says, it depends on each person's individual health and nutrition needs. Here are some health and nutrition considerations regarding soba so you can make a better-informed decision about your health!
- Gluten-free. Soba is usually made from buckwheat, which is not a gluten-containing grain. Buckwheat itself is actually a seed of a plant in the rhubarb family. Though soba varies in the proportion of buckwheat it contains, 100% buckwheat soba is gluten-free.
- Higher in fiber.
- Protein. Soba is higher in protein than other type of noodles and pasta because buckwheat is one of the higher protein-containing "grains" and the protein is does contain is considered a complete protein.
- No to Low in Fat. There is a negligible amount of fat in soba, which has implications for those on lowfat diets.
Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
for Peanut Sauce
- ¼ cup peanut butter almond butter or other nut butter
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more if needed or tamari for gluten-free
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons hot water, plus more if needed
for Soba Noodle Salad
- 8 ounces soba noodles
- 4 Persian cucumbers, julienned
- 2 cups sugar snap peas, julienned
- 2 cups radish, finely shredded
- 4 generous handfuls baby spinach, finely julienned
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
- 1 scallion, julienned
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Make Peanut Sauce
- Whisk together peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, maple syrup, and sesame oil in small mixing bowl.
- Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until the Peanut Sauce has the consistency and texture of a thin dressing. Taste and adjust rice vinegar (sour) and soy sauce (salty) and maple syrup (sweet) to taste. Set aside, along with extra water.
Make Soba Noodle Salad
- Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Depending on the brand of soba noodles, cooking time can vary anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes. Drain cooked soba noodles and rinse with cold water.
- Toss cooked soba noodles, vegetables, shredded chicken is a large mixing bowl.
- Drizzle Peanut Sauce over soba, vegetables, and chicken. Gently toss until all the ingredients are well combined and coated with the sauce.
- Transfer salad to serving platter or divide salad onto individual bowls or plates. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.