Cold Soba Noodles – 메밀국수 (Memil Guksu)

All I’ve been craving this summer are cold refreshing meals and cold soba noodles always hit the spot. It’s not only refreshing but it’s quick and delicious which makes it the ideal summertime meal.

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour which is gluten-free and offers many health benefits. It’s packed with essential nutrients, and fiber and helps balance blood sugar. They have a subtle nutty flavor that pairs deliciously with the savory dipping mentsuyu sauce on the side.

Why you’ll love this recipe

This cold soba noodle dish is a meal that’s both filling and light at the same time. It’s great for days when you want something nourishing without feeling weighed down. Best of all, this recipe is incredibly easy to make!

The mentsuyu sauce is as easy as tossing the ingredients together for a quick simmer to develop the flavors of the sauce. It can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. So if you want to prepare a big batch of sauce ahead of time, you can easily whip this up in a matter of minutes! To speed things up, you can also use bottled mentsuyu sauce instead of making a homemade sauce, which can be found at your local Asian market or on Amazon.

Now, once you have the noodles cooked and mentsuyu sauce made, the garnishes are entirely up to you. While this is traditionally Japanese, I grew up eating this in my Korean/Chinese home so there are a few adaptations that my Korean mother would make that I’ve also adapted to this recipe. For example, many people enjoy this with a side of grated daikon and wasabi, however, I grew up eating this with cucumbers so that’s what I prefer. What that being said, the garnishes are customizable based on what you like!

How do I prepare Cold Soba Noodles?

Step 1: Make the mentsuyu sauce

*Skip this step if using bottled mentsuyu sauce*

In a pot, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, water, dried kelp, and dried pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for 5 minutes.

Toss in the bonito flakes and once fully submerged, turn off the heat. Steep for at least 10 minutes before straining. Place in the fridge to cool completely.

Step 2: Prepare the garnishes

While the mentsuyu sauce is cooling, prep the garnishes. Slice the cucumbers into match sticks. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add salt. Toss to coat well then set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, squeeze the cucumber to remove excess liquid. Transfer to a clean bowl and mix in sesame seeds. Place in the fridge until ready to use.

Cut the nori (seaweed) into thin strips. Chop the scallions. Set aside until ready to use.

Step 3: Cook the soba noodles

Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse well under cold water then strain. Transfer to a serving plate.

Step 4: Add garnishes

Garnish with cucumbers, nori strips, and anything else you’d like to have with this.

Step 5: Serve

To serve, pour 1 to 1 1/2 cups of mentsuyu sauce into a serving bowl. Garnish with scallions and a few ice cubes to keep it chilled. Dip the soba noodles into the mentsuyu sauce and enjoy!

Cold Soba Noodles Ingredients & Substitutions

Soba noodles (also called buckwheat noodles): soba noodles or buckwheat noodles can be found at your local Asian market or on Amazon.

Cucumbers: I prefer using Persian or Indian cucumbers since they’re smaller however you can also use Kirby cucumbers. I don’t recommend using English cucumbers because they need to be peeled.

Salt: the salt is used to ‘sweat’ the cucumbers. This process helps draw out the excess moisture from the cucumbers to make them extra crunchy.

Toasted sesame seeds: the toasted sesame seeds add nuttiness to the cucumbers. This is optional, but highly recommended! Be sure to use toasted sesame seeds instead of raw white sesame seeds. The toasted variety amplifies the sesame flavor. If you only have raw white sesame seeds at home, you can toast them in a pan over low heat until they’re lightly golden brown in color.

Nori (roasted seaweed): the use of nori as a garnish adds umami to the meal. While this is optional, it’s highly recommended! You want to use sushi nori for this, instead of those seaweed snacks.

Soy Sauce: the soy sauce is the base of the mentsuyu sauce. Japanese soy sauce tends to be less salty than Korean soy sauce however, Korean soy sauce is more complex in flavor. I prefer using the Sempio brand.

Mirin: the mirin adds sweetness to the sauce, which balances out the savoriness of the soy sauce

Sake: the sake adds umami and sweetness to the sauce. If you have dietary restrictions, the sake can be substituted with mirin.

Water: the water is used to dilute the sauce to make it more enjoyable to eat. The water can be adjusted according to your preferences. For example, if you prefer a saltier mentsuyu sauce, add less water.

Dried kelp (or kombu): dried kelp or kombu imparts umami flavors into the sauce.

Dried pepper: while this is optional, I like adding a dried pepper to deepen the flavors of the sauce. You can also use fresh peppers like Thai chili or Korean cheongyang peppers.

Bonito flakes (also called katsuobushi): similar to the dried kelp, the bonito flakes also add a deep umami flavor to the sauce. To make this vegan, you can substitute bonito flakes with 2 dried shiitake mushrooms. Just be sure to add it with the dried kelp.

