Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles) ざるそば

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Zaru Soba II

Before the summer is over, I have a couple of popular Japanese summer recipes that I want to share.  One of them is cold soba noodles, and we call it Zaru Soba.

Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and it also means the noodles made from buckwheat flour.  I’ve seen all kinds of creative soba noodle recipes in the US, but in Japan soba noodles are served either simply chilled with a dipping sauce or in hot broth as a noodle soup, similar to how we prepare Japanese Udon noodle soup.

Cold soba noodles are typically served in zaru, which means bamboo basket in Japanese.  We serve noodles with some toppings (green onions and wasabi, sometimes grated daikon) and dipping sauce called Mentsuyu.

Zaru Soba Recipe |

Summer in Japan can be really hot and humid, and Zaru Soba was one of my favorite lunch menu when I was growing up.  My mom usually serves with Vegetable Tempura and Shrimp Tempura, but honestly when it’s super hot outside, who wants to deep fry…so let’s keep it simple today.

You can buy a bottle of Mentsuyu in Japanese or Asian grocery store, but for homemade Mentsuyu recipe, click here.  I hope you get some appetite with these cold soba noodles.  Stay cool!

Zaru Soba III

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Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: Serves 4
  • 14 oz. dried Soba Noodle (I also used cha soba (green tea soba) today)
Dipping Sauce (tsuyu)
  1. For dipping sauce, The dipping sauce is supposed to be a little salty because you will be "dipping" the soba noodles instead of soaking them to eat. You can always dilute it later if needed.
  2. For soba noodle, boil a lot of water in a large pot. Unlike pasta, you DO NOT add salt to the water. Add dried soba noodles in the boiling water in circulate motion, separating the noodles from each other. Boil soba noodles according to the package instructions (each one is slightly different). Mine says boil 4 minutes. Once in a while stir the noodles so they don’t stick to each other. Check the tenderness and do not overcook. I do not use "sashi mizu (adding water)" technique for this noodle as it's says so on the package.*
  3. Drain the noodles into a colander and wash the noodles in a cold running water to get rid of slimy texture. This is very important and key to great tasting noodle.
  4. Put chopped green onions and wasabi on a small plate. Serve soba noodles on a tray or dish. Sprinkle Kizami Nori on top right before you serve.
* I learned not a long ago that "Sashi Mizu (adding water)" technique is not necessary anymore. The technique was created back then when we didn’t have gas stove, and that was the technique used in order to stop water from over spilling from the pot.

Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe in your own words and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
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  1. I love Zaru Soba! I feel guilty when I get it at a restaurant because it’s so easy to make at home. I haven’t made homemade tsuyu in a long time, too lazy…lol My mom had the best recipe for it. There are a couple of restaurants around here that make their soba noodles. One is Gonpachi from Japan, have you heard of the restaurant? Now you are making want soba! I love your photos too! They turned out beautifully :o)

    • OMG! I didn’t know Gonpachi 権八 is in Beverly Hills! We have Sumiyaki & Soba/Tempura Gonpachi near my station in Japan! They make handmade Soba Noodles. LA has definitely more authentic Japanese restaurants! P.S. I’ll read Japanese for you so please please share your mom’s recipe. 😉

  2. Nami, I love so much looking at your beautiful presentation and all the bowl, plates… (what is the blue fabric? Just blue fabric? I really like the pattern). No need to make any new photos for your future paper cooking book :-)
    I am a big fan of soba (soba shochu is great too!) and have recently bought a package of cha soba. It was fabulous.
    I hope you realise how precise and detailed your instructions are. You are an excellent teacher. Now, thanks to you, I will never have sticky or slimy noodles. See, I even enjoy reading your cooking instructions, not to mention the introductory text and looking a the beautiful photos. I would love to have the zaru too!
    The dipping sauce looks a bit like the stock I made for udon, but maybe there is more soy sauce?
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. I’ve heard about these noodles but haven’t been able to find it here. I guess I need to have a closer look to the Japanese section of my Chinese supermarket. If they don’t have it, oh well I’ll be in the States next year and will get them then. I like the simplicity of this recipe, but I don’t know if I can eat it just like this. I am a MEAT eater and there has to be some protein with the meal =) What would you recommend?

