Miso Peanut Pasta Salad

May 29, 2014
16 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 6 or more
Author Notes

This is not your average macaroni salad. —mrslarkin

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Mrslarkin is a pastry chef from Pound Ridge, NY, where she sells her baked goods at regional farmers markets.
WHAT: A picnic-worthy pasta salad that subs mayonnaise for peanut sauce.
HOW: Combine peanut butter with miso until creamy, then add some spice with vinegar and chili garlic sauce, and finish with honey and sesame oil to take the edge off the sauce. Toss with elbow pasta, scallions, watermelon radish, carrots, broccoli florets, and chopped cilantro. Serve with chopped peanuts.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The combination of peanut butter, miso, and vinegar results in a creamy sauce that will have you licking your bowl. And while many Asian-inspired peanut butter dishes are heavy, this one is light enough to serve as a side or pack for a barbecue. Bonus points: This pasta salad won't spoil before the party's over. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound whole-wheat elbow pasta, or your favorite shape
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used natural unsweetened, which is more gritty, but use what you like)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon white miso
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, plus more to taste (get a jar of the Huy Fong and stash it in the fridge -- it's ridiculously good)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or less, if using sweetened peanut butter)
  • 4 dashes sesame oil, plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 large watermelon radish, cut into 2-inch sticks
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch sticks
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, blanched or lightly steamed, chopped
  • 8 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped, legs and all, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts, for garnish
  1. Cook pasta to al dente. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for the sauce and set aside. Drain pasta. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, place peanut butter, miso, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, and sesame oil. Add pasta water in 1/8-cup increments and stir until you reach a smooth, sauce-like consistency. It should be loose, but not watery, so add the water slowly. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Pour half of the sauce over the pasta and mix well. Reserving a bit of each vegetable and herb for garnishing, toss the remaining vegetables, cilantro, and sauce into the pasta, and mix well. Taste for seasoning.
  4. Garnish with reserved vegetables, cilantro, and peanuts. Serve at room temperature.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Kaite
  • Erika Kotite
    Erika Kotite
  • Marsha Gainey
    Marsha Gainey
  • Cheryl
  • Sabine Gagnon
    Sabine Gagnon

29 Reviews

Michele308 April 6, 2022
This was delicious but needed a bit of salt—or something salty—and a bit more sauce. I followed the recipe as written but substituted 1 Tbsp of Hot Honey for plain honey. I’ll definitely make this again. Thanks for the recipe!
Avi C. May 25, 2020
Thank you!
I would add that the sauce should be mixed with the pasta right before serving. I had mixed everything somewhat ahead of time and before serving I felt that I needed more sauce (so I made some more, with a little more water). But If the peanut butter doesn't have time to solidify, the quantity it probably fine.
Also - I didn't have cilantro so I added some mint and basil. It worked out nicely.
Kaite May 24, 2020
So good! It's the pasta salad version of fried rice for me. I use up whatever bits and bobs I have in the fridge. I do add WAY more miso to the sauce as my first go of this turned out bland. Quick and easy to make.
Paige April 19, 2020
This was pretty good - but as noted, a little bland.
I made with gluten free pasta - spiralized carrot, blanched broccoli, fresh cilantro, crushed peanuts and green onion.
I added tamari to the dressing and that seemed to help - it needed salt and seemed to do the trick
I would make again - making sure to add the soy sauce/tamari to the dressing
Erika K. August 8, 2019
This is a terrific pasta salad! I've always had a secret thing for pasta salads but they can often go wrong -- too bland, too much mayo, etc. This one is flavorful, unique and fresh. It got raves from my friends on a cocktail Duffy boat ride through Newport Harbor. My supermarket only had red miso but it worked fine.
Ellie July 16, 2019
While I love peanuts and peanut butter I don’t care for peanut sauce. Do you have a suggestion for another sauce? The recipe sounds great (you know, without your main ingred). Thanks
Molly July 16, 2019
You could try using tahini or almond butter instead.
Debby H. May 27, 2019
I think you meant to say “subs mayonnaise with peanut sauce”, or “subs peanut sauce for mayonnaise”. I believe you said it backwards (since we are actually using peanut sauce here!)
susan G. April 17, 2023
That backwards usage for 'sub' is now commonplace. It just doesn't make sense!
I don't know how I've missed this recipe before, but the time to make it is now!
Marsha G. July 5, 2018
This was all right. It is def not your typical pasta salad because of the Asian flavor profile. It also has a mild amount of heat. It makes a ton. I had to make a couple of subs: sambal oelek for the chili garlic sauce and three European radishes for the watermelon radish. I had to salt the final product a little, just one sprinkle did the trick. Another thing that makes this pasta salad uncommon is that it tastes BETTER when it's warmed slightly, like 45 seconds in the microwave.

