What Vegans Need To Know About Soba Noodles

A staple in Japanese cuisine, along with ramen and udon, more and more people are discovering the tasty versatility of soba noodles. Known for their "nutty, rich flavor" and for being "brown, long, and thin like spaghetti" (via Insider), soba noodles are traditionally made with 100-percent buckwheat flour (which is actually completely different from wheat, despite the name), though they now often include wheat flour as well to help the noodles hold together (via Food & Wine). With a small list of ingredients that are typically all plant-based, soba noodles are vegan-friendly (via Allplants).

Soba noodles are also a good source of protein, along with vitamins and minerals (via Livestrong), which also makes them ideal for those concerned about getting enough protein while on a vegan diet. Sounds like the perfect addition to your vegan diet? Not so fast. First, you should always check the ingredient list. While the vast majority of soba noodles are made entirely of plant-based ingredients, there are some that include egg whites (via Is It Vegan? (Japan)). But more importantly, how soba noodles are served can impact how vegan-friendly they are.

What vegans need to watch out for when ordering soba noodles

Soba noodles can be enjoyed in a number of ways, including cold with a dipping sauce or hot in a bowl of broth with a variety of toppings. Both the chilled dipping sauce and the broth contain tsuyu, which is made from a combination of dashi, mirin, sake, and soy sauce. The problem for vegans? Dashi is almost always made with seaweed and dried bonito or anchovy flakes, which is what gives it its distinctive fish flavor. 

Luckily for vegans (and vegetarians), there are non-fish alternatives for making dashi. The simplest way is to leave out the bonito flakes entirely, but The Kitchn recommends replacing the bonito flakes with the "equally savory and earthy" dried shiitake mushrooms. Messy Vegan Cook also lists other ingredients that can be used to add extra complexity and umami to vegan dashi, including sun-dried gourd, daikon, and carrot peelings. So, slurp away, vegans!