SPICY PEANUT NOODLES RECIPE INSPIRATION
When it’s summer in Sacramento, I don’t want to spend much time cooking in the heat. That’s why I like to prepare cold noodle dishes for an easy meal.
I’ve been trying to develop another spicy peanut noodle recipe for a while, but it was tricky developing a sauce recipe that wasn’t overpowering with peanut flavor. As much as I love peanut butter (and I do mean LOVE), I don’t want to feel like I’m eating a jar of peanut butter while slurping my noodles. (You can also check out my peanut noodle recipe that’s flavored with teriyaki sauce and chili oil here).
Recently, I cooked a few batches of my spicy eggplant stir fry, which uses doubanjiang (豆瓣醬) a salty, fermented broad bean chili sauce. I wondered if the flavors of the sauce would compliment peanut butter, and I was pleasantly surprised! The spicy and salted flavors of the doubanjiang cuts through the strong nutty aroma of peanut butter.
These spicy peanut noodles are easy to prepare and great to enjoy on a warm day!
INGREDIENTS FOR SPICY PEANUT NOODLES
Garlic & Rice Vinegar: I’ve grated the garlic with a microplane zester so that it blends better in the sauce. Whenever I intend to serve a dish with raw garlic, I like to let it soak in vinegar for 10 minutes or so to neutralize some of the raw bite of the garlic. If you are averse to the flavor of raw garlic, you can mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and sauté the garlic in some oil. Alternatively, use 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder instead.
I’m using rice vinegar in this sauce because I like the brightness and relative mildness of the vinegar. I tried using Zhenjiang (Chinkiang) vinegar and I found it too overpowering in this noodle sauce.
Rice Vinegar Substitution: Use apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
Peanut Butter: I’m using creamy peanut butter here so that the sauce can be smoother. You can also use chunky peanut butter if you don’t mind bits of peanuts in your noodles.
Peanut Butter Substitution: You can use almond butter, cashew butter, sesame paste (or tahini), or sunflower seed butter.
Doubanjiang (豆瓣醬/豆瓣酱): Originating from Sichuan, doubanjiang is a fermented broad bean (or fava bean) chili sauce. It is a rather salty and spicy chili sauce. The doubanjiang I used in this recipe was actually produced in Taiwan (doubanjiang is produced in many places outside of Sichuan).
You can find doubanjiang in Asian grocery stores, especially ones that sell Chinese ingredients. If you don’t have easy access to an Asian grocer, you can find it on Amazon (affiliate link) or Asian online stores like Yamibuy or Weee!
- You can substitute doubanjiang with black bean and garlic sauce (a southern-Chinese style sauce). Lee Kum Kee’s version is available on Amazon (affiliate link). Because black bean and garlic sauce isn’t spicy, you may consider adding a little more chili flakes if you want the spice.
- Besides black bean and garlic sauce, gochujang (fermented Korean chili paste) can work also for this spicy noodles recipe. However, you may need to add salt or reduce the amount of sugar used in the sauce because gochujang is sweet.
More Recipes Using Doubanjiang:
Soy Sauce: I like to use soy sauce to add savory flavor, but feel free to use tamari if you’re gluten free.
Brown Sugar: I’m adding brown sugar to the sauce to balance the strong salty flavors of the doubanjiang and soy sauce, as well as the tang of the rice vinegar. Feel free to use any other sugar, maple syrup, or honey if you’re not vegan.
Chili Flakes: As someone who has at least 5 different kinds of chili flakes in the pantry, I know that different chilies deliver varying levels of spice. During my recipe development, I used Diaspora Co.’s Guntur Sannam Chilli, which has a medium-low level of spice. That’s why I used 1/2 teaspoon of the chili flakes in the sauce and more to garnish the noodles at the end. If you can’t tolerate too much spice, I’d start with 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes and add more as needed.
Ground Coriander: I added 3/4 teaspoon of ground coriander to the sauce, which added some floral, almost citrusy notes to the sauce. I grind these coriander seeds from Diaspora Co. using a spice grinder. The flavor is subtle, so feel free to leave it out.
You can use any noodles for this recipe. For my recipe testing, I used dried hand-cut wheat noodles that I bought at Ranch 99, but any Asian-style wheat noodles work. As a matter of fact, soba works very well with this recipe, as it will add earthy flavors to the dish. If you are gluten free, consider using rice noodles or mung bean noodles.
HOW TO MAKE SPICY PEANUT NOODLES
Add the grated garlic and rice vinegar to a bowl and stir together. Then, let that sit for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients to the bowl and mix for 1 to 2 minutes. The sauce will look grainy at the beginning but should smooth out by the end of the mixing. Once you’re done mixing, the sauce may appear very runny. Just let it sit while you cook the noodles. The sauce will thicken once the noodles are cooked. You can also prepare the sauce up to 3 days ahead.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Then, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water. This stops the noodles from cooking further and removes some excess starch from the noodles, which will make the noodles very mushy when combined with the peanut sauce. Trust me, the noodles get quite gummy if you don’t cool down the noodles before tossing with the sauce.
