"Instant" Dan Dan Noodle Mix

May 12, 2021
5 Stars
Photo by Mandy Lee
Author Notes

Instant noodles are endlessly convenient, and a pleasure to make and eat. But sometimes I want to change certain flavors and seasonings to suit my personal palate. So let me introduce you to this amazing "instant" dan dan noodle mix, which you can prepare and jar as an ultra-concentrated sauce. Though the fresh mixture won’t last quite as long as the packaged version, you can make this mixture and enjoy it all week; or, to really mimic instant noodle packages, divide the sauce into small airtight containers or resealable plastic bags and store for months in the freezer. Either way, all that’s left to do is to add liquid and noodles! This recipe is unapologetically intense, packed with the tingle and fragrance of Szechuan peppercorns, as well as thick, nutty sesame paste. I think this is the most delicious dan dan dish—instant or not—and you'll want to make it time and time again. It’s perfect as an edible gift, too (see Test Kitchen Notes).

When it comes to the amount of dan dan noodle mix to use per serving, there’s room for experimentation. Since you can use any kind of noodle you'd like (dried or fresh, wheat or rice, the choice is yours), you’ll find you may prefer more or less sauce with each type of noodle. For the fresh ramen noodles I like to use, 1/2 cup of noodle mix and 1/2 cup of chicken broth per serving is perfect. Ultimately, my advice is to mix equal parts of the dan dan noodle mix and chicken stock, and to play around with different types of noodles to find out which ratio you like. And don't forget to top each serving with a tablespoon of my ultimate chile oil.

This recipe calls for medium sesame paste, which is darker than the very pale Middle Eastern tahini, but lighter than the very dark Chinese-style sesame paste. Here, I’d recommend Japanese-style white sesame paste, which is available in the U.S. at certain specialty grocery stores and online, as are the Szechuan peppercorns, Szechuan chile flakes, and chicken powder. —Mandy @ Lady and pups

Test Kitchen Notes

This mixture is not professionally preserved, so it should only be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, with the oil totally covering the meat mixture. Alternatively, the mixture can be divided into 1/2-cup portions and frozen, where it will keep for 4 to 6 months. Defrost in the refrigerator. If giving this “instant” mix as a gift, let it cool completely after preparing the mixture and date the jar, then add a “to be consumed by” date 1 week out. Keep the mixture cold while in transit and return to the refrigerator or freeze as soon as possible. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
"Instant" Dan Dan Noodle Mix
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Dan dan sauce mix
  • Meat mixture:
  • 3/4 pound ground beef or pork
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup finely minced pickled jalapeño (packed tightly into measuring cup)
  • Chile oil:
  • 5 tablespoons Szechuan chile flakes
  • 1/2 star anise pod
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 3 scallions, smashed with the back of a knife and cut into 2-inch segments
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • Sauce mix seasonings and assembly
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons medium white sesame paste (see headnote)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chicken powder (or ground chicken bouillon)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 garlic cloves, grated
  • Low-sodium chicken stock, for serving
  • Cooked noodles, such as ramen, for serving
  • My ultimate chile oil (see headnote), for serving
  • Finely minced pickled jalapeño, for serving
  • Finely diced scallions, for serving
In This Recipe
  1. Dan dan sauce mix
  2. Make the meat mixture: In a large bowl, mix the ground beef or pork, fish sauce, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, ground Szechuan peppercorns, cornstarch, grated ginger, grated garlic, and ground white pepper until evenly combined, then set aside. Combine the canola oil and jalapeño in a cold nonstick skillet or saucepan. Turn up the heat to medium and cook until the jalapeño is shriveled and almost crispy (you can partially cover the skillet to prevent splattering), about 2 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve, reserving the crispy jalapeño on a plate, then return the oil to the skillet.
  3. Add the ground meat mixture to the skillet, breaking it up into small chunks with a wooden spoon, until the meat is deeply browned and caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the reserved crispy jalapeño and remove from the heat. Set aside.
  4. Make the chile oil: In a spice grinder, combine the Szechuan chile flakes, star anise, ground coriander, ground cumin, curry powder, and sesame seeds and grind into a fine powder. Set aside.
  5. Combine the canola oil, scallions, and smashed garlic in a small cold saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, until the alliums are deeply browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the solids with a slotted spoon, drain well, and discard.
  6. Transfer the ground spice mixture to the oil. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the color of the oil turns from a bright red to a dark maroon, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the ground Szechuan peppercorns. Set aside.
  1. Sauce mix seasonings and assembly
  2. Make the “instant” dan dan mix: In a clean large bowl, combine the cooked ground beef mixture, the entire batch of chile oil, the sesame paste, soy sauce, peanut butter, light brown sugar, chicken powder, balsamic vinegar, and grated garlic. Mix until thoroughly combined. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or divide the mixture into smaller portions in small resealable bags or airtight containers (see headnote for example) and store in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.
  3. To serve: In a small saucepan over medium low, or in a microwave-safe bowl, mix equal parts of the dan dan noodle mix and chicken stock by volume until warmed through. (The ratio between sauce and noodle should be something in between noodle soup and noodles with sauce: If you want 1 cup of sauce for your noodles, mix 1/2 cup noodle mix with 1/2 cup chicken stock.) Pour the warmed sauce over the cooked noodles. Top each serving with a tablespoon of my ultimate chile oil (see headnote). Garnish with finely minced pickled jalapeño and diced scallions.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Michelle Adele Kenyon
    Michelle Adele Kenyon
  • bhilz
  • Dan Ng
    Dan Ng
  • fearlessem

5 Reviews

Michelle A. May 6, 2021
I made with a mix of ground chicken and beef used a regular 🌶 and Israeli sesame paste (as that’s what I had), but even so this tasted amazing, and I froze the leftovers which has been a godsend on those days where I couldn’t be bothered! Also super good with rice.
bhilz April 15, 2021
I've been making another Food52 Dan Dan Noodle recipe for years and freezing the meat/sauce in batches! It is the most wonderful convenience food that has saved me on many hungry occasions. I've made it either with ground pork OR ground turkey, which still takes on the flavorful sauce well. Excited to get some Japanese sesame paste and try the version above!
fearlessem April 14, 2021
Made this over the weekend and it was outstanding! I used fewer Szechuan peppercorns in the chili oil as I like a little mouth tingling but not an overwhelming amount. But otherwise, sooooo savory and delicious.
breanne March 16, 2021
really can't wait to try this! love the idea of freezing small packages for an easy supper later on down the line.
do you think I could sub mushrooms for the ground meat? my first dan dan experience was a mushroom dan dan, and ill never get that perfect taste memory out of my head. and if i do use mushrooms, do you suppose the "best before" date might stretch a bit longer?

thanks Mandy for this fun recipe!
Dan N. April 5, 2021
I have made similar things with mushrooms (and/or tofu, textured vegetable protein, tempeh, etc.) that turned out great. Once I get some pickled jalapenos (which is a brilliant substitution!!) I will give it a try and report back :)