Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies

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Rice noodles are coated in a sweet and sour sauce and topped with refreshing vegetables and crispy tempeh nuggets in this Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies. Finished with a dollop of ridiculously delicious peanut sauce, everything about this noodle salad is outstanding!
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 20 minutes
Total 50 minutes
5 from 11 votes

If cold noodle salads are your thing, then you will absolutely adore this Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies!

It’s a colorful and exciting veggie noodle salad that’s ultra-refreshing and packed with rainbow colors and zingy, limey flavors. It’s so addictively delicious that you won’t even realize you’re eating a nutritious meal!

Tender-chewy rice noodles and cabbage-carrot slaw are tossed in a Vietnamese-inspired sweet and sour sauce, with crispy tempeh crumbles and edamame rounding this out into a complete meal. A generous dollop of the best vegan peanut sauce on top is the pièce de résistance, lending amazing textures and rich, nutty flavors to every bite.

Table of Contents:
1. Why this recipe works
2. Ingredient notes
3. Step-by-step instructions
4. Tips for making this recipe
5. Frequently Asked Questions
6. Recipe card with notes

overhead view of a colorful veggie noodle salad with edamame in a bowl.

Why this recipe works

Delicious Southeast Asian flavors 

This salad reminds me of the cold and always refreshing noodle salads we ate in Vietnam (we spent a month backpacking around the country nearly 10 years ago!). I dressed it in a limey, sweet, and sour noodle sauce that’s an easy vegan riff on the classic Vietnamese dipping sauce, nước chấm, which is typically made from fish sauce, sugar, water, chiles, and lime juice.

Meanwhile, a crunchy and fresh cabbage-carrot slaw adds brilliant colors to make you feel like you’re eating the rainbow. Lastly, a peanut sauce inspired by peanut sauces you’d find in certain Indonesian or Thai dishes is drizzled on top for rich, salty-savory goodness.

All these fun flavors make for a well-balanced dish that’s addictively delicious!

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Nutrient-rich but still craveable! 

There’s no shortage of good-for-you ingredients in this noodle salad. But you’ll probably be too busy indulging in every peanut sauce-covered bite to notice so let me just lay the facts out. 

One of the plant-based protein sources here, tempeh, is a nutrition superstar. Not only is it one of the best plant-based sources of iron, but just 3 ounces contains 18 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. It’s also a fermented product, which means it has gut-healthy bacteria and probiotics that can improve your digestion and the overall health of your microbiome.

Edamame is the second plant-based protein in this salad, containing 18 grams of protein per 1 cup. It’s naturally low in calories and endlessly versatile. Use these green soybeans in noodle bowls, blend them into a delicious toast spread, or toss them in a protein-packed salad.

Last but not least are the cabbage and carrots in this slurpable noodle salad. They pack it with fiber, antioxidants, and a long list of vitamins and minerals. Cabbage is particularly high in vitamin C, which can benefit your heart health and protect you from certain cancers. The beta carotene in carrots (AKA vitamin A) is known for boosting your eye health but can also be beneficial to your immune system.

Easy to customize

Transform this cold noodle salad into a meal with all the customizations you want. Add even more refreshing and crunchy vegetables for bulk, or increase the protein. 

There’s already 25 grams of plant protein in this dish, but you can add even more by doubling the edamame.

Want a lighter side dish to serve a crowd instead? Make the recipe without the tempeh and peanut sauce. 

Ingredient notes 

Thin rice noodles

Rice noodles come in all kinds of thickness levels, but for the sauciest and tastiest Vietnamese rice noodle salad, thin rice noodles are best. When you’re shopping, look for rice noodles labeled as rice vermicelli, Vietnamese bún, rice sticks, or mung bean threads. 

There are two quantities of rice noodles in the recipe card. For a larger and heartier salad or to stretch the meal further, use the larger quantity. If you want a stronger flavor and more sauce in the salad, stick with the smaller quantity. 

Where to buy: You can find rice noodles at most major grocery stores, East and Southeast Asian grocery stores, or online (affiliate link). 

Tempeh

Tempeh is an underrated soy-based plant-based protein. It’s nutrient-rich, has tons of protein, and is just as versatile as tofu! A lot of vegans are missing out on tempeh, but this noodle salad (or my guide on How to Cook Tempeh) will make you want to try it ASAP!

Even though it has a natural nutty and bitter taste, tempeh is easy to make irresistible with the right cooking techniques. In this noodle salad recipe, the tempeh is crumbled into very small pieces and pan-fried in oil until it’s super crispy and tender. It’s the same method I use in my delicious Tempeh Tacos recipe!

