Picnicking in Madison, Wisconsin is a competitive sport. Each summer, the city hosts weekly outdoor concerts, and thousands of residents flock, unfold their blankets, and pull out the most epic collections of picnic food that I have ever witnessed. When we lived in Madison, I attended almost every one, and today’s recipe for Asian Noodle Salad is the dish I most often loved to bring. It’s fresh, feeds a crowd, and was a long-standing favorite amongst our friends.
I was ill prepared for my first Wisconsin concert. I arrived ten minutes before showtime with a half-empty bottle of wine and nothing else. Rookie mistake.
In addition to listening to music and eating, the other primary activity at these outdoor concerts is to compare your picnic spread to those of neighboring groups. Forget the solo cups and PB&J—at the Madison concert scene, you best go big or go home.
I’m proud to report that, by the end of summer, my friends and I could be ranked among the picnic elite. Everyone brought something homemade to contribute, we used real forks and plates, and I even invested in a set of wine glass picnic sticks.
Classic Asian Noodle Salad
Homemade vegetable salads (like Asian Cucumber Salad) and cold pasta salads (like today’s noodle salad) are my go-to contribution for any picnic or cookout. This recipe tastes excellent both cold and at room temperature, travels well, and is a universal hit anywhere I bring it. It also tastes fabulous left over, so when my friends and I go overboard and bring more food than we can finish (the best kind of picnic problem), I’m happy to keep the leftovers for lunch the next few days.
How to Make Asian Noodle Salad
This Asian noodle salad recipe is easy to throw together and requires zero cooking beyond boiling the noodles. Do not, however, be deceived by its two simple steps—Asian noodle salad is a flavor monster. Creamy peanut butter, zingy ginger, sweet honey, and a kick of Sriracha combine to create complex layers of flavor that will keep your fork wandering back to the bowl.
In addition to being addictive, this salad is also healthy and packed with veggies, thanks to a product I’ve been adding to my slaws and cold pasta salads for years, Mann’s Broccoli Cole Slaw. I’m ferociously committed to eating my daily veggies, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy washing and chopping them. Mann’s sells a wide variety of pre-prepped vegetables (we go through 3-4 bags of the broccoli a week), so when Mann’s asked me to contribute a recipe to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of its Broccoli Cole Slaw, I said yes right away. This salad is part of that celebration, and I’m excited to share it with you today!
Broccoli Cole Slaw is the perfect way to sneak veggies into this Asian noodle salad, because its mild taste is almost imperceptible, and its thin cut blends seamlessly with the thin noodles. The overall effect is similar to a spiralized veggie pasta, minus the work of actually having to spiralize (plus, we still get to eat pasta!). The broccoli and noodles tangle together, and the rich peanuty sauce coats every morsel.
Translation: the euphoria of a total pasta binge, despite the fact that the majority of what you are shoveling into your mouth is vegetables. Healthy eating VICTORY!
Asian noodle salad is lovely as a light side dish or lunch. To make it more hearty, I also like adding shredded chicken and edamame for a protein boost. I haven’t tried it with tofu yet, but I think it would be an excellent vegetarian option as well.
More Healthy Salad Recipes
- Healthy Taco Salad
- Mexican Salad
- Shrimp Pasta Salad
- Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
- Asian Ramen Salad
- Healthy Italian Pepperoni Pasta Salad
Asian Noodle Salad
- 8 ounces long thin whole wheat pasta noodles such as spaghetti (use soba noodles to make gluten free)
- 24 ounces Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw 2 12-ounce bags
- 4 ounces grated carrots
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey use light agave nectar to make vegan
- 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce gluten free if needed
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha pepper sauce or garlic chile sauce, plus additional to taste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic about 4 cloves
- 3/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse briefly with cool water to remove the excess starch and stop the cooking, then transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the broccoli cole slaw and carrots.
- While the pasta cooks, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, honey, peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriarcha, ginger, and garlic. Pour over the noodle mixture and toss to combine. Add the peanuts and cilantro and toss once more. Serve chilled or at room temperature with additional Sriracha sauce as desired.
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