Kake udon (or kakeudon) is a classic Japanese noodle soup that is simple yet bursting with flavour. This kake udon recipe requires only just three ingredients – chewy udon noodles, mentsuyu sauce and green onions – making it the ultimate comfort food for any noodle lover.
This easy udon noodle soup recipe uses homemade mentsuyu sauce, which is a Japanese soup base made with dried bonito flakes, kombu, sake and mirin. And with a shelf life of up to four weeks, you can whip up this delicious noodle soup anytime. But don’t worry, store-bought mentsuyu or a quick dashi broth works just as well.
Simply garnish with green onions or add fried tofu (for kitsune udon) or raw egg yolk (for tsukimi udon). A bowl of slurp-worthy chewy noodles in a hot and flavourful broth is just minutes away!
What is kake udon?
Udon noodles are thick and chewy Japanese noodles made from wheat flour, water, and salt.
Kake udon is a simple udon noodle soup popular in Japanese cuisine. A flavourful broth made from dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and (sometimes) sake is poured over the chewy noodles. Simple toppings like sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds and shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) adorn the noodle soup.
It is a super simple dish of balanced flavours that celebrates Japanese cooking.
More Japanese udon noodle soup variations include tsukimi udon (udon noodle soup with egg yolk) and kitsune udon (udon noodle soup with fried tofu).
Why you’ll love kake udon
This kake udon recipe is sure to become a staple in your noodle repertoire:
- It’s super quick and easy to make: With only three ingredients (plus water) and minimal prep time, this noodle soup comes together in just a few minutes.
- It’s versatile: You can customize the broth and toppings to your liking, making it perfect for picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions.
- It’s packed with authentic Japanese flavours: The homemade or store-bought mentsuyu sauce creates a rich and delicious broth that will transport you to Japan with each sip.
- It’s perfect for any occasion: Whether you need a quick weeknight meal or a warm bowl of comforting noodles on a cold day, these udon noodles served in hot broth are sure to hit the spot.
Ingredients and substitutes
To make the perfect bowl of kake udon, you only need a few basic ingredients:
- Udon noodles: Use frozen, parboiled or fresh udon noodles for best results. If you can only find dried udon noodles, they will work too but won’t be as plump and chewy. You can also replace the udon with soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) for gluten-free kake soba or even use ramen noodles in a pinch.
- Mentsuyu: Mentsuyu is a versatile Japanese soup stock made from soy sauce, sake, mirin, and dashi stock. It is packed with umami flavour. You can make homemade mentsuyu sauce using dried bonito flakes (or shiitake mushrooms to keep things plant-based), kombu, sake, and mirin. It’s super easy to make and keeps for up to 4 weeks in the fridge. Alternatively, you can use store-bought mentsuyu or create a quick broth using dashi broth (made from dashi powder), soy sauce, and mirin.
- Water: The amount of water you use depends on the concentration of your mentsuyu sauce. You can adjust the ratio of mentsuyu to water to create your desired flavour. I use about 1¼ broth per portion of noodles.
- Green onion: Thinly sliced green onion (scallion or spring onion) adds a fresh and aromatic flavour to the dish. You can also add other toppings like tempura bits or wakame seaweed for extra texture and flavour.
Kake udon is a staple in Japanese cuisine and a popular comfort food dish. It is a celebration of simplicity and umami flavour that you can customise to your heart’s content.
Add some toppings to flavour your udon noodle soup to taste:
- Grated ginger adds a fresh, spicy burst.
- A sprinkle of shichimi togarashi (or chilli flakes) adds some heat.
- Add some protein with inari age (fried tofu pockets) or pink-swirl narutomaki fish cakes.
- Rehydrated dried wakame seaweed for an umami boost.
- Or simply pop an egg yolk on top of the udon noodle soup.
How to make udon noodle soup
Warm up with a bowl of homemade kake udon. This easy udon soup recipe is ready in minutes and made with store-bought or homemade mentsuyu.
Step 1: Bring plenty of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cook udon noodles according to package instructions in rapidly boiling water (about 2 to 3 minutes for parboiled noodles), stirring frequently with chopsticks to separate them.
Step 2: Rinse the noodles in running cold water to remove excess starch, then drain in a colander.
