Vegan Sesame-Cashew Soba Noodle Salad
Back in law school, I didn’t have much time for elaborate cooking, but I did eat almost all of my meals at home. One of my weekly meals was a tofu and noodle stir-fry that I made with soba noodles, a bag of seasoned frozen vegetables, and tofu marinated in Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce. It was incredibly simple (I literally just dumped some of the sauce on the tofu and left it in the fridge for an hour, and steamed the frozen vegetables. It wasn’t gourmet but I remember enjoying it on the regular.
This Spicy Sesame-Cashew Noodle Salad is my grown-up version of that law school-favorite. It’s made with nutrient-rich whole foods, tastes incredible, and is easy to make! What more could you ask for? Plus, it’s packed with protein!
First things first, this is a noodle salad, but it can be served warm or cold. I served it warm when I first made it, and then ate leftovers both cold and hot. Also, I used soba noodles, but you can use another type of noodles, such as brown rice noodles, rice noodles, or spelt noodles. Soba is simply the Japanese word for buckwheat. If you buy 100% soba/buckwheat noodles, they will be gluten-free, as buckwheat is a pseudo-grain that’s naturally gluten-free. However, many commercial varieties of soba noodles are made with part buckwheat flour, part wheat flour and are therefore not gluten-free.
Soba noodles are my favorite because they have this hearty, nutty taste and are packed with protein (1 serving has 8 grams of protein).
This noodle salad also gets a ton of protein from tempeh and edamame. Tempeh is another one of my favorite foods, though for some reason, I don’t eat it very often (I am trying to change that with this delicious recipe)! It’s made from fermented whole soy beans and is minimally processed, making it a highly nutritious, protein-rich option. Just three ounces of tempeh has 16 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and of course absolutely zero cholesterol. You can bring that nutrition fact up anytime someone insists that a vegan diet can’t provide enough protein!
Typically, I steam the tempeh for 10 minutes before further cooking it because it removes that slightly bitter taste, but I find that the combination of thinly slicing them and brushing on the tamari or soy sauce masks that taste. However, if you are ultra-sensitive to bitter food, I recommend steaming the tempeh for 10 minutes before pan-frying it. The pan-frying part couldn’t be simpler. You just need a tiny bit of cooking oil, a hot pan, and some tamari or soy sauce!
Now for my favorite part, the spicy sesame-cashew sauce! This sauce is unreal. Like finger-lickin’ good. It’s spicy, a little sweet, a little tangy, and bursting with flavor. When it’s not dressing this noodle salad, I also use it as a dipping sauce for spring rolls/dumplings/various finger foods (just leave out the water called for in this recipe).
Regarding the spice factor, I used a whole teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes because I LOVE very spicy food, but for most people, a half teaspoon will be sufficient. And if you’re sensitive to spicy food, just a pinch will do (or omit it entirely).
I love the flavor combination of cashew and sesame, but if you can’t find cashew butter and/or don’t make it home, almond butter will do the trick. I recommend using peanut butter only if you really love the taste of peanut butter because it has a more pronounced, less subtle taste than either cashew butter or almond butter.
I hope you enjoy this recipe for Spicy Sesame-Cashew Noodle Salad, and if you make it, please drop me a comment below and tag me on Instagram!
What you need to make this recipe
Spicy Sesame-Cashew Noodle Salad
1 head of broccolini (or broccoli), thick stalks removed and cut into florets
Spicy Sesame-Cashew Sauce (recipe below)
Pan-Fried Tempeh (recipe below)
1 ½ cups shelled organic edamame
3 large carrots, peeled and shaved into ribbons
2 watermelon radishes, sliced into thin strips
½ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced on an angle
For serving: Black or white sesame seeds
*Only noodles that are 100% buckwheat are gluten-free. Some soba buckwheat noodles are made with wheat flour, such as these noodles.
Spicy Sesame-Cashew Saucee
¼ cup cashew butter
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon coconut nectar, brown sugar, or agave nectar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
½ -1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (to your spice preference)
2-inch piece fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
½ cup water
1 tablespoon refined coconut oil or neutral oil of choice
8 ounces tempeh, cut into ½-inch slices
2-3 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari or soy sauce
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the soba noodles and broccolini (or broccoli) and cook according to the package instructions. My noodles had a cook time of 5-6 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time for broccoli. If you are using noodles with a longer cook time, add the noodles first and then add the broccoli when there is 5-6 minutes left of cook time on the pasta. Drain in a colander and rinse well under cold water and toss to remove some of the starch. Alternatively, you can steam or blanch the broccoli in a separate pot or using an Instant Pot.
Meanwhile, make the Pan-Fried Tempeh. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil hot, add the tempeh slices in a single layer. Brush the top layer with a bit of the tamari. Cook the temeph slices, undisturbed, for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Flip and cook on the other side until well browned, brushing again with the tamari.
To make the Spicy Ginger Sesame Cream, place all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Alternatively, add all of the ingredients except for the water in a medium bowl and whisk until well incorporated; add the water gradually, whisking to thin.
To assemble the salad, toss the cooked noodles with the Spicy Ginger Sesame Cream. Add the cooked tempeh, along with the carrot ribbons, radish slices, cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds.