Spicy Chili Garlic Noodles

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Perfect for busy weeknights, these vegan chili garlic noodles can be made in just 15 minutes and are loaded with flavor: savory, nutty, garlicky, and spicy!
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 5 minutes
Total 15 minutes
5 from 153 votes

If you’ve ever struggled with getting food on the table on busy weeknights, these chili garlic noodles are guaranteed to become a staple in your household. 

In this post, you’ll learn my formula for how to make Asian-inspired vegan noodles in less time than it takes to order takeout.

And these bad boys aren’t just fast; they’re flavorful, too. Spicy, garlicky, tangy and with a mix of chewy, saucy, and crunchy textures, be warned: this recipe is addictive. 

The best part? The chili garlic oil/sauce makes a double batch, which means the next time make these noodles, it takes even less time and effort.

Table of Contents:
1. Ingredient Notes
2. Step by step instructions
3. Tips and Substitutes
4. Frequently asked questions
5. Video: How to make Chili Garlic Noodles
6. Full recipe

vegan noodles with chili garlic sauce and bell peppers in navy blue bowl on brown backdrop, with bowl of scallions

Ingredient notes

These vegan noodles fuse Chinese cooking techniques and ingredients with Japanese udon noodles in the most inauthentic-but-crazy-delicious way. Better yet, a medley of veggies, herbs, nuts and plant-based protein keeps everything pretty wholesome, too. 

ingredients for vegan noodles with ingredients labeled

Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:

  • Noodles: my first choice for this recipe is fresh (or frozen) udon noodles. They have the perfect bouncy, chewy texture and cook in just two minutes. 
  • For the sauce: you’ll need soy sauce or tamari, maple syrup or agave, and Chinese black vinegar. Chinese black vinegar is a less commonly known ingredient, so I’ve shared more detail about what it adds below as well as potential substitutions if you can’t get it.
  • For the garlic chili oil: we’re using a neutral flavored oil like grapeseed or avocado oil, Sichuan chile flakes or standard crushed red pepper flakes, white sesame seeds, garlic, and peanuts.
  • For the veggies: my preference is to use red or orange bell pepper (never green – gross!), cilantro, and scallions.
  • For protein: I rely on pre-shelled edamame, which can be found in the frozen section of most grocery stores. It’s super high in protein and of course works well with the East Asian flavors in this recipe.

Common Substitutions

One of the reasons I love this recipe is that it’s so customizable. Here are a few common substitutions you can try:

  • Can’t find fresh or frozen udon noodles? I adore fresh udon noodles because they’re chubby, chewy, and slurpy. If you can’t find them, use shelf-stable udon noodles or ramen noodles. The dish will still be very tasty, it will just have a different texture. Just don’t use a thin noodle variety like rice vermicelli.  
  • No Chinese black vinegar? You can use rice vinegar in a pinch, but the dish won’t have the same complexity or depth of flavor. I really recommend Chinese black vinegar for this recipe; you can find more in the Tips section below.
  • Allergic to peanuts? Cashews also work very well here.
  • Other veggies you can add. You can use finely shredded red cabbage or Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, or chopped snap peas/snow peas. If you have extra time, you can add steamed broccoli or sautéed bok choy. 
  • Swap out the protein. If you don’t like edamame but still want to keep things quick, use store-bought pre-cooked tofu. You can also cook tofu yourself, though of course the recipe will no longer be 15-minute friendly.

Step-by-step instructions

Gather your ingredients!

Prep the vegetables and herbs: slice the bell peppers and scallions, and chop the cilantro.

red and orange bell pepper slices on cutting board with sliced scallions and cilantro

Mince the garlic, chop the peanuts, and add them to a bowl along with the chile flakes and sesame seeds.

glass bowl with chopped peanuts, minced garlic, chile flakes, and sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a small saucepan for several minutes until it reaches 350ºF/175ºC. Pour the hot oil over the garlic-peanut mixture. It should sizzle.

woman pouring hot oil from small saucepan into jar of peanuts, garlic, and sesame seeds

After a minute, stir the soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, and maple syrup/agave into the chili-garlic oil.

garlic chili oil in a bowl with spoon

Pour the garlic chili oil/sauce over your cooked udon noodles and toss to coat.

Add the sliced bell pepper and scallions, chopped cilantro, and edamame. Toss to coat well.

Tips and Substitutes

Multitask for maximum efficiency

If you want to maximize time and make this in 15 minutes, you have to multitask.

While the water for the noodles is boiling, chop your garlic and peanuts for the chili oil. And when the oil is heating up on the stove, grab your vegetables and herbs. While the chili oil sauce is resting and the noodles are cooking, slice your vegetables and herbs. You get the point!

