How to Make Chewy Homemade Udon Noodles



It took a village to bring these udon noodles into existence. The inspiration came from Marc Matsumoto at No Recipes who recently wrote about homemade udon. His description of how it was done made me feel like I should be able to tackle this without dying in the process. The detailed instructions came from Harumi Kurihara who taught me through her book how to knead the dough with my feet. And lastly, the list of ingredients came from the package of my favorite brand of frozen udon. [Since I can't find the fresh kind in my area, don't like the dry type as much, and can't stand the unpleasant texture of the instant or almost-instant type that comes in plastic packages, frozen udon is the only choice.]


Basing the experiments on my favorite frozen udon was a risky business. This is because it contains tapioca starch which is missing from the majority, if not all, of the homemade udon recipes which I have found. Homemade udon noodle recipes by respectable sources call for either all-purpose flour, bread flour, or a combination of both. Most commercial udon noodles, except for the 3-4 that I’ve seen, also list wheat flour as the sole source of starch.

However, the risk is mitigated by the fact that I am replicating something I know I like . And if the people who make my favorite udon add tapioca starch into their bouncy and chewy noodles, I thought perhaps I should too. To quote the Barefoot Contessa, how bad can that be?

Not being Japanese or having grown up on authentic and/or homemade Japanese cuisine, I am not of the authority to say how or whether adding tapioca starch to udon noodles affects authenticity. It could be that most brands, sold at the same Japanese market, adhere to the true principle of udon making by using only wheat flour, whereas this brand, for whatever reasons, committed an irresponsible act of contaminating the once-pure udon gene pool with tapioca starch. And, Leela, not being an udon connoisseur, can’t tell the difference between good udon and not so good udon, so she has unwittingly chosen an inferior brand as her favorite. It’s possible. It is also possible that there are several types of udon some of which contain only wheat flour and some contain both wheat and tapioca flour. One is not superior to the other; they’re just different. If anyone knows anything about all this, please enlighten me. I’d like to learn more.

All I know is that I like these homemade udon noodles – whether or not I should. I have also experimented with a version that contained only bread flour and one that contained 70% bread flour and 30% all-purpose flour, and have found that the ratio of roughly 90% bread flour and 10% tapioca starch creates udon noodles that are not too tough and chewy and yet not too mushy and gummy — slurpably great, in other words.

Homemade Udon
Printable Version
Makes exactly 1.5 lbs of fresh noodles
Recipe tested with King Arthur bread flour

  • Mix together 5 1/2 cups of bread flour and 1/2 cup of tapioca starch in a mixing bowl.
  • Dissolve 3 teaspoons of kosher salt (or 2 teaspoons of regular salt) in 1 1/4 cups of warm water (110-115 degrees F) and pour about half of the water into the flour bowl.
  • Mix with your hands, making sure the flour is thoroughly moistened but not too wet. The mixture should form a shaggy ball of dough – not so dry that it falls apart and not so wet that the surface is sticky. If the dough is so dry you can’t form a ball, add the remaining water to the dough, one teaspoon at a time. Add less water than you think you need; you want to err on adding too little than too much. The remaining water should be more than sufficient; in fact, you should not need all of it.
  • Put the dough ball in a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Let all the air out and seal the bag. Place the dough bag on the floor and knead it with your feet (with or without socks is your call, but definitely no shoes)about one minute. [The dough is too stiff to knead properly by hand or even with a heavy-duty mixer, so, per Kurihara's instructions, it is best to knead it with your feet. This allows your body weight to do the work which could be too great for your upper body alone.] After one minute, take the flattened dough out of the bag, fold it like a letter, and put it back into the bag; knead for another minute. Repeat this process two more times.
  • Once the dough has been kneaded, place the dough bag in a warm place and let it rest for at least 3 hours and up to 6 hours. This allows the gluten to relax, making the dough easier to roll.
  • Once the dough has rested, cut it into 4 equal pieces and work on one piece at a time while keeping the remaining dough covered.
  • Roll each piece of dough on a floured surface into a large rectangle with 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Dust the surface of the rectangle with more flour and fold it over itself like a letter to form a smaller rectangle. On a floured cutting board, with a very sharp knife (I use a heavy Chinese cleaver), cut the folded dough into 1/8-inch strips. Keep the strips detangled by dusting them with more flour; cover them with a towel while working on the remaining pieces of dough.
  • The fresh noodles should be cooked right away to ensure the best texture. (I have never experimented with refrigerating or freezing the uncooked noodles, so I can’t say if that can be done.) You want to use a very, very big pot and a large amount of water. Fresh noodles are starchy and with all the flour you use to dust them with in the process of rolling and cutting, they can easily turn mushy and gummy if cooked in too little water (which creates a situation in which you’re — visualize this with me — cooking pasta in hot gravy instead of water). (If you don’t have one huge pot, use the biggest pot you have and cook the noodles in batches, using fresh water for each batch.) The general rule is: use more water than you think prudent and just when you think you’re using too much water, add more. It doesn’t matter how well-prepared your udon dough is, if you use too little water, your noodles will be gummy and doughy.
  • Add the noodles to the pot only after the water comes to a rapid boil. Lower the heat just a tad to let the noodles boil gently. After about 3 minutes, the noodles will float to the top; let it boil for another 2-3 minutes and take them off the heat. Immediately drain off the cooking water and rinse with cold water. The noodles are now ready to be used in your recipe.

