Let’s learn how to make udon noodles from scratch with the traditional Japanese method. It’s easy & fun and you will be rewarded with delicious chewy homemade noodles that are far more superior than store-bought ones!
One of the easiest Japanese noodles that you can make at home is Udon Noodles (うどん). Thick, chewy, smooth, and utterly slurp-worthy, they are my all-time favorite. Udon holds a special place in my heart because it is also humble and comforting.
While I often stock up on frozen packages of udon, I take great pleasure in making these noodles from scratch. It is a fun and fulfilling cooking experiment that even a beginner will enjoy!
What are Udon Noodles?
Udon noodles, or simply Udon as we would say in Japan, are a type of wheat flour noodle commonly used in Japanese cuisines. These fat noodles are loved for their springy, supple texture and neutral flavor.
Udon noodles can be served in hot dashi soup made with kombu and katsuobushi (bonito flakes), or eaten cold by dipping in a soy-sauce based sauce called Tsuyu, or stir-fried with meat and vegetables.
From there, they can be enjoyed with your choice of protein, be it chicken, beef, shrimp, or tofu. These noodles are also delicious with a great variety of sauces like curry, pesto, miso, gochujang, and more!
Some Popular Udon Noodle Recipes on JOC:
Why Make Homemade Udon Noodles?
I’ve never made pasta or soba noodles (yet!), but I enjoy making homemade udon for these few reasons:
- Fresh tasting and great texture – The texture of udon noodles sold in grocery stores are usually not of good quality. Not only the noodles break too easily, but they can be floury and doughy. Homemade noodles are chewy with an elastic toothsome bite. The freshness is simply unbeatable.
- Easy and requires 3 simple ingredients – The methods to make udon are very straightforward, and best of all, you’ll need only flour, water, and salt.
- No special kitchen gadget required – Unlike making pasta noodles, which requires a pasta machine, udon noodles only call for your hands, your feet (read on to find out why), and a sharp knife!
Sounds great, right? Just to be completely honest, here are two things you do need to know before we begin.
- It takes time – To be exact, you need at least 3.5 to 4 hours from start to finish (which includes 2.5 hours of inactive time). Just like making bread, the dough needs to rest to relax the gluten.
- It requires your feet – No, I’m not joking. Because the dough is very hard to knead with hands, the Japanese have been using our feet to roll out the dough for many years!
My family devours these homemade udon noodles every time I make them. There are no preservatives and the taste and texture are much better than store-bought brands.
How to Make Homemade Udon Noodles
The ingredients and method for making udon noodles are very simple!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- All purpose (plain) flour (中力粉)
- Potato starch (cornstarch) for dusting*
Yes, that’s it.
*Why do we use potato starch (or cornstarch) instead of flour? The flour will be absorbed into the noodle dough; therefore, to prevent the dough from sticking to each other, it’s best to use potato starch or cornstarch.
Standard Udon Noodle Recipe Measurement
For one serving:
– 100 g all-purpose (plain) flour
– 50 g salted water (5 g salt and 45 g water)
So, for two and four servings, it is as simple as:
2 servings: 200 g all-purpose flour + 100 g salted water (10 g salt + 90 g water)
4 servings: 400 g all-purpose flour + 200 g salted water (20 g of salt + 180 g water)
For the best result, please use a kitchen scale. I didn’t include a “cup” measurement (I’m sorry!) as 1 cup of flour varies depending on how you measure it. The flour is compressed while you scoop, so it will not be accurate.
Overview: Quick Steps
- Make the dough by combining ingredients together.
- Rest for 30 minutes. [Inactive Time]
- Knead the dough by stepping it with feet.
- Rest for 2 hours (3 hours in winter). [Inactive Time]
- Roll out the dough and cut into noodles.
Enjoy Immediately or Freeze for Later
You can cook and the freshly made udon right away! But if you plan on using it for later, you can divide the uncooked noodles into smaller portions and freeze up to a month.
Udon making is truly one of the rewarding and joyful rituals for any noodle lovers and home cooks. Give it a go and let me know how it turns out for you!
How to Best Enjoy Your Udon Noodles
There are a variety of soups, sauces, and toppings that you can enjoy with your udon noodles to make a complete, delicious meal.