Also, fresh or frozen udon noodles cook very quickly—about 2 minutes. If you’re using a different noodle, it might add to the cook time by a few minutes.

Don’t sleep on Chinese Black Vinegar

Chinese black vinegar is one of the most unique and delicious pantry ingredients and really makes this dish shine. Unlike a standard Western vinegar, it’s fermented and has a complex flavor profile: umami-rich, earthy, sour, and a little sweet.

The most common variety sold in the states is Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link) from Southern China, which is made from fermented sticky rice (you might also find it sold as Zhenjiang). Bonus: it’s very affordable (at an Asian grocery store like HMart, it costs about $4), and will stay good in your pantry for a very, very long time.

If you want to read more about Chinese black vinegar, check out these posts from The Woks of Life and Bon Appetit.

Adjust the spice level to your taste

Since these are garlic chili noodles, they need some heat. That said, I don’t think this recipe is very spicy.

If you want the noodles to be very spicy, add more chile flakes. If you’re sensitive to spicy food, use half the amount.

I love using Sichuan chile flakes for this recipe, as it’s a Chinese inspired recipe and the flavor is wonderful (toasty and nutty), but this recipe also works great with standard red pepper flakes.

Make sure the oil is adequately heated

This is not a traditional chili oil where the aromatics are cooked in oil on the stove. Instead, it’s a quick and streamlined version where you pour hot oil over the aromatics and allow the hot oil to cook them that way. So, it’s important the oil is hot enough.

I use a thermometer like this to ensure the oil is at 350ºF. If you don’t have one, allow your oil to heat for 3 to 5 minutes (the smaller the saucepan, the less time it needs). Then, add a piece of minced garlic to the oil. If it sizzles immediately, the oil should be hot enough.

vegan noodles with chili garlic sauce and bell peppers in navy blue bowl on brown backdrop, with bowl of scallions and bowl of sesame seeds

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find fresh or frozen udon noodles? How do you cook them?

You can find fresh or frozen udon noodles at East Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated or freezer section. They typically come in packets or bundles as shown below.

Add them to a pot of boiling water like this and use a chopstick to loosen them from their bundle. They typically only take 2 minutes to cook. Then drain and rinse under cool water (you can use them hot in other dishes, but this is a cold/room temperature noodle salad).

two blocks of udon noodles

What about Chinese black vinegar and Sichuan chile flakes?

You can find Chinese black vinegar and Sichuan chile flakes at East Asian grocery stores, or order black vinegar and Sichuan chile flakes online (affiliate links).

I can’t get black vinegar. What can I use instead?

You can use rice vinegar with good results, but the dish won’t have the same complexity or depth of flavor.

What other ways can I use Chinese black vinegar?

Use it in other noodle dishes or in stir-fries (start slowly, as it’s quite strong in flavor), and usually add it towards the end. It’s also commonly used with equal parts soy sauce as a dipping sauce for dumplings. I also love it in a Chinese smashed cucumber salad, like this one from Lisa of Healthy Nibbles.

When cooking Chinese dishes, you can also use a small amount of black vinegar enhance the flavors in a dish or to balance a dish that’s too spicy, too sweet or too bitter.

When I poured the hot oil over my garlic-peanut mixture, it didn’t sizzle. What do I do?

That means the oil wasn’t hot enough. Don’t worry, you can fix this. Just transfer the entire mixture—oil and aromatics—to a small frying pan over medium-ish heat. Cook the aromatics in the oil until the garlic just starts to turn golden, then take off the heat.

vegan noodles with chili garlic sauce and bell peppers in navy blue bowl on brown backdrop, with bowl of sesame seeds

More East Asian-Inspired Recipes

Watch! How to Make Vegan Noodles

The 15-Minute Noodles I can't live without
The 15-Minute Noodles I can't live without

That’s all I’ve got for these quick and easy vegan chili garlic noodles! If you love this recipe, be sure to rate and review it below :) And if you snap a pic, tag me with your remakes on Instagram!