48 Responses to How to Make Chewy Homemade Udon Noodles

  1. Kelly July 9, 2009 at 1:30 am #

    Nice! Very nice! I love to make noodles, they are so much better fresh, and I have never made udon before. Guess what I am doing this weekend??

  2. Tangled Noodle July 9, 2009 at 1:40 am #

    You are seriously too awesome. I love that you basically figure out all the kinks and quirks of a recipe like this so that the rest of us can go straight to making and enjoying it. Even better, you always seem to have such great fun doing it!!

    I’m going to say it: “I can’t wait to try this!”, if only to knead the dough with my feet (which, I admit, caught me off guard when you first mentioned it).

  3. lisaiscooking July 9, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    Great job! Your noodles look perfect. Fresh udon must be so delicious. And very slurpable!

  4. Mike July 9, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    Lovely looking noodles! Our noodle-making has been restricted to the Italian so far, but you have inspired me to widen my horizons.

    Have you tried making the flat, wide rice noodles (as in Pad see ew)? I bet the process is similar. We can get them fresh every so often, but it would be great to make our own.

  5. Jenn July 9, 2009 at 2:40 am #

    Nice. I love udon noodles. I’ve got to try this out. I usually buy the ready made stuff.

    This is too awesome!!

  6. Leela July 9, 2009 at 2:50 am #

    Mike – The flat, wide rice noodles actually requires a totally different process. They’re made primarily out of rice flour, so no gluten is involved. Hence the lack of chewiness. The batter is thin, so there’s no dough to knead. Besides, the cooking method is steaming not boiling. It’s quite complicated and time-consuming, really. You can only do one layer at a time. It’s a total pain in the neck. I’ve made several attempts in the past, but have not found a good combination of flours and a good ratio. Most importantly, I have not found a cooking method which doesn’t require me to spend all day steaming 500 layer of rice noodles, one at a time. Until then, I’m sticking with the store-bought kind.

    For steamed applications such as the Chinese shrimp or bbq pork noodle rolls (the kind you get at dim sum restaurants), I’d say my last experiment was almost there. I got them to be nice and soft. It’s just that I haven’t figured out how to solve all the problems that can happen during the steaming.

    Unfortunately, for stir-fried applications like Pad See Eew, noodles made from the same recipe failed spectacularly. They became soggy and fell apart.

    But I won’t give up, because I’m stubborn like that. :)

  7. KennyT July 9, 2009 at 4:15 am #

    Your udon looks very authentic Japanese!!!

  8. Manggy July 9, 2009 at 12:49 pm #

    Awesome technique. I wonder if I can adopt the foot kneading for other doughs? Ah, my mind is racing!! :D

  9. Ben July 9, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Interesting. I have never had this kind of noodles before, but they sound so easy to make that I will have to try them now.

  10. Adrienne July 9, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    I think you might be my new hero. I’m pretty comfortable making Italian-style noodles (in fact, that’s what we’re doing for dinner tonigh!) but I haven’t yet tackled anything outside my comfort zone. I love udon, so I’m bookmarking this page and will give it a try!

  11. Cate July 9, 2009 at 2:54 pm #

    That’s great! I’ll try to make them one day.

  12. The Duo Dishes July 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm #

    We need to try making some sort of pasta or noodle very soon. This sounds quite advanced though. :) Maybe we should start with plain old flour/egg, then make our way up to udon.

  13. Spoon It On July 9, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Ah, you continue to impress us all! I would NEVER think to even attempt to make my own noodle but I may now.

  14. OysterCulture July 10, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    I was thinking how cathartic, kneading dough with my feet. Its up there with the fish nibbling pedicures.

    This recipe sounds so good and the pics are amazing, as I saw the noodles develop my mind was racing with the various toppings I would use.

