This curry udon is a quick and easy recipe that features slurpy udon noodles and vegetables in a thick, flavourful stew. This recipe uses a homemade curry roux to replace store-bought Japanese curry cubes if you don’t have them or don’t want the extra additives.
I love Japanese food but something I struggle with is the ingredients.
Mirin, dashi, and curry stock cubes are ingredients that require me to make a special trip to the Asian supermarket and, unfortunately, I often struggle to use them before they expire.
Fortunately, Japanese curry is easy to make from scratch and my vegan curry udon recipe uses ingredients that are easy to find in most supermarkets.
This is not an authentic recipe by any means but it’s packed with flavor, easy and quick enough to prepare for a weeknight dinner.
What is curry udon
Curry udon is a Japanese noodle soup in a thick broth flavored with curry spices.
It’s warming, hearty, flavourful and very easy to make!
Curry is very popular in Japan and you may have encountered it in Japanese restaurants or tried the more popular katsu curry or curry rice.
Curry was introduced to Japan from India by the British but Japanese curry differs from Indian curry with its more umami flavour profile and less spice.
Japanese curry is usually made with curry cubes, the most common of which is the S&B Golden Curry brand.
These store-bought curry roux cubes make it super easy to make Japanese curry and you can find them in an Asian supermarket or even in a well-stocked supermarket.
Where I live, Japanese curry cubes aren’t sold in local supermarkets so I make my vegan Japanese curry from scratch, which is surprisingly easy.
In a pan I make the curry roux, which is a combination of flour, oil, soy sauce and spices.
In a separate pot, I prepare the soup ingredients, which include hearty vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and shiitake mushrooms, and the udon noodles.
It all comes together into a slurpy, filling and comforting bowl of curry noodle soup!
What are udon noodles
Udon is a type of noodle from Japan made from wheat flour.
They are typically thick, round noodles with a chewy texture but can also be thin and flat.
Udon noodles can be bought dried, pre-cooked/parboiled and vacuum-packed, frozen or fresh.
Large, well-stocked supermarkets may carry udon noodles. You’ll find the largest variety of udon noodles at an Asian supermarket or online.
How to cook udon noodles
Dried udon noodles are cooked just like pasta; in a large pot of boiling water for about 5 to 7 minutes.
Pre-cooked udon noodles can also be boiled in water for 2 to 3 minutes before adding them to soup or stir fry, or they can be added to hot soup broth in the last few minutes of cooking.
Some recipes call for rinsing the cooked udon under cool water to remove some of the starch and prevent them from becoming mushy.
Just follow the preparation instructions on the package or your recipe.
How to eat udon
Udon is a versatile noodle that can be served in a variety of hot and cold dishes.
Perhaps the most common way to eat udon is in soup such as kake udon. Udon can also be served in a thicker, stew-like soup such as this curry udon recipe.
Cold udon noodles can be served with a dipping sauce or as part of a salad.
How to make Japanese curry roux
While boxed Japanese curry cubes are a convenient way to make Japanese curry, you may not have any on hand when you get a hankering for curry udon!
Fortunately, you can make this curry udon recipe from scratch with just a couple of basic spices that you probably already have in your pantry.
Additionally, by making the curry roux at home you avoid the preservatives and palm oil that the curry bricks contain.
A roux is a combination of fat and flour that is used for making sauces.
A mix of spices is added to the roux to make Japanese curry. These spices often include turmeric, coriander, cumin, chili pepper, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, thyme, and cardamom.
An easy way to replicate these flavors is to use curry powder and garam masala. If you can find Japanese curry powder, even better but if not any good-quality curry powder can be used.
For this vegan Japanese curry roux, simply cook flour, curry powder and garam masala in a hot neutral oil (such as sunflower, vegetable, or canola oil) for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of soy sauce for umami.
This is the basic roux that you will add to your soup broth to thicken and flavor it into a delicious Japanese curry udon.
Ingredients you’ll need
The ingredients for this curry udon recipe are accessible and easy to find in most large supermarkets.
- Udon noodles: For this recipe I used the thick, round udon noodles that come in a vacuum package and are pre-cooked/parboiled. You can also use fresh refrigerated or frozen noodles. Follow the cooking instructions on the package.
- Onion: Onion starts off the flavor base of the stock.
- Potato: Potato and carrot are common vegetables in curry udon. Potato helps make this soup more substantial.
- Carrot: Carrot adds a touch of sweetness.
- Shiitake mushrooms: I added dried shiitake mushrooms to give the stock a bit more umami flavor. The mushrooms are rehydrated in the stock and then sliced up and added back to the soup as an ingredient.
- Vegetable stock: Ideally, curry udon would be made with dashi. Dashi usually contains bonito flakes and therefore isn’t vegan. Vegetarian dashi can sometimes be found at Asian supermarkets or can be made from kombu seaweed (kelp) and shiitake mushrooms. If you have the time and inclination, go ahead and make it at home. If not, you can substitute vegetable stock as I have done here.
- Oil: A roux is a combination of fat and flour. Often butter is used as the fat but since this recipe is vegan, I’ve used oil. You can use any flavourless neutral oil such as canola, sunflower or vegetable oil.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is needed for the roux and acts as a thickener.
- Curry powder: I use whatever curry powder I can get my hands on. If you want a more authentic Japanese curry flavor, try to track down Japanese curry powder, which is unique for its addition of orange peel and star anise. I can’t find this where I live so I just use a supermarket curry powder.
- Garam masala: Since generic curry powder doesn’t have the full range of spices needed for Japanese curry, I also add garam masala, which adds warming spices. Try to choose one with a good combination of spices but without too much heat.
