How to Make Silky-Smooth Udon Noodles From Scratch

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Udon are thick white noodles that originated from Japan that are used in soups and stir-fries. They are made with flour, salt, and very little water which can make it difficult to knead so traditionally it was kneaded with the feet! When I learned that little fact, I knew this was a perfect recipe for the kids!

Udon Noodles From Scratch
Udon Noodles From Scratch

To successfully make homemade udon noodles from scratch that are chewy, springy and won’t disintegrate or become gummy in broth, you will need to add tapioca starch to your flour mixture.

And don’t be afraid to knead with your feet like it is traditionally done in Japan. Put on your favorite tunes and your dancing socks and let loose on the dough. We’re rocking to Ed Sheeran’s Nancy Mulligan at the moment (I’ll add a link below). It’s got an Irish ceilidh beat to it which means someone (ahem, me) is bound to break out into Riverdance which is perfect for kneading udon by feet.

Why Use Tapioca Starch?

Tapioca starch isn’t essential to making udon. In fact, it’s not a traditional ingredient in Japanese udon restaurants. However, nowadays, tapioca starch is often used in commercially manufactured udon to give it a better silky-smooth texture.

I’ve tried making udon with and without tapioca starch and definitely prefer the noodles that are made with tapioca. When I’m eating a bowl of udon that wasn’t made with tapioca, I think, “Wow, that udon is pretty good.” But with the tapioca, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, give me more more silky smoothness!” The addition of tapioca starch makes the finished noodles so much smoother and chewier and less gummy.

Udon has been the kids’ favorite noodle recipe so far because they get to watch their totally cool and hip mom perform Riverdance get to knead the dough with their feet.

Then they get to fight over, er, I mean, use the pasta machine by taking turns in an orderly fashion the way siblings always do (ha!).

Kids Kneading Udon Dough With Feet
Kneading Udon Dough With Feet

The kids and I made the first few batches of udon noodles without a pasta machine but I did most of the rolling as the udon dough was too difficult for the kids to roll by hand. If my husband is home and willing, we sometimes ask him to impart some of his dad super-strength on rolling the dough.

But if it’s just the kids and me, then I prefer using the pasta machine all the way.

Wondering which pasta machine is best to buy? Click here to read my review of two Italian-made brands: the Marcato Atlas versus the Cucina Pro Imperia.

Due to the long resting time for the dough (3 hours), you may want to make this recipe on the weekend when you have more time OR have the kids feet-knead it first thing in the morning and then let it rest during the day so that the noodles will be ready by lunch or dinner.


 


How to Make Homemade Udon Noodles From Scratch

Start scrolling to begin reading the detailed instructions (with step-by-step photos) on how to successful make homemade udon noodles from scratch or you can click here to jump to the printer-friendly recipe.

The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Dissolve the salt in warm water
  2. Mix flour, tapioca starch, and the water-salt combo
  3. Place dough in a resealable plastic bag and start kneading with yours or the kids’ feet
  4. Rest dough 30 minutes
  5. Knead again with feet
  6. Rest dough for 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge
  7. Roll dough flat
  8. Cut dough into long strips of udon noodles
  9. Simmer noodles in boiling water until cooked

You will need the following (serves 4):

  • 240 grams all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 72 grams tapioca starch (2/3 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt*
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (you might need more but this is a good start)
  • Rolling pin and knife OR pasta machine
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Spoon or spatula or chopsticks
  • Resealable bag, gallon-sized
  • Measuring cup or kitchen scale. I prefer a kitchen scale (I have this OXO one) because it makes for more consistent measuring as a cup of flour can range anywhere from 100 grams to 300 grams depending on how lightly or tightly packed the flour is.)
Udon Noodles From Scratch
Udon Noodles From Scratch



Step 1 —  Dissolve salt in warm water.

Do not add the salt directly to the flour! Add the salt to the warm water and stir to dissolve the salt crystals.

Step 2 — Mix the flour, tapioca starch and salted water in a large mixing bowl.

