Real Deal Sesame Noodles

5 from 12 votes
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These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. The post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.

These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. This post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.

Sometimes I hear complaints that Chinese recipes tend to have super long ingredient lists, which scare people away. I couldn’t agree more. The fact is that Chinese cuisine is really good at playing with flavors. It brings together herbs, fermented sauces, and many ingredients that are sweet, salty, sour, and nutty to play a symphony. The tones and rhythms all come together, to create a beautiful melody. Everything is balanced, without a single ingredient jumping out or screaming loudly.

For “poor folks’ food” like noodles, the idea is to use the cheapest ingredients to maximize flavor. The goal is to make you happy with a stomach full of noodles, vegetables, and a minimal amount of meat (or no meat at all). A simple sesame noodle dish requires more than 10 ingredients to achieve this goal. In fact, if you count the ingredients needed to make the chili oil, you’ll need about 20 in total.

Sometimes I try to simplify recipes as much as I can, so you can actually make them at home. But in this case, I’d say you need the whole set of ingredients if you want the sauce to be interesting and not just taste like peanut butter.

These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. This post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.

The flip side is that you can make more sauce ahead of time, store it in the fridge, and serve it during the week. For example,

  1. This sauce makes a very nice vegetable dip.
  2. It is also a great sauce for zucchini noodles.
  3. You can use it on roast chicken or leftover meat to make it more interesting.
  4. And you can thin it out a bit with water and use it as a salad dressing.

If you hate chopping, your best next choice is to use ginger paste and garlic paste from Gourmet Garden. When I’m feeling super lazy, I’ll use these pastes straight from the tube instead of chopping (Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone!). You’ll need to add more paste than the amount listed in this recipe, because fresh ginger and garlic are more potent.

The secret ingredients in this recipe are the homemade chili oil and roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder. When I serve this dish at cooking classes and events, I always sneak these two in there so that the noodles will wow everyone. With these ingredients, you can turn “just your average sesame noodles” into “OMG this is so good”.

These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. This post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.

You can serve sesame noodles either as an appetizer or a main dish. They are easy to prepare ahead of time and the sauce only gets better after it has sit in the fridge a few hours. I might skip (or use very minimal) toppings on the noodles to keep them simple as an appetizer. On the other hand, you can add other things to make it a full meal. For example, leftover shredded meat, sliced avocado, eggs (boiled, poached, or fried), and more vegetables. In this case, make more sauce accordingly.

The last thing I want to emphasize is to always make more sauce than you expect you’ll need. The problem with noodle salad is that you never get the exact amount of sauce correct. Every type and brand of noodles absorbs water and sauce in a different rate. Plus, you might want a bit of extra sauce on the side. The sauce in this recipe is plenty for two big servings or four small servings. But you won’t regret making a double batch in any case.

I hope you enjoy!

These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. This post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.
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Real Deal Sesame Noodles

5 from 12 votes
These real-deal Chinese sesame noodles are way better than takeout. The post teaches you how to use secret ingredients to make the sauce addictively tasty.
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Main, Side
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4


  • 250 grams noodles , dried (*see footnote 1)
  • 2 green onions , chopped

Peanut sauce

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (or Chinese sesame paste) (*see footnote 2)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons homemade chili oil (or to taste) (*see footnote 3)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon ginger , minced
  • 2 cloves garlic . minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder , toasted (*see footnote 4)

Topping options

  • 1 cucumber , cut into thin strips
  • 2 carrots , cut into thin strips
  • tomatoes , Sliced
  • sesame seeds , Toasted (for garnish)


  • Boil noodles according to instructions. Transfer cooked noodles into a colander, rinse with tap water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
  • Combine peanut butter with 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl. Stir with a spatula until the water is fully incorporated and it forms a smooth paste. Using warm water helps the peanut butter thin out and form a silky paste.
  • Add light soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, honey, chili oil, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and Sichuan peppercorn powder. Stir to mix well. You can make the sauce ahead of time and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before mixing, so the flavors will be more evenly blended.
  • Transfer cooked noodles into a large bowl and add two thirds of the peanut sauce. Toss with a pair of tongs to coat the noodles evenly with the sauce.
  • Garnish with cucumber, green onion and sesame seeds.
  • Serve at room temperature with the remaining sauce.