Substitute: With a sweet-and-sour noodle sauce AND an umami-rich peanut sauce, you will hardly notice you’re eating tempeh (in crispy nugget form, no less). But if you still hate the idea of tempeh, you can either (1) omit it and double the amount of edamame; (2) cube up some store-bought baked tofu; or (3) serve this noodle salad with my pan-fried tofu or baked tofu

Cabbage and carrots 

The two main veggies in the noodle salad. Both are finely sliced or shredded for super thin and uniform slices that are easy to chew, not to mention faster to prep.

Substitute: To save time, replace the whole cabbage and carrots with pre-shredded cabbage and carrots. These are usually sold together as a coleslaw mix. And if you don’t want to use red cabbage, use green cabbage or Napa cabbage instead.

Lime juice 

The tangy tart flavor of freshly squeezed lime juice is a staple in Vietnamese noodle salads. You need a generous amount, so stock up on those limes!

Tip: When shopping for limes, seek out juicy limes. Juicy limes tend to have thin, smooth, undimpled skin and feel heavy for their size. When you gently squeeze them, they should be slightly soft and squishy.

Soy sauce 

Soy sauce is used both in the peanut sauce and noodle sauce. It balances the flavors and adds an addictive depth of savoriness.

Gluten-free? Use tamari or gluten-free soy sauce instead (the rest of this recipe is gluten-free). 

Peanut butter

For the peanut sauce, of course! Use smooth and creamy peanut butter with no added sugars, salt, or oils for the best results. If your peanut butter is salted, start the peanut sauce with a bit less tamari/soy sauce, then add more to taste. 

Substitutes: Peanut allergy? Almond butter (or cashew butter) works just as well and has a great flavor. Nut allergy? Experiment with sunflower seed butter instead. Keep in mind that most varieties have added sugar, so start with 2 teaspoons of sugar in the sauce, then taste and adjust as needed. 

Tamarind paste

Tamarind is a tropical pod fruit that’s used in many cuisines, including South Asian (particularly South Indian cuisine), Southeast Asian, Latin American, and Caribbean cuisines. It adds distinct tart, tangy, and slightly sweet flavors to curries, beverages, chutneys, and many more dishes.

Tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate is used in the peanut sauce. You only need 1 tablespoon, but it really makes an impact!

Where to buy: You can find tamarind paste or concentrate in the international aisle at well-stocked grocery stores, at South Asian and Southeast Asian grocers, and online (Target and Walmart also sell it)(affiliate link).

Can’t find tamarind? Use freshly squeezed lime juice from the limes you zested instead. The sauce will still be delicious. 

person whisking peanut sauce in a bowl.

Step-by-step instructions 

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain well, then toss them in a bowl with toasted sesame oil. Cook the edamame according to the package instructions. 

Slice or shred the cabbage and carrots. 

Crumble the tempeh into small pieces about the size of a pine nut. To make the crispy tempeh, heat a wok over medium-high heat until it’s starting to smoke, then add the oil. Add the tempeh and cook until the small crumbles are golden brown and crisp, stirring only occasionally.

Transfer the fried tempeh to a paper towel-lined surface to absorb excess oil.

Meanwhile, make the noodle sauce by stirring the lime juice, tamari, and agave together.

Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoons of this sauce into a bowl; stir in the cooled tempeh.

To the rest of the noodle sauce, stir in the toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.

To assemble, add the cooked rice noodles to a large bowl along with the cabbage, carrots, and cilantro. Pour the noodle sauce over top and toss together. 

Add the fried tempeh nuggets and edamame, then toss again. Before serving, spoon some peanut sauce over each serving. 

Tips for making this recipe 

Use thin rice noodles

Thicker varieties don’t absorb the noodle sauce as well as the thin noodle varieties. The thicker the noodles, the drier and chewier your noodle salad will be.

Small tempeh crumbles are ideal

You want to aim to crumble the tempeh into pine nut-sized pieces. Small crumbles get nice and crispy when fried and turn out less dense and chewy.

Thinly slice the vegetables

I highly recommend thinly slicing or shredding the cabbage and carrots for easy eating. I like to use a mandolin for thin and uniform slices, but you can also use these methods:

  • In a food processor, use the slicing disc to finely shred the cabbage and the shredding disk to grate the carrots.
  • Use a box grater to finely shred both the cabbage and carrots.
  • Slice the cabbage with a sharp chef’s knife as thinly as you can.
  • Use a julienne peeler for thin carrot slices.

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overhead view of noodle salad in a bowl.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of tempeh should I use?

“Original” tempeh is best. You’ll want to avoid flavored or pre-seasoned tempeh, like tempeh bacon or buffalo tempeh. Also, some varieties are sold as “three grain” tempeh, but I find that they can get too crispy when fried (hard to chew). 

I don’t like tempeh. What can I use instead?

Feel free to omit the tempeh if you don’t like it. Instead, double the edamame in the salad or swap it for store-bought baked tofu or a batch of my pan-fried tofu or baked tofu

Can I add other vegetables to this noodle salad?