Add the water and salt mixture to the flour and start mixing with your hands or a utensil. The dough should be on the dryer side.

Step 3 — Squish the dough into a ball and place it into a resealable bag.

Start squeezing the flour so that it forms a ball. See how, in the photo below, the dough is quite rough and bumpy with very little bits of dough crumbs at the bottom of the bowl? That’s what you want. Don’t worry, the dough will come together nicely after kneading and becoming very smooth.

If flour remains in the bowl that won’t stick to your ball, add water to the bowl, 1 teaspoon at a time, until all the flour can be smushed together into a ball.

Udon dough will look rough and dry
Udon dough will look rough and dry

Place the ball of dough into a resealable bag.

Seal the bag but leave a small opening at the corner so that the bag doesn’t explode when walked on.

Step 4 — Knead dough with your feet.

Now it’s time to knead with your feet! I would also suggest placing the bag on a towel to prevent the bag from tearing if you have rough floors. Socks are recommended but definitely no shoes.

Kids Kneading Udon Dough With Feet
Kneading Udon Dough With Feet

Gently walk on the dough for 2-3 minutes alternating between using the balls of the feet, heels, and toes to squish the dough.

Try to keep your kids from stomping too hard or jumping on the bag or it will break or pop like a balloon (been there, done that). If the bag does tear, cut or scrape away any dough that might be dirty so you don’t have to chuck the whole batch.

Fold Udon Dough Into a Ball
Fold Udon Dough Into a Ball

Now take the dough out of the bag, fold it in half and then in half again.

Pat into a ball and knead with the feet for another 2-3 minutes. Fold and pat the dough into a ball again. You can already see that the dough has transformed from rough and crumbly to smooth and kind of soft.

Pat Udon Dough Into a Ball
Pat Dough Into a Ball

Step 5 — Rest the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Put the dough back into the plastic bag and make sure all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag and that it is completely sealed so the dough does not dry out.

Step 6 — Knead dough by repeating step #4.

Kids Kneading Udon Dough With Feet
Kneading Udon Dough With Feet

Step 7 — Rest the dough for 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.

Resting allows the dough to fully hydrate and for the gluten in the dough to relax so that it will be easier to roll.

Again, make sure all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag and that it is completely sealed so the dough does not dry out.

Step 8 — Roll dough into a long rectangle and about 1/8″ thick (3mm).

Before taking the dough out of the bag, you can knead the dough one more time with your feet if the kids are keen to do so (my kids always are).

Take the dough out of the bag. You will feel that it’s soooo much softer and smoother than when we first mixed it.

Cut the dough in half and return one portion to the plastic bag.

Autobots!  Roll Out!  << yes, we actually shout that just before rolling the dough. And by “we,” I really mean, “I”.

Using Pasta Machine to Roll Udon Dough
Using Pasta Machine to Roll Udon Dough

Sprinkle a little bit of a tapioca starch onto a clean work surface and on the dough. You can roll with a rolling pin or use a pasta machine to roll the dough into a long rectangular shape.

We recently bought [easyazon_link identifier=”B0009U5OSO” locale=”US” tag=”outandaboindu-20″]this hand-crank pasta maker from Marcato Atlas[/easyazon_link] (it comes in 9 different colors!) and I refused to use it at first, preferring to roll my dough the traditional way by hand.

But the udon dough was rather difficult to roll by hand so I after a few attempts, I caved and took out the pasta machine. And all I can say is: “Holy moly guacamole!” I am in love with that machine. We made our first batch of udon noodles with just a rolling pin and knife so it is definitely doable but using the pasta machine for this tough dough made the experience so much more enjoyable.

We started with level 0 on the machine which is the widest setting and fed the dough through the rollers about 4 times, folding it in thirds for the first 2 times. Then we moved on to Level 1 and fed the dough through the machine 3 times. Finally 3 times in level 2 which according to the user manual is 3.3 mm thick (about 1/8″).

Step 9 — Cut the dough into noodle strands.

