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Vegan Noodle Salad & Sesame Crusted Tofu (Gluten Free)

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Vegan Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crusted Tofu on a blue plate

Light, zesty, fragrant: Vegan Noodle Salad is made with rice vermicelli noodles, thinly shredded raw vegetables, and a tangy Vietnamese dressing sauce. It’s the quintessential summer meal – perfect served cold, with minimal cooking, and beautiful light flavours.

Not only is Vegan Noodle Salad quick & easy (ready in less than 30 minutes!), but it’s also gluten-free and Vegan. Thin and slightly chewy rice noodles are mixed with finely shredded crunchy carrots, fresh beanprouts, sweet leeks, and crisp, buttery cabbage. Once mixed with a dressing sauce that has umami, spicy, nutty, and tangy notes, the resulting flavor is divine.

To add a crisp texture and extra protein, I love serving tofu on the side. Cut into thin slabs, dredged in cornflour, and coated in white & black sesame seeds, the tofu becomes equal amounts nutty, crisp, and crunchy. Although it only takes 10 minutes, this is the only part of the meal that needs cooking. Skip if you prefer!

If I could use one word to describe this meal, it would be “fresh”.

This Noodle Salad & Sesame Tofu is Vegan & Gluten Free.

Completely free of any animal products, this Vietnamese noodle dish is both Vegan and Vegetarian. It utilizes simple plant-based ingredients such as fresh vegetables, lime, tofu, and sesame seeds. If you’d like to take the dish up a notch, you could even prepare your own fresh tofu!

This recipe is also completely gluten-free. The main ingredient of the dish, rice vermicelli noodles, is completely free from wheat and therefore gluten-free. Likewise, the tofu is coated in corn flour (corn starch) as opposed to wheat flour. Make sure you use Tamari or a good gluten-free Soy Sauce in the dressing.

Finally, you can also adapt this recipe to be raw food friendly. If you want to limit your soy intake, replace the tofu with another protein of your choice – seitan (not gluten-free) or pumfu (tofu made of pumpkin seeds) are good options, although the dish will not be completely soy-free without replacing the soy sauce too. Leaving the tofu or other cooked protein off completely will mean your dish is raw food friendly.

It’s all in the prep!

Noodle salad may be the easiest thing you cook all year. That is to say, it requires no cooking at all, besides the tofu! Instead, all the work is in prepping the vegetables. They should be cut as thin and fine as possible, to mix well with the noodles and be easy to eat with chopsticks. What’s more, they look extremely appealing!

To make light work of things, consider using a mandolin. The speed at which you can finely slice your vegetables (even better if the mandolin has a shredding attachment!) makes it beloved by both proficient home cooks and expert chefs alike. This option is particularly wonderful if you are not confident with your knife skills or simply short on time.

Alternatively, sharpen your knives and start by cutting carrots into thin slices. Then cut each slice into thin strips – the thinner the better. Leeks can be halved and then shredded, while cabbage should be finely shredded and then cut to size in length.

Picking the right rice noodles

This recipe requires thin vermicelli rice noodles (otherwise known as bun gao). One of the most common mistakes is buying moong bean noodles (otherwise known as cellophane noodles or glass noodles) instead. While they look similar to dried, rice noodles will become white when cooked while moong bean noodles will become clear/transparent.

The easiest way thing to do if you are unsure is to locate the ingredient list. The noodles you want will have the ingredients of Rice Flour, Salt, and Water.

If you can’t find thin vermicelli rice noodles, then you can opt for a slightly thicker rice noodle. Just make sure you soak it in boiling water for longer to account for this.

