Soba noodles are one of the most popular gluten-free noodle options that Westerners go for. While it is mostly used in Asian cuisine, nowadays people have started using it everywhere!
Soba noodles are highly nutritious, tasty, extraordinarily versatile, and very easy to make.
Unfortunately, soba noodles aren’t always easy to find — the stores are either always sold out or the noodles are sold at a ridiculously high price. But, some people simply don’t like their unique nutty flavor and chewy texture.
So, what are the best soba noodle substitutes? It depends on what you need to substitute! For gluten-free options, try rice noodles or vegetable noodles. For nutrition, there are many options, like quinoa or whole wheat noodles. If all you need is a similar noodle shape, your options are unlimited!
In today’s article, we will look at exactly what soba noodles are and how to choose the best substitute. We will also discuss the best substitutes for soba noodles that are all relatively easy to find and affordable.
What Are Soba Noodles?
Soba noodles have always been popular in Japanese culture. However, they only recently started becoming more frequently used and readily available in Western countries!
Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour.
Buckwheat is a type of pseudocereal with a ton of health benefits (much like quinoa and amaranth). This ingredient is becoming more popular for its incredible nutrient profile since it is packed with minerals and antioxidants.
Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t a type of wheat. Therefore, it’s completely gluten-free! Soba noodles are also high in carbs and protein while being low in fat — that ultimately translates to them being very filling.
Soba noodles are served in two common ways. The first is cooked and chilled with a delicious dipping sauce. The second is served warm in a Japanese noodle soup.
Despite being seemingly limited in usage, this noodle is extraordinarily versatile — you will find soba noodles used in fine dining restaurants as well as by street-food vendors.
There is also a wide variety of dishes made in summer and winter (pretty much all year round) that use these noodles!
Depending on where you are located in the world, soba noodles are very easy to find and relatively affordable. Even if you can’t find them in your grocery store, you may be able to find them online or at your local Asian supermarket.
How To Substitute Soba Noodles
So, as we have mentioned, soba noodles are relatively easy to find in some parts of the world.
However, many areas are still pretty unfamiliar with them. You can either get your hands on some at a hefty price or not find any at all.
Luckily, there are a ton of great alternatives for soba noodles, but choosing the best one for your needs can be challenging!
Let’s look at some of the most important things to consider before buying or choosing a substitute.
What’s Available In Your Area?
A lot of substitutes on our list will also not be easy to find. For example, somen or kelp noodles are fantastic alternatives, but they’re even harder to come by — even in areas that have buckwheat noodles.
So, don’t set your heart on the first option that sounds good to you; decide on a couple before going to look for them. Then, you can buy what you can find at a reasonable price.
Is It Gluten-Free?
If you use soba noodles because they are gluten-free, then your alternative should also be gluten-free.
Even if you have a product that is usually free of gluten or allergens, always check the back of the package to make 100% sure. You don’t want to have a medical emergency because of assumptions.
If there are specific nutrients you want from buckwheat, always choose an alternative that can provide the same.
For example, buckwheat and whole wheat pasta have almost the same number of calories, protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat — plus vitamins and minerals! However, regular AP wheat-based pasta won’t be nearly as nutritious.
It is also important to note that different types of the same product could also have different nutrient profiles. Some products have additives that change the nutrient content.
Taste And Texture
And finally, if you like the taste and texture of soba noodles, then make sure your substitute has similar features. It is sometimes a difficult call to make, but it comes down to your personal preference.
Soba is such a unique noodle that it isn’t always as simple as using penne pasta instead of spaghetti would be.
Soba noodles have a very nutty and earthy flavor profile because of the buckwheat used, plus a silky-smooth cooked texture that most other whole-grain pastas don’t have.
They are also darker in color and bring a nice contrast to the accompanying ingredients.
Best Soba Noodle Substitutes
No substitute can give you everything soba noodles do, but narrowing down your needs will make the decision a lot easier!
Below we have an amazing list of options — there are bound to be at least two that will work for you! Let’s have a look.
1. DIY Soba Noodles
Now, this may not be an option everybody can use, but it is hands-down the best option. Making your own soba noodles is as easy as making your own pasta!
However, you will need a couple of hours and preferably a pasta machine. You can make these noodles with a rolling pin, but the process would be even more labor-intensive.
For the noodle recipe itself, you only need buckwheat flour and water. You can also add salt if you want to. Luckily, buckwheat flour is more readily available (and affordable) than soba noodles.
The texture, flavor, and cooking methods for the homemade version will all be the same — you will even get the same nutritional value when making your own!
We’ve provided a quick run-down of the process just below. For a more detailed version, you can look at the hundreds of recipes that are available online. To watch a master at work, watch this video from Tasty on YouTube:
Step 1: Make The Soba Dough
To start, combine roughly 1 cup of buckwheat flour with 1/2 cup of hot water. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl until a ball of dough forms.
You can adjust the consistency with more hot water or more buckwheat flour.
Step 2: Knead The Soba Dough
Keep kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is smooth and uniform in texture. The dough should be soft. If you see cracks in the surface, you need to add more water.
Step 3: Roll And Cut The Soba Dough
Here, you can either use a rolling pin or a pasta machine. Slowly work the dough into a large flat sheet that is uniform in thickness. Keep adding a light layer of buckwheat flour on the surface of the dough to prevent it from sticking.
Then, use the cutting tool or a knife and ruler to make long strands of soba noodles. As you finish cutting them, toss them in some more buckwheat flour to prevent them from sticking.
