Here’s a quick guide to soba noodles (also known as buckwheat noodles) and how to best use them in recipes. One of the most relished of the traditional foods of Japan, soba noodles (also known as buckwheat noodles, are so immensely popular that their very name is steeped in folklore and ritual.
Soba shops are a common sight in Japanese cities— small eateries serving specialties made with these beloved noodles. See more in this article on why soba is the quintessential Japanese noodle.
Though they’re dark and robust, soba noodles have a smooth texture, unlike many whole-grain pastas. Thin and spaghetti-shaped, the buckwheat flour content in the noodles varies, from as much as 80 percent to as little as 20 percent. The packages state the proportion.
The remaining proportion in the noodle consists of wheat flour. Predictably, the more buckwheat flour in the noodle, the darker the color and the more distinct the flavor will be.
These noodles less bland than ordinary pasta, yet not at all difficult to acquire a taste for. This is notable, as their whole-grain parent, buckwheat, have a flavor that takes some getting used to.
Buying and cooking soba
In the Western world, soba noodles are more commonly available in natural food stores, as several domestic companies are involved in their importation and distribution. You might also find them in Asian groceries. They most often come in 8-ounce cellophane packages containing three bundles, as shown above.
Soba noodles are cooked just like ordinary pasta — in a roomy pot in plenty of steadily simmering water. They take approximately 5 to 7 minutes to cook. Best to follow package directions, just as you would any other type of pasta or noodle variety.
Are soba noodles good for you, and are they gluten-free?
Soba noodles do have a lot to offer nutritionally. See how soba stacks up against whole wheat spaghetti. They might not be quite as nutrient-dense, but they’re more palatable!
As far as whether they’re gluten-free, that depends. If they’re 100% buckwheat, then most likely. But it’s not easy to find 100% buckwheat soba in this country. Read the label carefully, but the answer is more likely to be that they’re mixed with wheat flour and are therefore NOT gluten-free.
Soba noodle recipes on this site
Make sure to see this roundup of more than a dozen delectable
vegan soba noodle recipes — stir-fries, soups, and cold dishes.
More ideas and recipes for using soba
Since their flavor is not at all delicate, these deep-brown noodles stand up particularly well to robust-flavored sauces and accompaniments.
In miso soup or other Asian-style soup: Add cooked soba, full length (in which case you’ll slurp them with chopsticks!) or cut into 2-inch lengths, to simple miso soups. They’re also particularly good in brothy Asian-style soups that highlight winter root vegetables. In any case, use a generous hand with fresh ginger. Here’s an easy Miso Soba Noodle Soup.
A simply seasoned side dish: Serve cooked soba as a side dish simply seasoned with sesame oil, minced scallions, and soy sauce. Sesame Soba Noodles is a good example. For interest, add a small amount of sea vegetables, such as shredded nori or reconstituted arame. To make this a main dish, simply add diced and sautéed tofu or tempeh.
Add to green soups: Stir some last-minute cooked soba into pureed green vegetable soups composed of flavorful vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, or green beans.
Summer flavors: Pair soba noodles with fresh summer ingredients like tomatoes, corn, zucchini, and fresh herbs. Soba Noodles with Tofu, Tomatoes, and Basil is one fresh idea.
Bountiful bowls: Use soba as a component in your bountiful, beautiful Buddha Bowls. Cold Asian Noodle Bowls with Daikon and Carrot is just one example.
Use soba to make delicious cold salads: For instance, try combining cooked soba noodles (that have been rinsed under cold running water until cool) with cucumber, sprouts, snow peas, grated or sliced turnips or radishes, and other crispy vegetables. Toss with sesame-ginger or peanut dressing for an easy cold dish. Here’s Peanut Satay Soba Noodles with Cucumber.
A stir-fry staple: Add to stir-fries as a change of pace from rice. Try Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Tofu & Green Vegetables and Stir-Fried Soba Noodles with Corn and Cabbage.
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