I actually like to shock these noodles in ice water for 1 to 2 minutes. The ice bath chills the noodles more thoroughly, compared to simply running the noodles under cold water. As you can imagine, the noodles will turn cold once you shock them in ice water. If you want the noodles to be closer to room temperature, rinse the noodles under cold water.
TOSS EVERYTHING TOGETHER
Add the cooked noodles to a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss to coat the noodles with the sauce. Then add chopped basil and toss with the noodles again.
Serve the noodles in bowls and garnish with sesame seeds, chili flakes, and sliced scallions, if you like.
MAKING A NOODLE SALAD
You can always add vegetables to these spicy peanut noodles to make a salad. Any combination of these vegetables, thinly sliced and julienned, would be delicious: bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, jicama, or cabbage (red or green). Depending on how much vegetables you add to the salad, you may need to make just a little bit more of the noodle sauce to make sure the salad is well seasoned.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SPICY PEANUT NOODLES
- Chinese Smashed Cucumber Salad
- Chinese Garlic Green Beans
- Roasted Asparagus
- Chinese Stir Fried Chayote with Dried Shrimp
- Stir-Fried Shredded Potatoes
- The noodles are great with eggs scrambled with scallions or garlic chives
- Sweet & Sour Ribs
- Sweet Chili Garlic Shrimp
- Roasted Sticky Chicken Thighs
Spicy Peanut Noodles
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated garlic, (see note 1)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons doubanjiang, (see note 2 for substitutions)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar, (see note 3 for substitutions)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, depending on desired level of spice (see note 4)
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander, optional
- 8 to 9 ounces (225 to 255 grams) Asian-style wheat noodles, (see note 5)
- 1/3 cup (15g) packed Thai basil leaves, chopped (can sub with any other basil)
- toasted sesame seeds
- chili flakes
- sliced scallions
- Add the grated garlic to a bowl and mix with rice vinegar. Let that sit for 10 minutes.
- Next, add the peanut butter, water, doubanjiang, soy sauce, sugar, chili flakes, and coriander, if using. Mix all the sauce ingredients together. The sauce will look grainy at first, but continue stirring the ingredients for 1 to 2 minutes. Let the sauce sit while you cook the noodles. The sauce will thicken some more. (See note 6)
- Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook according to package directions. The hand-cut noodles I used took 6 minutes to cook.
- Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water thoroughly. I actually prefer the texture of the noodles when I shock them in an ice bath for 1 to 2 minutes before draining. (See note 7)
- Transfer the noodles to a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss together. Then, add the chopped basil and toss again. Garnish with sesame seeds, chili flakes, and scallions if you like. Serve the noodles on their own or together with other side dishes. See headnote for suggestions.
- Grated Garlic: I use a microplane zester to grate the garlic. If you are averse to the flavor of raw garlic, you can mince 2 to 3 cloves of garlic and sauté the garlic in some oil. Alternatively, use 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder instead.
- Doubanjiang Substitutions: You can substitute doubanjiang with black bean and garlic sauce (a southern-Chinese style sauce). Lee Kum Kee’s version is available in Asian sections of grocery stores, Asian grocers, or on Amazon. Because black bean and garlic sauce isn’t spicy, you may consider adding a little more chili flakes if you want the spice. Besides black bean and garlic sauce, gochujang (fermented Korean chili paste) can work also for this spicy noodles recipe. However, you may need to add salt or reduce the amount of sugar used in the sauce because gochujang is sweet. You can find gochujang in Asian sections of grocery stores, Asian grocers, or on Amazon.
- Brown Sugar Substitutions: Feel free to use any other sugar, maple syrup, or honey if you’re not vegan.
- Chili Flakes: Different chili flakes have varying levels of spice. I used Diaspora Co.’s Guntur Sannam Chilli, which has a medium-low level of spice. If you are averse to very spicy food, start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of chili flakes and add more if desired.
- Noodles: I used dry hand-cut noodles, but other noodles like soba, udon, rice noodles, or mung bean noodles can also work.
- Make Ahead: You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead. Keep it refrigerated in a jar.
- Cooling the Noodles: I find when you mix a peanut butter sauce with warm noodles, the noodles will turn mushy and almost gummy. That’s why I recommend cooling the noodles thoroughly. This stops the noodles from cooking further and removes some excess starch from the noodles. I think the best way to cool the noodles fast is to shock the noodles in a bowl of ice water for 1 to 2 minutes before draining. As you can imagine, the noodles will turn cold once you shock them in ice water. If you want the noodles to be closer to room temperature, rinse the noodles under cold water instead.
- Serving: This recipe makes 2 large servings of noodles, or 3 smaller servings, which is great for serving with side dishes.