Cold Sesame (Cucumber) Noodles

Sometimes, especially when I’m stressed or enduring monthly hormone poisoning, my desire for the good ol’ days of takeout is almost unbearable. In my romanticized memories, ordering Chinese takeout was a carefree experience: we just picked up the phone, ordered a pile of food, and 45 minutes later, we were inhaling spare ribs, cold sesame noodles, and fried rice. In reality, I did all kinds of mental gymnastics to make it OK with myself to overeat foods I knew weren’t doing me any favors, and when the gluttony was done, I made all kind of promises to myself about how I’d “start over tomorrow.” It was a painful, shameful way to consume food, and sometimes, I wish I could travel back in time and hug that girl.

But thanks to guidance from people like Melissa and Dallas at Whole9Life and Robb Wolf, brighter days are here. And the phone call+binge days are long gone… but dang it! if I don’t still want cold sesame noodles sometimes. And hell yeah! isn’t it great that julienne peelers exist in the world?!

I hope you like this version of cold sesame noodles made with cucumbers (instead of egg noodles), tahini, sugar-free sunbutter (instead of peanut butter), and no sugar. I guarantee you won’t miss the starch or the sugar.


sesame_cucumber_noodles-1Cold Sesame (Cucumber) Noodles

This takes about 10 minutes to make and creates 2 generous servings as a main dish or 4 side servings for regular people. You can also turn just one cucumber into noodles, use half the sauce, and save the other half of the sauce for tomorrow. Trust me! You’ll want to eat it again soon. Make this into a complete meal by shredding cold, cooked chicken on top or serve alongside grilled chicken or shrimp.

  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

  • 2 large cucumbers, preferably seedless

  • 1 tablespoon tahini

  • 1 tablespoon organic sunbutter (sugar-free)

  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

  • 1 tablespoon coconut aminos or homemade substitute

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon water

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • 1 scallion, dark green part only, thinly sliced


Heat a small sautΓ© pan over medium heat, then toast the sesame seeds until light brown, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool.


Peel the cucumbers, then turn them into noodles with a julienne peelerΒ or spiralizer.Β Place in a large bowl.


In a small bowl, mix the tahini, sunbutter, oil, coconut aminos, vinegar, water, red pepper flakes, garlic, and ginger with a fork until smooth.


Pour the dressing over the cucumber noodles and toss gently with a rubber scraper until evenly coated. Mound on a plate and sprinkle with the sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy the first creamy, nutty bite, then ask yourself in wonder and glee, “Noodles! Who needs ’em?!”

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  • My Paleo Life says:

    Coming from a chefing background in Asian and Caribbean cuisine, I can definitely say that this looks delicious. I am absolutely going to be making this tomorrow. It has been decidedly HOT here for over a week and I need something cool, crisp and satisfying for lunch on my back terrace.

    Great job,


    • Mel says:

      Brock, thanks so much! Definitely let me know what you think after you’ve tried it… I’d love to hear suggestions from a pro about how I might make it better. I can sometimes be a little heavy-handed with garlic and spices, but I kinda like it that way.

      It’s been over 100 here in Austin for weeks — dreadful. We’re taking photos for the cookbook, so some days we’re eating baked squash casserole and stews, when we should be eating cool salads. So strange to nosh on “winter” foods in July!

      Hope you like the noodles!

    • Kimee says:

      I never blog but had to in the case of the “Cold Sesame (cucumber) noodles” – I’m hooked and eat them daily (I cut back on the nut butters so that I can eat more) – I share the recipe with anyone who will listen! I’m eating them now as I write to you. This salad goes well beside an entre or by itself – it is perfect on a hot San Antonio afternoon! Thank you!


      • Mel says:

        Kimee! I’m delighted that you like the cucumber noodles so much. Hooray! Even better is the idea of you creating a cucumber-noodle-eating army in San Antonio! Love it.

  • Marcy says:

    That’s funny because I’m trying to learn to be *more* heavy-handed with the spices. When I saw 1 Tbs of black pepper in your Czech Meatballs my eyes got wide, but I did it and they were delicious.

    This recipe is on my list to have in September when I’m done with the uber-restrictive Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

    In the meantime I may try it with ACV instead of rice wine vinegar and “asian sauce” instead of the coconut aminos. I think it would be a great side with the Cilantro-Lime mahi-mahi we’re having this week!

