Quick Yaki Udon (Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)
Yaki udon is a Japanese stir-fried udon noodles with vegetables, protein, and savory sauce. Prepare it in 15 minutes using simple 5-ingredient yaki udon sauce for a delicious weeknight meal.
“Thank you! It was delicious and quick. Kids gobbled it up and Hubby and I also enjoyed it.”Esther
Many people enjoy a quick stir-fried noodle dish for a simple and satisfying meal. Yaki udon is one of my personal favorites because of its delicious flavor and easy preparation.
Japanese udon noodles have a thick and chewy texture, ideal for absorbing savory sauce flavors. The sauce requires only 5 simple ingredients. Best of all, you can prepare this dish in just 15 minutes. It’s a quick and easy meal.
For this delicious Yaki Udon recipe, I’ve opted for ground pork, but it’s easily customizable – simply swap in ground chicken for a chicken Yaki Udon twist, or choose beef or shrimp for an equally satisfying seafood or beef variation that’s sure to please any palate.
If you find the dark color of noodles appetizing, you will surely love jajangmyeon, a popular Korean dish known as black bean noodles. It is a delightful addition to the array of delicious Asian noodle dishes.
What is Yaki Udon?
Yaki Udon (焼きうどん) is a tasty Japanese udon noodle dish. Udon generally refers to a traditional Japanese dish featuring thick, smooth, white wheat flour noodles served in a savory broth made from dashi, soy sauce, and mirin.
Yaki Udon, on the other hand, is a stir-fried version of the noodle dish. “Yaki” means grilled or pan-fried in Japanese. The dish often uses meats like beef, pork or shrimp and stir-fried with vegetables.
Originating in southern Japan after World War II when food was scarce, this popular noodle dish was often consumed in pubs. It emerged from a noodle shop replacing soba noodles with thick and chewy udon noodles during a food shortage.
While this popular Japanese stir-fried noodle dish shares similarities with its counterpart, Yaki Soba, the key distinction lies in the noodles: While Yaki Udon features thick, chewy noodles, its counterpart, Yaki Soba, uses thinner, wheat-based soba noodles.
Thanks to its versatile taste, this udon stir fry is an excellent choice for using up leftover ingredients and cleaning out your fridge. By doing so, you can prepare a budget-friendly meal and reduce food waste at the same time.
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Japanese Udon noodles are thick, chewy noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt. It’s a must feature of traditional Udon recipes. Unlike rice noodles, Udon is not gluten-free, but it is naturally vegan and dairy-free, catering to a variety of dietary needs.
For convenience and authentic taste in this recipe, pre-cooked udon noodles are your best bet. Look for them vacuum-sealed in plastic, available in the refrigerated or frozen section of any Asian grocery store. If you come across fresh or dried udon noodles, just cook them according to the packet directions.
Preparing Udon Noodles for Stir-Fry
Most udon noodles are partly cooked already when purchased. Therefore, they should not be boiled for too long. They will naturally come apart in the hot water. Just a gentle nudge with chopsticks is sufficient.
Once the noodles are bendable and separated, remove, rinse with cold water to stop cooking, and they’re stir-fry ready.
- Udon noodles: I recommend using frozen Sanuki udon noodles. You can find it in the freezer section at most Asian grocery stores.
- The noodles usually precooked, so you will just need to soak them in hot water to defrost before adding to stir-fry.
- Protein: You can use any of your preferred protein including thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp. I chose to use ground pork for this recipe. Pork belly slices are another common protein used.
- If you want this noodles to be vegetarian or vegan, replace with plant-based protein, tofu, mushroom or other types of your favorite vegetables.
- Vegetables: Cabbage and carrot are great for this recipe. However, you can also substitute them with any vegetables you have on hand. Some good options include bok choy, baby kale, spinach, bell pepper, zucchini, or any other vegetables you prefer.
- Garlic and green onion: to add more savory flavor.
- Bonito flakes: Bonito flakes are dried and smoked fish flakes with a savory, umami flavor. They make a great garnish. However, they can be omitted without affecting the dish’s taste.
For Yaki Udon Sauce
With its combination of umami flavors from oyster sauce, sweetness from mirin, and a hint of saltiness from soy sauce, yaki udon sauce adds depth and complexity to the noodles.
