This Miso Peanut Pasta Salad is a flavorful and easy way to sneak more veggies into your meals!
I wonder why it never occurred to me to make macaroni salad in any other way than the classic poster-style macaroni. You know what I’m referring to, right? That familiar macaroni salad with the diced carrots and pineapple, slathered with mayo? I mean, I have a recipe for that I absolutely adore, but I have to say I adore this just a tad more. It’s got so many flavors I really like, leaning more towards Asian than anything; and it also has a lot more vegetables, staying true to the “salad” part of its name.
The base flavor for the dressing of this pasta salad is peanut, with a nice hint of miso saltiness, and sweet honey tones. It even has some heat from the chili, depending on how much you’re willing to add. The addition of sesame oil gives it this interesting dimension and aroma that’s so unique to sesame oil, I don’t even know how to describe it. I just love it so much, and so does the rest of the household.
Funny story actually: The reason why I initially made this Peanut Miso Pasta Salad was so that I could use up the remaining elbow macaroni sitting in our pantry. I’m sure my family isn’t the only one to have received Christmas baskets with elbow macaroni inside. I wanted to use the macaroni in a new way so I tried this recipe, and it turned out way better than I expected.
I found this recipe on Food52, but I made a whole bunch of tweaks to the formula of the dressing after reading the comments. The results were very good, to the point my mom had to hurriedly scoop out some of it for my grandma before my brothers could devour everything!
If you love an easy pasta salad recipe then seriously give this Peanut Miso Pasta Salad a go. The most work you’ll be doing preparing this Peanut Miso Macaroni Salad is slicing up the vegetables. This would make a wonderful side to a huge variety of dishes, but I can definitely eat a big bowl of this just on its own.
- WHAT VEGGIES CAN I USE? There are no rules to which vegetables you should add and what style you should cut them, but the vegetables I used are my personal suggestions. Not only are they some of my favorite vegetables, I think they go brilliantly with the dressing. They are pretty common salad veggies though, so it’s not a new idea. It’s just a good one.
- WHAT ABOUT THE MEAT? If you would like to add some meat to this, shredded chicken is a good choice. Steam or pan-fry with just a bit of oil some lightly seasoned chicken, then shred with two forks. Or just slice into bite-sized pieces.
- ANY PREFERRED PEANUT BUTTER? I usually use creamy peanut butter for this, although I‘m pretty sure crunchy would be great too if you like to bite into some peanut bits while eating the salad. I recommend using peanut butter that is not too sweet, but don’t pick a salty peanut butter either. I actually just use whatever peanut butter is currently open in the house, which almost always means Skippy, because we love that stuff. It honestly works pretty well. (If you’re Team Jif, it’ll work too.) You can also use natural peanut butter, but make sure to stir it before measuring!
- HOW MUCH PASTA WATER DO I ADD? This depends largely on the type of peanut butter you use, so I highly recommend adding in the water 1/8 cup at a time. You must aim for a consistency that’s creamy but fairly pourable, as opposed to thin and liquid. A too-thin dressing will also taste more watered-down, so take it easy with the water. As I mentioned, I used Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter, which is on the thicker side of spreadable, so I ended up needing 1/4 cup of pasta water to achieve a nice consistency for the dressing. Since natural peanut butter will have more oil and is usually quite runny, you may need less water.
Miso Peanut Pasta Salad
- 450 grams elbow pasta, or your favorite shape
- 2 teaspoons minced ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter, natural is fine
- 2 Tablespoons white miso
- 2 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 to 3 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons soy sauce, to taste
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons honey, to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons sesame oil, to taste
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced
- 1 cup thinly sliced lettuce
- 1 medium carrot, cubed
- 1 medium cucumber, sliced into 1 inch sticks
- 1 cup chopped broccoli florets, blanched or lightly steamed
- 2 small or 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
- Cilantro, for topping
- Peanuts, for topping
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve about half a cup of the pasta water for the sauce and set aside. Drain pasta and place in a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate medium mixing bowl, whisk together peanut butter, miso, vinegar, chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, honey, and sesame oil. Start adding in the smaller amount of seasoning first, then give it a taste to see if you need to add more.
- Add in about 1/8 cup of pasta water at a time until you reach a smooth, sauce-like consistency that’s loose but still kind of creamy, not runny or watery. It should still be thick enough to coat the pasta. (I ended up adding ¼ cup of pasta water.) Again, taste to see if you need to adjust the seasoning.
- Pour half of the sauce over the pasta and mix well. Add in the prepared vegetables, then the remaining sauce. Toss until everything is well-combined and coated with the sauce. There should be enough to coat everything properly.
- Before serving, top with cilantro and peanuts, if desired. Enjoy at room temperature.
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