  1. You can use many types of wheat noodles to cook this dish, including egg noodles, pasta, udon noodles, and somen noodles (the super thin type). To create the best texture, use homemade noodles such as hand pulled noodles or rolled noodles.
  2. Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds. Unlike tahini, it is darker in color and has a nuttier flavor. You can use natural peanut butter here as an alternative.
  3. The homemade chili oil is usually served separately and added according to personal taste. I personally prefer to use a small amount in the sauce because it adds a very fragrant umami that makes the sauce stand out. Always ask your guests if they can handle a bit spiciness. If not, serve the chili oil separately with the noodles.
  4. To make toasted Sichuan peppercorn powder, cook whole Sichuan peppercorns in a tablespoon of oil until they turn dark (not black). Drain the peppercorns and grind them them in a coffee grinder (or use a mortar and pestle). It results in a nutty flavor that adds character to the dish without tasting too pungent. If you are using uncooked Sichuan peppercorn powder, cut the amount to 1/8 teaspoon or just a pinch.


Serving: 263g, Calories: 166kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 2.8g, Fat: 7.2g, Saturated Fat: 1.1g, Sodium: 948mg, Potassium: 481mg, Fiber: 2.6g, Sugar: 14.5g, Vitamin A: 10350IU, Vitamin C: 12.4mg, Calcium: 50mg, Iron: 1.1mg
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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Lisa says:

    can’t wait to try some of these recipes!

  2. Rebecca Whitten says:

    5 stars
    I just subscribed to your newsletter and downloaded the cookbooks. Thanks for the recipes. I can’t wait to try some of them!

  3. Annie says:

    I just subscribed to your newsletter and cannot wait to start trying some of those recipes!

  4. Tricia @ Saving room for dessert says:

    I dream about making recipes like this! Thank you very much Maggie – I can’t wait to give it a try!

  5. Chris Scheuer says:

    I’m pretty sure I could eat my weight in these noodles, they look fantastic!

  6. sue | theviewfromgreatisland says:

    The flavors in this dish are making me crazy hungry, and I even have a little packet of Sichuan peppercorns!

  7. Linh Walker says:

    I just subscribed to your newsletter and I am excited to try it out!

  8. Kevin | Keviniscooking says:

    5 stars
    These sound so scrumptious and I hear ya about ingredients, but I’m different. The longer sometimes intrigues! 🙂

  9. Kim says:

    Hi Maggie, I was just looking for a recipe for this last week. Can’t wait to try it.

    • Maggie says:

      Happy cooking and hope the dish turns out great Kim!

  10. Emily Hui says:

    What type of oil should i use when toasting peppercorns?

    • Maggie says:

      Any vegetable oil will be OK, such as peanut oil and grape seed oil.

  11. Brittany says:

    Made this for dinner tonight and oh my gosh so delicious! And extremely satisfying! My hubby and I were both wanting to go back for seconds but so full we decided to save the rest for lunch tomorrow– and I’m already getting hungry just thinking about it! 😀
    Thanks for the great recipe!

    • Maggie says:

      So happy to hear you cooked the recipe and enjoyed the dish! The leftover will taste even better 😉
      Have a great week ahead Brittany!

  12. Robyn @ Simply Fresh Dinners says:

    5 stars
    I love the way you described Chinese cooking, Maggie. No wonder you have such a passion for it! I know I’ve never seen a more delectable looking noodle!

  13. Marissa says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, these noodles look incredible. I’m always half afraid to come to your website because suddenly I’m SOOO hungry. 🙂 Making these this week…thanks for another inspiring recipe!

