Classic Cold Soba Recipe

Cold, nutty soba noodles pair perfectly with a soy sauce and mirin dipping sauce.

Classic cold soba noodles

Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

Why It Works

  • The noodle's natural nutty flavor and chewy texture pair best with a clean, simple dipping sauce made with high-quality light Japanese soy sauce and homemade dashi.
  • Dashi gives the dish an elegant flavor.
  • Grated daikon adds sweetness and sharpness to the dipping sauce. 

Once at an Italian restaurant, I ordered a fresh tagliatelle dish that seemed fairly run-of-the-mill except for the fact that the freshly kneaded, freshly cut noodles were made with buckwheat flour. The buckwheat's nuttiness was a refreshing change from the usual softness of white flour pasta, and it tasted so good, I thought to myself, why don't more pasta dishes make use of buckwheat flour?

Dry and fresh soba noodles

Buckwheat noodles, or soba, are a staple in Japanese cuisine. Chewy with a grainy texture, buckwheat noodles are eaten hot, cold, or at room temperature. The dough is made from a combination of wheat and buckwheat flour and can be found in a variety of thicknesses, in either a round or square shape.

Buckwheat noodles are commonly sold in dried form, but Japanese and Korean markets usually carry fresh soba in the refrigerated sections. Like most types of fresh pasta, fresh soba has a chewiness that the dried noodles lack, but I like the bouncy, more "brittle" texture of dried soba just as well.

Because soba has such a grainy taste and texture, you should pair it with simple, clean flavors like soy sauce, sesame oil, and dashi. Since the soba broth is so simple, it's important to use the best quality condiments you can find: fresh, homemade dashi whenever possible, and light Japanese soy sauce.

Japanese shoyu
Shoyu soy sauce.

The classic dipping sauce for soba is a combination of dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and a bit of sugar. An assortment of relish-style items is also paired with the noodles: a dab of wasabi, some freshly grated daikon, and finely chopped green scallions. The finely grated daikon swims like a school of tadpoles in a clear pool of broth, adding both sweetness and sharpness.

Whatever else you choose to serve with the soba, make sure it's simple and doesn't interfere with the noodle's natural flavors. Dip, slurp, and enjoy.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Active: 20 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

For the Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups (355ml) dashi

  • 1/2 cup (118ml) light soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup (118ml) mirin

  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the Noodles:

  • 1 teaspoon wasabi, or to taste

  • 3 ounces peeled and finely grated daikon

  • 2 trimmed and finely chopped green onions

  • 8 ounces dried or fresh soba

  • 1 large sheet nori, cut into thin strips

Directions

  1. Bring dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar to gentle boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

    Dashi, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar boiling in a pot

    Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. Set out 4 serving plates. Divide equally among plates: dab of wasabi, grated daikon, and scallions.

    Four plates with wasabi, grated daikon, and scallions

    Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. In the meantime, bring 2-quart pot of water to boil over high heat and add soba. Return water to boil and cook the noodles until tender but firm, 3 to 5 minutes. Have ready a large bowl or pot ready with ice water. Use strainer to remove soba from pot. Place soba into ice water and chill until noodles are cold. Drain noodles.

    Soba noodles boiling in a pot, then placed in an ice bath

    Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Divide noodles evenly between the four plates, mounding the noodles. Pour dipping sauce into individual little bowls to serve alongside noodles.

    Four plated portions of cold soba noodles

    Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. To eat, stir some daikon, wasabi, and green onion into dipping sauce. Take some noodles with chopsticks and dip.

    Plated soba noodles with dipping sauce

    Serious Eats / Diana Chistruga

Special Equipment

Saucepan, colander

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
171 Calories
1g Fat
30g Carbs
8g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 171
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 2408mg 105%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 14g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 5mg 26%
Calcium 27mg 2%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 377mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)