If you’re looking for a warm weather dish that’s naturally dairy-free, try this Asian sesame noodle salad. It’s light but flavorful, and can be tossed with whatever vegetables are in season. The recipe is also peanut-free and tree nut-free with options for gluten-free and soy-free! So almost anyone can enjoy it.
Asian Sesame Noodle Salad that’s Naturally Dairy-Free & Nut-Free
This cold noodle salad recipe was originally shared with me by my good friend Hannah Kaminsky about fifteen years ago! She has since written numerous vegan cookbooks, but I still love this simple dish. I’ve updated her recipe below and also have answers to some common questions.
What Are Soba Noodles? Where Can I Buy Them?
Soba is a variety of Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour, and often from wheat flour too. The higher the buckwheat, the darker the noodles. They are hearty and have a slight earthy flavor that pairs well with ingredients like sesame. You can find it in most grocery stores with the Asian foods in the international section. Some smaller natural food stores might sell it with other pasta noodles. If you can’t find it, you can substitute lo mein noodles, rice noodles, or simply spaghetti noodles.
What is Tahini? Where Can I Buy It?
Tahini is sesame paste. It’s made purely of ground sesame seeds, but some varieties use hulled sesame seeds while others use whole unhulled seeds. The ones made with unhulled seeds, like Roots Circle and Pepperwood Organics, are higher in calcium. I’ve purchased and enjoyed both of those brands. I buy tahini on Amazon, but it’s also sold in most major grocery stores. You can usually find it in the international aisle, or with the peanut butter and seed butters.
Can I Substitute Peanut Butter for the Tahini?
Technically, you can substitute peanut butter for tahini in this Asian sesame noodle salad. Peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter will all work well. But it won’t be nut-free and peanut-free, and it won’t have as much of that sesame vibe.
Doesn’t Buckwheat Contain Gluten?
It does not! Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t related to wheat. It’s a grain-like seed that tastes a bit nutty and wholesome. Soba noodles are typically made with both wheat flour and buckwheat flour, but there are some gluten-free options made with 100% buckwheat flour. Look for brands like King Soba and Onetang.
Can I Substitute White Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar?
Rice vinegar has a lightly sweet, brewed flavor. You can find it among the Asian food in the international aisle or with the other vinegars. The location will depend on your grocery store. It has a distinctive taste, so other vinegars won’t be a direct swap. That said, I think apple cider vinegar would be a good substitute in this Asian sesame noodle salad. White vinegar might be a little plain and harsh.
Special Diet Notes: Asian Sesame Noodle Salad
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, oil-free, vegan, and vegetarian.
For soy-free Asian sesame noodle salad, use coconut aminos in place of the soy sauce and omit the brown sugar. Taste test the sauce and add an extra pinch or two of salt, if needed. Coconut aminos are sweeter and less salty than soy sauce.
- 7 to 8 ounces soba noodles or spaghetti (use 100% buckwheat soba noodles or rice noodles for gluten-free)
- ⅓ cup tahini
- ¼ cup water
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari for gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ inch fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 carrot, julienned
- 1 zucchini, julienned
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onions
- Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Once cooked, rinse the noodles with cold water, drain them well, and transfer them to a large bowl.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the tahini, water, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, sugar, and pepper flakes.
- Add the sauce, carrot, and zucchini to the noodles, and gently toss to thoroughly coat the noodles with the sauce.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for an hour, or until ready to serve. It will keep for up to 3 days. If it dries out, toss the salad with a little water.
- Serve the noodle salad topped with sesame seeds and fresh chives.