  14. jack guard says:

    I have prepared this recipe and it is MARVELOUS…真棒!I also recommend homemade wide noodles that are thin—-I do mine with weight to get them right each time—-if 16 ounces of flour I use half of that minus one ounce meaning 7 ounces of water—-of course according to ambient temperature it could change—-key is a dry but not too dry of a dough—-let it rest—-when water is boiling add noodles—when boiling add the noodles—-when it comes back to a boil let it boil 15 seconds or so then add 1/2 cup of cold water—-when it gets close to returning to a boil strain them—-into a bowl with the sauce—-crispy fried ground pork—cucumber and cilantro….AND an ice cold BEER…… 🙂 Cheers—-

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Jack, I’m so happy to hear you tried out the recipe and liked it! Yes the sauce will go so great with homemade noodles. Thank you for sharing your noodle recipe! I’ll need to try that out next time. And yes, adding some ground pork and veggies, and beer, you’re good to go! 🙂
      Have a great week ahead!

  15. Cynthia Miron says:

    5 stars
    We love these sesame noodles. They are becoming a staple in our house. The pantry list is excellent very helpful shopping here in Beijing.

    • Maggie says:

      I’m glad to hear you tried out more recipes from my blog Cynthia! Yes this is a quick recipe and so delicious. I’m happy to hear my post helped you to gather ingredients in Beijing.
      Happy cooking and hope your next project turns out delicious as well 🙂

  16. Helen @ Scrummy Lane says:

    This sauce sounds really incredible, Maggie. It has just the right number of ingredients, I think. Not too many, but enough to really make it something special.


  17. Katya says:

    5 stars
    Thanks for your beautiful recipes! I wonder would it be OK to substitute Chinese sesame paste with tahini or it works better with peanut butter?

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Katya, it works better with peanut butter. Tahini tastes very different from the Chinese sesame paste and the result can be a bit strange.
      Happy cooking and let me know how the dish turns out 🙂

      • Katya says:

        Thank you!

  18. Jen says:

    Cannot wait to make this. It seems very much like a common street food dish in Shanxi called 面皮。 I’ve bought some sesame paste in preparation. What other dishes would go well with it if I wanted to serve it along with other Chinese dishes for a dinner?

  19. Janie says:


    When I lived in NYC, we lived to buy Cold Sesame noodles at a small Chinese joint in downtown Manhattan (Hwa Yuan on East Broadway). They were famous, and with good reason. They were delicious. Beyond, beyond delicious. I can’t tell you how many 1 AM taxi calls with eight of us students piled in there would descend upon this place and order the cold noodles and buy extra quarts to eat over the next few days. Ohhhh gawddd.

    I am not alone in this memory. Here is the New York Times story about them:

    They really were legendary. The New York Times has tried to replicate the recipe. Doesn’t do it for me. I have remembered that taste my entire life so far. The NYTimes recipe is really close, but no cigar.

    I keep trying recipe after recipe to replicate it. Haven’t found it. I now think the difference is in the ingredients, like using Black Vinegar instead of any old Chinese vinegar. The right chili oil. Maybe honey instead of sugar? (but Hwa Yuan was a hole in the wall, they would have used the cheapest ingredients as standard restaurant fare).

    However, I now have your recipe for chili oil, and I’ve ordered the chili flakes from Mala. Still to arrive (they’re out at the moment).

    I am looking forward to making your version of this sauce. The Hwa Yuan noodles did not have sesame seeds, so maybe their family recipe excluded them. Doesn’t matter. That’s not where the taste was.

    If it’s closer I’ll be back to tell you about it, and I will definitely let the New York Times know.