    PS: good to hear that your daughter is better!

    • emily

      I think I’m going to clean out the pantry today and do sesame soba with spinach & edamame and miso soup for lunch! I start eating soba b/c it has so much protein for a noodle. Package here says 8g per serving! But shrimp is my go-to if I’m going to throw in a protein.

    • We usually eat with Shrimp (or some white fish) and vegetable tempura with Soba. However if you go to Japan, you will sometimes see a set lunch menu with small size of Zaru Soba with small size of some meat dish. But we don’t eat meat and soba in one food… :-)

  4. Who would have thought this is so easy to make at home? Thanks for all these little tips and hints! Perfect one for me to revisit during Aus summer!

  5. I love cold soba noodles! I’ve never tried them with the dipping sauce and those toppings though. This really is the perfect lunch for this unbearable heat and I have serious prop envy, it’s all gorgeous!!

  6. Zaru Soba looks interesting and very authentic! I love cold noodles and these look too appealing. Loved the photograph!! Nami, I am looking forward to reading more Japanese summer recipes here!!

  7. I love zaru soba, my favourite way to enjoy soba! I even let my husband and kids do the slurping sounds (only time they are allowed to!) but I cannot ‘slurp’ myself. My boiling method is different though ( don’t know if it would make much difference, and the sauce of course is vegetarian, actually vegan, (plus I prefer soy sauce to mirin) but still delicious.
    Uhm, I still got a packet a friend got me in Japan, I may make it on Sunday :-).


    • Hi Alessandra! I just checked your link and I loved how well you explained about zaru soba! Such a great post!!! You’re right – our boiling method is different but I used to follow the traditional method like you. However, when I received very good quality soba from Japan, the package said “no adding water while boiling”, so it got me curious and did some research. Back then before we have gas or electric stove, we couldn’t control the temperature well so that’s why they add water to stop water from over spilling. It was an old technique that we still practice and I kind of like it. As a kid, it was so confusing to remember how to cook zaru soba because of adding water technique. LOL. Thanks for writing Alessandra! Ciao!

  8. Cold soba noodles are one of my favourites and I love how you’ve done it up here with simple, seasonal green onion, and tantalizing dipping sauces. I friend of mine just gave me some fragrant, garden fresh green onion – yeah! Fabulous Nami.

  9. This sounds so simple yet perfect! I love cold soba noodles. I’ve been making a sauce with peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha, ginger and sesame oil and putting it over soba noodles and I love it! I love the addition of the green onions. Your photos are beautiful too!

  10. How come I never thought of making this to go with the vegetables and shrimp fritters I made the other day. I am into making Japanese food crazy now and your website is a great help. I already bookmarked a few to try it out once I gather all the ingredients. Thanks to all your wonderful recipe Nami.

  11. If I visit Japan this is one of the dishes I will try for sure. I have seen so many videos about soba noodles. It seems so simple and served really plainly (no meat, veges etc) but the taste will blow you away. I don’t know myself but thats what I understand. Soba is made from buckwheat if I am not wrong, I ate that often when I stayed in Russia but in terms of taste its something very different:) It filled me up but didn’t blow me away!Have a great weekend and I hope you daughter has recovered after eating the wonton soup, I am sure she has:)

    • If you go to Japan, Mr. Three-Cookies, I really hope that you go to the soba specialized restaurant where they even show you how they make soba (you might be able to see how they cut soba etc…). Nothing better than freshly made soba, just like pasta! It’s so good that you don’t need anything else. :-)

  12. Never tried soba..I didnt even know that they were not made with flour but buckwheat.That makes them grain free right? Buckwheat is consumed in Indian culture during fasting days- when we are supposed to eat only fruits & non-grains! So I can eat these instead? :) ..joking!
    Have a fun weekend!

    • There are varieties of soba noodles. If you only want 100% buckwheat then you have to buy the finest (and most expensive) kind called Juuwari (100%) soba. The one I used for this recipe is 70% buckwheat and 30% wheat. Hope this helps. :-)

  13. Helen in Houston

    I truly wish I could learn to like Kizami Nori, but the smell and taste simply reminds me of bad fish. My sushi is wrapped with soy papers, and I love it.

