This low-carb cold noodle salad is fresh and filling, tossed with a mix of crunchy veggies and a creamy tahini dressing. Serve it with grilled chicken or your protein of choice if you'd like, or keep it completely veggie-based for a low-carb, vegan meal.
I use edamame spaghetti for the noodles, which are low in carbs and vegan-friendly, but this cold noodle salad recipe is also really versatile. Swap in your favorite low-carb or keto-friendly noodles (shiritaki, Miracle noodles, zucchini noodles, etc.)- I'm convinced any low-carb noodle will work here, as they all tend to have a neutral taste that will take on the flavor of the sauce.
cold noodle salad details
I was inspired to make this after seeing Sprouted Kitchen's cold noodle salad made with soba noodles a few months ago and I immediately wanted to create a low-carb version. The verdict? We've been eating it ever since.
It's a wonderful cold lunch or dinner that is fresh but still hearty, perfect for summer days or clean-out-the-fridge days or both. And it's so versatile. I've made a few different versions based on what I have on-hand. Sometimes it turns into a cold noodle salad with peanut sauce (similar to this one) if I'm low on tahini or it becomes more "noodle dish" than "salad" if I'm short on veg.
Here's why you'll love it:
- it's low-carb, dairy free, gluten free and can be made vegan
- this simple noodle salad is so easy to throw together
- it's a use-what-you-have cold noodle salad
- this dish is perfect for family dinners or larger gatherings
The ingredient list is flexible, the way salad recipes tend to go. I've noted a few substitution ideas but if you're not a fan of any of the veggies, simply omit them. If you're looking to toss in some yummy extras, I don't think you could go wrong with a little bit of grilled pineapple or tender mango cubes (although keep in mind the fruit will increase the carb/sugar count).
You will need:
- edamame noodles (I use this plant-based edamame spaghetti but you can make this with your low-carb noodles of choice)
- spinach (or Tuscan kale)
- cabbage (green or purple)
- red onion or green onion
- bell pepper
- warm water
- coconut aminos
- toasted sesame oil
- apple cider vinegar
- lime or lemon juice
- minced garlic
- fresh ginger, optional
- ground cayenne (or sriracha)
- liquid sweetener of choice (like monk fruit, stevia, or agave)
- grilled chicken thighs, optional (or protein of choice)
This low-carb cold noodle salad recipe is simple but it does require some prepping/chopping of the veggies. The process will go even faster if the noodles are pre-cooked and chilled. Luckily, edamame spaghetti only cooks for 2-3 minutes so either way you do it, this can be an under 30-minute meal, no problem.
For the creamy tahini dressing, I recommend mixing it in a blender or food processor to get it extra smooth, but I have made it in a bowl with a whisk, too. This kind of depends on the brand of tahini you have as some are more thin and easier to stir than others.
How to make cold noodle salad:
- Prepare the edamame noodles. Cook them according to the package directions, then drain them and run the noodles under cold water. Place them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.
- Prep the veggies and tahini dressing. Chop the greens, cabbage, onion, bell pepper and cilantro and toss it all into a large mixing bowl. In a small blender or food processor, combine the tahini, warm water, coconut aminos, sesame oil, vinegar, lime/lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, cayenne pepper and sweetener. Blend/process until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed, or add a bit of water to thin it out. It should be the consistency of a creamy salad dressing like ranch.
- Add the noodles. Transfer the chilled noodles into the large bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Toss the cold noodle salad until all of the veggies, noodles and tahini dressing are combined. Serve with extra cilantro, sesame seeds, lime wedges, red pepper flakes and protein like grilled chicken (toppings are totally optional).
tips and frequently asked questions
- Substitutions: Go with any greens you'd like: spinach, arugula, kale or cabbage on its own will all work fine. Tamari is a good substitution for coconut aminos. And if you're in a hurry and/or don't want to mess with fresh garlic or fresh ginger, feel free to add in garlic or ginger powder to taste.
- Tahini dressing consistency: When warm water is blended with tahini, it turns it into a thin, creamy consistency. The amount of water needed may vary, so add an extra tablespoon of water if the dressing appears too thick (it should be pourable). I tend to make ours on the thin side since tahini seizes a little bit when it's cold (by the way, if this happens to your leftovers, stir in a tablespoon of water and the dressing will thin down).
- Can you eat tahini on keto? Absolutely! Tahini is very low in carbs, high in fat, and can easily be added to a keto or low-carb lifestyle. It's also a great dairy-free ingredient that can add some creaminess to a salad dressing or a neutral-flavored "richness" to even baked goods like this keto carrot cake or these coconut chocolate chip tahini cookies. My favorite recipe with tahini? This low-carb chicken shawarma plate!
- How do you chill noodles? The easiest and fastest way to chill the noodles is to immediately run them under cold tap water after draining them. This stops the cooking process and will cool them a little bit. Drain them afterward and place them in the refrigerator and they should be cold in about 15 minutes.
Since edamame noodles are a plant-based source of protein this cold noodle salad is pretty filling on its own, but you can also add in some leftover chicken or grilled chicken to make this a nutrient-dense meal! Best of all, it's quick, healthy, and will most likely leave you with leftovers (always a bonus!).
for the noodle salad
- 8 ounces edamame noodles (I like Explore Cuisine's edamame spaghetti)
- 1 cup spinach, chopped
- 1 cup green or purple cabbage, chopped
- ⅓ cup red onion, chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
for the tahini dressing
- 4 tablespoons tahini
- ¼ - ½ cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 2-½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon freshly-grated ginger (optional)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- liquid sweetener like monk fruit, stevia or agave (optional- add to taste)
- dash of ground cayenne
- grilled chicken thighs or leftover shredded chicken
- red pepper flakes
- sesame seeds
- lime wedges
- Heat a large pot of water on the stovetop on high until it comes to a boil. Place the edamame noodles in the water and cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain. Run the noodles under cold tap water for 1 minute. This will stop the cooking process and help the noodles chill faster.
- Transfer the drained noodles to a bowl and place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to chill.
- Chop the spinach, cabbage, onion, bell pepper and cilantro and toss it all into a large mixing bowl.
- In a small blender or food processor, combine the tahini, ¼ cup warm water (reserve the other ¼ cup), coconut aminos, sesame oil, vinegar, lime/lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, cayenne pepper and sweetener. Blend/process until smooth. The consistency should be creamy and pourable. If it needs to be thinner, add small amounts of the extra water. Taste and adjust as needed.
- Transfer the chilled noodles into the large bowl and pour the dressing over the top. Toss until all of the veggies, noodles and tahini dressing are combined.
- Serve with extra cilantro, sesame seeds, lime wedges, red pepper flakes and/or protein like grilled chicken (toppings are entirely optional).
Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
For the tahini dressing, the amount of water needed will vary based on the brand of tahini. I like to make this on the thin side since tahini seizes a little bit when it's cold. If this happens to your leftovers, simply add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water to the salad and stir to allow the dressing to thin.