How to Cook Soba Noodles

Japanese cuisine is home to many recipes that feature different kinds of noodles, such as soba noodles. Their first recorded mention was in a book published in 1796. The first soba restaurant opened in that century, too.

The Japanese have such high regard for soba noodles that they often eat them during the New Year to bring good fortune and a longer life. When they move into a new home, their new neighbors welcome them into the area by giving them noodles.1 If you are fascinated by soba noodles and want to learn how to make them at home, continue reading this article.

What Are Soba Noodles?

 Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour and possess a strong and nutty flavor.2 In some cases, however, wheat flour is added during the noodle-making process to allow the dough to hold together and deliver some elasticity once it’s rolled. Two common types of soba noodles include:3,4

  • Juwari soba – This traditional soba noodle is made with 100 percent buckwheat flour, and has a dry and rough texture and strong buckwheat aroma. A caveat of Juwari soba is its tendency to break easily.
  • Ni-hachi or Hachi-wari soba – This is made by mixing around 80 percent buckwheat flour and 20 percent wheat flour. These noodles are smooth and have an al dente texture. Although they don’t have a buckwheat aroma, they are easier to cook, swallow and chew.

The noodles’ price can increase depending on the amount of buckwheat flour in the product.5 Traditionally, soba noodles are served cold alongside a dipping sauce, added to salads, soups or stir-fries,6 or paired with tempura.7 Avoid confusing soba with other noodle dishes with the name “soba,” such as yakisoba, chukasoba or Okinawa soba.8 If you cannot find soba noodles at your supermarket, good substitutes include whole wheat or buckwheat spaghetti.9,10 Better yet, you can prepare your own noodles at home.

Are Soba Noodles Gluten-Free?

Pure buckwheat soba noodles are considered gluten-free. However, check the ingredients list first, since some manufacturers add wheat flour to the noodles. These wheat flour-containing noodles must be avoided if you follow a gluten-free diet.11

How to Make Soba Noodles

The lack of gluten in buckwheat flour can make it difficult for home cooks to create their own soba noodles at home. Professional soba makers were trained for many years, and some use special equipment that may not be found in most home kitchens.

Sobakoh, the buckwheat flour typically used to make soba noodles, must be specially grown, harvested and milled, and not all buckwheat flours may work for the noodle-making process. However, there are good brands of buckwheat flour you can find in the U.S., usually available in Asian and Japanese markets.12 You can try this recipe for soba noodles by Saveur magazine, but take note this isn’t gluten-free since it uses all-purpose flour:13

How to Make Traditional Soba Noodles

Prep time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) light buckwheat flour (not whole-grain)
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • Tapioca starch, for dusting
serving size Serving Size: 1 pound of soba noodles

Procedure

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flours until evenly combined. Pour water over the flours and, using your fingers, toss and rub the flours with the water until crumbly, like muddy sand.
  2. Scrape the dough onto a work surface and press and knead until smooth, about six minutes. Press the dough into a disk, then rotate the disk clockwise as you pinch portions of the dough on top of the disk and fold them over in a counterclockwise motion to form pleats.
  3. Arrange the dough pleated side-down and mold into a cone. Flatten the dough around its perimeter until it is one-half inch thick, keeping a slight bump in the center of the disk.
  4. Transfer the dough to a work surface dusted lightly with tapioca starch. Lightly dust the dough with starch.
  5. Using a thin rolling pin or wooden dowel dusted with more starch, roll the dough using back-and-forth strokes, rotating it as needed. (You can also use a pasta machine for this task by cutting the disk into quarters and feeding each through the machine on its thinnest setting.)
  6. Once the dough is flattened to one-eighteenth inch thick (you can roll the dough around the rolling pin to check for even thickness), dust the flattened dough generously with starch and fold in half.
  7. Dust the sheet with more starch and fold it again in the same direction to make four layers
  8. Using a sharp slicing knife, slice the dough into one-sixteenth inch thick noodles and toss in the starch to ensure they don't stick together.