    After seeing your photograph for this recipe, it occurred to me that I might try sprinkling just a tiny bit on my noodles. Maybe I can educate my taste buds! Don’t give up on me yet.

    • Hi Helen! Yes, nori can be a challenge for someone who don’t like fishy taste. The sushi nori sheet has very distinct smell and flavor and it is probably an acquired taste for non-Japanese. I don’t recognized any of it because I grow up with it. LOL. You taught me about soy paper – I didn’t know about this!

  14. Jeanne

    I love zaru soba! My best friend’s mom used to make it for us on hot summer days. I’m going to have to find some dashi packets. So smart.

  15. I love soba noodles but never had them in anything cold. This looks like a great summer dish, if summer lasts for a little while more for us folks here in Seattle.

    What an awesome blog you have! Too bad I didn’t find you earlier. Big fan now! :)

  16. Mika

    I love Zaru Soba, but Douglas thinks “cold” noodle is wrong and don’t eat them… I guess for some people, noodle dish has to be warm…

  17. I just made soba last week too- it was Kim Chee Soba though. :) Soba is so good, one of my favorite Japanese comfort food places makes a good Zaru Udon- complete with grated daikon and tempura crispies. YUM!!!

  18. Nami, what beautiful noodles. You do everything just right…so I know I’d be a fan of these lovely noodles. Love your stunning photos as always…next time you’re in Indiana, can you give me some tips????? 😉

  19. Interestingly, soba is usually served chilled in most Japanese restaurants in Singapore. Zaru Soba (and soba noodles) is an acquired liking for me as I did not enjoy cold noodles in the past. The only warm noodle soups served up in Jap. eateries are either udon or ramen. So I did not have the chance to try soba noodles till I cook soba noodles soup (warm of course!) at home. As I embrace soba noodles (with love:p ), I was then open to try Zaru Soba and totally enjoyed it.

    • Even in Japan, I think chilled soba is more popular than soba in warm noodle soup although I see both options. I’m glad you like zaru soba. It’s very easy to prepare, too!

  20. How Simple and yet Delicious… Thanks for the dipping sauce recipe. I have something for plain boiled noodles. I sometime eat egg noodles boiled, washed with soy and some salt and pepper. Am I crazy:-) This looks really nice Nami.

    • There is soba noodles that is 100 buckwheat, called Juuwari (100%) soba. It’s usually most expensive kind. I hope your Asian store that you go to has this kind… :-)

  21. I have to thank you for posting this recipe because I’ve always wanted to get the topping and the sauce right! If you ask my husband, he will tell you that I am absolutely obsessed with Zaru Soba. I order it anytime we visit a Japanese restaurant.

    Your plating here is stunning!! This has to be the most beautiful soba dish out of all the restaurants I’ve been to!

  22. I love soba. Thanks for reminding me.
    My favorite soba ever I had outside at a little place by Himeji Castle. The dipping soup had ginger, onions, sesame… I thought it was PERFECT.

  23. It’s been a while since I’ve had some soba noodles – and these are definitely giving me a craving! And cold meals are the best during this hot summer!

  24. This is another of those “famous” dishes that I had noted to eat while in Japan! I was so curious about them as we have buckwheat pasta too (it is called pizzoccheri) but it is only eaten hot and in a very specific manner (not light at all… it is a dish from the Alps). I love buckwheat! Great post and the most beautiful pictures ever! You are an artist Nami!!! <3

  25. I’m going to look for the green tea noodles. i have never seen nor tasted LOL and I’m very intrigued.
    I don’t know why you’re complaining about your photos, they are stunning!!!

    Congrats on top 9!

  26. congratulations on top 9 again. i love the composition of this photo. definitely turning japanese-ta haha. thanks for being so sincere in your comments and dropping by as much as you can in my blog. i truly appreciate the blog-friendship!
    happy weekend!

  27. Nami, I can not tell you how many times I’ve purchased the soba noodle sauce but never used them, ended up having to throw them away after they’ve expired. Thank you for sharing the sauce recipe! The noodles look so refreshing and yummy, think I will give it a try soon (after trying your lotus roots and chicken wings recipes)!

