Okay Summer. I guess you’re here to stay.
I don’t know what it is about warm weather, but it makes me crave cold peanutty noodles. At least the fact that it’s hot out means that I have plenty of fresh summer veggies at my disposal. Filled with all that produce, this salad really is the perfect thing for a hot muggy day. Can you think of anything you’d rather eat in this weather than something that’s filling without being heavy, and cold and refreshing but also savory and flavorful at the same time?
No. You can’t.
I usually make this once or twice every summer and that’s all I need to pacify my craving. The recipe makes enough that Russell and I both get to bring the leftovers for lunch, and if we don’t go crazy on the portions, we might even have something left to snack on the day after that.
I’ve made this enough times now that I’ve been able to get the dressing and everything just the way I like it. I’ve tried a few different recipes and some of them were too sweet, others too salty, others waaaay too complicated. Each time I’ve fiddled and futzed and streamlined the recipe to make it as simple and delicious as can be.
The only slightly time consuming part of this is cooking, cooling, and pulling the chicken. If you wanted to speed things up, and avoid turning on the oven for a day, you could plan ahead to cook extra chicken the night before, or use leftover chicken from yesterday’s roast. You could even leave it out or substitute it for another vegetable. A rotisserie chicken could work too, but I worry that all that seasoning might be too strongly flavored and could compete and clash with the flavors in the dressing. Maybe not though?
If everything you put into the salad is relatively cool or cold, you can definitely eat it right away without needing to refrigerate it, and since the veggies go in raw and the peanuts and soba noodles are done in just a few minutes, this really is quick and easy to throw together if your chicken is cooked ahead.
To some, the ingredient list here might seem a bit daunting, but please don’t be scared. The dressing is so distinctive and flavorful that you’ll be glad you took the time to go out and find fish sauce and sesame oil. If you’re like me, you probably already have these things in your fridge anyway, but if you don’t, you can find them in most grocery stores pretty easily these days. Then you’ll have them and can start experimenting with all kinds of new recipes to add to your repertoire.
Once you get everything together, making the dressing is as easy as throwing everything in a bowl and whisking it. If you’re not a fan of heat and spice, you could reduce or even skip the sriracha, but I think it really adds something wonderful to this cold dish.
If you’re not familiar with Soba noodles, they’re a Japanese buckwheat noodle that’s usually cut so thin that it cooks in 5 minutes or less. They’re subtly nutty, and hold their texture in broth or dressing, so they lend themselves perfectly to both cold salads and hot soups. They’re often gluten free too, but some companies add wheat so be careful to read the label if that’s important to you. If you can’t find them you could also use regular thin spaghetti, or even spiral sliced zucchini noodles like the ones I made here.
This salad is totally perfect for summer weather, whether it’s sunny and mild, or too hot and sticky to leave the house. It’s especially great to take with you for lunch if sitting in front the A/C in your underpants all day isn’t an option.
The dressing is thick, creamy, and perfectly peanutty with a nice sesame backbone, a little sweet acidity from the lime, a bit of saltiness from the soy and fish sauce, and just a touch of heat from the sriracha. Not only is this salad packed with flavor, it also has a great variety of textures to keep every bite fresh and interesting. There are crunchy toasted peanuts, crisp snow peas and peppers, tender noodles and chicken, and a dreamy creamy dressing to tie it all together.
Soba Noodle and Chicken Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
9.5 oz soba noodles
3 carrots, very finely julienned with a julienne peeler, mandolin, or spiral slicer
1 red bell pepper, cut into very thin strips
1/3 lb snow peas, hard stem-ends removed
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts (extra for plating if desired)
lime wedges and torn basil or cilantro for plating, if desired
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 cup smooth natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon sriracha chili sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon honey (if using sweetened peanut butter, use 1 teaspoon honey instead)
Preheat oven to 375. Place chicken breasts on a parchment lined baking sheet, rub with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled, remove skin and pull meat from bone. Shred chicken into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
In a heavy skillet on high heat, toast peanuts for about 5 minutes. Cool, roughly chop and set aside.
Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Rinse in cold water, drain, and place in a large bowl. Add prepared carrots, pepper, and snow peas, as well as cooled pulled chicken and peanuts. (If desired, reserve some peanuts for serving)
To prepare dressing, place all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined. Pour over salad and toss toss toss until everything is well dressed and evenly distributed through salad. If desired, top with a few reserved roasted peanuts, a lime wedge, and some torn basil or cilantro.