  15. Kristen July 10, 2009 at 4:36 am #

    Oh my, you are brave and you make it look easy :) You totally make it accessible, now I may have to try. I am sure that I have never had fresh or even frozen udon, if the dried is that bad then I better give this a go! Thanks Leela.

  16. Gera @ SweetsFoods July 10, 2009 at 8:07 pm #

    Very interesting post about udon noodles because I eat pasta but general speaking purchased but this give me encourage to try to make a Japanese version at home :)

    Cheers an excellent work Leela!

    Gera

  17. Indigo July 12, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    I can’t believe you did this, that’s awesome! Not that I would want my feet anywhere near my noodles, cause my feet are pretty gross. But I love the way you threw yourself into figuring this out from scratch. Brilliant!

  18. dolphing July 12, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    You must has excellent skill so that to made the width of noodle almost equalize.^^

  19. Leela July 12, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    dolphing – With a heavy, sharp Chinese cleaver, it’s easier than it looks. And I’m not even the most dextrous person …

  20. pigpigscorner July 14, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    I’m bookmarking this! Love chewy udon.

  21. april July 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    I was linked to this article by thekitchn.com.

    The Nissin brand you have pictured is a famous brand in Japan. Very reliable, though they are most famous for their instant noodles (the dried kind).

    As described in this article by the Japan Times, tapioca flour creates a much chewier product than regular flour does. That’s the difference you’re noticing when you prefer one kind of noodle over another.

    So while traditional udon noodles wouldn’t use tapioca flour, authentic Japanese noodle companies are using it. In other words, you’re right. One is not superior than the other…they’re just different. :)

  22. Leela July 17, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    AprilーSuch helpful information. I truly appreciate it!

  23. Sexybiggetje July 18, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    Thanks for this guide. I figured out how to make udon noodles earlier this year, and was looking for variations.
    I tried mixing my flour with spices to get a small form of taste to them, I can recommend using crushed sesame seeds or crushed cumin seeds to add a tender flavor.

  24. kk July 23, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    I came across your blog trying to find a recipe for homemade udon. I love your blog!! Thank you for this detailed recipe for homemade udon, I will definitely try it. =)

  25. katie August 5, 2009 at 7:41 am #

    Hello! I found you through the pigpigscorner as a fellow awardee!

    Wow, these noodles look great. I have tried to make hand chinese handpulled noodles and must admit that these seem a bit more doable. The pulled noodles involve cake flour as I can imagine tapioca flour is used to lower the gluten level.

    Hard to pull, I would rather have a past maker for these dear noodles. So excited to make them. yaki udon here i come.

  26. fennucci September 17, 2009 at 2:44 am #

    I’m wondering if you can add things to this recipe to add flavor to the noodle? Paprika or something with it ruining the texture or consistency.

  27. Leela September 17, 2009 at 3:00 am #

    Ground spices should be okay, though in my opinion udon is best prepared the traditional way, i.e. plain. Chunky add-ins, on the other hand, would definitely interfere with the texture and thus not recommended.

  28. Cindy April 3, 2010 at 10:22 pm #

    Made these today, a half recipe. I had to use all purpose flour, but next time I’ll be sure to get bread flour. These came out great, a nice chewiness. On another occasion, I had tried a different recipe w/o the tapioca starch and I wasn’t happy with the results.

  29. Anonymous October 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    I think this recipe must have an error in it. I tried it and could only get 4 cups of bread flour mixed + 1/2 cup tapioca starch in with 1 + 1/4 cups of water. The dough was so dry and tough I even had trouble kneading it with my feet! The results were good, but I think the 5 + 1/2 cups of flour is way too much.

  30. Leela October 1, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    Anon – Here are my thoughts:

    1. I think what you’re talking about is not flour:liquid ratio. This is because according to the recipe, only half of the water is supposed to be added first, then the other half gradually added as needed to form a kneadable dough (1 1/4 cups is just an approximate amount as when, it comes to dough, humidity in the air as well as age and brand of flour all play a role). Any more flour and your dough won’t form. Any more water and the dough is too soft and sticky to knead.

    2. If a dough formed and you were able to knead it, roll it out, cut it, etc., then the flour:water ratio must have worked.

    3. This dough *is* supposed to be tough to knead. It’s not soft like bread or pasta. This is the reason why it’s tough to knead this dough properly on the kitchen counter as other types of dough. You need your whole body weight, hence the kneading with the feet.