  • Mel,
    This looks absolutely fantastic! I have very tortured guts and I can almost use this recipe as-is, which is incredibly rare (the only substitution I will need to make is rice-wine vinegar for another type as I am severely intolerant to rice). Keep up the good work and I’ll be checking back often!
    Kooky Cakes

    • Mel says:

      Marianne, I’m glad you like the looks of the recipe. It should taste just as good if you use something mild like cider vinegar. Let me know how it goes!

  • Mel says:

    Marianne, I’m glad the recipe looks good to you! I think you can replace the rice vinegar with something mild like cider vinegar, and it will taste just as good. Let me know how it goes! Looks like you have lots of yummy treats on your site!

  • Ellen says:

    Tried this tonight and it was amazing! Tasted great with my turkey too.

    • Mel says:

      Thanks for letting me know you like it! I made some for a snack yesterday, too… love to slurp up the cucumber noodles!

  • Kylie says:

    Get the eff out! I made this last night in a post-work-out feeding frenzy. We were starved and unprepared (as usual…) to make dinner. I started mixing up the dressing while throwing left overs in the oven and BAM! Complete paleo meal in less than 15 minutes.

    Thank you for your creativity. It helps us when we are lazy and would rather grab a burger at the pub.

    • Mel says:

      I LOVE this story — and I’m glad this recipe saved you from hunger-induced pub mania. I made a bowl of this in a frenzy yesterday, too… cucumber seeds flew everywhere while I julienned those suckers!

  • lauren says:

    This came up on my FB feed on my blackberry while I was running errands and suddenly I found myself in Bed Bath & Beyond with a julienne peeler in my hand. πŸ™‚ Can’t wait to try it this week!

  • Victoria says:

    I received a boatload of cucumbers and summer squash in my food coop basket on Saturday, so just made this for lunch. It’s so good I think I am going to have it for dinner with yellow squash. Or maybe cucumber with Sunshine Sauce? decisions, decisions . . .

    • Mel says:

      Lightly steamed squash noodles with basil pesto is divine… just sayin’… you also would not go wrong by applying Sunshine Sauce liberally to either (or both) squash and cucumber. Also, I bet steamed squash noodles with olive oil and garlic would be light and yummy… maybe add a TINY splash of balsamic and coarse sea salt. I could keep going here, imagining your squash noodles.

  • lauren says:

    Made this last night and we absolutely LOVED it! Will definitely make again.

  • Katie says:

    These are crazy good! Just finished making (and of course taste testing!) for dinner tonight to be served with fresh pineapple and macadamia shrimp posted on Marks Daily Apple a few days back! Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Those macadamia shrimp looked really good — and serving them with this salad is a stroke of culinary genius. Well-played!

      • Harmony says:

        I made those macademia shrimp last week, and added julienned zucchini noodles for the last 2-3 minutes of cooking. It was delish with the sauce coating the zukes instead of just having veggies on the side. Next recipe up are these cucumber noodles!

  • Jules says:

    I made this the other day and I LOVE it! I don’t have a julienne peeler, but used a regular peeler; came out lovely cucumber-y ribbons. Your recipes have been a huge help on my Whole30- I made your fried rice the other day, and my boyfriend almost ate it all, & he usually doesn’t like my paleo-ized versions of “normal food!”

    • Mel says:

      Oooo. I wonder if it would be fun to have both textures in there — some ribbons and some juliennes. Hmmm… I might have to play with that.

      Don’t you love when you can make a non-paleo person fall in love with paleo food? So fun.

  • babs says:

    This looks so amazing and refreshing. I look forward to making this recipe soon! Thanks for your creativity and amazing recipes!

    • Mel says:

      I’m so grateful that I have people like you to read my blog and eat some good food. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Jon C says:

    That was wonderful! It had a nice kick and was not overpowering. Thank you so much!

  • Walker says:

    Buying a julienne peeler!

  • Tina says:

    Hi Mel,

    Just discovered your blog and am really looking forward to trying your recipes and going along on the primal journey! This one looks like a winner and I can already tell that the Paleo Pad Thai is going to go into regular rotation.

    Was just wondering about your preference for sunflower butter vs. something like almond butter. Aren’t sunflower seeds high in polyunsaturated Bad Fats?

    • Mel says:

      Welcome, Tina!

      Balancing types of fats is a concern for me, but I try not to get too caught up in it. I eat coconut oil and olive oil the majority of the time — I might eat something like paleo pad thai or these noodles once or twice week… so opt for the sunbutter because I prefer the taste over almond butter in these recipes.

      In relatively small amounts, I personally don’t stress too much about the omega-6 in the sunflower seeds. But if it worries you, you can definitely use almond butter instead of sunbutter.

