This post was originally published July 2014. Text and images have been updated.
I was first introduced to the world of food blogs back in college, when a friend turned me onto the site Hungry Girl. It was perfect timing. I had just moved into my first apartment and was learning to cook, and had just decided to double major with nutrition.
If you remember that blog, it was full of tons of recipes that were quick, easy, and fit my definition of healthy. Of course, back in college healthy meant low calorie. And Hungry Girl was ruthless in chopping calories. She swapped burger buns for those sandwich thin atrocities, had the gall to use fat free cheese, and sweetened everything with Splenda. Somehow I convinced myself that these were all things that were edible.
One of the swaps I remember most were these weird tofu noodles and kelp noodles she used for pasta dishes. Her whole shtick was you were *allowed* to have a whole bowl of pasta, as long as you swapped actual noodles for these weird low-calorie noodles. Even in my slightly disordered mind, that was one step too far.
To this day, I still have lingering food trauma, and every time I pass these "Hungry Girl foods" at the grocery store, I shudder a little bit.
But one day a couple years ago, curiosity got ahold of me and I decided to grab a bag of kelp noodles. Weirdly, I actually kinda liked them! Lawd knows they are no pasta, and I wouldn’t suggest doing the Hungry Girl thing and loading them up with fat free sour cream and Laughing Cow cheese and pretending it’s fettucine alfredo (ick). But for cold noodle salads, kelp noodles are pretty tasty! They have this slightly crunchy texture that I really like in there. If you've ever had cellophane noodles, they kinda remind me of that (and you could easily swap them or rice noodles in the dish if you can't find/are too terrified to try kelp noodles). I don't recommend them right out of the bag, but after soaking a bit in peanut sauce, they soften up a bit, but still retain a slightly crunchy, chewy texture.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what this whole kelp noodle thing is, first of, #same. I did some research (i.e. googled “what are kelp noodles?") and discovered that they are made the jelly-like extract that comes from steaming kelp. Mmmmm, I know I’m selling it to you. Kelp noodles were originally used in Korean cuisine, but now are big with the raw vegan and low carb crowds.
I almost didn’t share this recipe with you because technically it is raw/vegan/gluten free/paleo/grain free and that is just TOO MUCH. But you know, it’s actually really tasty, and why do the diet folks get to lay claim to fun foods?
For this dish, I tossed the kelp noodles with zoodles, sliced mango and a spicy peanut sauce to make this noodle salad. The sweet-tart mango is SO good with the spicy, peanut sauce, and the noodles and zoodles add great texture. It makes a really nice light lunch salad, but I would definitely bulk it up with some baked tofu or grilled chicken. To save time, swap a bottled peanut dressing.
Kelp Noodle and Mango Salad with Peanut Dressing
- 1 lb bag of kelp noodles, rinsed
- 1 large zucchini
- 2 mangos
- Sliced scallions optional, for garnish
- Chopped peanuts optional, for garnish
- Cilantro, optional, for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted peanut butter
- Juice from half a lime
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed chili flakes
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons water
- Rinse the kelp noodles briefly in water and drain in a colander. Place in a large mixing bowl.
- Spiralize the zucchini using the spiralizer, or julienne cut with a mandolin. Place in a bowl with the kelp noodles
- To slice the mango, cut down the wide side of each mango. Scoop away the flesh using a spoon and slice into thin strips. Run your knife along the thin side of the mango. Use your spoon again to scoop the flesh away from the skin, then slice the flesh into thin strips. Place the mango in the bowl with the kelp and zucchini noodles.
- To prepare the dressing, whisk all dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Pour over the salad and toss to combine. The kelp noodles will soften in a couple minutes in the dressing. Garnish as desired, with scallions, chopped peanuts and cilantro
More noodle salads: