It’s officially picnic season! This one-bowl meal begs to be eaten outside. Soba noodles get bathed in a peanut sauce and are then tossed with scallions, mint, spinach and peanuts. Mmm. The salad can be made in advance, and it travels well, whether you’re headed to the park, to a mountaintop, or to your own backyard.
The recipe was inspired by Lauren Braun Costello, a food stylist and chef friend, who adds black tea to her peanut sauce. Brilliant. I’ve adapted her recipe, switched up some of the ingredients for ones that are staples in my house, and added fresh vegetables and herbs—including spinach, cucumbers and mint—to make it into a one-dish dinner.
I love soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat and have a nutty flavor, but you could certainly swap in spaghetti or do a mix of half soba and half spaghetti. For the sauce, everything simply gets buzzed together in a blender, and the mixture is poured over the warm noodles. At first it looks quite soupy, but as the noodles chill the sauce thickens and gets absorbed.
The noodles can be made the day before, and the salad portion can be tossed in right before serving. If I’m bringing this to a potluck or barbeque, I’ll layer the scallions, cucumbers, spinach, mint and peanuts over the cold noodles and toss everything together right before serving.
Leftovers also make for a great lunch the following day and are perfectly suited to summertime road trips. It saved us on a recent trip to Vermont. I portioned the leftovers into individual containers, packed along some forks, fruit and chunks of dark chocolate, and lunch was served in a little park off of Interstate 87… way better than truck stop fare!
Peanut Soba Noodle Salad
- 1 pound soba noodles
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup natural creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup strong brewed black tea (regular or decaf)
- 3 garlic cloves , peeled and smashed
- ½ cup reduced sodium tamari or soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- ¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons honey (or 1 tablespoon honey plus 4 drops liquid stevia)
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ lime
- 3 scallions , thinly sliced (white and light green parts)
- 2 cups thinly sliced English or Persian cucumber
- 5 ounces baby spinach or torn spinach leaves
- ½ cup coarsely chopped mint leaves
- ½ cup roasted peanuts
- Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of salted, boiling water according to package directions. Be sure to give them a good stir now and then, especially at the beginning, so that they don’t clump up. Drain, rinse in cold water and transfer to large bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil.
- In the meantime, in a blender combine the olive oil, peanut butter, tea, garlic cloves, tamari or soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, and juice from ¼ lime. Blend until smooth. Taste and add additional lime juice if desired. Pour the sauce over the warm noodles and toss to combine. It will look quite soupy at this point, but the sauce will get absorbed as the noodles chill. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, but up to 24 hours. Do Ahead: The noodles can be tossed with the sauce and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
- Layer the scallions, cucumbers, spinach, mint and peanuts over the noodles. At this point, the salad can be covered again and refrigerated for an additional 4 hours, or it can be tossed together with tongs and served right away. For a picnic, divide the salad into individual serving containers, pack them in the cooler or backpack and hit the road.