Soba noodles must be cooked and eaten as soon as possible.14 If you wish to store them, move them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover the noodles with plastic wrap. They will keep for around three days in the refrigerator.15 You can also freeze raw soba noodles for up to three months, but defrost them in your refrigerator before cooking them.16

How to Cook Soba Noodles

Once you have your soba noodles ready, you can cook them on your stovetop:17

How to Cook Soba Noodles on the Stovetop

Ingredients

  • Sliced soba noodles
  • Hot water

Procedure

  1. Boil water in a large stewpot.
  2. Put the sliced soba noodles softly in the hot water and boil them for 80 seconds. Don’t overcrowd the water; do in batches.
  3. Rinse the slimy noodles in cold water twice, and then let drain in a colander.

Try These Soba Noodle Recipes at Home

Zaru Soba is arguably the most “authentic” way to prepare these noodles. This recipe showcases cold soba noodles served on a bamboo basket called zaru, alongside a dipping sauce and other toppings.18 You can also incorporate soba noodles into a salad, just like in vegan soba noodle recipe from Food and Wine magazine. This recipe is great for sharing and can be served at parties and special occasions:19

Cold Soba Salad With Dried Shiitake Dressing Recipe

Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons Thai sweet chile sauce
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Two 14-ounce packages soba noodles
  • 4 large carrots, finely julienned
  • 1 cup finely julienned pickled daikon (These are available at Japanese and Korean markets. Any pickled radish is a good substitute.)
  • 1/2 pound mung bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
serving size Serving Size: 20

Procedure

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the shiitake with the soy sauce, mirin and ginger, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a blender and add the sweet chile sauce and oil. Blend until emulsified. Let the dressing cool.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice water. Boil the soba noodles until tender for three minutes. Drain in a colander and set the colander in the ice water. Toss the noodles to cool; drain well, shaking out the excess water, and transfer to a bowl.
  3. Add the carrots, daikon, bean sprouts, sesame seeds and dressing to the noodles, and toss to coat. Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.

You can add soba noodles to soups, too, for a healthy meal that you can serve during cold days:20

Green Miso Soup With Soba Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 3x5-inch piece kombu
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • 3/4 ounce bonito flakes (about 1 1/2 packed cups)
  • 4 ounces dried soba noodles
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried wakame
  • 1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1/4 cup white miso
  • 1/2 cup very finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro and/or chives
  • 1 scallion, very thinly sliced
serving size Serving Size: 4

Procedure

  1. Combine kombu and 4 cups water in a large pot. Let sit until kombu softens, 25 to 30 minutes. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Immediately remove from heat once water starts simmering; fish out kombu and discard.
  2. Add bonito flakes and stir once to submerge them. Return to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for about five minutes. Remove from heat and let steep 15 minutes (this ensures you get the most flavorful broth, or dashi, possible).
  3. Meanwhile, combine wakame and 3 Tbsp. water in a small bowl; let sit until wakame is softened for 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Cook soba in a medium pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about six minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking and drain again. Divide noodles among bowls.
  5. Strain dashi through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Discard solids, wipe out pot and return dashi to pot. Add edamame and wakame. Bring to a very gentle simmer.
  6. Remove from heat. Submerge sieve in liquid, add miso to sieve and stir to liquefy miso, then press through strainer until miso is dissolved. Stir in herbs. Ladle soup over soba and top with scallions.

Soba noodles make a great addition to a stir-fry too:21

Soba With Mushrooms and Crumbled Hazelnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 small leek
  • 8 cups (2 L) mixed mushrooms (creminis, shiitakes), sliced
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) raw, grass fed butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces (225 g) soba noodles
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) tamari
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) roasted hazelnuts, pulsed in food processor into fine crumbs
  • 1 cup (250 ml) microgreens
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
serving size Serving Size: 4

Procedure

  1. Slice the white and light green parts of the leek into rings. Using a strainer, rinse the leeks thoroughly.
  2. Prepare the mushrooms by removing the steams and then cleaning with a damp cloth or a paper towel.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leek, mushrooms and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until browned, about eight minutes, stirring only occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse.
  5. To the mushroom mixture, stir in the rice vinegar, tamari and crushed hazelnuts. Remove from the heat and toss with the soba noodles. Season to taste.
  6. Transfer to plates, top with microgreens and serve.

