Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions


There are as many recipes for cold Asian noodles as there are people in the world. That isn’t true. But it sometimes feels true. Versions of this vaguely Asian (pan-Asian?) dish (does anyone know the origins? or when this because popular in the states?) pop up on restaurant menus and recipes for it make regular rotations through food magazines. They always remind me of the 90’s and eating at restaurants that felt cosmopolitan because they had this or Chinese Chicken Salad on the menu (Wolfgang Puck, yo!). I love these type of noodles and am on a life-long quest to put together the perfect recipe. Whenever I find a new version to try, I consider it a research opportunity.


This is another recipe from the current issue of Bon Appetit. Can we stop for a minute and talk about Bon Appetit? After months of watching it spiral into food magazine hell, it seems to be returning to form. Or at least returning to the realm of food magazines. It has held onto its handsome new design but threw out much of the star-fucking that was making it totally inane and unbearable (Armie Hammer eats at McDonalds! Kelly Westler doesn’t like food! Fashion!). The last couple of issues feel like the magazine has gotten back on track and is headed in a better direction. It is nice to see. Although, even this month Patrick Dempsey was interviewed- but at least he seems to like food! Celebrities are just like us, they eat food. In any case, I hope that it continues to improve and focus on food and the people who love it, because, whatever its faults, Bon Appetit is pretty good at choosing and developing recipes. Recipes! Back to the noodles….


This is among my favorite preparations of this dish. These are some seriously delicious and well-balanced cold noodles and I plan on eating them all summer. The highlight is the chili oil you make and add to the dish. It is spicy, seriously spicy. I want that. I want my lips to burn. I already knew I preferred tahini to peanut butter in these types of recipes, but this confirmed it. Peanut butter can be so heavy and flat tasting, I think the tahini works better with the other ingredients. I didn’t change much about this, I increased the amount of scallions and added more of the chili oil than called for, but you can adjust the spice to your liking. Also, this isn’t reflected below, but next time I would increase all of the dressing ingredients by 25% so that this uses the entire box of spaghetti. I hate when recipes only use a portion of the box. Otherwise, this is some salty summer noodle goodness.

Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions (recipe from Bon Appetit)

  • 4 scallions, whites and greens separated, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 12 ounces thin ramen noodles or spaghettini
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Cook scallion whites, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil is sizzling and scallions are golden brown, 12–15 minutes; let chili oil cool in saucepan.
Meanwhile, cook noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente; drain. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
Whisk tahini, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and 2–3 tablespoons chili oil (depending on desired heat) in a large bowl; season with salt. Add noodles and toss to coat. Top with scallion greens and drizzle with more chili oil.

51 comments to “Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions”

  1. Liesbeth says:

    May 23rd, 2013 at 9:12 am

    just a small question: what are the turnips for?

  2. Sorry-am I missing what to do with the turnips-raw, boiled? Are there turnips in your finished dish photo?

  3. Folks! It’s gonna be okay! NO turnips. Typo time.

  4. Oh I like this. I’ve made ginger scallion sauce and chili oil and put them both on noodles, but never thought of merging them. I especially like the idea of using the green parts of the scallion as garnish. Must try this!

  5. A classic of food writing, Sam Sifton on the emergence of sesame noodles in America:

  6. Thanks, Kristen!

  7. I think I will reduce the amount of chili oil a bit again :; and obviously I am not the only one that has discovered tahini in Asian (style) noodle dishes…great choice I think!

  8. I’m happy with the way Bon Appetit seems to be going now too! And this looks so lovely. Thanks for sharing :)

  9. I too am in agreement that Bon Appetit had lost it’s way. As a 40 year subscriber I have seen it change and evolve-but the latest go around put me on edge. It does appear to now to be settling down and less about the hip, cool and starstruck and more about good food. These noodles look so good and a wonderful do ahead summertime meal that could be served at room temp.

