Udon Noodles in Miso Sauce




There are a number of reasons for posting this recipe, it's healthy, tasty, quick and it will save the earth. I know, I know, that last one is a bit of a tall order, but it's true. This recipe is vegetarian and according to the UN, livestock accounts for 18% of global carbon emissions. You can actually do more to reduce carbon emissions by eating vegetarian one day a week than trading in your hummer for a hybrid.

But does eating less meat have to be a sacrifice? Absolutely not! I've been cooking a lot of vegetarian dishes just because they're easy, delicious, work well as leftovers, and as long as your not trying to match the calorie per dollar density of fast food, cheap.

This recipe is a savory miso sauce covering udon noodles and caramelized onions with spinach and sesame seeds. It has a rich sweet and sour flavor and the sauce has a rich consistency.

So what does it take?

1/2 to 1 lb udon noodles (substitute fettuccine if not available)
1 cup sliced onions (preferably red)
1-2 cups spinach
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)
2 cloves minced or chopped garlic
2 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil (substitute vegetable oil if unavailable)

2 tbsp miso
1/4 cup mirin (sweet cooking sake)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup water

The first step is to cook the noodles, while that is cooking, mix the sauce and caramelize the onions. Once the onions are caramelized, we add the garlic and ginger then the sauce, finally the spinach and noodles. After the spinach wilts we'll add the lemon juice and sesame seeds. This is all quick and easy when well timed.

Step 1: Cook the Udon Noodles

You will need a standard pot for cooking some noodles, udon noodles cook just like other noodles. Boil water with a little salt, then add noodles for 10-12 minutes or until desired texture. Udon is a nice noodle because it is large, soft and takes on the flavor of whatever you put it in. Try not to overcook your Udon noodles, they're much better al dente.

I recommend getting a strainer or colander ready and making sure your noodle spoon is out. Digging dirty utensils out of the dishwasher and washing them while something is on the burner is no fun.

Fill up your pot with water and set the burner on high. Add some salt, only enough to boil and help with texture, the miso will add all the salt we need to the recipe.

Once the water boils and we add our Udon noodles, turn the heat down, cover and let boil while we stir up some miso sauce.

Step 2: Mix Miso Sauce

While your Udon noodles are boiling away, mix the miso sauce in a small mixing bowl. First, a word about miso. You will most likely have to visit a specialty or Asian market to find this. It is not at most grocery chains in the US. Miso can be substituted with soy sauce and extra salt if absolutely necessary, but this is not recommended for this recipe. The internets also claim that sesame paste and tahini can be substituted, but if you can't find miso, these may be hard to find. Miso comes in different types, I picked up a red miso this time as it is usually most versatile. Which miso you have is not as important as having miso.

Rice vinegar and Mirin are also special items. You can substitute rice vinegar with either cider vinegar with a pinch of sugar or with a 3 to 1 mixture of white vinegar and water. Mirin is sweet cooking sake (rice wine). Essentially, it's Japan's answer to cooking wine. The only acceptable substitute seems to be a 3 to 1 mixture of sake and sugar.

For this step we'll need
1 small mixing bowl
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup water

Add everything in the mixing bowl and stir till thoroughly mixed, don't worry if some pieces of miso don't completely dissolve, we'll take care of that in the pan.

You are probably better off using a whisk or spoon, the chop stick stirring method I used in the photos was slower than necessary.

Step 3: Clean Spinach and Slice Onions

If the spinach is not pre-washed, do so now. Slice the onions and set them aside. Since we're saving the planet with this meal, put any onion and spinach waste in your compost. We use a lychee nut and coconut jello cup container that we picked up when we bought the miso. The miso lasts much longer than the little jello cups, but we get to reuse the jello cup container to compost in a small kitchen without creating a stinky mess. This makes up for the fact that it ships individually wrapped 1 oz servings of said jello.

Step 4: Drain the Noodles

The noodles should be done by this point. Use a strainer, such as shown in the photos or a colander to drain the water. Be careful not to let too many delicious noodles fall down the drain during this step.

I usually run about a 1/4 cup of cold water over the noodles after draining and then strain again. If you are using a colander, you can just run cold water over the noodles after they've drained. This is supposed to keep them from getting mushy, it seems to work.

Once the noodles are off the heat and out of the water, set them aside and begin cooking the onions.

Step 5: Caramelize Onions

We will caramelize the onions in the pan where we will cook the rest of the dish. For this we will need the following:

a 3qt frying or sauce pan
1 tbsp sesame oil
sliced onions

Heat up the oil in the pan and add the onions, cook them until they are caramelized. If you are using white or yellow onions, this is just until they are about to begin carbonizing.

Step 6: Add Garlic, Ginger and Sauce

Make sure that the following are ready

2 cloves of chopped garlic
2 tbsp of ginger

mixed miso sauce

As soon as the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and ginger and stir well. I use chopped or minced garlic from a jar. It's much easier to deal with than chopping some fresh cloves and I don't mind sacrificing that much quality for the convenience. The same goes for the ginger. I've heard that ginger powder is a perfectly acceptable substitute for most dishes, but I prefer the pureed ginger in a tube from the produce section of the grocery store. It's more expensive than fresh ginger, but it's much easier to deal with than grating fresh ginger and mixes better than powdered ginger.

Optionally, if you like a spicier version of this dish, then add a touch of vegetable curry paste. I use close to 1/4 tsp.