15-Minute Vegan Chili Garlic Noodles

5 from 153 votes
Perfect for busy weeknights, these vegan chili garlic noodles can be made in just 15 minutes and are loaded with flavor: savory, nutty, garlicky, and spicy!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: East Asian
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 2 to 3 people

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces (285g) fresh or frozen udon noodles*
  • 1 small or medium red/yellow/orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup (12g) fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced on a bias
  • 6 ounces (170g) frozen edamame, defrosted
  • teaspoon sea salt

Garlic Chili Oil

  • 1/3 cup (75g) neutral-flavored oil (such as grapeseed oil, avocado oil, canola oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Sichuan chile flakes or red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed with a garlic press
  • 1/2 cup (70g) dry-roasted peanuts, roughly chopped (unsalted or salted, either is fine)

Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 ½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar**
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar

Instructions

  • Cook the udon noodles. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Once boiling, salt generously (2 to 3 teaspoons kosher salt) and add the bundles of udon noodles. Cook for 1 minute, then use a chopstick or tongs to loosen and separate the noodles. Cook for another 1 minute, for a total of 2 minutes until chewy but tender. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool. Shake the colander well to drain (you can leave the noodles to continue draining if you have other ingredients to prep). Transfer noodles to a large bowl.
  • While the water is boiling, mince the garlic, chop the peanuts and cilantro, slice the bell peppers, and scallions. In a bowl, toss the edamame with the sea salt.
  • Make the Garlic Chili Oil. Add the chile flakes, sesame seeds, garlic, and peanuts to a small-medium bowl. Heat the oil in your smallest saucepan over medium heat until hot and shimmering, 3 to 5 minutes (depending on your saucepan size and material), or until it registers 350ºF/175ºC. Pour the hot oil over the garlic-peanut mixture (it should sizzle). Stir and let sit for 1 minute. Stir the soy sauce, vinegar, and maple syrup or agave into the garlic-chili oil.
    NOTE: If you don’t have a thermometer, add a piece of garlic and if it sizzles immediately, it should be ready
  • Pour only HALF of the chili oil-soy sauce mixture over the noodles; reserve the rest for another recipe (it stays good in the fridge for at least 5 days). Add the bell peppers, edamame, cilantro and scallions, and toss really well (the dressing pools at the bottom). Serve at room temperature, or chill in the fridge if desired.

Notes

*You can find fresh or frozen udon noodles at East Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated or freezer section. They typically come in packets or bundles. If you don’t have access to them, use shelf-stable udon noodles or ramen noodles. 
**You can find Chinese black vinegar at East Asian grocery stores, or order black vinegar online (affiliate link). You can sub rice vinegar with good results but it won’t have the same complex depth of flavor. 

Calories: 430kcal | Carbohydrates: 69g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 738mg | Potassium: 802mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 4312IU | Vitamin C: 56mg | Calcium: 142mg | Iron: 3mg

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254 comments on Spicy Chili Garlic Noodles

  1. Roberta

    5 stars
    Super delicious and SO versatile.
    I had cashews and used those. I had bell peppers, half a bag each of shredded cabbage and frozen peas, and a zuchinni. sautéed all those together, tossed with the noodles. Plated and then sauced because I made a second non spicy sauce for 2 of the 4 of my family. Broiled and sauced salmon for on top for some people too.

    Can’t wait to make it again! For sure adding lots of greens and mushrooms next time.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the recipe, Roberta! It’s great to hear the recipe was well-loved.

  2. Chloe

    5 stars
    A delicious staple in my monthly meal prep rotation. Freezes well for up to 3 months too.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Chloe, we’re so happy you enjoyed it! Thanks for leaving a review :)

  3. SAMMMMMMMMM

    5 stars
    This was pretty easy and flavorful! I could only find shelf stable noodles, so I cooked the whole pack of 9.5 oz and used the entire batch of sauce. Now, I have leftovers for the week! Otherwise, I largely followed the recipe. I did add a little salt and hot chili oil (for more heat) at the end and it tied everything together.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We appreciate your feedback and support, Sam. Thank you for leaving a review!

  4. Monique Waithe

    5 stars
    So delicious and easy to make!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  5. Payal

    5 stars
    This was so good! Very flavorful! We added broccolini, a little leftover cabbage and sugar snap peas so it felt like it needed a bit more of the sauce. You are so talented and we’ve loved every recipe we’ve tried!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Payal! We’re so delighted you’ve enjoyed all the recipes you’ve tried :)

  6. Hudson

    Hi! I was wondering if you had any suggestion on how i could make this with store bought chili oil (its just oil, it doesnt have any of the chili still in it!)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Hudson, I’d heat up the store bought chili oil in a small pan & follow the instructions from the chili oil by using any of the remaining ingredients you’d like from the chili oil (sichuan chili flakes/red pepper flakes, garlic, white sesame seeds and peanuts).

  7. Victoria

    5 stars
    These noodles are life! I love putting steamed broccoli in it and, instead of sesame seeds (cause this girl’s allergic) I used Hemp and it’s delicious 😋

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re so glad you liked the recipe, Victoria. Thank you for your support!