  28. Beautifully done post. Your photos are incredible. I love this dish but have not had it in a while. The green tea soba look so nice! I will have to try this soon

  29. I love the simplicity of this dish. It is clear from your description that there is a lot more to zaru soba than meets the eye. I love recipes that are simple to prepare but are complex and in flavour.

  30. Oh dear. I haven’t had soba like this for years!! My mom would also shave Asian pear and raw daikon into the sauce. I heard there’s even a “proper” way of slurping up those noodles. I for one will be making lots of happy slurp noises while eating this!

  31. Dawn

    I made this dish tonight and it is fantastic! So simple and easy, I didn’t think I’d be satisfied, but I am full in a good way. I wished the sauce had been a bit stronger, but fixed that by adding a dash of shoyu to the dipping sauce at dinner time. Also, the green onions are a must and are great added to the dipping sauce – that way you dip and get a few onions each time. Thanks, Nami. I also made the asian slaw, which was tasty too. Although, I think I’d make the Whole Foods Cabbage Crunch recipe next time – I am addicted to it. Thanks again, you are now “bookmarked”!

    • Hi Dawn! I’m happy that you already tried this recipe and liked it. I am surprised that you felt sauce was weak. I was sort of ready to get comment saying it’s too salty. 😉 I guess the flavor changes depending on how strong dashi is too. I’m glad you added soy sauce and it was okay. I’ve never tried WF cabbage crunch recipe. I’ll check it out! I hope you continue enjoying my recipes. :-)

  32. junelb

    Hi Nami,

    I bought a bottle of soy sauce (Brand: Kikoman) which says on the label Sushi soy sauce. Can I use this soy sauce for cooking or is it a different soy sauce which cannot be used?

    • Hi junelb! I think your Sushi soy sauce is what we call Sashimi Shoyu (soy sauce for Sashimi). Usually it’s a little bit darker and thicker. Some people use sashimi shoyu but some use regular soy sauce for everything – it depends on regions. You probably want to use regular soy sauce for cooking. Hope this helps. :-)

  33. Dave

    Thank you so much for that dipping sauce recipe – it transported me back 2 years to Kyota where I had that same meal outside Kiyomizu-dera Temple sitting in the shade with a bottle of Asahi. I loved how something so simple could be so delicious, and my little boy who was 16 months old at the time absolutely gobbled it up with me.

    It’s a favourite memory of a wonderful holiday and now I can us back there anytime with this recipe.

    Many thanks!!

    • Hi Dave! Thank you so much for your feedback. Kiyomizudera is one of my favorite places, and glad to hear you got to visit. :-) Zaru soba is so simple, but soba makers do a wonderful job that this simple noodle is not just noodle! With good dashi stock, the dipping sauce is amazing too. I had it the other day but I can eat again soon. Thank you again!

    • Priscilla, thank you so much for trying so many of my recipes! I’m more than proud and I’m really flattered that you trusted my recipes and tried them! Thank you for linking back to me and I’m sorry my WordPress is not giving any pingbacks from your site. :-( Thanks for writing, so that I could find out about your blog!

      • Nami さん! You are so awesome!! I love all your recipes and always browse through them to get ideas for dinners. =) I follow you on Pinterest too!!!!! Please keep coming up with yummy traditional Japanese recipes. 日本料理が大好きです!

  34. Orchidea

    I love soba noodles, I learned about them by my friend, American-Japanese girl. She thought me to make soba noddles just lie you write in the post and she showed me how to eat them… with shrimps and nori sheet. But I did not know you are supposed to eat them on a try or bamboo basket.

  35. Kimmi

    What a great recipe to post just as the warmer season is getting into swing! As far as “sashi mizu” goes, I was always under the impression that adding the extra water also helps temper the cooking process and from flour-based noodles from becoming too mushy under the high heat. But what you explained definitely makes a lot of sense too!

    (Happy Golden Week! Although I don’t know if there is anything monumental happening in the States…)

  36. Andre

    Always wanted to know how to make mentsuyu. Zaru soba was always one of my favourites to eat while in Japan when it was hot weather.