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Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

This cold rice noodle salad, brimming with crunchy cucumbers, yellow squash, peanuts, chiles and a slew of basil and mint, is light and refreshing—perfect for sultry summer evenings. Serve the salad on its own, or turn it into a main course by adding grilled shrimp or chicken. To make the garlicky grilled shrimp skewers shown above, marinate 1 pound of peeled jumbo shrimp in 4 grated garlic cloves plus enough olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Thread the shrimp onto soaked wooden skewers (pro tip: double up the skewers so that the shrimp don’t flip around!), and grill on high until cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Sprinkle the shrimp with fresh lime juice before serving.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to make cold rice noodle salad, Rice noodle salad, rice noodle salad recipe, vietnamese rice noodle salad recipe
Servings: 4 -6 people

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 12 ounces rice noodles (Pad Thai style)
  • ½ medium English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced, OR 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, halved and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup lightly packed basil or cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1-2 red chiles (such as jalapeños or serranos) to taste, thinly sliced
  • 2 large scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
  • ½ cup roasted salted peanuts or cashews, coarsely chopped, plus more for serving
  • Grilled shrimp or chicken (optional)
  • Sriracha or chile sauce, for serving (optional)

Instructions

Make the dressing

  • In a bowl or jar, combine the lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger. If you have the time, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Add the honey, sesame oil, vegetable oil and 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce to taste. Season with salt and pepper, and whisk or shake to combine. Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Make the salad

  • Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water.
  • Place the noodles in a large bowl and add the cucumber, squash, mint, basil, chiles (to taste, depending on how spicy you like it), scallions and peanuts. Pour the dressing over top, and toss to coat. Taste and season with salt if needed. Garnish with additional peanuts and scallions. If you’d like, top the salad with grilled shrimp or chicken. Serve with sriracha or chile sauce for drizzling, if desired.

Notes

Do Ahead: The dressing can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature before using. This salad is best made soon after it's made, when the vegetables and herbs are at their most vibrant. However, leftovers are delicious the next day!
Tips:
  • Pad Thai style rice noodles (which are shaped like fettuccini) hold up best in this salad, but you could go for rice vermicelli instead. 
  • Feel free to swap out the veggies for what you have on hand! Thinly sliced red bell pepper, sugar snap peas, snow peas, zucchini and shredded carrots are all delicious swap-ins. 
  • Fresh basil and mint lend important freshness to this salad, but you could go for all basil or all mint if you don't have both (or swap in cilantro!). You can also use chives in place of the scallions.
  • The dressing calls for 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce, according to taste, since different brands have varying levels of intensity—I recommend Red Boat brand.
  • Feel free to spice up the salad to your tastes by adding a second chile, or by drizzling it with chile sauce or sriracha.  
  • Transform the salad into a main course by topping it with grilled shrimp or shredded chicken. If you’re using wooden skewers, don’t forget to soak them for at least 1 hour before grilling.