Rice noodles are the new talk of the town and we are here for it! These noodles are incredibly healthy, delicious, versatile, affordable, and gluten-free.
Naturally, the most important factor to consider before jumping right in, is how you are going to cook these noodles. There are so many different options, each ultimately affecting how you should use the noodles in dishes!
So, what are the best ways to cook rice noodles? Boiling is always a great option and works for dried and fresh noodles. Some other options include pan-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, and cooking the noodles in a sauce. Today, we will have an in-depth look at all of these methods.
This is the ultimate guide on cooking rice noodles that will explore the different types of noodles, preparations techniques, step-by-step instructions, and expert tips and tricks to follow.
So, what are you waiting for? A whole new world is about to open up!
What Are Rice Noodles?
Rice noodles are pretty self-explanatory, despite many people over-thinking them.
This noodle is a specific type of noodle-shaped “pasta” that is made from rice — more specifically, rice flour is used to make this tasty item.
These noodles date back to the Qin Dynasty in China, approximately 260 B.C.
While throughout the centuries the ingredients and production method may have changed slightly, the concept and flavor remain virtually the same.
Today, rice noodles are still one of the most-used staple ingredients in South, Southeast, and East Asia. And naturally, it quickly made its way into Western countries.
Now, this ingredient is easily accessible and available in a variety of shapes and sizes!
How Rice Noodles Are Made
The base ingredients of all rice noodles include rice flour and water.
Rice flour can be bought or made at home. It is often used as a substitute for wheat flour because it is naturally completely gluten-free.
For the same reason, rice noodles are an excellent gluten-free substitute for wheat-containing pasta dishes.
Other common additions to rice noodles include tapioca flour or corn starch. These additions mainly function to give the noodles a more transparent color or make the noodles more chewy and gelatinous.
Once the ingredients are combined and a dough is made, it is shaped into various types of strands.
This shaped pasta can either be sold fresh (as-is) or dried. Fresh rice noodles that are sold are often coated with more rice flour to prevent them from sticking. Dried rice noodles are completely dehydrated to last extremely long.
Characteristics Of Cooked Rice Noodles
The type of rice noodle you use will have a big effect on the cooked characteristics.
You may not notice it when eating it alone, but in a side-to-side comparison, it is very noticeable.
So, let’s talk about cooked rice noodles made from dried noodles.
Dried rice noodles have been completely dehydrated — this does change its consistency and flavor. Once cooked, even though it will be soft, it won’t have a very springy, chewy, and buttery flavor or texture.
Instead, dried rice noodles will make very chewy, starchy, and almost chalky cooked noodles. That being said, the flavor will be very rice-like because of how concentrated the ingredients have become.
Fresh rice noodles, at least in our opinion, are far superior. They are rich in flavor and have a springy and al dente consistency. Their flavor is also more authentic as compared to dried noodles.
Other benefits of fresh noodles are that they will give you more nutritional value, are quicker to cook, and don’t require specific preparation techniques.
Rice Noodle Uses
These noodles have an endless amount of uses — you only need a little creativity.
They can be used in any way pasta can, but their flavor and cooking times will just vary slightly.
There are hundreds of thousands of other traditional Asian recipes made using these noodles — each of them has a series of variations, too!
Now, for more Western uses, you can substitute your spaghetti pasta with some round thin rice noodles for gluten-free spaghetti bolognese. Or, you could make some alfredo pasta with flat rice noodles instead of using tagliatelle!
Different Types Of Rice Noodles
Naturally, there are loads of different kinds of Asian noodles. But in terms of different kinds of rice noodles, officially, there are two options: dried and fresh.
Rice noodles are classified according to their shape, so it is very hard to sometimes look for a specific name like you would with pasta.
Dried rice noodles and fresh rice noodles have very different characteristics.
In terms of quality and flavor, oftentimes fresh rice noodles are much better. But, in terms of price and longevity, dried rice noodles are better for storage.
Fresh Rice Noodles
Fresh rice noodles only take a couple of minutes to cook, making them easier to prepare for a variety of cooking methods.
For example, fresh rice noodles can be stir-fried, whereas dried rice noodles cannot.
These noodles also have a very buttery flavor and soft chewy texture. Once cooked, they aren’t extremely starchy and won’t be uber sticky.
Dried Rice Noodles
Dried noodles may need to be soaked before being cooked. They also generally take a lot longer to fully soften, making it an overall more lengthy process.
The variety of cooking methods is also very limited, as you can only boil them in certain ways.
But, the benefits of dried rice noodles are that they can last for years in a cool dry place, they are much more affordable, and they are easier to find! These will also come in more shapes and sizes as compared to fresh rice noodles.
Shapes And Sizes Of Rice Noodles
Rice noodles traditionally are relatively flat and can vary in width. In fact, they can even be 1/2 an inch wide (that’s 1cm). Most types of rice noodles are roughly 1/4-inch in width.
The length of rice noodles is not set in stone — some manufacturers make them 8 inches in length while others like to make them 20 inches long! We would recommend a noodle product with roughly 10- to 12-inch noodles.