After everything is thoroughly mixed, pour in the miso sauce that we mixed earlier. Make sure that everything is mixed well. If there are any pieces of miso that didn't get mixed into the sauce enough, now would be a good time to break them up.

On a medium heat, let everything come to a bubble. The sauce should be thickened nicely. Now we are ready for the spinach.

Step 7: Add Spinach and Udon Noodles

Add the spinach to the pan, mix it a little and then add the noodles. Mix them well. How wilted the spinach becomes depends on how long you leave it on the heat, if you'd prefer your spinach less wilted, do this step quickly.

Step 8: Add Lemon Juice and Sesame Seeds

Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of black sesame seeds to the pan and mix well. You might want to turn off the heat at this point, we don't want the sauce to get too thick.

After everything is properly distributed, it's done. Serve hot. I can't really give an account of how this does as leftovers since there are never any leftovers when I make this.



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40 Discussions


7 months ago on Introduction

I've just discovered the ease as well as the great taste of tofu, noodles & various combinations and am looking for different versions of the sauce. I like yours a lot; thanks so much for posting.


9 years ago on Introduction

As a physician and a nutritionist, I would say that the nutritional value of this recipe is poor to good. The protein quality and value are low, as well as the vitamin, mineral content. As you may know the high carbohydrate content is just coverted to sugar and then fat in the human body. I would say a peanut butter sandwich may be better for you. I clicked on this instructable thinking that you might be making noodles from fresh ingredients. Might just buy packaged miso ramen by Sapporo and get the same preserved miso and dried noodles. I do like it as a snack, but never a basic meal substitute.

4 replies

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

If you're going to play the expert card, why not try being a little more constructive, like suggesting "add a half pound chopped tofu, soy beans, or chicken for better protein value"? Did you really just compare a recipe with fresh vegetable ingredients to packaged ramen? If so, how? in a world with millions of obese people wondering around, why does a nutritionist spend his/her time pompously sniping at this meal? (This is not rhetorical, I'd genuinely like to hear an honest response.)


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

Sorry to respond so late, but I accidentally came across your comments just now. I usually don't follow up on comments that I have posted, and I rarely post. You are certainly correct in America's current state of over-weight and obese people and the effects it has on the health system, quality of living, and psychological conditions. My comments were not meant as being offensive, but based on the feedback, I saw that readers were looking at this as comfort food and not seeing the nutritional values. You are certainly correct in improving the protein value of the dish and maybe decreasing the sodium content. Some fresh vegetables will certainly make the meal more balanced. To the Japanese, ramen is a meal with fresh meat and vegetables. The recently produced 'Top Ramen' is just part of a more convenient packaging for this modern time. It would be like buying dried spaghetti noodles, boiling them and eating them plain. In Italy, they are eaten with a sauce, herbs, cheese and usually with an added meat protein such as Italian sausage or meatballs. Please don't take this offensively; nutrition knowledge is lacking in this country. It is complex and beyond the scope of a quick blog discussion. Enjoy!


7 years ago on Introduction

Great recipe... I added some thin slices of Pork and was delicious... My wife wanted more "flavor" so she added some soy sauce... Overall it's a great Base recipe and people will have to cater it to their tastes... Thank you!


8 years ago on Introduction

Praise from the Chinese people: you're great! Are you from China?


9 years ago on Introduction

My wife is deathly allergic to onions and the onion family (leeks, green onions, etc). Is there some ingredient I could substitute that would make for an equally delicious dish? Thanks!

5 replies

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

In indian food, they use hing / asafoetida, I think. You could look it up on wikipedia or find someone at your local asian market...


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

If its just another yummy ingredient you want, I'd say Boy Choy or any of its variants (curt mentioned other nice veggies).

If your looking for something fragrant/pungent to 'replace' the onion, I'd say maybe fish sauce, chilli peppers, etc.

You could also try using asofetida. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asafoetida).

Interesting fact: researchers have conducted studies that proved that under certain circumstances, a person cannot tell the difference between an onion, an apple, and a potato. The difference in perceived flavor is caused by their smell! Its true!


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Regarding taste vs. smell, the experiment of choice for those wishing to test this out is to eat some apple whilst holding some onion under your nose. Smell being a large part of taste makes sense once you realise that air is forced from your mouth to your nose when you chew.

What do you substitute in other dishes that call for Alliums (the onion "family")? I'd say try that, or just leave them out.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

That's a tough one. After thinking about it, I would say tofu is probably the easiest replacement. I would suggest a stiffer tofu that will fry well in the sesame oil. Really any vegetable that you could fry in place of the onions would work, celery is a likely candidate and the tartness might work with the sweetness of the sauce, but the celery flavor might conflict. Sauteed mushrooms might be another way to do it. Really anything that will fry up nicely and mix the sauce and oils with the noodles should work though. Good luck and leave a comment if you find a solution.


9 years ago on Introduction

dont believe everything the U N says but hey great ible, and have fresh Miso in the fridge !!


9 years ago on Introduction

I have made this several times since reading this post a month or so ago. I added chicken breast and hot thai chili sauce as well as various Asian vegetables. But the plain version is great, especially when you don't have a ton of time to devote to cooking. Thanks for this.


9 years ago on Introduction

I just made a version basically identical to yours but with the addition of extra firm tofu and broccoli, which is just as delicious as the plainer version.

This is an awesome recipe. My kids LOVE it!! They even ate the onions, which is a first. I am making it again tonight for dinner. I add tofu and broccoli to make it more of a meal. It is excellent. Thanks for sharing.