  10. After my utter disgust at Bon Appetit following the changing of the guard, I recently fell for a nearly-free offer to resubscribe. I felt a little dirty leafing through the first issue to arrive after my BA break, but was also pleasantly surprised at the soft shift in tone. I still like Saveur better, and even Food & Wine, but at least I don’t feel yucky liking BA again.

    Tim, feel free to pass on your cold noodle research findings and improvements any time! We’ll be making this around here a lot this summer too.

  11. I Llove this post. I’ve never made cold Asian noodles but love to eat them. I never knew that I COULD make them – great inspiration from you, once again!

  12. I agree – Bon Appetit has really stepped up lately. I was on the verge of cancelling, but I’m glad I hung on. Especially because this month’s issue was so great.

  13. Actually, this recipe does make enough for a whole box of spaghetti. The brands I buy are packaged in 12oz. boxes. Those 16oz days are way over (in my local stores, anyway).

  14. huh, pj. my boxes were 16oz (both De Cecco and Barilla)

  15. “I hate when recipes only use a portion of the box.” – I hear ya bro, me too! A tip, Barilla makes a ‘healthier’ pasta, Barilla Plus, that I really like, and it comes in 14.5 oz size boxes! A little closer. I’m thinking their angel hair would be PERFECT here…don’t be scared, I don’t eat the Barilla Plus ’cause it’s healthy, I’ve come to truly prefer the taste.

  16. I definitely need to keep these noodles in the back of my mind for those super-hot days I know are coming. :) Tahini sounds like a great idea here!

  17. Thanks for the tip, CR. I’ve tried Barilla Plus, it ain’t bad. Not sure that I would use it here, but I agree it is surprisingly good for what it is…

  18. I made these with sichuan peppers and I just want to check – was it a fresh pepper that you used (suggested by your instruction of chopping), or sichuan peppercorns? I used peppercorns and it tasted terrible, we had to throw it out. Boyfriend usually eats everything. :(

  19. That looks delicious! I really like this issue of BA, too. I cannot wait to try something from the Cali-Persian feature. Everything’s jewel toned and gorgeous.

  20. I love chilli oil so much and Szechuan peppercorns have that added tingling sensation with full on heat which is so addictive. This is certainly as salad to suit my tastes!

  21. Hi Kristen- I used dried sichuan peppercorns, and I chopped them. Maybe you just don’t like sichuan peppercorns? Not everyone does….

  22. I love this kind of dish…the ingredients and noodles…fresh, flavorful and satisfying. The softening of tone w/Bon Appetit is noticeable; I hope it continues, or I won’t…glad you brought it up.

  23. Patrick Dempsey should be allowed to appear in Bon Appetit as he’s a serious coffee addict and bought the Tully’s coffee chain in federal bankruptcy court.

  24. Mary Anne says:

    May 23rd, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I’m constantly making fun of BA with a mutual friend of ours, Tim, but I can’t get around the fact that I tear several recipes out every month, and actually make them too. Beautiful photos these days, and yes, great recipes!

    HOWEVER, I did have a major fail. I made the Thai noodle soup that was on the cover of their soup issue a few months back, and I followed the recipe to a T except I couldn’t find Chinese egg noodles at the store. So I used Thai rice noodles. Well those dang rice nooles absorbed EVERY LAST DROP OF LIQUID. We ate the “soup” with forks. True story!

  25. Great recipe for the season! When I make the sauce for my cold noodles, I like to mix together sesame paste and peanut better, which creates a more balanced and nuanced sauce.

  26. Not so fast – did you get the spam in today’s email from BA: “How to get your bikini body back!” PLEASE. This looks like a good recipe, but there’s still a healthy portion of cultural groveling. Ken

  27. P.S. Sorry. Not you guys or the recipe, the magazine doing the groveling. Ken

  28. Glad to hear I’m not alone in feeling Bon Appetit has begun to find its bearings. And advertisers, too — it seems thicker! Hooray for print media! I still pine for Gourmet.