While most rice noodle products are on the flatter side, you can find round noodles. The thickness of either option also varies, but they aren’t exceptionally chunky.
The thicker they are, the longer they will take to cook. This may also lead to the outside being mushy and overcooked, while the inside is still raw. Ultimately, the rules stay the same as with traditional wheat pasta.
When it comes to fresh rice noodles, there aren’t any preparations that need to take place before they can be cooked.
Fresh rice noodles can simply be left on the heat for long enough to soften and become chewy.
Dried rice noodles are often more labor-intensive. Besides the fact that they cook for longer, you may also need to soak them before cooking.
Soaking the noodles is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it will reduce the cooking time. But on the other hand, it increases the preparation time and adds another step.
At the end of the day, the type of rice noodle you use will depend entirely on what works for you and your recipe!
How To Cook Rice Noodles (The Ultimate Guide)
Now, finally, we get to the good part — the many ways in which you can cook rice noodles!
Now, for this article, we have merely compiled a list of five different cooking techniques.
We didn’t want to limit you to traditional recipes that ultimately only use three different cooking techniques.
We have also tried to include variety — this will ensure that you will be able to find at least one cooking method that you can try at home!
And finally, all of these techniques are easy and make extremely tasty cooked rice noodles. They are also very versatile and easily adaptable.
So, let’s jump right into it!
Method 1: Water-Boiled Rice Noodles
This technique is arguably one of the easiest to use, but only because people are already familiar with boiling pasta! You also don’t need any special equipment and it can be used for both fresh and dried noodles.
This method essentially requires you to boil some water, add the noodles, and cook them to perfection. As we said, very easy! Once they are cooked, you can drain them and incorporate them into the main dish you are preparing.
Step 1: Boil The Water
To start, place a large pot of water over high heat. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
Step 2: Add The Noodles
Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and add your noodles. Make sure that the noodles are completely covered in hot water. Stir the noodles to ensure they are separated, then leave them to soak for a couple of minutes.
Step 3: Drain The Noodles And Serve
Once your noodles are chewy and tender, you can remove them from the water. The best way to do so is to drain them under cold running water in a colander.
Allow them to sit a bit while the excess water runs off. Once drained, mix in with the rest of your dish.
Tips For Using This Method
- If you are using dried rice noodles, you can soak them (fully covered) in the hot water for roughly 6-10 minutes.
- If you want to use fresh rice noodles, you only need to soak them in the hot water for 1-3 minutes.
- The exact soaking or cooking time of the noodles will depend on their thickness and their size — remember, thicker rice noodles will take longer to cook than thin ones!
- We also recommend flash-frying your noodles before adding them to your dish. This will give them a slightly crispy texture and a toasty flavor. Fry the noodles in a little bit of oil over very high heat for a couple of seconds, then enjoy!
Method 2: Broth-Boiled Rice Noodles
This is a technique that is very similar to boiling the noodles in water, but instead, you boil them in broth or stock.
This will add a lot more flavor to the noodles as they will absorb a savory, flavored liquid instead of just bland, flavorless water.
The biggest challenge to cooking these noodles in broth is the timing — you need to leave them in long enough to cook, without overcooking them while they are being served.
The easiest solution is to finish off the broth completely, allow it to slightly cool, and then add the noodles. Rest the noodles in the cooling broth before serving them once they have reached the correct texture.
Step 1: Make Your Broth
There are loads of broth recipes out there! You can use any type that you’d like for cooking rice noodles.
Just make sure that it isn’t a particularly thick broth. Otherwise, the noodles won’t absorb the flavors as easily — they will just cook.
Step 2: Cool The Broth Slightly
Once the broth has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.
Step 3: Add The Noodles And Serve
Once the broth has rested, you can add your rice noodles and allow them to sit until they are fully cooked.
Once they reach the correct texture or consistency, you can dish the broth and noodles immediately with accompanying ingredients.
Tips For Using This Method
- The cooking times for dry and fresh noodles will remain virtually the same as mentioned in the water-boiling method.
- This technique will add a lot of flavor to the noodles themselves. So, don’t over-season the elements from the get-go — only season the dish once the broth and noodles are fully cooked!
- You can also use this technique to cook noodles in soups and stews. They won’t necessarily absorb the flavor in thicker liquids, but they will still cook. Add the noodles last to prevent overcooking them.
Method 3: Stir-Fry Rice Noodles
One of the more traditional cooking techniques used for rice noodles includes stir-frying them. Unfortunately, this method only really works for fresh noodles.
Technically, you could add soaked dried noodles (or boiled dry noodles) to the pan, but their water content will cause a lot of oil splatter and potentially cause the sauce to separate. So, we just don’t recommend it.
Cooking fresh noodles in this way will give them a slightly more crispy texture on the outside, while they are soft and chewy on the inside. It also gives a smoky flavor that is divine!
This is a very easy technique and also one of the quickest! Plus, there is no limit to the number of recipes you can use it for.
Step 1: Heat Your Pan
Step 2: Add The Fresh Rice Noodles
Next, add in your fresh rice noodles. Give them a toss every couple of seconds. Keep cooking them over high heat for only a minute or two.
