Best substitute for udon noodles | Top 8 alternatives for your recipes

by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  March 21, 2022

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A warm bowl of udon noodles is one of the most satisfying and comforting meals.

But if you are tired of eating this dish after a while, it might be time to try out some different substitutes for udon noodles!

Best substitute for udon noodles | Top 8 alternatives for your recipes

Maybe you’re not the biggest fan of udon noodles, or you just ran out! There’s no need to worry because there are some great alternatives to these noodles out there.

Soba (buckwheat), Chinese egg noodles, and ramen are some of the top substitutes for soba noodles because they have a similar texture when used in Japanese dishes. Aside from some minor flavor differences, using these substitutes will help you cook the same delicious noodle meals so you won’t even realize you’re not eating udon.

Keep reading to find out what those options might be – it could be just the thing you need to spice up your noodle routine.

What are udon noodles?

Udon noodles are a type of Japanese noodle that is made from wheat flour, water, and salt. They are thick, chewy, and white in color.

Most udon noodles are made using wheat flour with a few regional variations using potato starch or carrot and orange.

Udon noodles are vegan because the classic versions only contain water and flour.

Although some udon noodles are circular, they are normally thick and flat. You can also discover some that are in the shape of a ribbon, but those are less popular.

How are udon noodles served and cooked?

The majority of udon is exported from Japan and available dried either as packaged or frozen. However a number of markets carry pre-cooked udon cooked in soup or cooked and served.

Udon is most frequently cooked before eating to give them a chewy, slippery feel.

They are most often served in a soup broth and can be topped with various ingredients such as scallions, seaweed, or fish cake. But, udon noodles are also a popular noodle for stir-fry (yaki udon).

They’re also one of the most popular types of noodles in Japan!

It’s hard to walk by a Japanese fast food restaurant without seeing an advert for curry udon, kitsune udon, kake udon, or tanuki udon.

The udon noodles are mostly used in hot and cold soups and they are an alternative for instant ramen.

Udon noodles are immensely popular in Asian cuisine, despite their lack of popularity in the West. They are usually imported from Japan and can be found in Asian markets.

Udon noodles are more expensive than other noodles, however, they may be found in various supermarkets.

Top 8 best substitutes for udon noodles

When looking at the udon noodle substitutes, you need to consider the texture of the noodles, what they’re made of (wheat, buckwheat, rice, etc) and their size.

Of course, depending on the ingredients, flavors will also vary.

The top substitute is Japanese soba noodles but there are others too so if you run out of fresh or dried udon noodles, don’t panic.

Here are the 8 must-try udon substitutes:

Soba noodles

Soba noodles have emerged as a good substitute for udon noodles because they share many similarities in use and appearance.

It may have less flavor but the soba noodle is still an excellent substitute.

Most people agree that the substitution for udon noodles is dried soba noodles; these are made from buckwheat flour and have a slightly nutty flavor.

They are also gluten-free, which makes them a good option for people with dietary restrictions.

Udon noodles have a slippery and springy chewy texture and although the texture of soba noodles is a bit different and less springy, they can be substituted for each other.

Because soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour, they are a good gluten-free option for people trying to skip wheat gluten.

The great thing about soba noodles is that they hold up in all types of soups – hot or cold. I highly recommend the soba noodles as an alternative to udon when making soup and noodle salads.

They’re not as good for stir-fry though because you won’t get that springy texture of the thicker udon noodles.

Thick Chinese egg noodles (Wonton noodles)

Wonton noodles are available in thick or thin styles. Since udon is a thicker noodle, the thicker Chinese egg noodle is the better substitute.

Thick wonton is a good substitute for the udon noodle when used in a stir-fry. It has a similar texture and slipperiness.

You can also use egg noodles when you cook oilier dishes as these absorb the oils quite well.

The only difference is that wonton noodles are made with egg and udon noodles are not. The taste is pretty close, but the egg does give the wonton a slightly different flavor.

If you’re looking for an exact replacement for udon in a dish, then I recommend using wonton noodles.

Learn about the 3 main differences between Chinese Food vs Japanese Food here

Rice noodles

Another option is rice noodles, which can be found in most supermarkets. These noodles are made from rice flour and water, and they have a chewy texture that is similar to udon noodles.

Rice noodles are another excellent option for udon noodles, but many people just don’t know much about them.

Because of their white and almost transparent appearance, rice noodles don’t seem like a close match to udon noodles but they are still a good alternative.

