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Spicy peanut noodles are a quick, pantry-friendly meal that’s ready for riffing

This peanut sauce is a pantry-friendly recipe with lots of flexibility.  (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
This peanut sauce is a pantry-friendly recipe with lots of flexibility. (Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)
By Aaron Hutcherson Washington Post

Enough peanut sauce could make even shoe leather taste delicious. Nutty, salty, spicy and bright, my version is a melody of flavors that relies on just a few simple pantry ingredients to make something remarkable. Toss the sauce with some noodles and vegetables, and you’ve got yourself a meal in almost no time at all.

The base for this peanut sauce is peanut butter (shocker!), but the sauce itself is extremely riffable. I like to use the creamy stuff for a smooth sauce – and because that’s what I always have in my pantry – but I imagine chunky peanut butter would work, too, especially because I recommend adding chopped peanuts as a garnish at the end for some nice crunch.

Not into peanut butter? Try it with another nut or seed butter such as almond, cashew or sunflower seed, and it will yield similar results.

The other key ingredient is chili-garlic sauce to add spice. This recipe calls for enough to have a pleasant tingle, but you can increase or decrease the quantity based on spice preferences.

Don’t have chili-garlic sauce on hand? Sriracha works beautifully in its place, lending a fermented tang compared with chili-garlic’s bright, fresh heat, or you could try it with whatever hot sauce you have.

Similarly, you can use another mild vinegar such as apple cider or white wine in place of the rice vinegar. (I’ve even used white distilled vinegar in a pinch.)

Run out of soy sauce or tamari? Try fish or Worcestershire sauce or coconut aminos for salty umami. Then just whisk it with a bit of water to thin it out, and you’re basically done making this recipe.

My noodles of choice in this dish are soba, which have a nice nuttiness that complements the sauce, but you could use any noodle in its place. Angel hair pasta or spaghetti are fine substitutes, and instant vermicelli rice noodles are great if you want to do even less cooking.

Lastly, green beans – frozen or canned vegetables make this pantry-friendly – are simply sauteed before being mixed with the sauce and noodles for an easy vegan meal.

But as with the rest of this recipe, you can choose your own adventure: Swap in whatever veggies you have on hand, or add protein such as crispy cubes of tofu or seared boneless, skinless chicken breasts to make this recipe work for you and the ingredients in your pantry.

Spicy Peanut Soba Noodles With Green Beans

8 ounces soba noodles (see notes)

½ cup smooth peanut butter

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce (see notes)

2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar (see notes)

1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10 ounces frozen cut green beans, thawed or one (14.5-ounce) can cut green beans, drained

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

Chopped peanuts, for serving

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions; do not overcook. Drain and rinse thoroughly under cold running water to stop the cooking. Thoroughly drain again.

While the noodles are cooking, in a medium bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, water, chili-garlic sauce, rice vinegar and soy sauce until combined; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the green beans, season with a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the green beans start to brown in spots, 5 to 7 minutes; remove from the heat.

Add the drained soba noodles and peanut sauce to the green beans and toss to combine. Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper, if needed. Transfer to a large platter or individual bowls and sprinkle with chopped peanuts before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Notes: If you don’t have soba noodles, try another thin noodle such as vermicelli rice noodles or angel hair pasta.

Sriracha also works well in this recipe, or you could try it with whatever hot sauce you have on hand.

You can use another mild vinegar such as apple cider or white wine in place of the rice vinegar.

Make ahead: The sauce can be made and refrigerated for as long as one week. The noodles can be cooked, refreshed with cold water and tossed with a bit of neutral oil, and then refrigerated for as long as two days.

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