Glass noodles: Versatile & Gluten-Free for Many Asian Dishes
It’s hard to miss the translucent noodles known as cellophane or glass noodles in Asian markets.
Made from mung bean starch, they’re commonly used in soups and stir-fries, where their slippery texture provides a pleasing contrast to the other ingredients.
While they may look delicate, glass noodles are quite tough and take well to being soaked in water or broth before cooking.
So many Asian cuisines make use of glass noodles, from Chinese to Thai to Vietnamese.
In China, they’re often used in soup, while in Thailand, they might be stir-fried with vegetables or served in a chilled salad.
Glass noodles are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes.
What are glass noodles, and what sets them apart from other types of noodles?
Glass noodles, or cellophane noodles, are a type of noodle made from vegetable starch (usually mung bean) and water. They are very thin and translucent when cooked, hence their name. Glass noodles are often used in Asian dishes, such as soups, stir-fries, and salads.
In this article, you can learn all about glass noodles, how they’re made, how to use them, and some of our favorite recipes.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What are glass noodles?
- 2 How to cook glass noodles?
- 3 How to use & popular dishes
- 4 Best rice noodle pairings
- 5 How to eat glass noodles?
- 6 Where to buy glass noodles?
- 7 What’s the difference between glass noodles and rice noodles?
- 8 What are the best substitutes for glass noodles?
- 9 What is the nutrition of glass noodles?
- 10 How to store glass noodles?
- 11 Is glass noodles low-carb?
- 12 Conclusion
What are glass noodles?
Glass noodles are also known as cellophane noodles, bean threads, or clear noodles. They are made from mung bean starch, which is extracted from mung beans.
The starch is mixed with water and then extruded through a sieve to create long, thin strands of noodles. After that, the noodles are air-dried.
The interesting fact about these noodles is that they go by different names. Glass noodles is a broad term referring to transparent noodles made from vegetable starch.
You may find glass noodles called cellophane noodles, vermicelli, bean threads, or fensi (Chinese), clear noodles. These are all different names for the same thing.
Many people prefer glass noodles because they are not made using wheat, so they’re gluten-free.
Glass noodles are long, thin, and either white or tan in color; after cooking, they turn transparent.
They work well in broth, soups, salads, and stir-fries because they absorb a lot of flavors.
What is the texture and flavor of glass noodles?
Glass noodles are long and thin in shape, but you can find very thin or thicker versions.
Their chewy texture makes them very tasty, but they are almost flavorless on their own.
However, they absorb the flavors of the dish they are cooked in very well.
For this reason, people use glass noodles in brothy dishes where the noodles can absorb the flavors of the soup or in dishes with a lot of sauce.
This makes them a versatile ingredient that can be used in many different dishes.
When cooked, glass noodles become transparent and resemble cellophane or clear noodles. Uncooked glass noodles are white or light tan and run clear when wet and cooked.
Their texture is very gelatinous and slippery when wet. When dry, they are brittle and break easily. When cooked, they should be tender but still, have a bit of bite.
The flavor is quite bland, which makes them perfect for absorbing the flavors of the dish they are used in.
Their flavor makes them slightly similar to wheat pasta, especially the thin angel hair pasta.
However, glass noodles are unique and most similar to rice noodles which look almost identical.
What are glass noodles made of?
Generally, glass noodles are made from mung bean starch. This type of starch is prevalent in Asian countries and is extracted from mung beans.
The noodles can be made from mung beans, pea starch, yam flour, tapioca, or sweet potato starch.
The different starches will produce noodles with different textures and flavors.
Glass noodles have a chewy texture and are almost flavorless on their own. However, they absorb the flavors of the dish they are cooked in very well.
When cooked, glass noodles become transparent and resemble cellophane or clear noodles.
Glass noodles are commonly used in Asian cuisine, particularly Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean dishes.
They are often used in soups, stir-fries, and salads. Glass noodles can also be deep-fried or used as a wrapper for spring rolls or dumplings.
What’s the origin of glass noodles?
Glass noodles originated in China, where they’re known as fensi. Their history can be traced back to the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC).
The noodles were initially made from mung bean starch and were used as a type of currency. They were also used as a food ration for soldiers.
In China, cellophane noodles were viewed as a symbol of longevity. They were commonly served on special occasions like birthdays or the Chinese New Year.
Glass noodles made their way to other Asian countries, like Japan, Vietnam, and Korea, where they became popular ingredients in various dishes.
How to cook glass noodles?
Glass noodles are very easy to cook and only take a few minutes. Simply soak the noodles in warm water for 5-7 minutes or until they are soft.
Then, drain the water and add the noodles to your desired dish.
If you are using dried glass noodles, you will need to soak them in water for 30 minutes before cooking.
How to use & popular dishes
Glass noodles cook fast and only need about 3 to 5 minutes to cook through.
