Yakisoba is a classic Japanese stir-fried noodle dish that’s seasoned with a sweet and savory sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce. Use any proteins you like—pork, chicken, shrimp, or calamari. For vegetarians, just swap it with tofu or shiitake mushrooms.
When I was growing up in Japan, Yakisoba (Japanese stir-fried noodles) often appeared on our weekend lunch menu. My mom and I would prep the ingredients and everyone gathered around the electric griddle and cook yakisoba together. It was my dad’s favorite weekend lunch. It’s also great for dinner, but personally, I always associate yakisoba with a weekend lunch dish.
It’s easy to make yakisoba at home, and you can add almost any ingredients to make it your style. Try it with chicken, shrimp, or calamari, or a simple vegetarian style with mushrooms for Meatless Mondays!
Table of Contents
What is Yakisoba?
Yakisoba (焼きそば) is a stir-fry dish made with noodles, meat or seafood, and vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, and bean sprouts, which are seasoned with a thick, sweet-savory sauce. To finish off, it is often topped with aonori (dried green seaweed) and red pickled ginger.
Yakisoba started to appear in the 1930s as “Sosu Yakisoba” (ソース焼きそば). What’s Sosu? You can read more about Sosu, the Japanese brown sauce. This dish was a popular children’s snack at the mom-and-pop candy stores, or what we call dagashi-ya (駄菓子屋), in the late 50s.
Since then yakisoba has been cooked and enjoyed at home and at Teishoku-ya (Japanese diners) and has become an icon for Japanese street food. As it is easy to set up an iron plate teppan (鉄板), yakisoba food stalls are also very popular at school events, festivals, snack shops, etc.
In the US, you can find yakisoba commonly included on the menu at Japanese grill teppanyaki restaurants or street vendors at Japanese Obon or cherry blossom festivals.
Is Yakisoba Made with Buckwheat Noodles?
If you were also thinking that, you’re not alone. A lot of people have asked me this question because of the word “soba” in yakisoba.
Buckwheat is never used in yakisoba at all. In Japan, the word soba is also being used to describe noodles of any type. Like chuka soba, which is a type of ramen noodles.
Yakisoba noodles are called mushi chukamen (蒸し中華麺 or Steamed Chinese-style noodles). They are made of wheat flour, kansui, and water. Even though the color of the noodles is yellowish, they are not egg noodles, and the color is the result of using kansui. Yakisoba noodles are steamed and packaged, so they’re ready for a quick reheat. The texture of these noodles is similar to ramen noodles.
How to Make Yakisoba
The Ingredients You’ll Need
- Yakisoba noodles: These are Chinese-style noodles made with wheat flour (more information below).
- Vegetables: I use thinly sliced yellow onion, green onion, julienned carrot, some sliced shiitake mushrooms, and chopped cabbage. These veggies work great for a stir fry. You can also use bok choy or thin strips of bell pepper.
- Protein(s): I used sliced pork belly in this recipe as it is the most common choice of meat to make yakisoba in Japan. However, you can definitely switch it up with any protein like shrimp, calamari, chicken, and firm tofu.
- Oil: Any neutral-tasting oil will work.
- Yakisoba Sauce: Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce (or vegetarian stir fry sauce), ketchup, soy sauce, and sugar. Adjust the amount to suit your taste.
- Optional toppings: aonori (powdered green seaweed) and beni shoga (red pickled ginger). Some people also like to top the noodles with katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes).
The Cooking Steps
- Cut the ingredients into bite-size pieces.
- Warm up the noodles and transfer them to a dish.
- Cook the protein, followed by the tough vegetables, and then the soft vegetables.
- Put back the noodles and season them with Yakisoba Sauce.
- Toss them all together and serve.
My mom often changes up the ingredients used in the recipe. Instead of pork belly slices, she sometimes used Japanese sausages and ground pork, and my favorite was the combination of ground pork and squid/calamari. My mom also throws in Chinese chives (nira in Japanese)and bean sprouts for her yakisoba.