  • JJ says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe, it’s amazing! My neighbor gave us a ginormous yellow squash from his garden today and I used that instead of cucumber because I didn’t have any. Added a carrot and a few bean sprouts and I’m in hog heaven. (Your post also inspired me to run out and buy a julienne peeler, I didn’t even know they existed.)

    • Mel says:

      JJ, your mods sound yummy! And yeah, I didn’t know about julienne peelers, either, really… I had one in my drawer but didn’t really know what to do with it. Thank Nom Nom Paleo for showing me the light.

  • Amanda Arthur says:

    Holy yum! Have had these on my mental list to make for several weeks and finally got around to it tonight. Tried to hold out and have it with dinner, but my husband and I slurped them up while we cooked instead – sesame cucumber noodle appetizer! Thanks again for all of your recipes – can’t wait for the cookbook!

  • Mel says:

    Love this story! And you know, they’re usually in the appetizer section of a Chinese menu, so you were just following tradition πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the cookbook enthusiasm!

    • Amanda Arthur says:

      Ha, good to know that it was in tradition’s name that we gobble up those noodles, from the same bowl, with two forks, in the middle of our kitchen πŸ™‚

  • Meredith says:

    Miss Mel — this looks so good. I am thinking about bringing for our gym’s summer party potluck tomorrow (oh, and your turkish chopped salad too!)

    My question is, what do you think are the pros and cons of using zukes versus cukes here? I could do either but it seems like the zukes might give a more noodley feel like real cold peanut noodles!


    • Mel says:

      I bet zukes would work great. One recommendation: Julienne the zucchini, the salt it VERY generously and place in a colander. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes so the excess moisture can sweat out. Rinse under running water, then blot dry with paper towels. Then just toss with the dressing and dig in. Let me know how it turns out!

      • Mel says:

        Meredith, I just made this with zucchini… it’s good! Although, I suspect you could also put this sauce on shredded newspaper and say it was good.

        I salted the noodles, rinsed them, them threw them in a hot pan for about 2-3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, to let them wilt a little bit so they’d be more like noodles. Then I rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking process and put them in the fridge to get cold for about 10 minutes. Then tossed with the sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Delish!

  • Meredith says:

    Great. Success. Wow. These got gobbled up at our gym’s summer party like cold sesame fauxnoodles were going out of style. I took your recommendation and sweated the zukes. It wasn’t so hard after all and I will incorporate this tip from now on! I put them in a kicky square bowl plate, with the garnishes and a big multipronged pretty looking green onion. They were a hit! Thanks!

    • Mel says:

      Meredith, that’s awesome. And you’re super cool for coming back to let me know!

      The sweating thing really helps a lot — I’ve started using that technique anytime I make anything with cucumbers, zucchini, or yellow squash. It vastly improves the end result — much better flavor and texture. I love that I can make squash now that’s not mushy and watery — such an easy trick.

      • Buttercup says:

        I should have seeded and sweated the cucumbers with this, especially because it sat for a while before we ate it (picnic!). The cucumber moisture ended up watering down the punch of the sauce. However, it still tasted good so I will give it another try with drier cukes!

  • Monifah says:

    Mmmmm.. so good! Actually only used half a tablespoon each of the tahini and sunbutter and it still tasted fantaaaaastic. Did add some avocado and left over roast chicken. Kids happy, mum happy, everybody happy ;o). Look forward to reading the book, but have to wait til after xmas (money!) Thanks for your amazing blog and love the way you write! Hugs from Denmark

  • Mel says:

    Hello, Denmark! YAY!

    So glad you liked the recipe — and your mods sound yummy. Hope you do treat yourself to a copy of Well Fed… there are some really fun, tasty new recipes in its pages.

    Happy Christmas!

  • Sheena says:

    I just made this to eat as a snack… Not only did I love it, but so did my 3 yo daughter!!! She liked the idea of cucumber “noodles”. Thank you for a great recipe!!

  • JennyC says:

    Mmm yummy! I tried this as soon as I saw your post on FB. Since I didn’t have sunbutter, I subbed almond butter for it, added a pinch of salt and voila! I am going to make this again as a side for some cauliflower fried rice.

    Btw, I ordered your book and I can’t wait to get it on Tues!!

    • Mel says:

      Hooray! Glad the almond butter worked — I bet it tastes pretty good! Have fun with Well Fed!