They’re created with a mixture of water and rice flour and come in three various forms: frozen, dried, and fresh. Of course, if you get them fresh they taste best.

The structure of rice noodles is similar to that of udon noodles. They have a thick consistency and a moderate flavor.

Rice noodles, unlike udon noodles, tend to dominate the remainder of the dish. So, if you’re using them in soups, broths, or stir-fry meals, you’ll want to keep the amounts in mind.

Vermicelli rice noodles are thinner and have a different flavor than the ones I’ve mentioned before.

Many people confuse Italian spaghetti noodles with Asian vermicelli but they’re completely different – rice vermicelli is not made of wheat.

While they’re not an exact match to udon, they can be used as a replacement in some dishes. The best dishes to use them in are salads or soup bowls where their lightness will work well.

You’ll also like how simple rice noodles are to prepare. It’s as simple as covering them with boiling water for a few minutes and tossing in some vegetables.

If you like, you can use these noodles as a base for fish and meats. You can also add all your favorite udon noodle soup toppings like tempura to make them tastier.

Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are a classic substitute for udon and can be found at most supermarkets.

They have a similar texture and flavor but come in various flavors and styles that can keep your meals interesting.

You probably know them as these medium-thin wavy pasta used for instant soup cup meals.

Ramen wheat noodles are similar to udon noodles in that they are manufactured from wheat. As a result, they have a similar flavor.

They are, however, much longer and thinner than udon noodles, and when cooked, they have a delightful chewy bite.

Ramen noodles, unlike spaghetti, are already created with alkaline water, as well as a mixture of water, wheat flour, and salt. The noodles are firmer and more elastic as a result of these additives.

Despite their differences, ramen noodles and udon noodles are similar in several respects. Although they can be used practically interchangeably, ramen noodles are particularly good in soups, stir-fries, and salads.

You can make an udon stir fry with the same quantity of ramen.

Some ramen noodles contain eggs; these are best served with vegetables and broth. Egg-free ramen is usually cheaper and sold as part of instant soup packets.

Ramen noodles can be found in almost all Western and Asian supermarkets. It is suggested that you get them fresh if you want a truly standout dish.

Somen noodles

Somen noodles are another wheat-based Japanese noodles but are distinguished by their thinness. They’re not as chewy but also have a slippery texture.

They can be used as an udon noodle substitute in a soup or cold dish but don’t work as well in stir fry because they aren’t chunky and chewy enough.

The best thing about somen noodles is that they cook very quickly, so if you’re in a hurry, these are the noodles for you.

They also have a delicate flavor, so they won’t overpower your dish. Just be careful not to overcook them, or they’ll turn into mush.

Somen possesses mild flavor, unlike many other wheat noodles, which makes a delicious sauce essential.

The very visible difference between udon and somen noodles is that the udon is much thicker than the 1mm somen.

These noodles are traditionally served cold as light & refreshing dishes on hot summer days.

Spaghetti

If you don’t have any of the Asian-style noodles on hand, you can use Western pasta like spaghetti for most recipes.

Spaghetti is a type of noodle that is made from flour, water, and eggs. It is one of the most popular types of pasta in the world and can be found in many different dishes.

Spaghetti is often paired with a tomato-based sauce, but it can also be used in dishes with meat or vegetables. In terms of thickness, it’s quite similar to udon noodles and the texture is quite similar too.

The main difference is that spaghetti is not made using alkaline water so its texture is not as springy.

You can find thin spaghetti, whole wheat spaghetti, and whole-grain spaghetti and some are better than others but they’re not the same chewy noodles like udon.

Turning regular spaghetti into udon noodles is impossible. Spaghetti is significantly longer and thinner than udon noodles, and they don’t taste the same.

You can, however, enhance the texture and flavor to make it more suitable for those Japanese recipes you’re making (like this delicious Wafu pasta recipe with spaghetti and prawns).

Baking soda is recommended by several specialists. Adding a bit of baking soda to your spaghetti water is a popular hack to make Western kinds of pasta more similar to Asian ones.

Spaghetti, as we all know, is a flavorless, straight, and thin pasta. You can cook it with a tablespoon of baking soda added. This will increase the alkalinity of the water and give the pasta a savory flavor.

Also, the baking soda gives the pasta a bouncy feel, similar to that of udon noodles even if it’s not as thick.

You can use spaghetti for stir-fry but it’s just not as good in soups because it can become mushy. Also, pasta takes longer to cook than Japanese noodles.