Below I have included some ingredient options for you to build your best udon experience!
- Ingredients: cabbage, carrot, green onion, mushrooms, protein (beef, chicken, egg, seafood, and tofu)
- Flavors: black pepper, garlic, ginger, miso, sesame oil
- Cooking style: noodle soup, dipping noodle, stir-fry noodle,
10 Important Tips to Remember
Tip #1: Use a Kitchen Scale
The kitchen scale these days is about $10 and it’s effortless to measure ingredients in metrics. And, zero error! If ten people use a kitchen scale to measure flour, everyone gets the same amount, and you know it’s almost impossible with a cup measurement.
Tip #2: Don’t adjust the amount of salt
There are a few reasons, but salt plays a key role in tightening the gluten in the flour and increasing the elasticity of the dough.
Don’t worry, the noodles will release some salt while cooking in unsalted water and they won’t be salty. Trust me!
Tip #3: Evenly distribute salted water
When adding salted water to mix with the flour, you want to go slow and steady and make sure to distribute it evenly into all parts. This helps to achieve a consistent elasticity of the dough.
Tip #4: Try not to add more water
This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT TIP. Bear in mind that the udon dough is tough and hard. If you feel like you can use a rolling pin or hands to knead, then I think you probably added more water than you should.
If you really struggle to combine the dough mixture into a ball, you can add a very little amount of water but do so with care. Avoid adding more if possible.
Tip #5: Get a large plastic bag
I try not to use plastic bags, but for this instance, it is a very helpful tool, especially when we have to step on them with our feet. Get a 2-gallon bag for this recipe. No, those 1-gallon ones are way too small.
Tip #6: Do not skip “resting” time
The same approach as bread making, it’s very important to let the gluten relax before you work on the noodle dough.
Tip #7: Step on the dough from the center
When you press down the dough, start stepping from the center with toes. Then spread the dough toward the outer edges. Just like how you would roll the dough with a rolling pin.
Tip #8: Knead until ear lobe texture
“Knead until the dough is as soft as your ear lobes” is a common expression in Japanese cookbooks and recipes. The dough should become pliable and softer after kneading, so you can finally roll out the dough with a rolling pin!
Tip #9: Roll out the corners of the dough
Ideally, you want the dough to be rolled out into a perfectly rectangular or square shape. That way, all of your noodles will have equal length.
Tip #10: Use a sharp knife
A sharp knife gives a clean edge to the noodles that lead to a great texture of noodles.
How About Making Pink Udon Noodles?
In 2015, I collaborated with other talented YouTubers for Tastemade‘s new “Hero Series“, and the star ingredient was beets which I used as a natural dye to make pink udon noodles.
Pink Udon Ingredients
- 200 g (7 oz) all-purpose flour
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) water
- 10 ml (2 tsp) beet juice (see below)
- 10 g tsp kosher/sea salt
- potato starch/cornstarch (for dusting)
For Beet Juice: Peel and slice a beetroot ½” (1.3 cm) thickness. Boil it in 1 cup (240 ml) of water for 20 minutes until the beet juice is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. You will only need 2 teaspoons of this liquid to color the udon.
Follow the exact same method as the regular udon noodle recipe below or watch my tutorial video.
If you are wondering about the taste of these pink udon noodles, you don’t really taste the beets.
Do You Like Making Food from Scratch?
Looking for another delicious made-from-scratch cooking project? These Homemade Gyoza Wrappers are a treat!
Homemade Udon Noodles
- 7 oz all-purpose flour (plain flour) (1 ½ cup + 3 Tbsp; I encourage you to use the kitchen scale; If you use a measuring cup, follow this method: fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off. Otherwise, 1 cup of flour ends up with more than 120 g.)
- 6 Tbsp water
- 3 ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (different varieties of salt will vary in weight, so it's important to use a scale)
- potato starch/cornstarch (for rolling and dusting; if you're going to freeze udon noodles, you need to use potato starch/cornstarch as wheat flour tends to be absorbed by udon noodles and stick to each other)
- Gather all the ingredients. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to measure. Click the "Metrics" button above to get a precise measurement.
