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Ramen Noodle Salad

The key to the best Ramen Noodle Salad recipe is fresh ingredients, a flavor exploding dressing and tons of CRUNCH – and this salad has it all!  It's beloved by salad lovers and non-salad lovers alike, the first to go at every potluck, prep ahead friendly (just keep the ramen separate), goes with practically everything and super customizable.  This Asian Ramen Noodle Salad is a dynamically addicting medley of crisp cabbage, crunchy Ramen, toasted sliced almonds, salty sunflower seeds, sweet dried cranberries, juicy Mandarin oranges, aromatic green onions and zesty cilantro all doused in sweet and tangy garlic, ginger laced dressing. Of course, you can customize the ingredients just how you like and even turn it into a main dish by adding chicken, steak, salmon or shrimp. No matter how you serve it, this Ramen Noodle Salad recipe is always a showstopper!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 8 servings

Ingredients

Salad

  • 2 3 oz. pkgs. dry ramen, broken into small pieces, seasoning packets discarded
  • 4 tablespoons butter - optional if toasting ramen in skillet
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 medium green cabbage, thinly sliced (8-10 cups)
  • 3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 11 oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, optional but recommended
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup roasted salted sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons Asian sweet chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Prep: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F if toasting the ramen in the oven verses the skillet. The oven method is slightly healthier but you’ll miss that buttery crunch.  Both methods will work, but I recommend the skillet if you're okay with a little extra butter.
  • Dressing: Add all of the dressing ingredients to a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid or a small bowl. Shake jar or whisk dressing vigorously. Refrigerate until ready to use.

TO TOAST RAMEN IN SKILLET (recommended)

  • Working in two batches, melt half of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add half of the noodles and half of the almonds.  Sauté while stirring frequently, until the noodle mixture is golden brown. Remove to a plate.  Repeat with remaining ramen and almonds.

TO TOAST RAMEN IN THE OVEN

  • Spread the ramen and almonds out over a 21 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet.  Toast in the oven at 400 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or until golden, stirring every 3 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

ASSEMBLE

  • Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl. Whisk/shake salad dressing and drizzle desired amount of dressing over salad and toss until well combined. Best served immediately.

Notes

Storage

If you plan on storing leftover Asian Ramen Noodle Salad, do not toss the salad with ramen or the dressing otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy salad within a couple hours. Instead, store the salad, ramen and dressing in separate airtight containers. The salad without the dressing will last about 3 days in the refrigerator although the cabbage can soften just a bit.
To store the dressing, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. The dressing will separate as it sits so shake or whisk to recombine before using.
  • To slice cabbage: remove the tougher out leaves of the cabbage, then rinse and dry the cabbage well. Cut the entire cabbage through the stem, then cut the two halves in half to yield quarters. Cut the core out of each quarter. Lay each cabbage quarter on a flat side, and thinly slice into ribbons.
  • Asian sweet chili sauce:  is not to be confused with Asian Chili sauce/paste without the “sweet” – or your mouth will be on fire! Asian sweet chili sauce is sweet and spicy and packed with flavor from red chilies, onion, garlic, brown sugar and fish sauce.  It can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.  It is sometimes labeled “Thai Sweet Chili Sauce.”
  • Make the dressing more or less sweet.  Some prefer the dressing sweeter, some like it less sweet.  Do you best to adjust it before you add it to the salad, but it’s also easy to adjust after it’s added to the salad.  You can drizzle on a little rice vinegar for tangier or sprinkle on a little sugar for sweeter, and mix it directly into the salad.
  • Add chicken to make it a complete meal. Shred about 2 cups chicken and toss it in some of dressing before adding to the salad so it can soak up more flavor.
  • Add vegetables. You can add any vegetables to this recipe such as snow peas, cucumbers, edamame, celery, or bell peppers. I suggest julienning the vegetables, even the snow peas. Bean sprouts would also be tasty.
  • Swap fruit. Swap the Mandarin oranges for pineapple or mangos to keep the fresh, sweet dimension.  Asian pears or Fuji apples would also be tasty sweet and crunchy additions.
  • Swap nuts.  Swap the almonds for crushed peanuts or cashews.
  • Make it gluten free: use gluten free ramen noodles made from sorghum or millet and brown rice like this one. Use gluten free tamari in place of the soy sauce and double check that the Asian sweet chili sauce is gluten free.

Recipe shortcuts

  • Food Processor.  If you have a food processor, then your salad prep time just got faster!  Attach your shredder blade for the for the cabbage and use your grater blade for the carrots.
  • Use coleslaw.  You will need roughly 13 cups of pre-packaged coleslaw.  You can always use less and then dress the salad with less dressing.
  • Use garlic & ginger powder.  If you’re looking to skip some chopping, you can substitute the fresh garlic and ginger with powders. The typical rule of thumb is 3:1, so one part dried to three parts fresh.
  • Use pre-shredded carrots. Look for matchstick carrots in the produce section for an easy shortcut.

PREP AHEAD

This ingredients for this Asian Ramen Noodle Salad can all be prepped ahead of time then combined when ready to serve, for a stress-free lunch or dinner win.  Here’s how:
  • Toast ramen:  toast the ramen and almonds, let cool, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
  • Combine salad:  most all of the salad ingredients can be sliced/chopped and stored together without becoming soggy; just hold the toasted ramen, almonds and Mandarin oranges.  Store the remaining salad ingredients together in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
  • Dressing:  can be whisked together and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.