      • JennyC says:

        Forgot to tell you, i was stoked to read that you love Prague! We were there for the Christmas markets and can’t wait to go back to the Czech rep =)

        • Mel says:

          Lucky you! We’re thinking about going during the winter next year so we can go to the Christmas markets and celebrate New Year’s Eve in the CZ. I want to walk in the snow there!

  • Jenny Nagel says:

    NFT. New. Favorite. Thing.

    This recipe is so delicious and it fills the p’nutty void in my life created by the absence of pad thai. Thanks for sharing!

  • Tonja Pizzo says:

    I’m making this salad tonight with Kelp Noodles. Can’t wait! xo

  • Jackie says:

    Just made this for lunch seeing as the sun finally made an appearance in our rainy city. Mixed in some shredded ham for protein. Fantastic! Another winner! I’ll be making this all summer long. I just finished 6 days in a row of your paleo pad Thai with zucchini noodles – I coule eat it every day and I do!!! This one makes a great, cool, crunchy lunch – thanks again!!!

  • Mel says:

    So glad you like it! I’d love to take credit, but I think the magic is in the julienne peeler πŸ˜‰

  • Chrissy says:

    anyone ever figure out the nutritional content on this? I am trying to stick to my WW!! Thanks in advance

  • Tina says:

    What can I use instead of Tahini? I would love to make this tomorrow, but not sure if I can even find this in my area…small town with very limited ethnic foods.

    • Mel says:

      The tahini is essential to the taste of the dish because it’s what gives it the significant sesame flavor. If you can’t find tahini, you can grind your won sesame seeds in a food processor to make your own tahini paste.

      Good luck to you!

  • Emily says:

    We LOVE these. Two tips: 1) using English cucumbers and leaving the peel on makes them very hearty! 2) place the noodles in a strainer for a few minutes before mixing with the sauce to get rid of as much excess water as you can. Nom nom nom!

  • Catherine says:

    I love to use this recipe when I have a boatload of cukes from the garden — too many to just eat up on salad, but somehow it just disappears when I make cuke noodles! I went Paleo in late February, and I’m down 41 pounds. That’s about a third of what I need to lose, but I’ll get there. You help with your tasty recipes! πŸ™‚

    • Mel says:

      Congratulations on your weight loss. That’s so great! You must be feeling really good. Keep me posted on how you’re doing. Great to know my recipes are helping. YAY!

  • Kate says:

    Loved the noodles – planning on doing pad Thai soon too. If you are doing whole30 and have this for lunch, should you add another protein source? I’m only on day 4, so my hunger signals are all out of whack still … So I can’t tell if the noodles are the meal with all the nut butters or if I should be adding more. Maybe your cookbook says, but still waiting on that being delivered!

    • Mel says:

      You should definitely add some protein — 3-4 ounces of cooked chicken, shrimp, pork, or beef would be really tasty. The nut butters add fat, but not much protein. Happy Whole30ing!

  • Julie says:

    Just made this for my husband and I. I’m doing a Whole30 for the month of January, he is not however…he’s eating mostly whole30 by default. Since I’m cooking and handing him a fork and saying “eat this”. We both LOVED this. I love this flavor profile. I’m getting ingredients today for your pad thai, savory granola, and tabbouleh

    • Mel says:

      So glad you liked this recipe… hope you enjoy the pad thai and other recipes. I really like the tabbouleh — refreshing and yummy. Enjoy!

  • julie says:

    Looks refreshing and full of interesting texture. Thanks for the link to the julienne tool you use.

  • Tracy S says:

    I just made this subbing almond butter and zucchini. omg I love you!!

  • Elizabeth says:

    This is a great recipe! The cukes gave off a lot of liquid while I was eating. Next time, I’ll try omitting the water in the sauce, and letting the cukes sit in the sauce a couple of minutes. My husband used to make a great peanut sauce. Next time, I’ll add fixings we used for that dish (minus the rice noodles and diced cuke) – steamed broccoli, shredded carrot, chopped cashews, chicken or shrimp, etc. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Mel says:

      If you salt the cucumbers (LOTS of salt) and let them sit in a colander for 30 minutes, much of the water will leech out. Then just rinse the salt off, pat with paper towels, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. You can also use seedless (English) cucumbers which contain much less water.

  • Alison says:

    Hi Mel,

    I will love to try the recipe as my kids hate vegetables but love pasta.
    But I am a little skeptical because I have cooked stripped cucumbers before until they were soft but still the texture is nothing like pasta and my kids spit it out when I tried to pass it off as spaghetti bolognese…sigh
    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Mel says:

      These ideas might help you…

      For hot sauce, like with bolognese, you and your kids will probably like it more if you use zucchini, instead of cucumbers. You can get the basic idea for how to do that here:

      THIS recipe is served cold, and the cucumber noodles are crisp, which works much better.

