Udon noodles aren’t exactly popular, but those who have eaten them definitely have glowing recommendations.
These noodles have a unique shape and texture, and they can also help to complement other dishes that they are used in. But, udon noodles can need some substitutes every now and then.
What is the best substitute for udon noodles? Soba noodles have emerged as the best substitute for udon noodles, thanks in no small part to their similarities in application. They might not have the same taste and texture, but soba noodles are definitely a good substitute overall.
An Overview of Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are a type of noodle that originates from Japan. They range in shape, size, and ingredients, although they are mostly made from a combination of wheat flour, water, and salt.
Udon noodles are usually thick and flat, although some can be round. You can also find some that are ribbon-like in shape. They are available in fresh and dried variants, and they are usually boiled before consumption to provide a chewy and slippery texture.
While they might not be so famous in the West, Udon noodles are very popular in Asian cuisine. They are imported mostly from Japan, and you can find them in Asian markets. Typical udon noodles are more expensive than regular pasta, and you can also find them in some grocery stores.
As explained, udon noodles are boiled before eating. You can eat them alone or use them in soups, broth, and stir-fry dishes.
Why Replace Udon Noodles?
- Gluten content: If you have any type of gluten sensitivity, then udon noodles aren’t right for you. Since they are made from wheat flour, udon noodles have a lot of gluten content.
- Taste differences: Sometimes, you want something that tastes a little different than udon noodles. So, a substitute will come in handy.
- Non-availability: If you can’t find udon noodles around, a substitute will be more ideal for you.
Options for Udon Noodles Substitutes
Best Overall Substitute for Udon Noodles: Soba Noodles
Soba noodles don’t exactly taste like Udon noodles. However, there are similarities between the two that make soba noodles the ideal substitute, and you should definitely consider them.
Like udon noodles, soba noodles originate from Japan. They are made from buckwheat flour, so they have a bit of a darker color than udon noodles. Soba noodles are also short and thin, and they provide an earthy and nutty flavor with a grainy texture.
Thanks to their content of buckwheat grain, soba noodles don’t have any gluten. So, if you’re allergic to gluten or are conscious about your intake of it, soba noodles are a great way to go. But, you also have to be careful when buying soba noodles.
There are different types of soba noodles, and some might not have that 100 percent buckwheat content. Some soba noodles are usually made with a combination of buckwheat and wheat flour. So, be careful with which one you purchase.
Soba noodles and udon noodles are very much loved in Japan. At the same time, they can be used interchangeably in just about anything. Whether it’s soups or cold dishes, soba noodles act as an ideal substitute for udon noodles. Just keep in mind that the tastes are a bit different, and you’re good to go.
Best Available Substitute: Spaghetti
Sometimes, it’s impossible to find anything that resembles udon noodles around. In those times, good old spaghetti always works wonders.
To be fair, it’s impossible to turn spaghetti into udon noodles. They don’t taste the same, and spaghetti is much longer and thinner than udon noodles. However, you can improve its texture and taste to make it more appropriate for you.
Many experts recommend using some baking soda. The hack turns almost everything into an Asian-theme noodle. As we all know, spaghetti is a straight and thin pasta without much flavor. Well, you can cook it and add a tablespoon of baking soda. This will make the water more alkaline and give the pasta a bit of a savory taste.
The baking soda also gives the pasta a bit of a springy texture, just like udon noodles.
As for application, spaghetti is ready in just about any manner. You can eat spaghetti on its own, and you can combine it with ingredients to make different meals. It might not taste like udon noodles, but that versatility is definitely noteworthy.
Best Substitute in Soups: Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodles are another impressive substitute that you can consider adding to your recipe. These noodles are made from wheat as well, just like udon noodles. So, they have a similar taste. But, they are much longer and thinner than udon noodles and they give a lovely chewy bite when they’re cooked.
Unlike spaghetti, ramen noodles are already made with alkaline water – as well as a combination of water, wheat flour, and salt. Thanks to these ingredients, the noodles are firmer and more elastic.
Despite the differences, ramen noodles are like udon noodles in different ways. They can be used in almost the same thing, although ramen noodles are especially great in soups, stir-fry dishes, and salads. Note that some ramen noodles have eggs – those ones are best in vegetables and broth.
Lastly, ramen noodles are available in Asian markets. It is recommended that you buy them fresh.
Best Structure-Based Substitutes: Rice Noodles
Rice noodles are another impressive substitute for udon noodles that don’t get much praise. They are made from a combination of water and rice flour, and they are available in different variants – frozen, dried, and fresh. Of course, most people will recommend that you get them fresh.
Rice noodles have a similar structure to udon noodles. They are very thick, and they also have a mild flavor. But, unlike udon noodles, rice noodles tend to easily take over the rest of the dish. So, if you’re using them in things like soups, broths, and stir-fry dishes, you want to be careful with their proportions.
You will also love that rice noodles are easy to work with. All you have to do is cover them with boiling water for a few minutes and add some vegetables. These noodles also work as a base for fish and meats, if you’d like that.