Where to Buy Yakisoba Noodles
The two popular yakisoba noodle brands are Myojo (明星) and Maruchan (マルちゃん), and each package comes with three packs of yakisoba noodles. The noodles are already steamed, coated with oil, and packed tightly in each packet.
I recommend using the Myojo brand (see the picture above). Maruchan, if frozen, tends to break into pieces when defrosted. In Japan, yakisoba noodles are never sold frozen. However, these noodles don’t last too long and they are often sold frozen outside of the US.
You can purchase them in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese grocery stores, and they are either in the refrigerated or freezer section.
How to Make Yakisoba Sauce
The popular Otafuku brand offers Yakisoba sauce (see below), but my family actually likes making yakisoba sauce from scratch.
Homemade yakisoba sauce is made with common condiments from American grocery stores, such as Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. You can adjust the sauce as you like, so your Yakisoba tastes slightly different each time.
My homemade recipe below is the exact amount needed for the ingredients below. I recommend doubling the sauce recipe in case you end up adding more ingredients (you know, those moments when you feel like just using up leftover veggies). You don’t want to have a bland flavor for your yakisoba.
1. Use a large cookware.
It’s important to use a griddle, wok, or frying pan with a large cooking space so that your ingredients have direct contact with the hot surface. The nice char will add fantastic flavors and give the noodles a “street food” character.
My griddle is from Thermador and I can’t find the exact model. You can use a similar griddle like this or this when making yakisoba at home. It is also fantastic for Okonomiyaki and all sorts of pancakes!
2. Cook vegetables in stages.
When comes to any stir-fried dishes, we want to retain the fresh texture and crunch of the vegetables. So it is important to stir-fry the hard vegetables first before adding other softer ingredients. Each vegetable has a different cooking time, so cook quickly and in succession. Do not throw everything at once. Also, do not overcook as wilted veggies are a no-no for stir-fries.
3. Don’t add too many ingredients.
This is after all a noodle dish. It’s tempting to toss in lots of veggies or extra meat. Adding too many ingredients will end up steaming the noodles. You need to let the steam escape, so the noodles are not wet, and preferably make it as dry and crispy as possible. If you prefer drier-style noodles (I prefer mine to have some moisture), fry the noodles first, then transfer them out before cooking the vegetables and meat/ tofu. That way, you don’t have to cook the noodles later on, and the noodles will still stay crispy.
4. Loosen up the noodles first.
I recommend loosening the noodles quickly before mixing with the stir-fried ingredients. If you don’t, you will most likely break up the noodles into small pieces on the griddle or wok.
I heat up and loosen up the noodles first before cooking the ingredients. This way, you can mix with the other ingredients easily.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use ramen noodles instead of yakisoba noodles?
Yakisoba noodles are already steamed and greased. When you reheat them, the texture of the noodles will become tender.
In a pinch, you can use fresh Chinese stir-fried noodles from Asian grocery stores.
Can I make chicken yakisoba?
Chicken is probably the most popular protein used in the U.S. and I get this question often. Although chicken is not commonly used as a protein choice for yakisoba in Japan, you can certainly use it. I recommend using chicken thighs rather than breasts because thighs are more flavorful and don’t get dry easily.
Varieties of Yakisoba
There are also a few different ways of serving stir-fried noodles:
- Modern-Yaki – When the yakisoba noodles are used as a base layer ingredient for okonomiyaki, we call this savory Japanese pancake Modern-Yaki.
- Yakisoba Pan or Yakisoba Dog – It’s basically a hot dog bun stuffed with yakisoba!
- Omusoba – Omelette stuffed with yakisoba.
- Yaki Udon – Originated in the Fukuoka Prefecture, yaki udon uses thick chewy udon noodles instead of Chinese-style wheat noodles.
- Okinawan-style yakisoba – Sometimes features ingredients such as Spam, chopped hot dogs, and sliced hams.
- Gluten-free Yakisoba – Use glass noodles instead of wheat noodles.
