Udon noodles are a traditional form of Chinese noodles that have been around for thousands of years.
Today, however, they’re more commonly associated with Japanese cuisine, where they’re used for a variety of delicious dishes. If you’re reading this post now, though, you’re probably wondering, “Are udon noodles vegan?”
Yes, udon noodles, by themselves, are always vegan! The noodles are made from three simple ingredients: wheat, water, and salt. That’s it. Udon noodles are dairy-free, egg-free, and meat-free.
That being said, many traditional Japanese dishes that use udon noodles are not vegan. While the noodles are always vegan, the dishes may contain meat or egg.
Below, I’ll answer all of the most common questions about udon noodles and explain what sets them apart from other Japanese noodles. Are you ready to learn some more about Japanese food history?
Do Udon Noodles Have Dairy?
Udon noodles are known for their incredibly soft, smooth texture. While some assume that this is due to dairy being used in the noodle dough, this is a misconception.
Udon noodles are 100% dairy-free. Historically, udon noodles have never used milk and there are very few (if any) udon dishes that contain dairy.
One of the earliest recorded instances of udon noodles being mentioned in history was about 1,200 years ago. Back then (and even to this day) dairy was used only sparingly in Japanese cuisine, so it’s unlikely that dairy has ever been used in udon noodles.
A Japanese monk named Kukai traveled to China to research the country’s culture. When he returned to Japan, he brought a bunch of udon noodles back with him, along with the simple recipe for how to make them.
After that, udon noodles quickly grew to become a Japanese favorite. Today, they’re the most commonly-consumed noodle in Japan, aside from ramen noodles! It just goes to show how a simple creation can go on to impact a culture forever.
Do Udon Noodles Have Egg?
If you go to your average Chinese food restaurant in America, you’ll find that egg noodles are used in a variety of different dishes. So, it’s easy to understand why some people often confuse udon noodles with other types of Asian-style noodles.
Although both udon noodles and egg noodles are commonly used in Japanese dishes, they’re different in one key area: Udon noodles are not made with eggs.
Egg noodles are made with the same exact ingredients as udon noodles are with one exception – they’re made with eggs.
Although the two share a somewhat similar appearance and consistency, egg noodles have different colors and tastes.
For one, egg noodles have a slightly yellow color, which comes from the egg yolks used in the dough. Secondly, they have a more “eggy” flavor that some people prefer over plain wheat udon noodles.
Historically, eggs were added to noodles to make them more filling and nutritious. Considering that the core diet of many traditional Japanese families was a low-meat diet, the added eggs in the noodles allowed people to get more protein and nutrients out of their daily meals.
What Are Udon Noodles Made Of? 3 Simple Ingredients
At this point, you’re probably wondering, what exactly are udon noodles made of?
Well, it turns out that udon noodles are some of the simplest noodles on the planet. Keep in mind that udon noodles have been made for thousands of years, long before modern food processing came into the picture.
As a result, udon noodles are made of just three simple ingredients:
- Wheat flour
That’s it! This makes udon noodles very similar to tortillas, another cultural food that’s been around for thousands of years. Tortillas were made by ancient Mesoamericans and date back to 10,000 B.C.!
They’re made using corn flour, water, and salt, which is a very similar recipe to udon noodles.
If you’re the type who likes to get creative in the kitchen, then udon noodles are actually really easy to make at home. This is a great way to learn an ancient cooking technique and become more connected to your food at the same time!
Here’s a simple recipe that I recently tried to make your own homemade udon noodles:
1) Wheat Flour
Wheat flour is the main ingredient used to make udon noodles and most of the world’s other sources of carbohydrates. Wheat flour is a simple plant-based baking powder that’s made of fine-ground dried wheat fruit.
Nicer varieties of udon noodles use whole wheat flour, which is made from the whole wheat plant. Others use all-purpose wheat flour or a more processed wheat flour that’s made without the whole plant.
These secondary, more processed forms of flour are less nutritious and are often used for cheaper, lower-quality udon noodles.
Whichever form that wheat flour takes, though, it’s always vegan. It’s 100% plant-based and just goes through a variety of natural, vegan-friendly filtration processes the more it’s processed.
For a long time, flour was one of the most “advanced” foods in the world. It took a long time to make, as the grain had to be harvested by hand, dried in the sun, and then ground by hand or sent to a large grain mill.
Today, it’s easy to take flour for granted, as it’s available on pretty much every store shelf for a couple of bucks. Back in ancient times, however, flour was a little bit harder to come by and more valued.
The dough is made from two simple things: flour and water. That being said, water is more important an ingredient than you may think.
The quality of the water used to make the dough plays a big part in the overall flavor of the noodles.
For example, if you make your own homemade udon noodles using tap water they’re not going to taste quite as good as a gourmet udon noodle company that makes their noodles with alkaline water or fresh spring water.
Most noodle companies use purified water that doesn’t contain any added minerals or purification agents. However, some companies use a special type of high-alkaline water that’s designed to give the noodles a firmer, smoother texture.