Sure! A thinly sliced red/orange/yellow bell pepper would be great, as would thinly sliced sugar snap peas or shaved fennel. Canned water chestnuts would also add a nice and juicy crunch factor.

How do I store leftovers? 

Store the leftover noodle salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Keep the peanut sauce in a separate container.

When serving leftovers, it helps to toss the noodles with a dash of soy sauce, a squeeze of fresh lime juice, and/or chili sauce to brighten up the flavors. Drizzle the peanut sauce over the top right before serving.

tongs lifting noodles from plate.

If you love this Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies, please leave a rating and review below :) Your support is always appreciated!

Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies

5 from 11 votes
Rice noodles are coated in a sweet and sour sauce and topped with refreshing vegetables and crispy tempeh nuggets in this Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies. Finished with a dollop of ridiculously delicious peanut sauce, everything about this noodle salad is outstanding!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Course: Dinner, Side Dish
Cuisine: Southeast Asian
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Serving size: 4

Ingredients

  • 6 oz (170g) frozen shelled edamame (½ of a 12-oz bag)
  • 3 to 4 bundles of thin rice noodles (5 to 6.5 oz / 140 to 185g) (see Note 1)

Peanut Sauce

  • ¼ cup (56g) creamy peanut butter (preferably unsalted) (see Note 2)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, grated or crushed with a press
  • 1 tablespoon (20g) tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate (see Note 3)
  • 1 large lime, zested
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (25g) tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) sambal oelek or chili-garlic sauce (see Note 4)
  • 1 tablespoon (8g) coconut sugar (or organic cane/brown sugar, see Note 5)
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • teaspoon ground cinnamon

Veggies

  • 3 to 4 cups (225 to 300g) thinly sliced or shredded red cabbage (see Note 6) 
  • 4 medium carrots, grated or shredded (see Note 6)
  • 1 cup (16g) cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped

Crispy Tempeh

  • 1 8-oz/227g block of tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat neutral oil
  • Kosher salt

Noodle Sauce

  • ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons ~85 mL freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons (51g) tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (42g) agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil plus a drizzle for the noodles
  • 3 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Fill a pot of water to cook the noodles and/or edamame.
  • Make the Peanut Sauce. In a bowl, combine the peanut butter, garlic, tamarind, lime zest, tamari or soy sauce, chili sauce, sugar, coriander, and cinnamon. Whisk well to combine, then add a tablespoon of water and whisk until the sauce is pourable.
    Taste, adding more tamari for savory saltiness, more sugar for sweetness, more tamarind or lime juice for tang, or more chili sauce for heat. Set aside (or make a few days in advance).
  • Prep the tempeh and veggies. Use your hands to crumble the tempeh into very small pieces, about the size of a pine nut. Slice or shred the cabbage and carrots using your preferred method. Chop the cilantro.
  • Edamame: Cook using the package instructions, or simply defrost: add to a bowl of warm water and rest until no longer frozen. Drain in a colander and shake to dry.
  • Noodles: Cook the noodles according to the package. Drain very well, shaking off water. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. Toss, and set aside.
  • Make the Crispy Tempeh. Heat a wok over medium-high heat until it just starts to smoke, then add the 2 tablespoons of high-heat oil (or heat a large nonstick frying pan with the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers).
    Add the tempeh and cook in a single layer for 2 minutes undisturbed. Toss, then cook for a total of 10 to 12 minutes, stirring only every 1 ½ to 2 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.
    Transfer fried tempeh to a paper-towel lined surface to absorb excess oil. Season it with a couple pinches of salt.
  • While the tempeh cooks, make the Noodle Sauce. In a jar, combine the lime juice, 3 tablespoons tamari, and 2 tablespoons agave. Shake well to combine.
    Set aside 1 ½ tablespoon sauce in a medium bowl. To the remaining sauce, stir in the 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 3 tablespoon sesame seeds. If you like things sweeter, add a bit more agave.
  • Finish the tempeh. Once the tempeh has cooled off a bit, transfer it to the bowl with the 1 ½ tablespoons reserved Noodle Sauce.
  • Assemble: Add the cooked noodles to a large bowl. Add in the shredded cabbage, carrots, and chopped cilantro. Pour the Noodle Sauce on top and toss well with tongs. Add in the seasoned tempeh nuggets and edamame and toss again.
    Divide the noodle salad between four bowls and spoon some Peanut Sauce on each serving. Top with chili sauce for extra heat, if desired.