Step 3: Prepare the soup broth. If using homemade mentsuyu, mix half a cup of mentsuyu with two cups of water. If using store-bought mentsuyu, dilute it according to the instructions on the bottle. Add about 1¼ cups of broth per serving of udon. Bring the broth to a simmer and then remove it from the heat.
Tip: You can also make a simple udon broth from 2⅓ cups dashi (use instant dashi, kombu dashi or vegan dashi) with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons mirin if you don’t have mentsuyu.
Step 4: Divide the cooked udon noodles between two serving bowls. Then pour the hot broth over the noodles.
Step 5: Garnish the udon noodle soup with chopped green onions and any other toppings of your choice. Serve hot and enjoy!
Udon noodle soup variations
Once you have simple kake udon, there are many traditional Japanese udon soup dishes you can try:
- Tsukimi udon: Top the udon soup with a raw egg yolk (or soft-boiled egg if the raw yolk is not your vibe) and a sprinkle of shichimi togarashi.
- Kitsune udon: Top the kake udon with seasoned fried tofu (inari age) and pink-swirl narutomaki fish cake.
- Tempura udon: Add a deep-fried tempura shrimp and a slice of Naruto fish cake to each bowl.
- Niku udon: Add thinly sliced stir-fried beef and sliced narutomaki (fish cakes).
Don’t be limited by these suggestions, customise your comforting bowl of udon noodle soup with different toppings. And let me know in the comments what your new favourites are!
Frequently asked questions
Kake soup is a type of Japanese soup base typically made from dashi (fish and seaweed stock), soy sauce (depending on the region), mirin, and (sometimes) sake. This soup base is commonly used in dishes like kake udon and kake soba.
Kake udon has a mild and savoury flavour, with hints of umami from the dashi and soy sauce. The noodles have a soft and chewy texture, while the broth is light and comforting.
Kake udon refers to udon noodles with a hot broth made from soy sauce, mirin and dashi poured over it. This is where the Japanese dish gets its name, as “kake” means “to pour over” in Japanese and udon refers to the chewy noodles.
The main difference between kake udon and kitsune udon is the addition of deep-fried tofu (aburaage) in kitsune udon. This gives the dish a slightly sweet and chewy element. Kake udon, on the other hand, is topped simply with green onions.
The main difference between kake soba and kake udon is the type of noodle used. Kake soba is made with buckwheat noodles, while kake udon is made with chewy wheat noodles. The soup base is poured over the cooked noodles in both dishes.
- 2 servings udon noodles*
- ½ cup mentsuyu , homemade or store-bought*
- water , depending on the mentsuyu concentration
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onion , green parts only
- In a medium saucepan, bring plenty of water to a boil. Add the udon noodles and cook according to package instructions – my parboiled noodles only need 2 to 3 minutes. Frequently stir the noodles using chopsticks to separate them.
- Rinse the noodles in cold running water and leave to drain in a colander.
- Return the saucepan to the heat. If you're using my homemade mentsuyu, mix ½ cup mentsuyu with 2 cups of water. If you're using store-bought mentsuyu, dilute the mentsuyu according to the instructions on the bottle – some mentsuyu don't need dilution. I use about 1¼ cups of broth per serving. Bring the broth to a simmer. Taste and adjust with more water or mentsuyu, then remove from the heat.
- Divide the udon noodles between two bowls and pour the hot broth over the noodles.
- Garnish with the chopped green onion and serve hot.
- I used the packaged parboiled udon noodles sold in 7-oz portions (200 grams). You can also use fresh or frozen udon noodles. If you can only find dried udon noodles, you can use them, but they won’t be as plump and chewy as fresh, frozen or parboiled noodles. See ingredients and substitutes for more.
- Mentsuyu is a Japanese soup base you can buy premade. But homemade mentsuyu sauce is super easy to make using dried bonito flakes (or shiitake mushrooms), kombu, sake and mirin. It is concentrated and flavourful and keeps for 4 weeks in the fridge, so it’s worth making a large batch for quick noodle soup or dipping sauce.
- You can customise the noodle broth with a pinch of sugar or salt if you would like it sweeter or more seasoned.
- If you don’t have mentsuyu, you can create a quick and easy broth by heating 2⅓ cups dashi broth with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons mirin.