Cooking Tips for Cold Soba Noodles

This recipe is incredibly easy and straightforward to prepare however, to ensure it comes out delicious every time, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t overcook the soba noodles! Be sure to check the package instructions on the cooking time of the noodles. Nothing’s worse than overcooked noodles.
  • Similar to pasta, you want to give the soba noodles a good stir after adding them to the pot. This will prevent them from sticking together and to the bottom of the pot.
  • Once the soba noodles have cooked, be sure to rinse them thoroughly under cold water. This stops the cooking process and gives the noodles a nice chewy bouncy texture.
  • Adjust the seasoning of the mentsuyu sauce according to your preferences. For example, if you prefer a less salty sauce, add more water.
  • Do use ice cubes! To keep the mentsuyu sauce extra cold, add a few ice cubes to the bowl when serving.
  • Customize the garnish based on what you like! While I used cucumbers and nori strips for this recipe, you can also use grated daikon and wasabi.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cold soba noodles healthy?

Yes, absolutely! Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour which is gluten-free and offers several health benefits. It’s packed with fiber, and essential nutrients, and also helps balance blood sugar. Soba noodles have a subtle nutty flavor that pairs deliciously with the cold savory dipping mentsuyu sauce on the side.

Can soba noodles be served cold?

Yes! Soba noodles can be served hot and cold. For this recipe, the soba noodles are served cold and dipped in a chilled homemade mentsuyu sauce.

Can I use any other type of noodle?

I highly recommend using soba noodles because it’s one of the few noodle varieties that can be enjoyed cold. However, feel free to try this with other noodles if you’re feeling experimental.

Are soba noodles gluten-free?

Soba noodles are technically made with buckwheat flour however, some brands may include other ingredients that contain wheat. I recommend checking the nutrition label to ensure that it is made with 100% buckwheat flour.

How can I store leftover soba?

While soba noodles are best enjoyed fresh, they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Before serving, quickly rinse them under cold water to loosen them up. Keep in mind that the texture of the soba noodles will be softer and mushier.

Can I add protein to this dish?

Absolutely! Feel free to add your favorite proteins including sliced chicken, tofu, or shrimp.

Looking for more easy and delicious noodle recipes?

Check out some of my most popular noodle recipes below!

  • Curry Udon Noodles – If you’re looking for a no-frills, quick, and easy weeknight meal, this curry udon with egg is the one for you! Udon noodles are smothered in a rich and velvety curry and best of all – it only takes 20 minutes to prepare!
  • Mentaiko Pasta – Spicy, salty, and buttery mentaiko (fish roe) is tossed with pasta for an easy 15-minute meal!
  • Taiwanese Sesame Noodles – These sesame noodles or ‘ma jiang mian‘ are one of those quick 10-minute meals that you can make any day of the week. This cold noodle dish is made of wheat noodles covered in a delicious, creamy sauce made of sesame, peanut, and soy sauce
  • Easy Chili Oil Noodles – If you want to make something that’s simple, easy, and most importantly tasty, these delicious garlicky chili oil noodles will hit the spot every time. Only a few simple everyday ingredients are needed for this recipe so you can whip this up for a delicious lunch or dinner in just 10 minutes.
  • Uni Pasta Recipe – This indulgent pasta recipe will make your date nights feel special and luxurious. Only 15 minutes is required to prepare this showstopping dish!

Cold Soba Noodles

Servings 2 people
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 2 bundles soba noodles also called buckwheat noodles

Garnish

  • 2 cucumbers preferably Persian or Indian
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • nori strips optional
  • chopped scallions

Mentsuyu Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1/4 cup sake
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 pieces dried kelp also called kombu (2×2 inches per piece)
  • 1 dried pepper optional
  • 1/2 cup unpacked bonito flakes also called katsuobushi

Instructions

  • Begin by preparing the mentsuyu sauce. In a pot, combine soy sauce, mirin, sake, water, dried kelp, and dried pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer on low for 5 minutes.
  • Toss in the bonito flakes and once fully submerged, turn off the heat. Steep for at least 10 minutes before straining. Place in the fridge to cool completely.
  • While the mentsuyu sauce is cooling, prep the garnishes. Slice the cucumbers into match sticks. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and add salt. Toss to coat well then set aside for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, squeeze the cucumber to remove excess liquid. Transfer to a clean bowl and mix in sesame seeds. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Cut the nori (seaweed) into thin strips. Chop the scallions. Set aside until ready to use.
  • Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions. Once cooked, rinse well under cold water then strain. Transfer to a serving plate. Garnish with cucumbers and nori strips.
  • To serve, pour 1 to 1 1/2 cups of mentsuyu sauce into a serving bowl. Garnish with scallions and a few ice cubes to keep it chilled.
  • Dip the soba noodles into the mentsuyu sauce and enjoy!
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese, Korean

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