To Make the Udon Dough
- Combine water and salt and mix until it’s completely dissolved. Important: The amount of salt may seem a lot, but some of it will be released into the boiling water while cooking. Also, you do not need to salt the boiling water when cooking udon noodles.
- Place the flour in a large bowl. Gradually add the salted water evenly throughout the flour while mixing with hands. Important: Spread the salted water into all parts of flour.
- Combine the dough until there is no dry flour left and form into a ball.
- If there is some flour left, add only very little amount of water. Important: The dough should be really tough, unlike bread dough. Try your best to avoid adding water, unless you have a really hard time pressing them into a ball. Again, use only very little water as possible.
- Place the dough ball in a large durable plastic bag (such as a 2-gallon Ziploc bag).
- Close the bag leaving a small air gap and leave it for 30 minutes to relax the gluten.
To Knead the Dough
- To keep your dough and the bag of dough clean at all times, place the bag between 2 kitchen cloths on the floor.
- Step on the dough with your feet (heels) using your weight. Turn around and press from the inward to outward. You can do this step with your hands, but it will take more effort and time. Stepping udon dough with your feet is a common practice in Japan! Step on the dough until the dough is completely flattened.
- Take out the dough and fold the edges toward the middle.
- Collect the edges in the center and flip over so the seam is on the bottom.
- Rotate the dough to form into a ball.
- Place the dough ball in the bag and close the bag leaving a small air gap. Repeat the dough stepping again. You can see if you are stepping on the right location by lifting the towel sometimes.
- Continue stepping on the dough until it is stretched and flattened.
- Take out the dough and fold it into a ball again.
- You will notice the dough is slightly pliable than the first time.
- Repeat this process 3 more times (total 5 times of dough stepping), or until the dough is as soft as the ear lobe (that’s how we describe the texture of the finished dough in Japan).
- After the 5th dough stepping, take out the dough and form it into a nice round ball. Put the dough back into the bag.
To Rest the Dough (2 Hours)
- Rest the dough on the kitchen counter for 2 hours (3 hours in winter). You can also keep the dough in the bag and store it in the refrigerator overnight if you like to continue the rest of the process the following day.
To Stretch the Dough
- Dust the working surface with potato starch and take out the dough.
- Flatten the dough with your hand.
- Using a rolling pin, stretch the dough into an oval shape first. Turn the dough 180 degrees and stretch it evenly.
- Then roll out the corners to create a rectangular shape.
- Dust the dough with potato starch in between to make sure the dough is not sticky.
- Turn 90 degrees and roll out the dough more.
- The dough should be 3 mm (⅛”) in thickness. Udon noodles should be about 10-12 inches in length.
- Roll out each rounded corner to a more pointed tip so all the noodles will have the same length when you cut them.
- Dust the potato starch on top of the dough and spread it thinly.
- Fold the dough in half or thirds and sprinkle more potato starch on top
To Cut the Dough into Noodles
- With a sharp knife, cut noodles into 3 mm (⅛”) thickness.
- Pick up some noodles and fluff the noodles to make sure they are covered with the potato/corn starch to prevent sticking to each other.
To Cook Udon Noodles Immediately
- Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil (DO NOT add salt to the water; the noodles will release some salt during cooking). Loosen up the noodles, leaving excess starch behind, and add the noodles to the pot.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your noodles).
- Drain and rinse well under cold running water to remove the starch and give the noodles a firm texture.
- For hot noodle soup, either you can heat up the noodles in hot water or quickly warm them up under hot running water.
- Serve the noodles in individual bowls and pour the soup broth. For soup broth recipes, please see my Udon Noodle Soup (Kake Udon) recipe.
To Save Fresh Udon Noodles for Later
- Divide the uncooked noodles into small portions (150 g per person) and freeze in an airtight container/bag for up to a month. You can refrigerate for a few days but it tastes better when you freeze the fresh udon right away. To cook frozen udon, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the frozen udon for 12 minutes without defrosting. Drain and rinse well under cold running water to remove the starch. For hot noodle soup, either you can heat up the noodles in hot water or quickly them warm up under hot running water.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 7, 2015. The post has been updated with a new video, new images, and new content in October 2021.