What are Glass Noodles?

Sometimes called cellophane noodles, these versatile gluten-free strands cook in just a few minutes.

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Photo by: Clarissa Wei

Clarissa Wei

By Clarissa Wei for Food Network Kitchen

Clarissa Wei is a freelance journalist based in Taipei.

Glass noodles are transparent strands of starch derived from various tubers and beans. For the most part, they’re tasteless and used as a conduit for flavor – dressed with spicy chili sauce or a robust sesame oil dressing. Unlike wheat noodles, which benefit from the distinct chewiness of gluten, glass noodles are gluten-free and have a smoother yet bouncy quality to them. They’re much lighter than their wheat-based counterparts and can be served either cold in a bright salad or in a wrap with chives and tofu or warm in an earthy soup.

Glass noodles, sometimes also referred to as cellophane noodles, are indigenous to southern and southeast Asia, where tropical tubers like sweet potatoes and cassava, beans and rice-based carbs are the traditional staples. Over the centuries, people figured that you could take the starch into a quick slurry, cool it down and shape it into clear noodles. The process is a unique way of extracting starch and transforming it to a complete meal.

Photo by: Clarissa Wei

Clarissa Wei

How To Buy Glass Noodles

There are many different types of glass noodles made with a wide variety of ingredients, but for the most part, they’re pretty much tasteless because they’re made out of starch. Different types of glass noodles differ in texture. They can either be thin and long, flat and thick or round around the edges. As a rule of thumb, mung bean noodles are generally stringy and suited for stuffing in spring rolls or dumplings, whereas noodles made with broad beans and sweet potato are wider and work better with a robust dressing.

Photo by: Clarissa Wei

Clarissa Wei

How To Cook Glass Noodles

Some brands require soaking the noodles overnight, and others can be cooked immediately. The label will usually indicate best practices. The simplest way to cook the noodles is to blanch them in hot water. Glass noodles cook comparably faster than wheat-based noodles – a quick one to five minutes compared to eight to 10 minutes that’s required of most dried pastas. Glass noodles are especially great at absorbing flavor. To infuse yours, you can reconstitute them in a savory sauce of chicken stock, soy sauce and sugar. Or you can soak them in warm water first, and then add them to a hot stir-fry. A dressing can also be added after you cook them.

Glass Noodle Recipes

Looking for some more inspiration?

Vietnamese Shrimp and Glass Noodle Salad (Pictured Above)

This refreshing salad is made with a bright lime and fish sauce dressing, paired with a handful of shrimp and a variety of crisp, fresh greens. This can either be served as a small appetizer or a hearty, family-style main.

Kung Op Wun Sen

This Thai-style glass noodle dish is a great way to frame meaty prawns and slabs of caramelized pork belly. The glass noodles are cooked in a bit of soy sauce, and drizzled with a lovely concoction of oyster sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar and sesame oil. It’s at its best when cooked over a small charcoal burner.

Thai Chicken and Glass Noodle Salad with Spicy Dressing

You can spice up your standard glass noodle salad with just a poached chicken breast and a generous dollop of spicy sambal. Add a bit of jicama for textural contrast, mango for sweetness, green papaya for acidity and mint for freshness.

Wok Tossed Eel with Turmeric and Glass Noodles: Luong Xao Lan

Spiced with turmeric and curry powder, this warm dish is a hearty way to spice up a plate of glass noodles. It’s topped with tender cuts of eel, some bouncy wood ear mushrooms and a shock of lemongrass for flavor.

Jap Chae

Jap chae refers to Korean-style cold glass noodles, seasoned with a signature dressing of sesame oil and julienned vegetables. Garnished with a sprinkle of sesame seeds, it’s a bright savory dish meant for sharing.

Vegetable Stir-fry with Glass Noodles

This is an extremely versatile recipe that puts vegetables front in center, and serves them draped over warm noodles. The instructions call for delicate bamboo shoots paired with crunchy bok choy and umami-packed mushrooms, but feel free to substitute the vegetables in the recipe with whatever is in season.

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