Please check out my food blog at www.what-marsha-eats.tumblr.com.
Cheryl July 29, 2017
This was loved by all! I might have made the sauce too thin (but not watery), so will watch that in the future. I used 1 Tbsp. agave instead of honey. Used my newly-found method of putting raw garlic in dishes: grating it on microplane (I would try 2 cloves next time). Upped the ginger to about 1/3 c. minced and upped the cilantro to about 1/3 c. minced. Used about 2 c.+ broccoli florets and added in 3/4 of a large red pepper. Couldn't find watermelon radish, so I just used 3 plain old radishes. Next time I will experiment with 1 T. of the chili garlic sauce; I couldn't find the recommended brand. A little bit of salt and all was good to go!
eljay June 13, 2017
I made this according to the recipe and found it needed a real flavor boost-- a little too tame for me. I suggest adding more ginger, a few dashes of hot oil, the juice of a lime, additional cilantro and some sesame sticks for added crunch. Without these additions, this is only a 3 out of 5 star recipe.
Sabine G. April 28, 2017
holy.crap. Why am I just discovering this? Where did I go so wrong in life? Now that I've made it- I feel better about life. It's SO good.
Nicole June 16, 2016
This looks yummy! I'm new to using miso - would using a darker miso change the taste drastically?
mrslarkin June 16, 2016
Hi Nicole. It's not a large amount of miso, so a darker miso would probably work well.
Jellojmf March 13, 2016
Can I make this a day ahead or better on the same day?
mrslarkin March 16, 2016
Yes, you can make it ahead.
Lizzie D. August 16, 2015
This is one of those "OMG, I can't stop eating this!" recipes. It calls for three of my favorite edibles—miso, honey (for me, a vegan one made from apples), and peanut butter. The dressing nicely complements the corn pasta I used. Thank you so much for posting the recipe.
mrslarkin August 17, 2015
Yay, Lizzie! Glad you liked it.
Jellojmf March 13, 2016
Hi mrs. Larkin,
What can I use to substitute for the miso as I cant find anywhere? How far in advance can i make this also?
mrslarkin March 20, 2016
Hi jello, sorry just saw this. You can omit the miso. Or use tahini instead. Or marmite. Or a little soy sauce.
Molly August 10, 2015
I made this on Friday night and it was so delicious. I ended up using about 1/2 cup of the pasta water for the sauce, added 2 more cloves of garlic, and subbed powdered ginger for fresh because i didn't have any on hand. I would absolutely make it again!
mrslarkin August 10, 2015
I'm so glad you liked it, Molly! Thanks for letting me know.
drbabs August 5, 2015
Congratulations, Liz!
mrslarkin August 10, 2015
Thank you, Barbara!!
Andreakat February 21, 2015
This looks so good. Can;t wait to try it. I might put some sliced green onion in too. Yummy!!
Lutakris April 2, 2024
That will work great! The recipe calls for scallions is I believe are green onions. If you slice them on the diagonal, it also makes a pretty presentation.
luvcookbooks February 16, 2015
Oh my!! And congratulations!
Midge June 1, 2014