    Thanks, Janie
    P.S. They really were effing delicious and anyone who ate them remembers Hwa Yuan as heaven on earth.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Janie, thanks for sharing the story of Hwa Yuan. I did a bit digging and here is what I found out.
      The noodle uses: homemade egg noodles made with ice water, homemade collagen-rich chicken soup, a mixture of both sesame paste and peanut butter. ( I’m sure that a great chili oil and right type of vinegar is crucial as well.
      I don’t think the restaurant would use honey. I use it to replace sugar simply because it dissolve into the sauce easier.
      For me, the homemade chili oil is the key to make the noodle stand out. If you happen to have some homemade chicken stock, heat it until warm in microwave and use it to replace water when you mix the peanut butter and sesame paste. It adds another layer of umami.
      Btw I just found out Hwa Yuan is permanently closed, and now the owner just opened another restaurant called Shorty Tang Noodle Shop. I’ll travel to NYC the next month and I’ll try to visit the store to try out the legendary noodles 🙂

  20. Rekha Rajagopal says:

    5 stars
    Maggie, this recipe is fantastic! It was so delicious that I doubled the batch just to be sure there was enough sauce for dinner and lunch the next day. I’m glad I bought Chinese sesame paste. I have tried using peanut butter in the past (with other recipes), but results were always inconsistent (maybe the taste/texture of different peanut butters? idk). The only things I changed was I added maple syrup (ran out of honey) and I used chili flakes (not sure where my Sichuan peppercorns disappeared to). I used less than a 1/4 cup of water just because I liked the sauce a little thicker. Thank you for sharing your recipes! You make Chinese cooking so approachable and stress-free.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Rekha, thanks so much for leaving a comment and I’m so happy to hear that you enjoy the dish! I think it’s totally fine to replace the honey with maple syrup. But I highly recommend you to try out the sauce with Sichuan peppercorns again the next time. I really love that numbing sensation 🙂
      Hope you have a great week ahead and can’t wait to hear what you’ll cook the next!

  21. Colleen says:

    Aloha Maggie
    There is a Chinese noodle factory / store near my home. What kind of fresh noodle would you recommend that I order to make the Sesame noodle dish.
    Can’t wait to try your recipe.

  22. Theresa says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is amazingly good! We make it with one part organic peanut butter and one part black sesame paste, and all other ingredients the same. Your recipe for chili oil is great on these noodles also. I’ve made it with lightly stir fried veggies, even kale! Keep up the great work!

  23. Momo says:

    5 stars
    These were great for a quick weeknight meal. I bought some fresh noodles from the asian grocery store and when I got home I realized that the instructions were in only in Korean! (I am Indian… lol) Luckily I guessed based off some numbers and pictures and it all came out great. Extra props to using my new julienne peeler for the garnish. Well worth it, and looks super professional for a home-cooked meal. I even had leftover sauce after feeding myself and my partner so I was able to whip up a quick meal a day later.

  24. Jon says:

    When I have had this dish on the mainland the carrots have been blanched and then rapidly cooled in an ice bath or running cold water.
    This softens them, your recipe doesn’t really say whether or not to do so. This helps the carrots to mix into the noodles easier, and makes them easier to eat with chopsticks or fork as they’ll have a similar texture to the cucumber. i have also had this dish often mixed with ham strips also. Half peanut butter and half Tahini can also makes a more authentic flavor than just PB alone. IMHO.

  25. Chloe says:

    5 stars
    Is there much difference between tahini and Chinese sesame paste?

    • Maggie Zhu says:

      The Chinese sesame paste uses toasted sesame seeds vs. tahini often use raw sesame seeds, so the un-toasted tahini usually has a grassy taste and different flavor profile. Although I heard there’s roasted tahini available (the type that has deep brown color) but so far I haven’t found them in regular grocery stores. I think the toasted tahini might taste very similar to Chinese sesame paste.

  26. Valigator says:

    5 stars
    Fantastic recipe, thank you!
    My first batch was made with cashew butter (peanut allergies in the house) and was pretty delicious, although not as good as later batches with the legit sesame paste. And although this recipe is really really good as-is, I find that adding 1-2T of shiro miso just brings the sauce to a whole ‘nother level. And although it’s not traditional, it bridges some of the flavor profile gaps between the high vinegar tanginess and the low savory nuttiness, making the overall dish taste more balanced and rounded if that makes any sense.

  27. Kora says:

    5 stars
    This is insanely tasty! One of our new favourites, especially for summer! Could eat it on a daily basis! Replaced the honey with agave and skipped Sichuan peppercorn powder, still so good! Thank you! 🙂

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