When the dough is flattened to the desired thinness, fold dough into thirds or quarters – whatever works for you depending on the length of your dough and knife.

Cut the folded noodle dough to desired thickness. We prefer our noodles about 1/8″ (3 mm).

Using Pasta Machine to Cut Udon Dough
Using Pasta Machine to Cut Udon Dough

When cutting noodles, keep in mind that they will expand in size when cooked.

We used the larger sized cutting rollers (fettuccine size) and it was so fast and easy. However, fettuccine is flat and udon is almost always square-shaped so I think  for our next batch I will cut the machine-rolled dough by hand.

After the noodles are cut, sprinkle them with a little tapioca starch and shake them around to prevent the noodles from sticking.

Using Pasta Machine to Cut Udon Dough
Using Pasta Machine to Cut Udon Dough

Step 10 — Cook noodles.

Bring a large pot of water to boil (do not add salt* to the water). Drop the noodles into the boiling water and lower the heat to simmer. Swirl noodles around with a heat-proof utensil. My udon noodles took about 15 minutes to get to the right consistency.

Your cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your noodle so best to taste test every few minutes from the time you start simmering to determine the perfect cooking time.

Drain noodles and rinse them in cold water to remove excess starch and prevent sticking.

Step 11 — Serve immediately with soup or sauce.

You can also store them in the fridge (covered) for a few days or freeze them. I always make extra udon now so that I can freeze some (I put in 2 servings per ziplock bag).

Do not defrost when ready to use or they will get gummy. Just toss frozen noodles directly in the sauce or soup or you can parboil first in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute.

And that’s it!

Enjoy your homemade silky-smooth udon with your favorite sauce/soup or try with my Vietnamese Chicken Curry.