More Delicious Japanese Noodle Recipes:
Yakisoba (Japanese Stir-Fried Noodles)
For the Yakisoba Sauce (yields ¼ cup, 60 ml)
For the Yakisoba
- ¾ lb sliced pork belly (or your choice of meat/seafood/mushrooms/veggies)
- ½ onion (5 oz, 142 g)
- 4 inches carrot (3.5 oz, 100 g)
- ¼ head green cabbage (small; ½ lb, 227 g)
- 2 green onions/scallions
- 3 shiitake mushrooms (1.4 oz, 40 g)
- 2 Tbsp neutral oil (plus more, if needed)
- 3 servings yakisoba noodles (pre-steamed; one package contains 3 servings, 16–17 oz, 454–480 g)
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup yakisoba sauce (plus more, to taste; from the recipe above)
For the Toppings (optional)
- Gather all the ingredients. Freeze the pork belly slices for 10 minutes so that it‘s easier to cut. Tip: For the sauce, I recommend doubling the recipe, just in case. It‘s hard to measure the vegetables and meat precisely, and if you end up adding more ingredients, you‘ll need more sauce so the yakisoba is flavorful.
To Make the Sauce
- Whisk together all the ingredients for the Yakisoba Sauce: ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce, 4 tsp oyster sauce, 4 tsp ketchup, 2 tsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp sugar. At this point, it‘s important to taste the sauce and add more sugar, if needed. For example, some ketchup is sweeter than others while some Worcestershire sauce is less sour than others. Set it aside.
To Prepare the Ingredients
- Remove ¾ lb sliced pork belly from the freezer. Cut the pork belly slices into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces.
- Cut ½ onion into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices.
- Cut 4 inches carrot into 2-inch slabs. Then, cut them into julienne strips 2 inches (5 cm) long.
- Remove the core from ¼ head green cabbage. First, cut the cabbage wedge into slices 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide.
- Then, cut the slices into bite-sized pieces.
- Chop 2 green onions/scallions into 2-inch (5-cm) pieces. Cut any thick, white parts of the green onions in half lengthwise.
- Remove the stems from 3 shiitake mushrooms. Cut the caps into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices.
To Cook the Noodles
- Heat a griddle (I use a similar one; you can use a large frying pan or wok) on medium heat. When it‘s hot, add 2 Tbsp neutral oil. Then, add 3 servings yakisoba noodles. Tip: The pre-steamed noodles will come pressed together into squares. You do not need to loosen them before placing them on the griddle.
- When the bottom side of the noodles is heated, flip them. The goal here is to loosen up the noodles gently without breaking them into short pieces. If you force them to separate, the noodles will break up. So be patient here.
- With chopsticks, gradually loosen up the noodles. Once they have loosened up completely, transfer them to a plate.
To Cook the Yakisoba
- To the hot griddle, add the pork belly slices and separate the chunks into a single layer. (If you are not using pork belly, add 1 Tbsp oil to the griddle before adding your choice of protein.) Season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Stir-fry until the pork belly is no longer pink.
- Next, add the onion slices to the griddle. Stir to cook for 1–2 minutes, separating the onion layers as you stir-fry.
- Add the carrots and cook for another 1–2 minutes.
- Add the cabbage and shiitake mushrooms. Cook until they are almost tender.
- Lastly, add the green onions and cook for 1 minute.
- Put the yakisoba noodles on top of the protein and vegetables on the griddle. Then, drizzle ¼ cup yakisoba sauce on the noodles. Taste the noodles and add more sauce, if desired.
- With a pair of tongs, toss to combine the noodles with the sauce and other ingredients. Keep an eye on the noodles as they may stick to the skillet/wok. When the sauce is well distributed and the noodles are warmed through, transfer the yakisoba to individual plates.
- Garnish with optional aonori (dried green laver seaweed) and pickled red ginger (beni shoga or kizami beni shoga). Serve immediately.
- You can store any leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and in the freezer for a month. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the microwave to warm.
Update: The post was originally published on April 6, 2011. It’s been updated with new images on March 4, 2017. The content has been updated in April 2022.