The soba noodle salad is one of Japan’s best noodle salads. The ingredients are simple, the preparation is easy, yet it’s so refreshing and flavorful.
Even the laziest of cooks will enjoy putting this noodle dish together.
Soba noodle salad is made with earthy-flavored buckwheat noodles and a soy dressing, best enjoyed cold or at room temperature.
It’s the perfect vegetarian and vegan-friendly salad, topped with spring onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds.
But what makes soba salad truly versatile is that you can tweak the basic recipe and add vegetables and meats of your choice to make it a complete meal.
Asian restaurants usually serve soba noodle salad as a side dish.
Today, I’m sharing a basic meat-free recipe for soba noodle salad you can make in less than half an hour and enjoy hot or cold with your favorite toppings.
In this post we'll cover:
What is soba noodle salad?
This salad is very simple – it’s one of those dishes that makes a good side dish, but you can also eat it as a healthy cold salad on hot summer days.
It’s simple to make because all you need to do is cook the soba noodles, chop veggies, add the dressing and you’re done in less than 20 minutes.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, thus they have this nutty and earthy rich flavor.
They have a tender texture and light brown color. They are thinner than udon but thicker than spaghetti.
Soba noodles are great because they keep their shape and texture. This makes them a great base for light toppings like crunchy vegetables and lots of dressing.
The dressing adds a nice savory and sweet flavor since it’s made with salty soy sauce and citrus juice. You can save some salad for tomorrow’s lunch because it’s the type of salad that tastes best cold.
As a side dish, this salad is a great option alongside teriyaki salmon, roast chicken, or seafood dishes.
You can serve the salad hot, at room temperature, or cold; it’s up to your personal preference.
To serve, assemble the salad, put it into small bowls, garnish and eat with chopsticks (or a fork).
Soba noodle salad recipe
- 7 oz soba noodles pure buckwheat is best
- 1 cup carrots shredded
- 2 green onions or scallions
- 1 cup edamame beans shelled and cooked
- 1 cup red or green bell pepper chopped
- ½ cup red cabbage shredded
- 1 bunch of cilantro (coriander)
- 1 tbsp sesame seeds
For the dressing:
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Grab a large pot, fill it with water and bring to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook for 4 minutes (or per package instructions).
- Prepare an ice bath and then drain the noodles and put them in the icy water. This stops the noodles’ cooking process.
- After a couple of minutes, drain them and let them dry.
- Chop and cut all of your vegetables.
- In a large bowl, combine the vegetables with the noodles.
- Now it’s time to make the dressing. In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, orange juice, lime juice, sugar, honey, and garlic.
- Whisk them together and slowly add in the olive and sesame oil, whisking continuously.
- Pour the dressing over the soba noodles and garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds.
- Toss together to combine, and you’re ready to serve the salad.
Soba noodle salad: nutritional information
Each serving contains approximately:
- 550 calories
- 25 g of fat
- 15 g of protein
- 75 g of carbohydrates
The salad is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.
This is a low-carb salad, perfect for those on a diet or weight loss program.
Pure soba noodles are gluten-free, and they’re full of fiber and manganese. Buckwheat is much healthier than grain pasta, so soba noodles are better for you than spaghetti, for example.
Soba noodles are overall more nutritious than many other noodle varieties, and much more nutritious than rice.
When choosing soba noodles for this dish, select a high-quality juwari soba which is made of buckwheat only and doesn’t have added wheat.
A cheaper variety of soba is called hachiwari but it’s only made with 80% buckwheat, and the remaining 20% is wheat.
According to nutritionists, soba noodles are good at regulating blood pressure, fighting against inflammation, and they possess beneficial amino acids.
Tips for cooking soba noodles
When you cook soba noodle dishes, there are certain mistakes you want to avoid.
First, make sure to cook the noodles according to package instructions. Dry noodles cook a bit slower (4-5 minutes) than frozen soba noodles.
Next, make sure to always drain the noodles after cooking, run them under cold water, or put them in an ice bath. This removes the starch and gives them that chewy, smooth texture.
Then, make sure to assemble the salad only when you want to serve it. If you add the dressing and keep it on the table for a long time, the noodles can become soggy. Even the veggies can start to wilt, and they become less crunchy.
Keep in mind that soba noodles absorb much of the dressing, so they become squishy and soggy rather quickly.
Don’t keep soba noodle salad in the fridge for more than three days and the freezer for more than two weeks.
Soba noodle salad recipe variations
The wonderful thing about soba noodle salad is that it’s basic (in a good sense). It’s kind of a blank canvas and you can add whatever you like to make it tastier.
This recipe is vegetarian-friendly, but to make it vegan-friendly, skip the honey. You can replace it with a hint of maple syrup, or double the sugar.
My favorite addition to this salad is a good source of protein like chicken. Adding meat and seafood makes the dish tastier and fills up the tummy, so you feel like you’re eating a full meal.
It goes from being a side salad to a great lunch or dinner.
Meat and meat substitutes:
Ginger beef is an excellent addition, as are miso-glazed salmon strips. But, grilled chicken is also delicious and doesn’t require much seasoning.
Here are some vegetable topping options to consider:
- Cilantro parsley
- White cabbage
- Red cabbage
- Green onions
- Sugar snap peas
- Pickled vegetables
Ingredients for the sauce/dressing:
- Lemon juice
- Sriracha hot sauce
- Chili pepper flakes
- Black pepper
- Orange juice
- Lime juice
- Grapeseed oil
- Olive oil
- Soy sauce
- Rice vinegar
Origin of soba noodles
The history of soba noodles dates back about 4 centuries. Buckwheat noodles became a culinary favorite during the Edo period (1603-1868).
During the hot summer months, people wanted light, refreshing meals. Therefore, they believed serving the noodles at room temperature or cold would be easy on the stomach.
At first, the salad was simple, with just noodles, and some soy sauce and spring onions. But, as people began to diversify their diet, soba underwent many changes.
People decided to add all kinds of vegetables, and in some cases meat, to make it crunchier, tastier, and more nutritious as a dish.
Soba noodles are a popular meal for New Year celebrations across Japan. According to traditional beliefs, eating noodles brings good luck in the new year and signifies longevity.
If you’re having a lazy cooking day, don’t hesitate to try this cold soba noodle salad. It’s quick, simple, and full of tasty flavors.
Once you have your dressing, you can substitute veggies for whatever you have in the fridge.
In my opinion, it’s the noodles, with their distinctive nutty taste, that please the palate.
The dressing and vegetables add more flavor, but it’s a great light side dish when everything is mixed together.
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