- Oyster sauce: adds flavor and umami
- Soy sauce: seasons the dish
- Dark soy sauce: adds darker color and enhance their appearance, making them more appetizing. (if you prefer a lighter color, you can replace it with regular soy sauce)
- Sweet rice wine (Mirim): for added sweetness
- Sesame oil: for nutty fragrance
My Best Cooking Tips and Advice
The recipe is simple, but a few tips can enhance your udon stir-fry cooking experience and ensure perfection.
- Prepare veggies and sauce in advance: As with any stir-fry, yaki udon cooks quickly in a hot skillet. Ensure to chop your vegetables and prepare the sauce ahead of time.
- Soften your frozen udon noodles in hot water: When using frozen noodles, soak them in hot water briefly instead of forcefully separating them to prevent breakage.
- Use large skillet or wok: I prefer a wok for quick heat distribution and easy stirring.
- A large skillet works too, if it has enough space for veggies and noodles.
How to Make Yaki Udon
Step 1. Quick Udon Noodle Preparation
- To get your noodles ready, simply submerge the frozen udon in hot water. Let them sit for 1 to 2 minutes until they start to loosen up. With chopsticks or tongs, give a nudge gently—make sure not to snap them.
- Once they’re flexible, pour them into a colander to drain. Splash them with cold water quickly. Then, just set them aside until they’re needed in your recipe.
Step 2. Preparing the Sauce and Protein
- Begin by combining the sauce ingredients in a bowl and put it aside for later.
- Next, warm a tablespoon of oil in a wok or big frying pan on high heat. Toss in the ground pork or your chosen protein and cook it until it’s nicely
Step 3. Stir-frying vegetables
- In the same wok or skillet, add the rest of the oil. Throw in the cabbage and carrot, and stir-fry them for about 2 to 3 minutes until they start to soften.
- Next, mix in the green onions and garlic and keep stir-frying for another 30 seconds.
Step 4. Adding noodles and sauce
- Now, introduce the udon noodles, pork, and prepared sauce into the wok. Toss them all together thoroughly to make sure the noodles are evenly coated in the sauce.
- For an extra touch, sprinkle bonito flakes over the dish if you like. Serve and savor your meal
Be creative with this recipe by selecting from a wide range of proteins and vegetables to match your palate or dietary preferences:
- Protein Options: Choose from chicken, beef, firm tofu, shrimp, or plant-base protein to add a robust dimension and meet dietary needs to your dish.
- Vegetable Varieties: Bulk it up with a colorful array of bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, carrot, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, snap peas and spinach for a veggie-packed feast.
- Spicy Kick: Spice things up with a drizzle of chili oil or a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for those who like it hot.
More Noodle Dishes to Try
Looking for some new and exciting noodle dishes to add to your meal rotation? Here are some ideas:
- 5-Minute Kimchi Ramen
- Bibim Guksu (Korean Cold Noodles)
- Easy Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)
- Beef Gochujang Noodles
- Hong Kong Style Cantonese Pan-Fried Noodles
Quick Yaki Udon (Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)
Yaki Udon Sauce
- 2 pkg (200 g each) udon noodles, frozen
- 2 tbsp oil, divided
- 8 oz (225 g) minced pork, see note below
- 4 cup (960 ml) chopped green cabbage
- 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 green onion, sliced
- 4 tbsp bonito flakes to garnish, optional
- To make the yaki udon sauce, mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- To prepare the noodles, place the frozen noodles in hot water and soak them for 1-2 minutes until they become loose. Use chopsticks or kitchen tongs to gently separate the noodles, being careful not to break them. Drain the noodles in a colander and set them aside until you're ready to use them in your dish.
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add ground pork or your preferred protein and stir-fry until browned and crisp. Transfer the cooked pork to a plate and set it aside.
- Heat the remaining oil in the wok or large skillet. Add the cabbage and carrot and stir-fry until they soften, which takes around 2-3 minutes. Then, add the green onion and garlic, and continue to stir-fry for an additional 30 seconds.
- Next, add the noodles, pork, and the yaki udon sauce. Toss everything well to ensure that it is evenly coated with the sauce. If desired, garnish the dish with bonito flakes before serving. Enjoy your delicious yaki udon!
- Udon noodles: I recommend using frozen Sanuki udon noodles. You can find in the freezer section at most Asian grocery stores. The noodles usually precooked, so you will just need to soak them in hot water to defrost before adding to stir-fry.
- Protein: You can use any of your preferred protein including thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp. I chose to use ground pork for this recipe. Pork belly slices are another common protein used in Yaki Udon. If you want this noodles to be vegetarian or vegan, replace with plant-based protein, tofu, mushroom or other types of your favorite vegetables.