100 Techniques

Technique #13: Prepare Tender, Not Gummy, Rice Noodles

Hint: don't boil them.

Published Oct. 19, 2023.

This is Technique #13 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

Jump to a Section

Toothsome, tender rice noodles are popular throughout Southeast Asia, where this delicate pasta made from white rice flour and water is used in countless dishes. Dried rice noodles come in dozens of varieties, but in American markets, the two typical styles are thin, round noodles (sometimes labeled “vermicelli” or “rice stick”) and thick, flat noodles ¼ inch wide or thicker (also called “rice stick,” confusingly).

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Noodle Preparation Varies Based on Type

Regardless of variety, rice noodles require a different cooking technique than wheat-based noodles—and certainly a more specific approach than the maddeningly vague “instructions” printed on most packages.

Since rice noodles are more delicate than wheat-based pasta, they overcook more easily. Common preparation methods call for either boiling the noodles or soaking them in room-temperature water.

But neither approach works well. Boiled rice noodles glue themselves together, winding up soggy and clumpy. Noodles soaked in room-temperature water remain stiff and require lengthy stir-frying to become tender. The problem there is that the longer cooking time ends up making your noodle bowl or stir-fry drier and stickier.

Amazon #1 Best Seller

One-Hour Comfort

Learn how to create crowd-pleasing recipes in no time with a variety of time-saving hacks that don't sacrifice flavor. No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can count on finding meals that satisfy sweet tooth or carb cravings alike.

Boil the Water, Not the Noodles

The solution to cooking rice noodles is simple: Boil water in a saucepan, remove it from the heat, and then add the noodles. Starting with boiling water speeds up the softening process and allows for temperature control. The noodles soften as they steep for a specified time. Then drain the noodles in a colander, rinse them under running water to remove excess starch, and let them drain well before use.

Prepped this way, the noodles remain loose, tender, and separate.

Thin round noodles, which range from slightly thicker than angel hair to about the thickness of spaghetti, are ready to eat after soaking, making them a great choice for salads and noodle bowls and for filling summer rolls.

Thick flat noodles, which can be narrow like linguine or wide like pappardelle, require additional cooking, making them perfect for stir-fries or saucy dishes, as they absorb lots of flavorful sauce.

Watch this technique in action in our Shrimp Pad Thai.

Step by Step: How to Prepare Rice Noodles

Here are the key steps to make tender rice noodles with a pleasant chew and none of the soggy, gluey complications.

Step 1: Steep Noodles

Bring water to boil in large saucepan. Remove from heat and add noodles to hot water.

Step 2: Stir and Soak

Stir, then let noodles soak until soft and pliable, stirring once halfway through soaking. Thin round noodles will take only about 5 minutes to be ready, while thick flat noodles will be ready to use after 8 to 15 minutes.

Step 3: Drain

Drain noodles and rinse under cold running water until water runs clear. Drain well and set aside while preparing rest of dish.

Step 4: Combine

Thin noodles are ready to use as is. For thick noodles, combine with sauce in skillet near end of cooking time to finish cooking noodles.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Use your newfound knowledge of rice noodle prep with any of these recipes.


Thai-Style Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken and Broccolini

Pad see ew is a tasty Thai noodle dish that is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
Get the Recipe

Sweet and Sour Noodles with Chicken and Napa Cabbage

This irresistible dish gets its flavor from a potent sauce flavored with lots of basil.
Get the Recipe

Spicy Sichuan-Style Noodles

This rich, flavorful Chinese-inspired dish can be made quickly and easily for a hearty dinner on busy nights.
Get the Recipe

Ready to learn another technique? Choose from our list of 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

This is a members' feature.