Rice noodles: versatile and healthy Asian noodles
Asian noodles come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Those long, string-like noodles with a translucent appearance are called rice noodles, and they’re one of China’s most popular noodle exports.
With their mild flavor and chewy texture, rice noodles can be used in various dishes.
From stir-fries to soups, there are endless possibilities for creating delicious meals with this tasty ingredient.
Rice noodles are a type of noodle made from rice flour. They are popular in Asian cuisine and are used in a variety of dishes, especially soups and noodle stir-fries. Rice noodles come in different thicknesses and are sold fresh or dried. They have a white or translucent appearance.
This guide explains what rice noodles are, how they were invented, how they’re used, and how they differ from the other popular Asian-style noodles.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is rice noodles?
- 2 Types of rice noodles
- 3 What is another name for rice noodles?
- 4 What do rice noodles taste like?
- 5 What’s the origin of rice noodles?
- 6 How are rice noodles made?
- 7 How to serve and eat rice noodles?
- 8 Popular rice noodle pairings
- 9 Where can you buy rice noodles?
- 10 Best rice noodle brands
- 11 What’s the difference between rice sticks and rice noodles?
- 12 What is the difference between rice noodles and regular noodles?
- 13 What is the difference between rice noodles and glass noodles?
- 14 Are rice noodles good for you?
- 15 Is rice noodle healthier than pasta?
- 16 Is rice or rice noodles healthier?
- 17 Takeaway
What is rice noodles?
Rice noodles refer to a type of noodle made from rice flour and water.
The noodles are either translucent or have a white or off-white color. When cooked, they become soft and have a chewy texture. These noodles have a bland, neutral flavor.
Rice noodles come in various thicknesses, from very fine to wide and flat.
These noodles are used in all kinds of Asian dishes, but they’re a popular ingredient in soups and stir-fries.
Rice noodles can be bought fresh or dried.
They’re usually sold in Asian supermarkets, and some Western supermarkets are beginning to stock them, too, since they’re easy to cook with and they have a neutral taste.
Compared to most types of pasta, rice noodles are generally healthier and lower in calories.
They’re also gluten-free, making them a good option for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease.
Types of rice noodles
Rice noodles come in various thicknesses and sizes.
The most popular rice noodle types include:
- very thin vermicelli
- flat wide rice noodle
- thick rice noodle
- medium-thin noodle
- rice sticks
- rice noodle roll
Find out about 8 different types of Japanese noodles (with recipes!)
What is another name for rice noodles?
Depending on where you go, rice noodles may also be called rice vermicelli or rice sticks.
The rice noodles are not to be confused with bean thread noodles and glass noodles which are made of mung beans and NOT rice flour.
What do rice noodles taste like?
The thing about rice noodles is that they don’t have a strong taste. In fact, most people would say they have a neutral or bland flavor.
However, you can compare the flavor to white rice since that’s what they’re made of. The difference is that rice noodles are softer and have a chewy texture.
The noodles absorb any sauces or broths they’re in, and their flavor isn’t as tasteable as their chewy texture.
What’s the origin of rice noodles?
Rice noodles were invented in China over 2,000 years ago during the Qin dynasty.
Historians believe that rice noodles originated when the Northern Chinese invaded the South during the reign of the Qin dynasty.
Traditionally, Northern Chinese people preferred wheat and millet. That’s because the climate in Northern China was much colder, and these grains grow in cold weather.
In contrast, Southern Chinese people preferred rice, which was readily available in the region’s hotter climate.
The Northern Chinese invaders were used to eating wheat noodles. But since wheat was hard to find, they had to adapt, and thus Northern cooks invented rice noodles.
The rice noodle also migrated to Vietnam, where it’s called pho noodle. Pho is a noodle soup that’s enjoyed by people all over the world.
They were originally made by hand, but now they’re mass-produced by machine.
How are rice noodles made?
Rice noodles are made from a simple mixture of rice flour and water. Some manufacturers also add some tapioca or cornstarch to improve the noodles’ texture.
The flour and water (or water and starch mixture) are combined and kneaded into a dough.
The dough is then extruded through a machine that cuts it into noodle strands of the desired thickness.
The noodles are then rinsed in water and air-dried or sun-dried.
After they’re dried, they can be stored for extended periods of time.
How to serve and eat rice noodles?
Rice noodles can be used in all kinds of dishes, from soups and salads to spring rolls and stir-fries.
The most popular rice noodle dishes are soups and stir-fries.