    I think the problem which you’ve attributed to too much flour is actually not about too much flour in relation to liquid (for reasons cited above and also, as you said, the results were good). I think you must have referred to the total amount of dough which might have been too much to manage. The solution is to halve the recipe. You’ll end up with about 3/4 of a pound of fresh noodles, but also much less dough to knead which makes it easier to knead.

    Hope this helps. :)

  31. Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Will have to try out your recipe. I just made udon noodles but they were way too chewy and really heavy and doughy. I hope this recipe is better.

  32. emily March 10, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    OMG these were AMAZING and so frickin’ easy! I was completely bad and used all-purpose flour and nixed the tapioca starch (not from snarkiness, I just was looking for something I could make without going to the store) and they were perfect: tender yet delightfully chewy (but nowhere near tough)! Noodles are one of the few frontiers I’d never tackled before and it was SO FUN to watch these strips of flour paste magically turn into real live noodles!!! I served them up in basic bowls of broth + veggies sauteed in sesame oil, then added an egg on top per person. My husband slurped his down in record time, looked at me and said “Are there more noodles?” (This guy normally only wants to eat mac & cheese with hot dogs. That or peanut butter.)

    FABULOUS!!

  33. Leela March 10, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    Emily – Thank you so much for the report. Good to know that this works with just all-purpose flour as well.

  34. Anonymous March 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    WONDERFUL!!!!! These are amazing! I just took them off the stove and I am munching on them now (before dinner :) ). I did have to add all the water plus more, but it still turned out great. Just a note about the tapioca starch – mine was called sago powder and I don’t know if there is a difference, but it still turned out well. I will serve it with a simple broth.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! You are amazing and my new hero :).

  35. Leela March 16, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    Anon – Wow. Thanks so much for reporting back. Didn’t know that tapioca starch also goes by sago powder, but it makes perfect sense. Thank you! :)

  36. BZ September 13, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    In South America, tapioca flour is known as “harina de Mandioca”. Just in case anyone down here is going to give this a try. It sounds like a great recipe to me. I was told in Japan that the dough should have the texture of an earlobe when you are done kneading it, which sounds about right. I had good luck using a heavy duty food processor, but I acknowledge that in Japan I was taught to use my feet. Thanks for sharing!

    Now if I could just find a great broth recipe that doesn’t use anything more than a bullion cube, soy sauce, ginger, and sherry (and maybe a touch of sugar)….

  37. Unknown March 13, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Made them twice in the last week….wonderful! This was after a taste test of a few brands available in the store which in my opinion were terrible….either too soft or downright crumbly, yuck! I did use AP flour, tapioca starch and beefed up the AP with some wheat gluten (1tbls). To knead I put the bag into an old t-shirt on the floor and walked the dough into satiny perfection while watching No Reservations on YouTube. The noodles were perfectly textured and well, slurpable :) We ate them cold with Tsuyu (dashi with good mirin and shoyu) topped with green onions.
    Thank you so much for the detailed and informative post.

  38. Admin March 14, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Unknown – Very cute and helpful comment. Thank you. Great tip on the wheat gluten. I must experiment with that.

  39. J.Cranston April 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Thanks for this! Udon is so expensive to buy around here dry or otherwise.

    6 cups of flour is a ton of noodles though. Have you tried freezing these or would it ruin the texture?

  40. Admin April 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    J.Cranton – You got me curious. I’ve never frozen these, and now I’m wondering too if that would affect the texture.

    Has anyone reading this tried freezing the cooked noodles?

    Alternatively, you can also halve the recipe.

  41. Anonymous May 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    I have made them and then frozen them in small freezer bags. Once you are ready to use them pull out the hunk of frozen noodles and put it in boiling water for a minute or two and the noodles will separate. It’s best to freeze them in portions that you will use when you prepare them, otherwise you will need to break apart a large frozen chunk to get the amount you want. They seem to last quite a while in the freezer!

  42. Admin May 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Anon – Thank you so much!

  43. Don August 28, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Yup, these were amazing! I substituted arrowroot flower for the tapioca, as I had it on hand and a quick google search said they were comparable,

  44. James December 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm #

    I love Udon and my favorite is also a Japanese brand, sold frozen in packs of 5 servings, at the local Oriental food market. They list the same ingredients as yours and I was thinking of making some, so it was great to find you via Google. Thanks!

  45. ilkps January 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    I believe this type of udon was derived from Lao tapioca noodles or “khao piak sen”. They’re very common in Laos. Many Japanese tourists have visited Laos and were exposed to Lao tapioca noodles.

  46. Cd July 23, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

    You are my hero :). I have been CRAVING these and tried every brand I could find in the supermarket and they tasted horrible. I made you recipe tonight with my boys and they were FANTASTIC!!!!

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