Soba is a popular kind of Japanese noodles and is one of the representative dishes of Japan. Made from buckwheat flour, soba noodles appear thinner than spaghetti or ramen. It can be served cold or hot making it a versatile ingredient for seasonal recipes. As much as this food is loved by many, there are soba noodle substitutes that people can enjoy the same.
Check out these delicious soba noodle substitutes
1. Udon noodles
Many foreigners who come to visit Japan tend to have a hard time choosing between soba and udon. While the two look completely different, it’s quite confusing and hard to associate the name with the right noodle. To make things simple, udon is a lot thicker and plumper while soba noodles are thinner and denser.
Udon is typically made with wheat flour and has a whitish color so it’s easy to identify it to soba which appears darker. Udon is basically tasteless but it is enjoyed for its chewiness and versatility in dishes. It can be eaten with soup, stir-fries, and plenty of noodle recipes. Like soba, udon can be enjoyed hot or cold depending on the dish and season.
2. Ramen noodles
Probably the easiest to find and use, ramen noodles are also good alternatives to soba. You can simply get packs of instant ramen if you need a quick fix. There are of course fresher, traditional ramen noodles that will definitely give a more authentic delicious result.
Ramen is also made from wheat flour. It is often served with soup and toppings but it can also work for dishes like Asian slaw, salads, stir-fries, and more. Ramen is a lot simpler in looks and texture compared to udon or soba but it’s also a delicious choice.
3. Somen noodles
Another Japanese noodle that you should try in place of soba is somen. Made from wheat flour, somen noodles are comparable to udon and rice noodles. Each strand is just about 1 mm in diameter. It’s really thin, delicate, and has a pale white color. This appearance kind of represents its taste which is overall mild.
Unlike most noodles which are just made with flour and water, somen also contains vegetable oil. So despite being really thin, it still has a thick mouthfeel. These noodles can also be enjoyed hot but it’s most often eaten cold in summer with a dipping sauce, soup, or broth.
4. Rice noodles
Made from rice, you can also use these noodles for pretty much the same recipes needing soba. Since rice noodles are made with rice flour, it’s gluten-free making it a good alternative for those with celiac disease or have sensitivities to gluten.
Rice noodles have a mild subtle flavor that can absorb other ingredients’ flavor well. It also has a good chewy texture in spite of its thinness. You can use rice noodles in stir-fries, salads, and soups much like soba.
5. Korean buckwheat noodles
Korean buckwheat noodles appear in plenty of dishes in South Korea. It’s a lot like soba since these noodles are also made with buckwheat flour and are eaten in similar ways. However, Korean buckwheat noodles may have some potato starch in it which adds more chewiness to it.
These buckwheat noodles are used in Korean dishes like Naengmyeon, cold noodles served with savory broth and topped with veggies and meat, and Mak Guksu, noodles served in chilled broth with mustard, sugar, vinegar, and sesame oil.
6. Yakisoba noodles
Yakisoba noodles look similar to ramen than soba but it is a good alternative for both. Also called Mushi Chukamen or steamed Chinese-style noodles, yakisoba noodles are often enjoyed as its namesake dish.
Yakisoba are round, usually smaller and thinner than udon. It is also made with wheat flour not like soba. While you can also use these noodles in many ways, it is best for stir-fries with vegetables and sliced pork.
7. Whole wheat spaghetti
Going to your local grocery stores, it may be easier to find these Western-style noodles than udon, somen, and the like. Whole wheat spaghetti or pasta can also work instead of soba.
This type of pasta is made with whole-wheat flour which gives the noodles a darker color and a higher nutritional value in terms of fiber and protein. You can enjoy this pasta with only some sauce or mixed with some greens or sprouts as a side dish. It also makes for a great main dish baked in casseroles, cooked in soups, or added to salads.
8. Quinoa spaghetti
Quinoa spaghetti or pasta is a healthy gluten-free alternative to soba noodles. It’s also quite easy to use much like other noodles.
Like soba, quinoa pasta has a nutty flavor and a texture comparable to whole-wheat pasta. Quinoa is often described as a superfood or “super grain” thanks to its great nutritional quality. It only follows that quinoa pasta is becoming an option for health conscious pasta lovers.
Try these vegetable-based noodles to replace soba, pasta, or rice in your meals.
9. Cellophane noodles
Also known as bean thread noodles, cellophane noodles are interesting products that look transparent. Made from mung beans and water, it’s pretty tasteless but with an enjoyable texture that is not too thick and just the right chewiness.
These see-through noodles work well in just about all recipes that need soba. It’s a perfect partner for stews, stir-fries, soups, and salads.
10. Zucchini noodles
If you’re cutting back on carbs, try zucchini noodles for your meal. While this option does not work for many recipes needing soba, it can still work for some salads and side dishes.
This gluten-free veggie noodle is a good replacement for many pasta dishes. Supposedly, zucchini noodles can aid in weight loss and can help people with diabetes or fatty liver disease.
11. Butternut squash noodles
Another delicious and healthy type of noodles you can try are butternut squash noodles. Quite flavorful compared to most mild noodles, butternut squash also has a distinct nutty taste like soba but its nuttiness is a lot more distinct.
With a smooth and stringy texture, you can use this type of noodles as a low-calorie alternative to soba. It is also higher in nutrients so it’s a good choice for certain dishes.
12. Kelp noodles
Kelp noodles are another vegetable-based option that you can eat instead of soba. It is often used in Asian cooking so in this regard, it is easy to incorporate it into traditional recipes that need soba.
As it is made from kelp, these noodles are low-calorie and gluten-free. It’s also highly nutritious and can reportedly promote weight loss, help improve heart and thyroid health, and lower the risk of osteoporosis. Kelp noodles can be mixed into stir-fries, salads, coleslaw, and more.
1. How to make homemade soba noodles?
Another alternative for soba noodles is making your homemade batch from scratch. You will not only get actual soba this way but also make sure that it’s not contaminated with gluten in the process.
Here are the steps to make homemade soba noodles:
- Prepare buckwheat flour, hot water, and spelt flour. (Spelt contains flour so use another flour to pair with buckwheat like almond or oat flour for added texture.)
- Mix the two kinds of flour with hot water to form a ball of dough.
- Knead the mixture and if it gets a bit too sticky, sprinkle some more flour on the dough and your kneading surface.
- When the dough is properly kneaded and has turned into a soft, smooth ball, you can flatten it and cut it into noodles.
- When cutting the noodles, cut it according to soba size.
- You can cook the noodles in salted boiling water for a minute, making sure each strand is separated.
- Rinse with cold water and it’s ready for cooking.
2. Can I use soba noodles instead of pasta?
You can expect some differences in texture and a bit in taste, but you can definitely use soba noodles for most pasta recipes. There may be some adjustments in cooking time and other ingredients in order to get the best results but it’s doable.
Wrapping it up
While soba noodle substitutes exist and these noodles can easily replace each other, they are made for their particular uses and dishes. Soba noodles are best used as it is, for a soba dish. The same is true for somen, ramen, udon, and the rest. These noodles are most delicious for their intended cooking style.
Even so, Western counterparts like whole-wheat pasta can be used in a pinch and vegetable-based noodles are the best choices for health-conscious people. It is good to know all these kinds of noodles or pastas so you can expand your choices and enjoy discovering new textures and flavors for your meals.