  8. Sam

    5 stars
    The chili oil is amazing, so glad that I made a big batch of it! This will make the next time even faster. I used rice noodles instead of Udon, and stir fried the veggies a bit, but I can see how this would make for an amazing cold noodle dish too.

  9. Carol K

    5 stars
    Outstanding! My DH asked for it for the next night as well. So good! and beautiful!

  10. Nanette

    Better and faster than takeout! We added a little chili paste for some extra heat.

  11. Karen

    5 stars
    Glad to have found this recipe. Lots of flavour for little effort. Perfect as is but can see it would be easy to tweak. Next time I’ll add broccolini or bean sprouts.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

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

  12. Cynthia

    5 stars
    This really hit the spot! I am glad this came up on the Veganuary challenge rotation! Where I live, getting good Asian takeout is impossible. This is my new go-to for when I will have a craving for some takeout :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Lovely to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Cynthia!

  13. Nancy

    5 stars
    This dish looked so delicious I couldn’t wait to prepare it all week long. I have such a busy week that I do all of my cooking over the weekend and prepare 2/3 main dish. Anywho, when I read it be eaten cold or room temperature I was a little worried I wouldn’t like it and thought maybe my husband will have to eat it all , but when I tasted it, WOW! Foggy what I said, it was super delicious, light but feeling. Must definitely make it again!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Wonderful to hear you were a fan of the noodles, Nancy!

  14. Debbie

    5 stars
    My absolute fav!!! beautiful flavours love, love, love thank you Nisha for sharing another great and fantastic mouth watering recipe? i’m enjoying all the January recipes :)

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      You’re welcome- so happy to provide the recipe, Debbie!

  15. Sonya

    5 stars
    Loved this recipe! Had great texture, nice amount of spice, and so easy. I’ll definitely make this again and again.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, Sonya!

  16. Erica

    5 stars
    This is a must make! I’m pretty much telling all my friends that atm. I love it as is, but I’m also excited to just use it as a base and change up the veggies depending on what I have on hand or are in the mood for.

    One thing I couldn’t find in the comments was how spicy it was with 2tsp of red pepper flakes. I found it to have a medium spice level. The sugar balances things out really nicely and I found it to be just right. I’m going to track down some Sichuan chile flakes for next time!

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Erica, So glad to hear you loved this recipe! :)

  17. Meiji

    5 stars
    this dish is amazing! takes a little time to make but got a punch of flavors. I added broccolini and swapped chickpeas for edamame. It smells good in every spoonful & delish in every bite: with the crunch from the veg & nuts, some creaminess from the peas, the peanuts & sesame seeds lend distinct nuttiness, exotic tanginess from the Chinese vinegar, a hint of sweetness from maple syrup and a kick from the chili rounds it up! Good thing there’s another half of the sauce I can enjoy some later time.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      What a lovely review! Thank you so much for the awesome comment :)

  18. Tracy

    Maybe my Sichuan spice was the problem because I found this recipe to be a kind of bland. It looks delicious and I was super excited to make it. I’m going to get a fresh order of Sichuan peppercorns, grind them up and give this another try. Every other recipe I have tried here is just popping with flavor.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sorry to hear it, Tracy! Did you make sure to use garlic, chinese black vinegar, maple syrup and soy sauce?

      1. Tracy

        Yep. I think maybe my sichuan peppercorns (I ground them up) were the problem? I ordered a fresh bag and will definitely try this recipe again.

        1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

          Good luck, Tracy!

    2. Sarah

      It’s worth noting that Sichuan chile flakes (which the recipe calls for) and Sichuan peppercorns are completely different ingredients.

      1. Tracy

        Maybe that’s where things went wrong for me I thought I could grind up the peppercorns and that would be the equivalent of flakes, thanks for the feedback I will find the flakes!

  19. Tina

    We don’t do spicy food, maybe medium spice. Is there a way to make this without the spice? Which sauce can we replace it with?

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Tina, because these are chili garlic noodles, you must keep the red pepper flakes in the recipe to keep it authentic to how Nisha developed it. That being said, 2 teaspoons really shouldn’t be super super spicy at all. If you’re nervous about it, you can try making the sauce with just 1 tsp red pepper flakes.

  20. Joan

    This dish was a fail for me but I accept the blame. I only had rice noodles which I didn’t get soft enough. I substituted pumpkin seeds because I didn’t have peanuts. I hate cilantro, so did not use any. I put in too many red pepper flakes, so the sauce was too spicy for my taste. Have been loving all the other January Challenge recipes. Wish I could have included this one among them.

    1. Kaitlin @ Rainbow Plant Life

      We’re sorry the dish didn’t work out well for you, Joan, but good to hear you’ve been enjoying the recipes otherwise!

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