Step 3: Finish The Dish And Serve
If your other elements have finished cooking, you can combine all of the elements and coat them in a sauce or dressing. Serve the noodles immediately to retain their crispy exterior.
Tips For Using This Method
- Avoid using non-stick-coated (Teflon-coated) pans. These aren’t able to handle extremely high temperatures and will start deteriorating, which can cause them to release harmful fumes or start chipping.
- Make sure to use an oil that has a high smoking point — these are usually oil blends and super-processed oils.
- This method works best with fresh thin noodles. Never cook the noodles without adding oil to the pan!
- If you want to use dried noodles for stir-frying, you will have to soak them in cold water for 30 minutes. Then, drain them for a while before coating them in some oil. This will help prevent any residual moisture and lubricate the noodles so they don’t stick.
Method 4: Pan-Fry Rice Noodles
This cooking method is different from the wok-frying one in two ways — first, it uses a lower heat; second, it cooks the noodles for longer. So, essentially, whatever the stir-frying method lacks, this technique makes up for it!
This method is suited for thicker noodles as well as dried noodles. It will also give a slight toastiness to the noodles while cooking them slowly.
Pan-fried noodles are equally versatile in how they can be used. You can add them to sauces, coat them in dressings, or use them in salads, stews, and pasta. Not to mention, the method is also extremely easy.
Step 1: Soak Your Dried Noodles
If you are using dried noodles, you will have to soak them. Place them in a large bowl of room temperature water for about 30 minutes. Then, drain them in a sieve or colander and leave them to drip for 10 minutes.
Step 2: Preheat Your Frying Pan
Then, preheat your frying pan over medium heat. Add a bit of oil to that the noodles don’t stick to the pan. Make sure that the pan is big enough to handle your amount of noodles or work in smaller batches.
Step 3: Add The Rice Noodles
Finally, add the noodles to the frying pan. Cook them over medium heat for a minute. Then, increase the temperature and cook them for another minute.
The first section of time (over medium heat) is simply to cook the noodles. The higher temperature is to give them some crispy texture and a smokier flavor.
Tips For Using This Method
- You don’t have to soak fresh rice noodles (only dried ones) as they will already be soft enough to simply add to the pan.
- Only use thick, fresh rice noodles for this technique — the thin ones will likely start to burn.
- You can use non-stick-coated woks or pans for this technique because you aren’t using as high temperatures.
- Make sure to properly coat the noodles with oil when cooking them. The low heat will still cause them to stick, especially because they are on the heat for much longer.
Method 5: Deep-Fried Rice Noodles
Now, this isn’t a very well-known cooking technique for rice noodles (most noodles if we’re being honest), but it works very well. It will give the noodles a very crunchy texture while they are still completely cooked.
They make great toppings for salads, stews, dips, and loads more. You can also serve them long, make little noodle balls, or crunch them up for snacks.
You have to use pre-cooked dry noodles for this method. If you are using fresh rice noodles, there is no need to cook them before deep-frying.
Step 1: Preheat Your Oil
Fill a large pot with vegetable oil and heat it to 360ºF (180ºC). You can also use a deep-fryer if you have one. Line a roasting sheet or plate with a kitchen towel.
Step 2: Soak Your Dried Rice Noodles
While your oil is heating, allow your dried rice noodles to soak in room temperature water. You can also boil them in hot water (which will be quicker), but make sure to drain and dry them well.
Step 3: Fry Your Noodles
Add your noodles into the preheated oil. Then, allow them to fry for roughly 2 minutes or until they become crisp.
Remove them from the oil and set them on the paper towel. Make sure that they drain very well. Once drained, you can serve them however you’d like.
Tips For Using This Method
- If you see that your oil is too hot, then lower the heat before adding the rest of the noodles. The oil may be too hot for thin noodles.
- There isn’t an exact amount of time these noodles will need to fry. So, just keep an eye on them and remove them once they are golden brown.
- You have to use dry noodles for this method — we don’t mean dried noodles, but rather very well-drained after they have been cooked.
Now that we’ve covered the various techniques for cooking rice noodles, here are some related questions that we thought you might have.
Can you reheat rice noodles?
You can easily reheat rice noodles in an oven, microwave, or frying pan. The method you choose depends mostly on the dish you have and how much effort you are willing to put in.
Just don’t overheat them, because it will make them dry and bland.
Are rice noodles nutritious?
Rice noodles are considered to be a healthy ingredient. This isn’t necessarily because they contain a bunch of vitamins and minerals, but rather because they are gluten-free.
This makes them a great option for anyone who is gluten-intolerant or wants to lose weight.
Why are rice noodles sometimes sticky?
This is because of all the starch coming out of the noodles — it is especially common when you have boiled and drained rice noodles in water.
To prevent this, lightly coat them with oil after they have been drained. It will help prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.
Can you fix over-cooked rice noodles?
If you have boiled rice noodles and they turned out mushy, they have been overcooked.
The best way to fix this is by pan-frying them. This makes them crispy and takes away some of the stickiness.