They can be cooked in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes or soaked in hot water until they’re soft. These noodles cook very fast.
Some people also like to fry them.
Rice noodles are a popular ingredient in Pho, a Vietnamese soup made with beef or chicken broth, herbs, and spices.
They can also be used in Pad Thai, a Thai stir-fry dish made with chicken or shrimp, vegetables, and a tamarind-based sauce.
Popular rice noodle pairings
Rice noodles go well with all kinds of flavors and ingredients.
Some popular rice noodle pairings include:
Where can you buy rice noodles?
Rice noodles are readily available in most Asian grocery stores.
You can also find them in some Western supermarkets, although they might be labelled as rice vermicelli or rice sticks.
Online retailers like Amazon also sell all kinds of rice noodles for all cooking needs.
Best rice noodle brands
Vietnamese rice noodles are among the most popular. But, you can find good Chinese, Japanese and Thai rice noodles too.
Some popular brands include:
Three Ladies Brand
These vermicelli thin rice noodles have a neutral flavor. They are non-GMO and gluten-free.
To cook them, soak the noodles in hot water before adding them to the food and serving.
This brand makes different types of rice noodles.
You can find thicker ones for stir-fry, thinner ones for soups and salads, and even flat ones.
This brand makes premium rice noodles. They are GMO-free, gluten-free, and made with organic rice.
This brand’s rice vermicelli noodles are always bestsellers. They’re made with 100% rice, and they’re gluten-free.
They have the perfect texture and a neutral taste.
What’s the difference between rice sticks and rice noodles?
Rice sticks are made from rice flour and water, just like rice noodles. The difference is in their thickness.
Rice noodles are usually between 0.5 and 2 mm in diameter, while rice sticks are usually between 2 and 8 mm in diameter.
There isn’t much of a difference between the two, as rice sticks are actually a type of rice noodle.
What is the difference between rice noodles and regular noodles?
Regular noodles are made from wheat flour and water. They can also contain eggs, salt, and other ingredients.
Rice noodles are made only from rice flour and water (or a mixture of water and starch). They are gluten-free and suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Rice noodles are also lower in calories and carbs than regular noodles.
Finally, I want to mention the color – rice noodles are usually translucent, white or light yellow, while regular noodles can be white, yellow, or brown.
What is the difference between rice noodles and glass noodles?
Rice noodles and glass noodles are both translucent or a light white color, but rice noodles are made from rice flour, while glass noodles are made from mung bean or tapioca starch.
Rice noodles are also available in a variety of widths, from very fine to wide and flat, while glass noodles are usually only available in a very fine width.
Another difference is that rice noodles have a neutral taste and can be used in savory or sweet dishes, while glass noodles are often used in savory dishes and have a slightly sweet taste.
Are rice noodles good for you?
Yes, rice noodles are generally considered to be a healthy food.
They’re low in calories and fat, and they’re a good source of carbohydrates.
Plus, they’re gluten-free, making them a good option for people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, and other digestive problems.
Is rice noodle healthier than pasta?
It’s hard to say whether rice noodles are healthier than pasta since it depends on what you’re comparing them to.
For example, if you’re looking at the number of calories, rice noodles have about 117 calories per 100 grams, whereas most other wheat pasta has about 160 calories.
So in that sense, rice noodles are lower in calories.
When looking at the amount of carbohydrates, pasta has more carbohydrates than rice noodles.
So it really depends on your individual dietary needs and preferences.
Is rice or rice noodles healthier?
Rice is a whole grain, and it’s considered to be a relatively healthy food.
It’s a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Rice noodles are also a healthy food, but they’re not as nutrient-dense as rice.
They’re lower in calories, but they also have less fiber and protein.
So it really depends on your individual dietary needs and preferences.
Intake is also important – if you’re eating a large amount of rice noodles, it might not be as healthy as a smaller portion of rice.
When it comes to Asian cuisine, the rice noodle is an essential ingredient.
It’s a type of noodle made from rice flour and water (or a mixture of water and starch), and it’s available in various widths, from very fine to wide and flat.
When cooking with rice noodles, it’s important to remember that they have a neutral taste and can be used in savory or sweet dishes.
It’s also worth noting that rice noodles are gluten-free and lower in calories and carbs than regular wheat noodles.
Overall, rice noodles are perfect for soups and stir-fried because they have a chewy texture and they’re very filling.
Not a big fan of rice noodles, or you ran out? Find out what the top 8 best substitutes for rice noodles are
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.