Happy Noodling!
-Sandy

Udon Noodles From Scratch


Udon Noodles From Scratch

How to Make Homemade Udon Noodles From Scratch

Course: Noodles
Cuisine: Japanese
Prep Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 45 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 278kcal
Author: Ginger and Scotch
Udon are thick wheat noodles that originated from Japan. They are made with flour, salt, and very little water which can make it difficult to knead so traditionally it was kneaded with the feet! A perfect recipe to make with the little ones.
Print Recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 240 grams all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 72 grams tapioca starch (2/3 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (sea salt is best but table salt is fine)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Dissolve salt in warm water.  
    Do not add the salt directly to the flour! Add the salt to the warm water and stir to dissolve the salt crystals. 
  • Mix the flour, tapioca starch and the salted water in a large mixing bowl.  
    Add the water and salt mixture to the flour and start mixing with your hands or a utensil. 
    The dough should be on the drier side (so not completely covered with water). 
  • Squish the dough into a ball and place it into a resealable bag.  
    Start squeezing the flour so that it forms a ball. See how, in the photo below, the dough is quite rough and bumpy with very little bits of dough crumbs at the bottom of the bowl? That’s what you want. Don’t worry, the dough will come together nicely after kneading and becoming very smooth.
    If flour remains in the bowl that won’t stick to your ball, add water to the bowl, 1 teaspoon at a time, until all the flour can be smushed together into a ball. 
    Place the ball of dough into a resealable bag.
    Seal the bag but leave a small opening at the corner so that the bag doesn't explode when walked on.
  • Knead dough with your feet.  
    Wear socks to prevent the bag from sticking to your feet. I would also suggest placing the bag on a towel to prevent the bag from tearing if you have rough floors. 
    Gently walk on the dough for 2-3 minutes using balls of feet, heels, and toes to squish the dough. Try to keep your kids from stomping too hard or jumping on the bag or it will tear or pop like a balloon (been there, done that). If the bag does tear, cut or scrape away any dough that might be dirty so you don't have to chuck the whole batch. 
    Take the dough out of the bag, fold it in half and then in half again. Pat into a ball and knead with the feet again for 2-3 minutes. Fold and pat the dough into a ball again.
  • Rest the dough for 30 minutes at room temperature.  
    Put the dough back into the plastic bag and make sure all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag and that it is completely sealed so the dough does not dry out.
  • Knead dough by repeating step #4.
    Kids Kneading Udon Dough With Feet
  • Rest the dough for 3 hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge.  
    Resting allows the dough to fully hydrate and for the gluten in the dough to relax so that it will be easier to roll.
    Again, make sure all the air is squeezed out of the plastic bag and that it is completely sealed so the dough does not dry out.
  • Roll dough into a long rectangle and about 1/8" thick (3mm).  
    Before taking the dough out of the bag, you can knead the dough one more time with your feet if the kids are keen to do so (my kids always are). 
    Take the dough out of the bag. You will feel that it's much softer and smoother than when we first mixed it.
    Halve the dough and return one portion to the plastic bag. 
    Sprinkle a little bit of a tapioca starch onto a clean work surface and on the dough. 
    We recently bought this hand-crank pasta maker from Marcato Atlas and I refused to use it at first, preferring to roll my dough the old fashioned way. 
    But the udon dough was rather difficult to roll by hand so I after a few attempts, I caved and took out the pasta machine. And all I can say is: “Holy moly guacamole!” I am in love with that machine. We made our first batch of udon noodles with just a rolling pin and knife so it is definitely doable but using the pasta machine for this tough dough made the experience so much more enjoyable.
    We started with level 0 on the machine which is the widest setting and fed the dough through the rollers about 4 times, folding it in thirds for the first 2 times. Then we moved on to Level 1 and fed the dough through the machine 3 times. Finally 3 times in level 2 which according to the user manual is 3.3 mm thick (about 1/8").
    Using Pasta Machine to Roll Udon Dough
  • Cut the dough into noodle strands.  
    When the dough is flattened to the desired thinness, fold dough into thirds or quarters – whatever works for you depending on the length of your dough and knife. 
    Cut the folded noodle dough to desired thickness. We prefer our noodles about 1/8" (3 mm). 
    When cutting noodles, keep in mind that they will expand in size when cooked. We used the larger sized cutting rollers (fettuccine size) that came with our Atlas pasta machine and it was so fast and easy. However, fettuccine is flat and udon is almost always square-shaped so I think for our next batch I will cut the machine-rolled dough by hand. 
    After the noodles are cut, sprinkle them with a little tapioca starch and shake them around to prevent the noodles from sticking.
    Using Pasta Machine to Cut Udon Dough
  • Cook noodles.  
    Bring a large pot of water to boil and then add the noodles. Lower heat to simmer and swirl the noodles around with a heat-proof utensil. 
    My udon noodles too about 15 minutes to get to the right consistency. 
    The timing will vary depending on the thickness of your noodle so best to taste test every few minutes from the time you start simmering to determine the right cooking time. 
    Drain noodles and rinse them in cold water to remove excess starch and prevent sticking.
  • Serve immediately with soup or sauce. 
    You can also store them in the fridge (covered) for a few days or freeze them.

NOTES

  • Do not defrost when ready to use or they will get gummy. Just toss frozen noodles directly in the sauce or soup or you can parboil first in a pot of boiling water for 1 minute.
  • Udon dough uses more salt than pasta or bread dough because the salt is needed to strengthen and stretch the gluten in the flour. This produces the desired chewy texture in the cooked noodles. When the noodles are cooked in plain water, a lot of the salt is removed in the process.
Recommended Products:
•   Marcato pasta machine
•   Imperia pasta machine
•   OXO digital scale
•   OXO dough cutter and scraper

NUTRITION

Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 6g | Sodium: 1163mg | Potassium: 64mg | Fiber: 1g | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 3mg

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24 Comments

  1. Hi, got a query, if I don’t have tapioca starch, can I use cornstarch and reduce the amount? Also, 1/2 cup of water is it equivalent to 60ml or 125ml? As I I found using 125ml water comes out very watery, please advise.