  29. Have you tried the Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts & Thai Basil, from Bon Appetit, July 2007? I forgot about it until I saw your photo. No peanut butter, less oil, lots of green onions. I thought it was all the right stuff.

  30. Is there anything I could substitute for the Sichuan pepper? I live in a place without access to good grocery stores, but I have all the other ingredients for this recipe on hand.

  31. Hey Allison- You could just omit them, it will still be good!

  32. I can’t wait to make these — thanks for sharing, Tim! Have you tried the cold peanut satay noodles at Lula Cafe? They’re ridiculously good.

  33. Love! I’ve been looking for s new spicy sesame noodle recipe since misplacing mine…

  34. Hey, this looks amazing. I love your photos, too. I’ll have to keep this in mind for hot days – here in Australia it’s just about winter. I love chilli, though, so I’m really excited to try this.

  35. BA is so annoying now. If I read one more mention of Maldon Sea Salt…!!! But I like you, Tim.

  36. Wow! This sounds like a great recipe. Gonna try it today. Thank you guys.

  37. i so agree about the 90’s (when I first ate it in Philly) so delish! your’s looks scrumptious.

    here’s one that looks really interesting and is on my list to try this week.


  38. I enjoy reading your blog and share your enthusiasm for food and cooking. I, too, read BA and saw this but didn’t really get excited until I saw your posting. Yesterday, we grilled up flanken cut short ribs marinated in apple juice and garlic, the sesame noodles, a napa cabbage salad with cilantro, and quick tumeric pickles. It was f’ing delicious, not to mention made for a gorgeous table. My one little addition to your readers would be to clarify that the “peppers” are peppercorns and might not be labeled as such in the market. The market down the street from where we live had some, but labeled as “dried prickly ash”. Had I not asked someone in the shop, I would have never known that those were what I was looking for. Finally, I visited Chicago for the first time last fall and thanks to your blog dined at the Purple Pig. It was a fun experience, in the warm late afternoon, to sit and sip wine and try marrow spread on toast for the first time.

  39. Can’t wait to try this! Always looking for more to do with scallions!

    Fellow Blogger,

  40. That’s just what I feel like eating tonight.

  41. Tasty, nice, easy to make. What more can I say. I made a less spicy version this weekend (my husband and I are not so very heat proof) and it sure is to be on the menu again and again.

  42. Rebekkah- Thanks for the tip! Who knew they might be called “dried prickly ash”?! Glad you visited Chicago!
    Anne- Glad you liked it! Thanks for checking in…

  43. Love the recipe..will def give it a try. I know the Japanese eat their Soba noodles cold. They dip it in light soya sauce mixed with wasabi. It’s one of my favs when I’m dining at a Japanese restaurant. Goes well with some chopped garlic and lots of Sashimi :)

  44. This dish looks really yum! Going shopping tomorrow so will buy the ingredients I don’t have so I can make it.

  45. Such a lovely, light summer lunch.

  46. hahahaha I loved the magazine rant!

  47. I read this recipe in Flipboard on the bus on the way home from work and was shoveling it into my mouth by 6PM. Today’s lunch is Round 1. These noodles are amazing, thank you for sharing!!

  48. This is one of my favorite dishes to order from my go-to Thai place in the city, but I’ve been wanting to make them myself. I’ll have to give this recipe a try!


  49. Have made these a couple of times and am grateful that you highlighted this from BA. Great recipe! Have added shredded carrots and cilantro to the mix and left the noodles warm before letting them soak the sauce and cool down, making it almost like Burmese noodles. Thanks!

  50. So I didn’t quite make these noodles for lunch today–no sichuan pepper on hand–but this was the first time I’d added tahini to a cold-noodle marinade. It’s a great addition! I’ll be doing it a lot more this summer!

  51. I make a version of this, with soba noodles (buckwheat noodles which take 4 minutes to cook, before being plunged into cold water). I add sesame oil, chili oil, ground szechuan peppercorns, cilantro and scallions. Love your blog.

What do you think?