5 Ingredients or Fewer

Spicy Noodles With Peanut Butter & Kimchi

June 22, 2020
4 Ratings
Photo by Amanda Widis
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

Cold noodles to keep on rotation as soon as nights get warm enough to throw the comforter off the bed. Inspired by many takeout orders of ma jiang mian (sesame noodles), this sauce is nutty and spicy, hinging on two things I always have around: peanut butter and kimchi. The latter is a foundational Korean ingredient put toward innumerable dishes, notably including bibim guksu (spicy cold noodles).

I prefer unsweetened peanut butter for its extra-peanutty taste. That said, why not try unsweetened sesame paste, or cashew butter, or almond butter? And if sweetened is all you have around, that works too. The sauce will turn out even silkier, and some cooks actually prefer that spicy-sweet contrast. Just increase the kimchi and salt accordingly.

Store-bought kimchi works great here. Though if you’d like to make your own, go for it (here’s a handy guide). Just make sure it’s cabbage-based and don’t toss that brine—we’re using it to loosen and intensify the sauce. (If you’re vegetarian, double check the ingredient list to confirm it’s a variety without any salted shrimp or fish sauce.)

Which noodles you use depends on which noodles you like. Or, especially as many of us are still sheltering in place, which noodles you already have in the cabinet. The umbrella requirement is that it’s long in shape. But from there, you have many options: Chinese egg noodles, soba, udon, ramen, somyeon, spaghetti, or linguini (especially toothsome whole-wheat). Don’t skip the rinsing step—this washes the noodles of excess starch so they don’t become gloopy as they chill.

This is one of our Big Little Recipes, our weekly column all about dishes with big flavor and little ingredient lists. Do you know (and love) a recipe that’s low in ask, high in reward? Let us know in the comments.Emma Laperruque

What You'll Need
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 pound long noodles (see Author Notes)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 cup chopped kimchi, divided, brine reserved
  1. Cook the noodles in salted boiling water until they’re toothsome-meets-chewy. A couple minutes before the box says they’re ready, start tasting frequently.
  2. While those are in the works, combine the peanut butter and ½ cup kimchi in a food processor, and blend until combined. Add 3 tablespoons of liquid—either a combo of kimchi brine and water (I like half and half), or all kimchi brine, or all water, depending on how much spice and acidity you’re looking for. Blend again, scraping down as needed, until smooth-ish. Taste and add salt if needed, then transfer to a big heatproof bowl.
  3. When the noodles are done, drain them into a colander in the sink and rinse very well with cold water. Shake a couple times, then add the cold noodles to the sauce. Toss until coated, then add more kimchi brine or water, if needed, to get the sauce to the consistency you want.
  4. These are best as soon as they’re tossed, but they also hold well at room temperature for a couple hours. Or refrigerate for later. (Just keep in mind that the sauce will thicken further in the fridge—you can thin with kimchi brine or water as needed.) Whenever you serve, pile the remaining ½ cup kimchi on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sarah
  • fearlessem
  • Lopezjen
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

3 Reviews

fearlessem July 14, 2020
I made these this weekend, and also made a batch of my favorite-to-date peanut noodle recipe from the NY Times. I thought these were good but (a) not peanut-y enough and (b) not salty enough -- I guess because I used very lightly salted peanutbutter? Then I added soy sauce and a little sesame oil, and that improved things but still wasn't quite enough umami for me. And I was using very pungent kimchi, so I don't think it was a product of using kimchi that hadn't been aged enough? I appreciate how few ingredients these take, but would rather use a few more ingredients and get closer to my cold peanut noodle platonic ideal :-)
Sarah June 29, 2020
This was delish! I added chicken, cilantro, spinach, carrots and a squeeze of lime to the final dish. Next time I might use a bit less peanut butter in the sauce. I also made a double batch of sauce so I have it in my fridge and can cook up some noodles whenever. Thanks for the recipe!!
Lopezjen June 25, 2020
Yum! These are good! Simple, easy and healthyish. These noodles are a good excuse to always have a jar of kimchi in the fridge. I added some cilantro and lime juice.