    1. I have not used cornstarch in place of tapioca starch so don’t know the answer. But you can always try it and find out!

      If you google 1/2 cup water to mL, the search result is 118 ml.

  2. I have made Udon noodles for the first time with your recipe…..FANTASTIC!!! My family finished it before I could remember to take a picture of it. I served it up with Curry with Dashi broth…delish.
    Thank you for your wonderful and very descriptive recipe. I will be making again real soon.

    Doreen Wong

  3. This recipe made a great noodle! I was fascinated to try tapioca in noodles. Very smooth and holds up in soup without getting mushy. Though my wife and I found it a bit chewy almost like ramen so its hard to cleanly bite through (like biting a tapioca ball) but maybe my flour or cook time too. Think next time I will try half the tapioca.

  4. Thank you for posting your recipe for udon noodles.
    I have always loved them when eating out.
    I have made Italian pasta for years, but will definitely give your udon noodles a try.

  5. Thanks for these instructions! I made my first udon noodles yesterday and had a great time. It’s so exciting to make this sort of thing by hand! I think I learned a lot for next time, and I’m grateful to you for helping me get started on this cooking journey.

  6. Hello Sandy,

    Thank you for the detailed instructions, I’m trying it out this weekend. If I want to use the udon for stir fry, do I still need to boil it in water for 15 mins?

    Thank you,
    Alice.

    1. Hi Alice, thanks for stopping by! I hope you have fun making the noodles this weekend.

      If you are making the udon noodles for stir fry, you still need to boil them until they are ready to eat. For me that took 15 minutes but the exact timing will depend on the thickness of your noodles. I taste test mine every minute or so after the 10 minute mark to determine done-ness. Rinse them under cold water after you drain them and then toss into your stir-fr when ready.

      1. Thank you Sandy! I made this yesterday and it was a success! Thanks for the tip of kneading the dough using our feet, that certainly helped a lot, I wouldn’t have enough strength in my arm to knead it otherwise. I also used a pasta machine and the fettuccine cutter. It took about 5 mins to boil it (could also be due to the high altitude where I live), I found that once the noodles start to float in the water they’re done. The noodles have a bite to them & hold up really well to stir frying, reminds me a bit of the hand pulled noodles I had once. Thanks for the excellent recipe & for sharing it!!

  7. Hi, not a blogger but a mom of four here. Just got done watching mind of a chef with David Chang and his Japanese tour of Ramen noodles. A quick search of alkaline noodles brought up several suggestions and I clicked on your website. You have the right approach towards cooking, family, and a blog that contains both. I love it and will be referring to you often. Your posts are extremely well thought out, detailed, and a joy to read. So happy to be on board and get to making noodles. Many thanks, your newest student.

    1. Hi Marion – thank you for such a touching comment. Family and cooking together are very entwined in our household and I’m always hoping that that comes through in my blog as well. I hope my instructions were helpful in making your alkaline noodles. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Definitely try it. It takes more effort than just buying the dry or frozen stuff – but the efforts are worth it (just like making your own pizza or pie crust).

  8. I love how detailed your recipe is! You explain so well and your pictures are really cute! Now I feel like making udon noodles 🙂

  9. What a fantastic and detailed recipe! I am always on a lookout for recipes where kids can actively take part in cooking and this sounds like just what my boy would love to do, especially kneading the dough with feet ? the summer holiday is just about to start here and we are definitely going to give this udon recipe a try for sure.

    1. Yes, this is a perfect activity for the summer when kids need a lot of extra things to do to keep them busy. Start in the morning as there is a 3-hour resting time for the dough. My kids love it! And the joy on their little faces when they eat noodles they make themselves is priceless.

  10. Oh My God. You little helper is so cute 🙂 And super helpful in the kitchen. Udon making time must be a great bonding time for you two.

    1. Yes , part of my goal with teaching the kids and myself how to make noodles is to spend time together as a family while learning how to do things we can be proud of. The kids are definitely very proud of themselves when they know that the noodles they are eating were made by them.