What are Rice Noodles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Rice noodles are noodles made with rice or rice flour, depending on the culture and the company making the noodles. They come in a range of shapes, sizes, and styles from facsimiles of Western pasta shapes like spaghetti to fresh Asian ribbon noodles, and there are all sorts of ways to use them. Many grocery stores carry these noodles, sometimes in their Asian ingredient section and sometimes with gluten-free foods, and they can also be found at health food stores and through companies which specialize in gluten-free or Asian food products.

Rice noodles may be shaped like spaghetti.
Rice noodles may be shaped like spaghetti.

In the West, companies tend to make rice noodles with rice flour. They are manufactured much like regular noodles, by blending rice, water and flour, rolling the mixture out, and cutting or extruding it. The noodles are typically dried before packaging and sale. Rice capellini, spaghetti, macaroni, and a wide variety of other shapes can be made, with either brown rice flour or white rice flour.

Chicken Pad Thai is one of the most recognizable examples of Thai cuisine.
Chicken Pad Thai is one of the most recognizable examples of Thai cuisine.

In Asia, rice noodles are classically made by soaking and grinding rice to create a paste, and then rolling out the paste and cutting it. Fresh noodles are often cut into wide ribbons that can be used in soups and stir fries, and they are also sold dried, in a variety of widths. Rice sticks, also called rice vermicelli, are very popular in Thailand, where they are used to make pad thai.

Sometimes, ingredients such as mung bean flour may be added to rice noodles to change their consistency or appearance. These noodles typically cook up slightly transparent, and they are usually chewy and slightly resilient, unless they are overcooked, in which case they will turn mushy and sometimes rather unpleasant. Like rice itself, the noodles are highly absorbent, and the relatively neutral flavor pairs well with a wide variety of sauces and ingredients.

Noodle dishes may call specifically for this type of noodle, especially in Asia, where they have been popular for centuries. Rice noodles can also be used to replace wheat noodles in households where people prefer the different flavor, or where people are sensitive to gluten, a substance found in wheat.

Depending on the recipe, rice noodles may be cooked like regular noodles, or they may be soaked and then tossed in a pan to fry with other ingredients. The soaking method is commonly used in Asian recipes, especially in the case of thin noodles, to ensure that the noodles do not turn mushy from overcooking.

Rice vermicelli noodles are often added to flavorful Southeast Asian soups.
Rice vermicelli noodles are often added to flavorful Southeast Asian soups.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


These noodles either come fresh or dry. I prefer the fresh ones as they have a better texture. Some websites have recipes for their noodles. I even found a distributor where I can buy these fresh noodles.


How does one make rice noodles? I know you can buy it but would like to know how to make them at home.


@ ValeyFiah. That sounds really good. I love dishes like pad Thai, but Asian rice noodles are such a carbohydrate dense food. I have found a worthy alternative though. I was shopping in the local Asian market in my city, and I came across a tofu noodle that looked like rice noodles, and had the same texture as rice noodles. The noodles also have a slightly fermented taste that blends perfectly with the fish and soy sauce. If there are people out there who love Asian foods, but cannot have all of the refined carbohydrates, there are good alternatives.


@ PelesTears- I have a recipe that is always a hit. I am not sure what your definition of authentic is, but it is pretty close to what you will find at a street vendor in Thailand.

1) Soak rice noodles in water for a half hour, then cook until chewy in a hot wok with sesame oil, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, green onions, fish sauce, bean sprouts, and lime juice.

2) Once cooked, I add a couple of shakes of rice wine, a little sugar, soy sauce, and chopped dry roasted peanuts.

3) Once I am finished with the sauté, I plate the Pad Thai. I top the Pad Thai with chilled julienne cucumber, julienne carrots, and cilantro.

4) Finally, I top the dish with a few tiger prawns that I rubbed with lime, chili peppers, sesame oil, and sea salt, and grilled with the shell on.

Serve and Enjoy!


How should I cook rice noodles if I am using them for Pad Thai? Does anyone have a recipe for Pad Thai rice noodles that is somewhat authentic? I would appreciate a recipe that is quick and simple. Thanks!

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