      If you don’t like the zucchini noodles, you might try spaghetti squash… but the truth is, these substitutes come close, but they really can’t recreate the mouth-feel of gluten-y pasta. This might be a good options for you:

  • michele b. says:

    Yum! This made a great summer dinner with grilled chicken thighs. Those julienned cucumbers are so fun…my kids were like “how are these cucumbers? How did you cut them?” Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Aisha says:

    Amazing salad.. cucumbers never felt more fun to eat! I do have a few questions though cuz I haven’t been consistent with the result! The first time I made it, it was perfect. However, every other time, I felt like something was off. Either the taste of tahini was too overpowering or the dressing wasn’t sour enough. . So I thought maybe the following may be playing factors,

    1. When you say 2 cucumbers, whats the average weight you are recommending?
    2. You call for a sunbutter that is sugar free. Sunflower butter is not available in my country (Bahrain). I used either almond or cashew butter instead. However, I’m making my own sunflower butter and the recipe calls for a Tbs of honey or agave as a sweetener for 1 cup sunflower yield. Shall I skip the sweet ingredient to achieve the sugar free sunbutter your recipe calls for?

    Thanks a lot.

    P.S. I have tried SO many paleo recipes. Yours are THE yummiest. I am literally trying every recipe on wellfed and on this website. Cant wait for wellfed 2.

    Thankd again and wish you all the best (all the way from the middle east!)

    • Mel says:

      1. It’s about 3/4 of a pound of cucumbers. 12-14 ounces total.

      2. I recommend cashew butter over almond butter — but neither really replicates the flavor of sunbutter. If you makey our own, leave the sweetener out and just grind the seeds.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the recipes. Thank you for letting me know — and happy cooking to you!

  • Wendy says:

    I’m on day 29 of eating Paleo and I about CRIED with happiness eating this. I may or may not have eaten the entire recipe in one day…

  • Carrie says:

    I LOVE THIIS!!!! I use on shredded chicken breasts and it is fabulous. Please keep the deliciousness coming!


  • Rebecca says:

    OMG… This was amazing! The perfect thing to come home to for lunch after hot yoga. I’m not a huge fan of sunflower seeds so I subbed out almond butter for the sunbutter, and diced up some leftover chicken breast from dinner last night for the protein. I couldn’t get it into my face hole fast enough!! Cant wait till tomorrow to have it again!!

  • Jenn says:

    Ok, I need to make this again! It tasted great but like others have said, the cucumbers were way too wet during leftovers. Plus I used normal non-English cukes bc thats all they had at the grocery store. Will def sweat them out next time!

  • Kacey says:

    Hi Mel! So I am somewhat lazy. I did the cucumber before and ended up with a salty pile of mush (I can’t seem to get that right); HOWEVER, I did use this sauce on the Trader Joe’s broccoli slaw and it was very good! I tried it several times just over the raw veggies, but I am thinking it might be better to blanche them first to get them more noodly and warm.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi Mel! Does this keep well in the fridge? I like to make a big batch of salad on Sunday for the week to enjoy for lunch at work but I’d be nervous about it getting mushy (ick).


    • It will get mushy if you put the dressing on it, but you can store the cucumber noodles and dressing separately for 5 or so days, and it should all taste fresh and awesome.

  • Nikki says:

    Hey Mel,
    I’ve been reading some of the comments and saw mention of “sweating” the cucumbers. Is that what you did with this recipe? And this would only work with cucumbers if they were actually julienned and NOT if they were spiralized right? Because spiraling them would include the seeds and it would be impossible to “sweat” them then…??? And when you say that you sweat zucchini, does that include when you spiralize it also (I’m assuming that you have a spiralizer lol).

    • No, the sweating is really helpful with julienned cucumbers and zucchini, too. It removes excess moisture so the noodles don’t get watery. I spiralize the veg, toss them with salt, then them sweat for 20-30 minutes, rince, pat dry, and proceed with the recipe.

  • Michael says:

    Mel, I’m having a hard time finding rice wine vinegar locally. I can find plain rice vinegar – is that going to be close enough flavor-wise? (I realize I could just order rice wine vinegar from Amazon, but I feel a bit silly over-spending on something I’ve never tried.) Regardless, I have yet to try of recipe of yours that I didn’t like, so it may not matter that much in the end.