If you want to try cooking with glass noodles, here are some recipes to get you started:
- Vietnamese Beef noodle soup (pho bo)
- Korean cold noodles (naengmyeon)
- Chinese chicken and glass noodle soup
- Thai glass noodle salad (yum woon sen)
Glass noodles are also a popular ingredient in vegetarian and vegan dishes, as they can be used to replace meat or seafood in many recipes.
When cooking with glass noodles, it is important to soak them in water or broth for 20-30 minutes before adding them to your dish.
This will help to soften the noodles and prevent them from sticking together.
Best rice noodle pairings
Glass noodles are very versatile and can be used in many different dishes. Here are some of the best foods to pair with glass noodles:
- Vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage
- Spicy sauces
- Herbs like cilantro and mint
- Lime juice
Glass noodles can be used in soups, stir-fries, salads, and even as a replacement for pasta in dishes like spaghetti.
They are also a popular ingredient in spring rolls and dumplings.
When it comes to condiments and seasonings, glass noodles go well with soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce, chili sauce, and sesame oil.
They can also be flavored with garlic, ginger, green onions, and cilantro.
How to eat glass noodles?
The glass noodles must be boiled or cooked in some way before eating. Once they are cooked, you can add them to any dish or eat them on their own.
Glass noodles can be eaten hot or cold and are often used in soups, stir-fries, and salads.
They can also be deep-fried or used as a wrapper for spring rolls or dumplings.
Glass noodles are a popular ingredient in vegetarian and vegan dishes, replacing meat or seafood in many recipes.
The noodle is slurped up directly from the bowl or chopsticks.
It is considered rude to leave glass noodles in your soup or broth as it is considered wasteful.
Here’s a fun fact: since the long noodle symbolizes longevity, it is an act of bad luck to cut up cooked noodles.
Where to buy glass noodles?
Glass noodles are packaged and sold dried. You can typically find them on the same shelves as other Asian noodles like soba and rice.
Of course, glass noodles are sold online through retailers like Amazon.
Best brands to buy
Original mung bean glass noodles are the most popular type.
Pine Band’s Glass Noodle Bean Vermicelli with Mung Bean is a bestseller.
These noodles are very thin and taste best if soaked in water for about 7 minutes.
ONTRUE Sweet Potato Glass Noodles are made of sweet potato starch, and they are most popular in Korea.
They are commonly used in soup and for Japchae (a Korean veggie stir-fry).
What’s the difference between glass noodles and rice noodles?
Glass noodles and rice noodles are both transparent and made from a vegetable starch.
However, glass noodles are made from mung bean starch, while rice noodles are made from rice flour.
Both of these noodles are transparent and have long, thin shapes usually. Therefore, they can be easily confused.
The difference in ingredients gives each noodle a slightly different flavor and texture.
Glass noodles are chewier and have a somewhat bland flavor, while rice noodles are softer with a slightly sweet flavor.
Glass noodles are more commonly used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, while rice noodles are more popular in Japanese, Thai and Laotian dishes.
What are the best substitutes for glass noodles?
When looking for a noodle that has a very similar shape and color (translucent), rice noodle is an excellent substitute for glass noodles.
Rice vermicelli is the most common substitute. It is made of rice flour and water, giving it a sweeter flavor than glass noodles.
Another good option is soba noodles. These are made of buckwheat flour and have a nutty flavor.
For a Western-style substitute, angel hair pasta is a good option. This pasta is made of wheat flour and eggs and has a similar texture to glass noodles.
What is the nutrition of glass noodles?
Glass noodles are made from plant-based ingredients and are gluten-free.
They are also low in calories and fat, making them a healthy choice for those watching their weight.
One cup of cooked glass noodles contains around:
- 160 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 32 grams of carbohydrates
- 5 grams of protein
Glass noodles are a good source of fiber and contain vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Glass noodles are a healthy choice for those looking for a gluten-free, low-calorie noodle option. They are also a good source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
So, if you’re looking to add some glass noodles to your diet, there are plenty of delicious recipes to choose from!
How to store glass noodles?
Dried glass noodles can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.
Cooked glass noodles can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Is glass noodles low-carb?
Yes, glass noodles are low-carb. One cup of cooked glass noodles contains around 32 grams of carbohydrates.
For comparison, one cup of cooked white rice contains around 50 grams of carbohydrates. So, if you’re looking for a low-carb noodle option, glass noodles are a good choice.
Glass noodles are a type of clear, transparent noodle made from mung bean starch or other vegetable starches.
They are popular in Asian cuisine and can be used in soups, stir-fries, salads, and vegan dishes.
There’s a difference between glass noodles and rice noodles, so be sure not to mistake them.
The glass/cellophane noodle is made from mung bean starch, while the rice noodle is made from rice flour.
Glass noodles are low in calories and fat and a good source of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
So, if you’re looking to add some glass noodles to your diet, there are plenty of delicious recipes to choose from!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.