Step 4: Cook And Drain The Soba Noodles
If you are using the noodles immediately, cook them in boiling water for one minute. Then, remove them from the water and flash-cool them in cold water. This will stop the cooking process to avoid overcooking the noodles.
2. Udon Noodles
This is one of our favorite soba noodle alternatives!
Udon is a Japanese noodle that is made from wheat flour instead of buckwheat. So, nutritionally they won’t be the same.
The biggest downside to using udon noodles is that they look different and have a different mouthfeel.
This noodle is white in color and a lot thicker than soba noodles. They are also a lot chewier in texture — some people like this, but others don’t.
Luckily, these are minor differences that aren’t likely to bother anyone without dietary restrictions.
On the plus side, udon noodles are very affordable and easy to find. You can even get them in dried and fresh forms!
Udon noodles also have a mild flavor that pairs well with any soba noodle dish. These noodles can also be served hot or cold like soba can.
3. Ramen Noodles
Ramen noodles are incredibly easy to find no matter where you are.
These noodles are also incredibly cheap — even cheaper than regular spaghetti pasta! However, that is pretty much where the obvious pros stop.
Now, depending on your dietary needs, there are some downsides to using ramen.
Ramen noodles are made with wheat flour, so they aren’t gluten-free. And more often than not, the flour used is regular AP wheat flour, not whole wheat. So, nutritionally speaking, those products won’t have the same health benefits.
The color, flavor, and texture will also differ.
Ramen is more yellow in color and has a pretty neutral flavor. However, this is part of why we love this substitute so much! The neutral flavor makes it easy to pair with any soba noodle dish.
Despite the differences, we still love this option. It is easy to find, cheap, and easy to pair with any recipe. And since you likely know the texture already, you won’t have any strange surprises!
4. Rice Noodles
Rice noodles are one of the best gluten-free alternatives for soba noodles as they are made from a combination of rice flour and water. So, generally speaking, they aren’t extremely unhealthy!
While they come in a variety of different widths for different uses and recipes, rice noodles are usually translucent and glossy yet absorb sauce well, which makes them a fun and unique alternative to use.
Their flavor however is noticeably different. Rice noodles have an almost tangy flavor profile that some people don’t like at all. But, we would still recommend you try them at least once!
Rice noodles are an easy-to-find option that is also affordable. And again, it’s our favorite gluten-free option out there! If you have a few options available to you, try using brown rice noodles (which are healthier and less processed).
You can also find a ton of instant noodle packets that use rice noodles. Again, don’t add the flavorings to the water when you cook the noodles!
Also, don’t confuse rice vermicelli noodles with rice noodles. Vermicelli noodles are extremely thin as compared to regular rice noodles! But, in a pinch, they can also work as a gluten-free substitute.
5. Whole Wheat Spaghetti Noodles
As we briefly mentioned before, whole wheat spaghetti noodles have virtually the same nutritional profile as soba noodles — they are even more nutritious in other ways! Unfortunately, their only downside is that they are not gluten-free.
Other than that, whole wheat spaghetti noodles are incredibly easy to find. You likely won’t even have to go to a health shop or special market!
These noodles also come in various shapes and sizes. If you have flat soba noodles, then buy flat whole wheat spaghetti. If you have round soba, buy round spaghetti.
The flavor and texture of these noodles are also very similar. So, swapping these noodles out won’t be a big problem!
6. Quinoa Spaghetti
Not many people will agree with us on this one, but hear us out!
Spaghetti made from quinoa is highly nutritious. Quinoa is also a pseudocereal, like buckwheat, making it gluten-free and stuffed with minerals and vitamins.
It is also very easy to make and doesn’t have a particularly prominent flavor. It will pair well with any soba noodle recipe and has a great texture too.
Probably the biggest downside with quinoa spaghetti is that it can be difficult to find. Your best place to look is online or at a health shop. But nutritionally speaking, it is a fantastic choice.
7. Somen Noodles
We love somen noodles!
Having only recently discovered them, maybe we are a little biased, but these ultra-thin noodles are easy to find, neutral in flavor, and have a very similar texture to soba noodles.
These are made from wheat flour and (like ramen) not necessarily from whole wheat flour. So nutritionally, they won’t offer any benefits and they are not gluten-free.
However, if you are just looking for any substitute or a way to spice your recipes up a bit, somen noodles are a good option. And, they are becoming easier and easier to find at very affordable prices!
8. Zucchini Noodles
Arguably the first mainstream vegetable noodle out there, zucchini noodles offer a completely wheat-free, gluten-free, and additive-free alternative.
Also known as “zoodles,” these noodles are made from fresh zucchini that is sliced using a special peeler.
You can buy zucchini noodles at almost any supermarket today, but you can also make them fresh at home using a spiralizer (you can even freeze them for future use). It’s even better if you can find organic zucchini noodles — which are readily available!
These noodles are very tasty, juicy, and easy to make and cook. But while they do pair well with loads of recipes, they don’t taste the same as soba noodles.
9. Butternut Squash Noodles
And finally, we end with another vegetable noodle option!
Butternut squash noodles are also obviously not similar in flavor, texture, or nutrient value. But, they are gluten-free and a very healthy alternative.
The flavor of butternut squash is also generally very easy to pair with other dishes, especially soups and broths, so you won’t have any difficulty using it as an alternative.
You can also make butternut squash noodles at home — a spiralizer is very affordable and easy to use! But, if you don’t have the time, many shops sell butternut squash or pumpkin noodles.