Yaki udon, with its thick and chewy noodles, super savory sauce, crisp vegetables, and slices of seared pork is my idea of pure comfort food. It’s super easy to put together and I can’t imagine a better one pan meal.
I LOVE yaki udon. It reminds me of long lazy nights, huge piles of noodles steaming on a flat top grill, and the sounds of happy people chatting and enjoying festival food in Japan.
What is yaki udon?
Yaki udon, literally translated, is fried udon. Thick and chewy udon noodles are fried with pork, cabbage, onions, and carrots, in a slightly sweet, super savory soy and mirin based sauce. It’s usually topped off with seaweed and bonito flakes that gently dance in the heat of the noodles.
It’s almost just the same as yakisoba, but with udon noodles. Yaki udon is super popular at Japanese festivals, at izakaya (Japanese pubs), and just about anytime.
Yakiudon vs yakisoba
If you asked me to choose between yakiudon and yakisoba, I would choose yakiudon every time, hands down! Udon noodles are a joy to eat: thick and chewy and SO satisfying. Mike and I love udon so much that we went on an udon pilgrimage to the birthplace of udon, Kagawa, Japan. They don’t have yakiudon there, but they do have the best udon in Japan. Udon is truly the best noodle to make in saucy stir fry. The noodles soak up so much flavor and hold up without getting soggy. With yakisoba sometimes you get sad broken noodles. You’ll never have that problem with udon. Udon noodles are hearty, thick, and a joy to eat!
How to make yaki udon
You’re just 5 minutes away from pure noodle satisfaction.
- Soak. The easiest way to defrost frozen udon noodles is to give them a quick soak in some warm water. Use your hands or a pair of chopsticks to loosen them up, then drain.
- Fry the pork. Add a touch of oil to a pan and cook the pork slices, flipping as needed, until golden and cooked through.
- Cook the vegetables. Stir fry the vegetables until slightly soft.
- Add the noodles. Fry the drained noodles, along with soy sauce, mirin, and dashi, tossing until the noodles are glossy and coated with sauce.
- Enjoy! Top off with some bonito flakes and nori and enjoy!
- Udon noodles – my all time favorite kind of udon noodles are the frozen ones! They’re called sanuki udon and essentially, they’re fresh udon noodles that are cooked, then flash frozen. Read more about frozen udon below.
- Dashi powder – dashi is a super savory, clear, umami rich stock made from seaweed and dried fish. You can make it from scratch or, there are amazing dashi packs and instant dashi powder/granules, kind of how there is chicken stock powder or bouillon. More on that below too.
- Mirin – mirin is Japanese sweet rice wine and a key ingredient in Japanese cooking. Compared to sake, it has a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content that occurs naturally from fermentation. It’s used as a seasoning and glazing agent. They sell mirin in the Asian aisle, at Asian grocery stores, and online. If you don’t have mirin, you can sub the same amount of sugar.
- Katsuobushi – this is an optional ingredient but it will make your yaki udon super umami forward and authentic! Katsuobushi are dried, thinly shaved bonito flakes that they put on top of yakisoba, yaki udon, and takoyaki. They’re those little pale whisps that look like they’re dancing when the food is hot. You can find katsuobushi at Asian grocery stores and online.
Frozen Udon is the Best Udon
Frozen udon is the best: it’s practically instant and takes on all the flavors of whatever you’re cooking it with. We always have a pack (or five) of frozen udon bricks in the freezer. Of course, you could use those instant udon packs, that come shrink-wrapped, but if you want udon on another level, head to your local Asian grocery store, take a peek in the freezer and do yourself a favor and buy the frozen udon.
Frozen udon is sold in bricks, with usually 5 bricks in a package. They’re super easy to prepare: just thaw and go. And best of all, most of the frozen udon that’s sold in North America is actually imported from Japan. We often see brands sold here that are the same as what we buy at the grocery store in Tokyo. They taste infinitely better than the shelf-stable cryovac udon.
Dashi powder is the quickest way to add dashi flavor to any dish. Essentially, it’s a flavor booster. You can buy dashi powder in the Asian grocery store or online. It adds a bunch of flavor and umami. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute it with chicken stock powder, but if you do, your udon may end up saltier than if you use dashi.
How to customize yaki udon
Yaki udon is a super customizable noodle dish. Make it your own!
- Beef yaki udon: sub 1/2 lb thinly sliced beef
- Chicken yaki udon: sub 1/2 lb sliced chicken
- Shrimp yaki udon: sub 1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
- Vegetable yaki udon: leave the pork out and add 1 cup extra vegetables, such as: mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli
- Plain yaki udon: leave the pork and vegetables out
More udon recipes
If you’re looking for other udon-inspiration, try these recipes:
We even went to Kagawa
And if you want, check out our trip to the birthplace of udon.
- 1 brick frozen udon about 250g/8.8oz
- 1 tbsp soy sauce Japanese preferred
- 1 tsp instant dashi
- 1 tsp mirin or sugar
- 1 tbsp neutral oil eg. grapeseed
- 1 pork chop about 1/2lb
- 1/4 medium onion sliced
- 1 cup cabbage chopped or shredded
- 1/2 carrot julienned or shredded
- 1/2 cup katsuobushi shaved dried bonito flakes, optional
- Soak the frozen udon in a bowl of warm water, loosening to make sure the strands of noodles are separate. Drain and set aside. Mix together the soy sauce, dashi powder, and mirin (or sugar) with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Heat up the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced pork and cook until the pork is seared and cooked through, 2-4 minutes.
- Add the onion and sauté, stirring, until soft, but not brown. Stir in the cabbage and carrot, cooking until soft, but still a bit crunchy, 1-2 minutes.
- Add the drained udon noodles and bowl of sauce. Toss everything together, over medium-high heat, until the sauce reduces and coats the noodles, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and season with salt and pepper. Finish with sliced nori and bonito flakes, if using.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 580 Calories from Fat 149
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 3.2g20%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.