Variations on Vegan Noodle Salad & Sesame Crusted Tofu:

  • Protein: Instead of tofu, you can consider other protein options. My favorite choices include Seitan (think chick’n strips!), Pumfu (cooked in the same way as tofu), or tempeh (marinated and fried).
  • Noodles: The best type of noodle to use is rice vermicelli. Not only are they gluten-free, but because they are so thin they only require a minute of soaking – making the whole dish extremely time-effective. You can use thicker rice noodles, just allow for extra soaking time.
  • Vegetables: I love adding baby corn, green beans, bell peppers (capsicum), and even courgettes (zucchini).
  • Herbs: My favorite herb to include in noodle salad is coriander – in fact in our household, it’s considered obligatory! If you’re not a fan of coriander or want a little extra, you can consider adding some fragrant Thai Basil or sweet Mint. Each herb contributes something special to the final dish.
  • Spiciness: Increase the heat level by adding finely chopped green or red chillis, which will offer isolated bursts of heat and flavor. Alternatively, serve a hot sauce on the side (or mixed with the dressing). You can also add more dried chili flakes. To decrease the spice level, simply reduce the number of dried chili flakes to 1/2 tsp.

This Recipe Is:

  • Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten Free, Nut Free
  • Easily adaptable to be Raw Diet-friendly
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • Healthy: full of vitamins nutrients and proteins
  • Spicy, sour salty, full of umami
  • Crisp and fresh
Vegan Vietnamese Cold Noodle Salad with Sesame Crusted Tofu on a blue plate

Rice Noodle Salad & Sesame Crusted Tofu (Gluten Free)

Yield: 3 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

This Gluten Free and Vegan Noodle Salad is vibrant, fresh, zesty and spicy. Topped with sesame crusted tofu for an protein.


For the Tofu

For the Noodle Salad

For the sauce

Tofu Marinade

  • 200g Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 tbsp Hot Sauce
  • 1 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 3 tsp Cornflour

Tofu Coating

  • 20g Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 3 tsp Flour, for coating


To make the sesame crusted tofu:

  1. Prepare the ingredients for coating. Mix the white & black sesame seeds together in a flat plate. In a separate bowl (a wide bottomed with high sides is best), whisk together the cornflour, water, salt, and black pepper until thick and smooth.
  2. Heat a pan. Add your choice of neutral flavoured oil to a frying pan and set to medium heat. While it's heating, coat your tofu.
  3. Coat the tofu. First, dip your tofu into the cornflour batter. Next, lay in the battered tofu onto the sesame seeds. Sprinkle more on top or turn over to coat fully. Repeat with all tofu.
  4. Cook the tofu. Once the oil is hot and the tofu is coated, arrange it in the pan to cook. Coat each side for around 4 minutes (or until crispy and golden) before turning. Once cooked, remove and drain on paper towels.

To make the noodle salad:

  1. Prep the vegetables. The first and most important step is cutting all the vegetables. Cut them into fine strips - as small as you can manage. Ensure that they are all in even sizes.
  2. Soak the noodles. Cook the noodles according to package directions - I usually place in a deep container, pour boiling water over them, leave to soak for 1 minute and then drain and rinse. However, brands may vary.
  3. Toss the salad. Add the drained noodles to a large bowl along with the prepped vegetables. Pour the dressing over the top and toss to combine. At this stage you can also slice the sesame crusted tofu and toss it in with the salad, or serve on top.

Serving suggestions below.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 229Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 552mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 9g

Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.

Did you make this recipe?

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How to store Vegan Noodle Salad & Sesame Crusted Tofu

Fully dressed and mixed salad stores well refrigerated in an airtight container. It’s best to keep the sesame-crusted sesame separate, as the salad dressing will make the coating slightly soggy otherwise.

If you wish, you can also make the recipe ahead of time and store each component separately.

How to serve this recipe

I love to see this Vegan Noodle Salad as a main dish for either lunch or dinner. Although it’s so light and refreshing, the tofu makes it filling. However, if you’d like to serve something else alongside it, why not consider crispy vegetable spring rolls (also vegan), spinach potstickers, or a vegetable Red Thai Curry?

If you’d like to do something different with this noodle salad, you can use it as a stuffing inside fresh summer rolls or crispy spring rolls!

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