Thankfully, water is always a vegan ingredient in the food.
Water is one of the most basic necessities for life on this planet. While some water is certainly healthier and more ethical than others, all water is vegan at the end of the day.
When it comes to food products, salt is one of the most commonly used additives. It’s not a new thing either. Global civilizations have been using salt since the dawn of humanity.
Salt is always vegan, as it’s either synthesized in a lab or comes from oceanic salt deposits, so don’t worry about it if you see it used in your favorite vegan-friendly foods.
Salt is actually healthy and necessary for our bodies. Salt helps our bodies produce electrolytes, which, in turn, allow our bodies to remain hydrated and energized. The only time that salt is ever unhealthy is when it’s over-consumed.
The amount of salt used in dough-based products like noodles, pasta, and bread, though, isn’t enough to cause any health concerns. It’s only used in small amounts to provide added flavor and improve the strength of the dough (which is the main reason it’s used).
When salt is added to the dough, it makes the dough firmer and helps it remain bound together. This helps ensure that the noodles aren’t becoming brittle or breaking apart from each other.
Are Udon Noodles Healthier Than Ramen Noodles?
Ramen noodles are probably the most popular type of Asian noodles sold in the United States. Almost every grocery store in America offers some variety of prepackaged ramen.
While these prepackaged ramen meals usually aren’t vegan (or even healthy), ramen noodles, by themselves, are usually vegan.
Both ramen and udon noodles have similar nutritional value. Both are made using a blend of wheat flour, water, and salt.
The only real difference between udon and ramen noodles is that the latter are made using a special type of water called kansui. Kansui is special cooking water that has naturally high alkalinity. It’s often referred to as “lye water” or “alkali water” as well.
Are Ramen Noodles Vegan?
When added to the dough of ramen noodles, kansui creates a firm, slippery texture. This is why ramen noodles and udon noodles have such a different consistency from each other, even though they’re made with the same basic ingredients.
However, that’s just a rule of thumb. Periodically, I have come across ramen noodles that are made with eggs. These are often referred to as “ramen egg noodles.” They’re the same thin-cut, slippery noodles; just with added egg in the dough.
Ramen egg noodles aren’t as common as traditional egg-free ramen noodles, though, so you shouldn’t have to worry about it too often.
Are Soba Noodles Vegan?
While udon noodles may hold the title of the most popular noodles in Japan, the second-most-popular variety of noodles you’ll find (aside from ramen, of course) are soba noodles.
Soba noodles have been around for about as long as udon noodles and are made using a very similar recipe of four, water, and salt. The only difference between soba and udon noodles is that soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour instead of wheat flour.
Buckwheat is a type of grain-like food that’s often used as an alternative to wheat and other grains. It’s native to the Asian continent, so it’s been grown and cultivated for thousands of years.
Buckwheat flour (and the plant, as a whole) has far more protein and fiber than wheat flour. This not only makes the noodles more nutritious but also more filling as well.
A lot of older people or those at risk for diabetes consume soba noodles, as they don’t have as strong of an effect on your blood sugar as udon noodles, which have higher sugar content.
Are Udon Noodles Vegan & Gluten-Free?
As we’ve discussed, udon noodles are 100% vegan. They’re a plant-based food made from wheat flour, water, and salt.
However, udon noodles are NOT gluten-free. The main ingredient in udon noodles is wheat, which contains more gluten than any other type of grain.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, then just a small amount of udon noodles is all it would take to cause a potentially deadly reaction.
Unfortunately, most noodles aren’t gluten-free. Those on a gluten-free diet should look for noodles that are made with potatoes, legumes, or ancient grains that don’t contain gluten.
Is Vegetable Udon A Vegan Dish?
One of the more popular udon noodle dishes you’ll find at vegan-friendly restaurants is vegetable udon. This udon dish consists of udon noodles, freshly chopped veggies, and a savory base.
Vegetable udon is almost always vegan, as it’s made with vegetable broth.
However, you should always double-check to make sure that the vegetable udon you’re eating doesn’t contain any added meat ingredients, like fish sauce, or added meat broth.
What Japanese Noodles Are Vegan?
To make it all a bit easier for you to understand, here’s a quick visual outlining which Japanese noodles are vegan, so you can see for yourself:
|Vegan Japanese Noodles||Non-Vegan Japanese Noodles|
|Udon Noodles||Egg Noodles|
|Soba Noodles||Chinese-Style Ramen With Eggs|
The Verdict – Are Udon Noodles Vegan-Friendly?
Yes, udon noodles are completely vegan-friendly! They’re made from water and flour, which is a plant-based ingredient. Just make sure you’re careful about what type of udon noodle dishes you’re eating, as many udon noodle dishes contain meat or eggs.
Pasta is very similar to noodles and is also vegan as well. To learn more about why pasta and noodles are usually vegan-friendly (and how to tell which ones are vegan), check out my latest post on pasta next!