Notes

  1. These may be labeled “rice vermicelli,” Vietnamese bún, or rice sticks. Use the larger quantity for heartier appetites / to stretch out the meal more.
  2. If you have salted peanut butter, start with 2 ½ TBSP tamari and add more as needed. Peanut allergy? Use almond butter. Nut allergy? Use sunflower seed butter.
  3. If you don’t have tamarind paste, juice the lime after zesting it, and use 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons lime juice (or to taste).
  4. Use less chili sauce as needed. If you need to sub with sriracha, use less sugar.
  5. If your nut/seed butter contains sugar, start with just 2 teaspoons of sugar, then taste and adjust as needed.
  6. This is about ⅓ of a medium cabbage (that weighs ~32 ounces/900g); or ½ of a very small cabbage. I like to use a mandoline to slice the cabbage and carrots for thin uniform slices that are easy to chew. You can also use a box grater for both, or the shredding disc of your food processor for the carrots and the slicing disc for cabbage. Or a sharp chef’s knife for the cabbage and a julienne peeler for the carrots. Lots of options!

Calories: 582kcal | Carbohydrates: 70g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 13g | Sodium: 1214mg | Potassium: 902mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 19g | Vitamin A: 8011IU | Vitamin C: 45mg | Calcium: 228mg | Iron: 5mg

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15 comments on Noodle Salad with Rainbow Veggies

  1. Jodie MC

    5 stars
    Omfg Nisha this is SUPERB! And my non vegan husband just gobbled the whole bowlful without even mentioning the tempeh!!! I think this is inspired and so worth the effort of making so many components for a single bowlful of food. I will be making that sauce in bulk to use on many other things like rice, plain veg or even as a salad dressing because it’s so freakin delicious. Thank you Nisha!

  2. Chiara

    5 stars
    I made this for the meal plans and oh my goodness, who would have thought that my tempeh-hating husband would love this dish? You have a gift for turning ingredients that me and my husband swear we do not like into dishes that we actually like. No, LOVE. Thank you for this amazing dish and for your gift!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Chiara, Thank you for your thoughtful review! We’re so happy to hear that you enjoyed the noodle salad.

  3. Virginia Watson

    5 stars
    This has become a “go-to” sauce…it even makes me want to eat a salad, so I can pour it on as dressing.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Virginia! It makes us happy to know that you enjoyed the recipe.

  4. Eve

    5 stars
    omg this may be the best thing i have ever eaten!
    I did make a few alterations because i didn’t have the right veggies and i had and extra.

    I make mistakes in the recipe… but all the ingrediants end up in the same place

    first off, I 1.5 the sauce
    2nd i added all the noodle sauce to the freshly cooked noodles and had none left to add to the tempeh
    3rd i added a lot of fresh basil because i had it on hand
    4th I added a block of tofu slabs (baked after soaking in coconut aminos and Chinese 5 spice)
    5th i didnt have any edemame, but that would have been amazing and probs wouldn’t have needed the tofu if I had the edemame. also i had no cabbage so I chopped up 2 large peppers 1 red 1 yellow and I think that was an improvement
    this is sooooo good it is unimaginable- just like vietnamese takeout, maybe

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Eve! We’re so happy you loved the salad.

  5. Björk Leuderalbert

    5 stars
    Absolutely delicious, nourishing and satiating. Thanks for another great recipe. Will surely make it again :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Björk. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  6. Betsy J

    5 stars
    AMAZING! This was so fantastic, the flavors, texture and variety of vegetables! I made a few modifications
    1) I used Trader Joe’s gluten free brown rice spaghetti in place of the rice noodles. I just prefer the thicker noodles and texture.
    2) I made crispy tofu in my air fryer. I’ve never made tempeh and am a little nervous to make for the first time.
    3) I added celery because I had some and I like the extra crunch.
    4) I used Tamarind Sauce from Trader Joe’s in place of the Tamarind Paste because I had it and figured it would work.
    5) Lastly, I had to add a little water to the peanut sauce to thin in out, probably because I eyeballed the peanut butter, but it turned out great!

    This is a keeper! Thank you so much for the recipe!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Betsy! I definitely need to try this recipe myself very soon!

  7. Debbie

    5 stars
    Just made this and it’s delicious! I didn’t have enough lime juice so I substituted with lemon juice and it was still good. I made my own peanut sauce with a mix of peanut butter, PB2, siracha, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and water.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Debbie! That sauce sounds delightful :)

  8. Aida

    5 stars
    I’m not one to leave reviews but this dish is exceptional. I’m not vegetarian but have been trying to eat/prepare more plant-based meals for added health benefits. As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. This is so delicious, fun and I learned a lot from preparing it! I absolutely LOVE and appreciate your detail in explaining the steps, the beautiful coordinating pictures and the bold font where needed :) preparing this dish was an effort but not tedious by any means. Love it and THANK YOU!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the amazing review, Aida! :) I am excited to try this recipe myself, it looks too dang delicious. We appreciate the feedback!

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