- Cayenne pepper: This is optional for a little bit of heat. Japanese curry isn’t super spicy like some Indian curry is. Adjust the heat to your taste.
- Soy sauce: Soy sauce adds both umamai and salt to the curry.
- Green onion: Garnish your vegan curry udon with a sprinkling of chopped scallions.
How to make curry udon
Curry udon is super easy to make. It’s ready in less than 30 minutes and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner!
Cook the noodles: Whether you’re using dry, pre-cooked, or fresh udon noodles, be sure to follow the instructions on the package on how to prepare the noodles for soup.
The ones I use say to boil the noodles for 2 - 3 minutes until they separate, then drain.
Prepare the soup base: In a pot, first fry off the onion. Then add the vegetables and vegetable stock.
Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender - about 10 minutes depending on how thick you cut the veggies.
Make the roux: While the vegetables are simmering, prepare the roux in a separate pan.
Heat the oil over medium-low heat and sprinkle over the flour, curry powder and garam masala.
Cook, while stirring, for about 5 minutes in order to cook out the raw flour taste, then add the soy sauce and mix it in well.
The roux will first stick together in a ball and then start to crumble apart.
Thicken the Japanese curry: Japanese curry is thickened by combining the soup stock with a roux.
To avoid lumps, add a ladleful of the soup stock - about ¼ cup - to the pan with the roux and stir it well to dissolve the flour.
When no lumps remain, pour the roux into the soup base and simmer it gently, stirring, until the curry thickens.
Finishing touches: By now the dried shiitake mushrooms will have rehydrated in the soup. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to remove them from the soup, slice them into bite-sized pieces, then return them to the soup.
It’s a good idea to taste the curry and adjust the seasoning and consistency to your liking. You can add another splash of soy sauce or a pinch of salt if you think it’s necessary.
If the soup is too thick, add another splash of vegetable stock or water.
Divide your cooked udon noodles between your bowls and ladle over the hot curry broth.
Garnish with green onions, if desired, and serve.
Substitutions and variations
Tofu: Sometimes curry udon contains meat. This is a vegan recipe so you can add tofu if you’d like to add a “meaty” texture. Add cubes of extra-firm tofu along with the vegetables, tofu puffs or aburaage (fried tofu skin), or fried cubes of tofu are all delicious options.
Dashi: Dashi is Japanese soup stock. Usually it is made with bonito flakes and therefore not vegan or even vegetarian. If you have an Asian supermarket nearby, you may be able to find vegetarian dashi. If not you can also make vegetarian dashi at home with kombu and shiitake mushrooms. I used regular vegetable stock for convenience but you can substitute vegetarian dashi if you have it.
Mirin: Mirin is Japanese rice wine that is often added to soups such as this curry udon. Again, if you have an Asian supermarket nearby you will likely be able to find it and you can add a tablespoon to the roux along with the soy sauce.
Vegetables: You can substitute or add pretty much any vegetable you want: corn, spinach, sweet potato, shredded cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, etc. Instead of shiitake mushrooms, try shimeji or oyster. Garnish with some pickled ginger or pickled radish.
Katsu curry: This curry soup base can be used in different ways. Swap the udon noodles for breaded and fried katsu-style tofu slices. Or you can serve the curry alongside a serving of rice.
Yes, curry is very popular in Japan. It’s popular both as a dish ordered at restaurants as well as being frequently prepared at home.
Yes, curry ramen is a dish that exists in Japan, though it is not yet quite a popular as curry udon. Simple swap the udon noodles for ramen noodles.
Udon noodles are typically low in calories and fat but depending on the brand may be high in salt. Be sure to check the nutrition label on the package. When combined with vegetables such as in this vegan curry udon recipe, udon becomes much healthier thanks to the additional vitamins and minerals from the veggies.
Make ahead and storage tips
If you would like to make this curry udon ahead, it’s a good idea to store the soup base and udon noodles separately.
You can prepare the stew and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
The soup base will thicken as it chills. You can reheat it in the microwave or in a pot over medium-low heat on the stove. I recommend adding an additional splash of vegetable stock or water to help loosen it up as it reheats.
When you’re ready to serve, boil some fresh noodles to add to the reheated stew base.
How to serve curry udon
Serve curry udon with garnishes of your choice: chopped green onion, pickled ginger or radish, sliced nori, or shichimi togarashi (a chili spice blend).
You can also serve curry udon with a small bowl of rice on the side. Once you have eaten all the noodles, add spoonfuls of rice to the remaining curry broth to soak up every last drop.
- 400 grams (14 oz) fresh udon noodles
- 4 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
- ½ medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small potato, cubed
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 2 – 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 cups (709 ml) vegetable stock (or vegetarian dashi)
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 1 green onion, sliced
- Cook the udon noodles according to the package directions. Usually this means boiling them for 2 – 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon on oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and fry until soft and transparent. Add the potato, carrot, shiitake mushrooms and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile prepare the curry roux. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the flour, curry powder and garam masala and mix well. Stir for about 5 minutes to cook out the flour then add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Continue to cook and stir until the roux sticks together in a ball and starts to crumble apart. Remove from the heat.
- When the vegetables are ready, ladle some of the soup into the pan with the roux and stir well to dissolve the flour. Add it to the pot with the soup and mix well as it thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning. I added an additional ½ tablespoon of soy sauce. Fish out the shiitake mushrooms, slice them and add them back in. If you'd like it a bit thinner, add a few splashes of stock or water.
- Divide the noodles into your bowls, ladle over the curry stew and garnish with chopped green onions.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 606Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1475mgCarbohydrates: 74gFiber: 8gSugar: 6gProtein: 12g