Soba Noodles Nutrition Facts

Although soba noodles are versatile, their nutrition content isn’t very remarkable. A cup of cooked soba noodles (114 grams) has roughly 113 calories and 24.44 grams of carbohydrates. While it does contain minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium and sodium, these are in very small amounts. Refer to this nutrition facts table for more information:

Soba Noodles Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
Nutrient Unit Value per 100 g cup 114 g
Proximates      
Water g 73.01 83.23
Energy kcal 99 113
Protein g 5.06 5.77
Total lipid (fat) g 0.10 0.11
Carbohydrate, by difference g 21.44 24.44
Minerals      
Calcium, Ca mg 4 5
Iron, Fe mg 0.48 0.55
Magnesium, Mg mg 9 10
Phosphorus, P mg 25 28
Potassium, K mg 35 40
Sodium, Na mg 60 68
Zinc, Zn mg 0.12 0.14
Vitamins      
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid mg 0.0 0.0
Thiamin mg 0.094 0.107
Riboflavin mg 0.026 0.030
Niacin mg 0.510 0.581
Vitamin B-6 mg 0.040 0.046
Folate, DFE mg 7 8
Vitamin B-12 mg 0.00 0.00
Vitamin A, RAE mg 0 0
Vitamin A, IU mg 0 0
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) mg 0.0 0.0
Vitamin D mg 0 0
Lipids      
Fatty acids, total saturated g 0.019 0.022
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated g 0.026 0.030
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated g 0.031 0.035
Cholesterol mg 0 0

Showing 27 nutrients

Shirataki Noodles: A Healthier Noodle Option You Can Try

Unless you're making or cooking with soba noodles made from pure buckwheat flour, you may want to look for other alternatives. Some soba noodles are made with wheat flours that contain gluten, and are not recommended for people who follow a gluten-free diet. Why not give shirataki noodles a try instead? Also called miracle or konjac noodles, these long, white and translucent noodles are made from a fiber called glucomannan that’s derived from the root of the konjac plant.

Shirataki noodles are low in net carbohydrates and contain zero calories, but are high in nutritional value. Glucomannan, a type of fiber found in these noodles, is responsible for health benefits like:

  • Helping nourish healthy gut bacteria
  • Promoting satiety and possibly weight loss
  • Assisting with lowering blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Promoting constipation relief and improved bowel movements
  • Helping reduce cholesterol levels22

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Soba Noodles

Q: Are soba and udon noodles the same?

A: No, they’re not. Udon noodles have a milder flavor, are denser and thicker, and are made by combining wheat flour, salt and water. They can be purchased either dried, fresh or frozen. You often see them in noodle soups paired with a light broth, added to a stir-fry or served cold with a dipping sauce.

Meanwhile, soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour, or sometimes a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. These are thinner, are light to dark brown-gray and possess a “nutty” flavor. Usually, soba noodles are sold dried. These are typically served chilled in salads or paired with a dipping sauce, although some people add these to noodle soups or stir-fry too.23

Q: Are soba noodles healthy?

A: Buckwheat soba noodles are considered fat- and cholesterol-free.24 Canadian researchers have discovered that buckwheat itself may be helpful in managing diabetes,25 while an animal study showed that a buckwheat-based diet promoted a prebiotic effect on the body.26

However, while people trying to follow a gluten-free diet may benefit from eating pure buckwheat soba noodles,27 it’s not something you should be consuming on a frequent basis. Soba noodles are starch-based and contain carbohydrates that may trigger negative changes to your body. Furthermore, these noodles have very little quantities of nutrients.

Q: Are soba noodles low in carbs?

A: Not really. Because they’re made from starches like buckwheat flour, or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour, soba noodles may have high amounts of carbohydrates.28

Q: Do soba noodles have egg in them?

A: No. Traditional recipes for soba noodles call for buckwheat flour, which sometimes may be mixed with wheat flour and water. No other ingredients are used in the noodle-making process.

Q: Are soba noodles vegan?

A: Soba noodles can be vegan because they are only made with flour and water. However, when buying packaged soba noodles, make it a point to look at the ingredients list to check for animal-based products.

Q: Where can you buy soba noodles?

A: The international food aisle at your grocery store or supermarket is a good place to look for soba noodles.29 Asian stores in your area may have a decent selection of soba noodles too.

Sources and References