Hiyamugi noodle

Hiyamugi noodles are a great alternative to udon noodles. They have a similar texture and flavor and are made of wheat flour.

The udon noodle is Japan’s thickest noodle; most other Asian noodles are thin or semi-thick.

Hiyamugi noodles are thicker than ramen noodles but thinner than udon noodles. Also, they’re a bit lighter and less dense than udon noodles.

This noodle has the same white color as udon noodles but is available in pink and green versions for more interesting culinary delights.

Hiyamugi can be used in most udon noodle dishes but it’s most popular as a cold noodle dish or for noodle salad. Therefore, you’ll mostly see hiyamugi noodles served in cold dishes and not served hot.

When substituting, use the same amount, but keep in mind that the noodles will not be as thick and chewy as udon noodles.

Hiyamugi noodles are slightly more affordable than udon noodles, so they are a great option if you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative.

Zucchini noodles (best vegetable alternative)

Finally, you could also try using zucchini noodles, which are made from spiralized raw zucchini.

These noodles are a great option if you are looking for a low-carbohydrate alternative to traditional pasta noodles. I’ve included them here for those looking for healthier udon noodle alternatives.

So, while you can use zucchini noodles in all saucy recipes like stir fry, you cannot use zucchini noodles to make udon soup.

That’s because these raw strips of zucchini will start to wilt or boil in hot water making them mushy – much like a veggie soup.

One thing to note is that zucchini noodles are not uniquely springy like udon because they are made of a quite watery vegetable.

Also, these ‘noodles’ are raw zucchini so there’s no wheat flour there to make them keep their texture.

Got some zucchini left over? Check out these 3 delicious Japanese grilled zucchini recipes

FAQs

Can ramen noodles be used to substitute udon noodles?

Yes, ramen noodles can be used in place of udon noodles. Be sure to use less broth for the soup though, because the thin ramen won’t absorb all of the liquid, as udon does.

Ramen noodles can be used as a substitute for udon noodles in most cases, but they will not have the same chewy texture, although the overall flavors are similar.

Can I replace udon noodles with rice noodles?

Yes! Rice noodles are a great substitute for udon noodles in most dishes. They have a similar texture and flavor, so you won’t have to make any major changes to your recipe.

Just be sure to follow the cooking instructions on the package, as they may vary slightly from those for udon noodles.

Are udon and ramen noodles the same?

No, udon noodles are thicker and have a chewier texture than ramen noodles.

The biggest difference between these noodles is that ramen noodles contain egg while udon doesn’t and is vegan.

Ramen noodles are more popular in the United States, while udon noodles are more common in Japan.

However, both types of noodles can be used in many different dishes.

Are egg noodles like udon noodles?

Yes and no. Egg noodles are made with eggs, while udon noodles don’t contain any eggs.

However, they are both thick noodles that have a chewy texture.

You can use either type of noodle in many different dishes. There are all types of egg noodles, many of them originating from China. Wonton are thicker, while chow mein is thinner.

Is udon vegan?

Yes, udon noodles are vegan. They do not contain any eggs or dairy products.

This makes them a great option for people who follow a vegan diet or have food allergies.

Are udon noodles gluten-free?

No, udon noodles are not gluten-free. They are made with wheat flour, which contains gluten.

If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, you will need to find a different type of noodle to use in your recipes.

There are many gluten-free options available, so you should be able to find one that you like. Rice noodles are similar to udon but also gluten-free.

How to cook udon noodles?

Udon noodles can be cooked in a variety of ways, depending on the dish you are making.

They can be boiled, stir-fried, or even served raw.

If you are boiling udon noodles, you will need to cook them for 3-5 minutes in salted boiling water.

If you are stir-frying them, you will need to cook them for 2-3 minutes over high heat.

And if you are eating them raw, you will simply need to soak them in warm water for 5 minutes before adding them to your dish.

Dried noodles are most common and should be boiled first. But, there’s no denying that fresh udon noodles are the best.

Takeaway

The best overall substitute for udon noodles is the soba noodle – a springy and tasty buckwheat noodle that works well in soup, stir-fries, and noodle salads.

If you’re a fan of udon noodles, you know that they’re delicious, filling, and versatile.

But sometimes, even the most diehard fans need a change. If you’re looking for an udon noodle substitute, there are plenty of Asian noodles to choose from.

Just visit your local Asian grocery stores and you’ll find many types of noodles that can work in your udon recipes.

For example, try this Miso nikomi udon recipe for a hearty and savory Japanese noodle soup

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

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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.