I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of substitutes for udon noodles to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Soba and ramen noodles are the best substitutes for udon noodles. They’re thinner, but they have the same springy, chewy texture. If you’re in a pinch, dried pasta like spaghetti or linguine will work with a bit of tweaking. Looking for a low-carb alternative? Try zucchini noodles.
I made a simple dashi-based broth to put different udon noodles substitutes to the test.
Udon noodles are thick noodles that hail from Japan. They’re made with wheat flour and water and have a chewy texture and will leave you feeling super satisfied.
Udon noodles are often served with a broth – either warm or chilled. But they’re also great in hotpots and stir-fries (yakiudon anyone?). Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||Notes on the substitute||Verdict|
|Soba noodles||Nutty taste||9/10|
|Ramen noodles||Easily accessible||9/10|
|Dried pasta||Cook with baking soda||9/10|
|Homemade udon noodles||With 4 ingredients||10/10|
|Somen/hiyamugi noodles||Thinner versions||8/10|
|Shirataki noodles||Low carb||6/10|
|Zucchini noodles||Low carb||6/10|
Soba noodles are pretty different from udon noodles but still make a great stand-in. You’ll notice the color difference straight away, soba noodles are brown rather than yellow and they’re thinner.
But they have a very similar chewy texture, which is why they’re top of my list.
The other not-so-obvious difference is in flavor. Soba noodles have a distinct nuttiness to them that isn’t overwhelming, but that you can definitely taste.
Pro tip: if you’re watching out for gluten, search for soba noodles made with just buckwheat – they’re gluten-free. And don’t forget to double-check the packaging. Some brands mix buckwheat with regular flour to make these noodles.
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with soba noodles.
Ramen noodles are a versatile, readily available, and cheap option for replacing udon noodles. Again, they’re thinner than udon noodles but they still work really well in soups or stir-fries.
The texture of the noodle is firmer than udon noodles, but because they’re thinner you don’t really notice this and they still have some spring. They also have a neutral taste, so the flavors of your broth or sauce take center stage.
Psst… did you know that ramen was the first type of noodle to make it to space!
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with ramen noodles.
Dried pasta is a classic kitchen staple that can serve as a quick and easy substitute for udon noodles. Bucatini is the thickest type of pasta, but spaghetti or linguine will also work.
The long, thin strands do a great job of soaking up the flavors of broth or sauce. And to mimic the unique chewiness of udon noodles, add some baking soda to the pasta cooking water in a ratio of 1 tablespoon baking soda per quart (or liter) of water.
I tested this hack, and it’s a game-changer. The modified pasta has an extra bounce that brings it closer to the real deal! Make sure to leave some room in the pot though because the water will fizz a lot.
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with dried pasta.
Lo mein noodles
If you want to replicate the thickness of udon noodles, lo mein noodles are your best bet. They’re still not as thick as udon noodles, but they’re thicker than the average noodle.
One major difference is that lo mein noodles are made with egg, which gives them a denser, heavier texture. The egg also means these noodles won’t absorb as much broth as udon noodles, so they work better in stir-fries with sticky sauces.
Psst… you need to fully cook lo mein noodles before adding them to a stir fry.
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with le mein noodles.
Homemade udon noodles
Making udon noodles from scratch is not only possible, but relatively easy! No Recipes (video below) provides an easy guide that only needs four basic ingredients – all-purpose flour, water, salt, and potato starch.
The real challenge with this homemade version is kneading the dough. It’s a crucial step in developing the gluten that’s responsible for udon’s signature texture.
So don’t think you can get away with less when the recipe says you need to knead the dough 150-200 times. But hey, at least you’re getting an arm workout!
Pro-tip: use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for best results.
How to substitute: replace store-bought udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with homemade udon noodles.
Somen or hiyamugi are made with the same ingredients as udon noodles, so have a similar taste and behave the same way in cooking. But they differ in thickness.
Udon noodles are thick wheat noodles with a diameter of 1.7 mm or more. Somen noodles have a diameter of 1.3 mm or less, and anything in between is classed as hiyamugi noodles.
Also, if the width of the noodle is wider than 3.5 mm then they’re called kishimen noodles – but these noodles are very rare.
Somen and hiyamugi noodles are traditionally enjoyed chilled during the summer months. But you can also use them in hot broths (if you do, you should technically call them “nyumen”).
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with somen or hiyamugi noodles.
These are a solid choice if you’re gluten-free or following a low-carb diet. They’re also known as konjac noodles after the konjac yam they’re made with.
I’ve also heard people call them ‘miracle noodles’ because they’re filling and high in fiber, but contain 97% water so are very low in calories and don’t have any digestible carbs. And don’t worry, they won’t disintegrate if you put them in a broth (I was slightly worried about this).
In terms of flavor they’re relatively bland, so they benefit from a tasty sauce or broth. And they have a chewy, almost rubbery texture.
Psst… want a few more calories, try tofu shirataki noodles.
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with shirataki noodles.
Zucchini noodles are another low-carb swap for udon noodles. Texture-wise, zoodles are more tender than chewy, and you need to be careful not to overcook them or they’ll go soggy.
You can buy ready-made zucchini noodles, but they’re really easy to make yourself too if you have a spiralizer (a great investment if you plan to eat veggie noodles on the regular). A julienne peeler will do the trick too if you’re not keen on more kitchen gadgets.
Here’s the secret to perfect zoodles: squeeze out the excess water before cooking. This step keeps them from turning mushy (you still need to make sure you don’t overcook them though).
How to substitute: replace udon noodles in a 1:1 ratio with zucchini noodles.
Other substitutes to consider
The list above are my top udon noodle substitutes, but the list doesn’t end there! Here are more alternatives that are worth a shot if you already have them on hand:
- Glass noodles: Glass noodles have a similar chewy texture and smooth mouth-feel to udon noodles, and they’re made from starches like potato or mung bean, making them gluten-free.
- Wonton noodles: If you’re looking to replace udon noodles in a broth, thick wonton noodles are a good option. Pro tip: never boil these noodles for more than a minute to keep their chewy texture.
- Yakisoba noodles: These are another wheat-based option with a chewy bite similar to udon. They’re excellent in stir-fries and hot dishes and will soak up those delicious sauces.
Substitutes to avoid
The one noodle type I would avoid substituting for udon noodles are rice noodles. Rice noodles have a much softer texture than udon noodles and lack any significant bite, especially thin rice noodles like vermicelli.
Best Udon Noodles Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- 400 grams all-purpose flour
- 180 grams water
- 17 grams salt
- potato starch, for dusting
- Transfer your flour into a medium-sized bowl. Combine water and salt in a container to make a brine.
- Add the mixture into your flour in batches. Using your hands, mix the flour and water mixture together.
- Knead the dough into a ball and then transfer into a clean work-surface.
- Continue kneading the dough 150-200 times or until the dough becomes extremely elastic. Stretch the dough into a smooth ball and leave to rest in a covered bowl for 1.5-2 hours.
- Once the dough has rested, dust it with starch and press into a thick disc. Press your dough with your rolling pin and roll out the dough from the center.
- Turn your dough 90 degrees then repeat rolling. Dust the udon dough with more starch and starting from the corner close to you, wrap the dough around the rolling pin. Continue rolling the dough until it becomes about ⅛-inch thick.
- Unroll the dough and turn it 45 degrees, then wrap it around the pin again and roll it around a few more times.
- Once you have a thin sheet of dough, unroll it and spread a generous amount of starch onto its surface. Fold the dough like a fan and use a sharp knife to cut the dough into thin strands.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Then drop the noodles. Boil for 12-13 minutes, then rinse with cold water.