This vegan soba noodle bowl with tofu is a flavor-packed summertime meal. Great for weeknights, meal prep, and to-go lunches.
I originally shared this soba noodle bowl back in 2018. In the three years that followed, lots of you tried it, which makes me super happy. Yet every time someone would tag me on Instagram with a pic of their version, I’d make a note-to-self to update the recipe.
You know, three years is a long time in recipe development years. Even though back then I was sharing what I believed to be a pretty good recipe, present-day me knew it was due for a makeover. So here is my soba noodle bowl, version 2.0.
While the ingredients have stayed pretty much the same, I did streamline the process. The main update is cooking the tofu on the stove instead of in the oven. Since this is a summer recipe – cold noodles and all – the baked tofu technique didn’t really make sense, since the last thing I wanna do in the summer is let my AC and oven battle it out.
This vegan soba noodle bowl with tofu is a perfect hot-weather dinner. It’s satisfying yet light, and won’t weigh you down. Plus, it’s great for meal prep, since the noodles get a chance to absorb the dressing and arguably become even more delicious in the days ahead.
What’s In This Soba Noodle Bowl
This healthy, one-bowl meal consists of four elements: cold soba noodles, pan-fried tofu, a simple soy-ginger dressing, and thinly sliced cucumbers. The dressing coats the noodles in salty tanginess, which contrasts perfectly with sweet-savory tofu that gets its personality from a soy-maple marinade. Raw cucumbers and scallions add brightness and spice, and roasted peanuts lend a satisfying crunch.
How to Make This Bowl
Start by pressing the tofu. Pressing tofu before cooking it eliminates excess moisture and allows it to absorb more flavor. To press tofu [without a designated tofu press], place it on a plate, then top it with another plate or cutting board, and weigh it down with something heavy (like a couple of cans/jars). Let this contraption stand for 15-30 minutes, periodically draining off the water that pools at the bottom of the plate.
Next, cube the tofu, season it with soy sauce, maple syrup, and black pepper, and let it marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Lastly, pan-fry the tofu. Watch it carefully and flip often since it can burn quickly (because of the maple syrup).
While the tofu cooks, make the dressing by whisking together fresh garlic and ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and seasoned rice vinegar.
Boil the soba noodles according to package directions; they usually cook a few minutes faster than Italian pasta. (Do not overcook soba, as it will get sticky and goopy.) When they’re done, drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water. Rinsing not only makes them cold, but also washes off excess starch and prevents them from sticking together.
Lastly, toss the noodles with the dressing, cucumbers, scallions, and peanuts, and top with the tofu.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Soba Noodles: Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles. Some versions are 100% buckwheat – hence gluten-free – while others have some wheat. If you can’t find soba, use brown rice noodles, or any other type of noodle you have (lo mein, ramen, udon, etc.).
- Cucumbers: Cold noodles and cucumbers are a classic combo, but feel free to add other crunchy veg, like carrots, bell peppers, or even blanched broccoli. I also like to top this bowl with kimchi.
- Peanuts: If you have an allergy, garnish with toasted sesame seeds instead.
- Scallions: I love the spiciness they add, but feel free to sub with cilantro or basil.
- Seasoned Rice Vinegar: Rice vinegar (made from fermented rice) is a mild, slightly sweet vinegar commonly used in southeast Asian cuisines. It comes in two varieties: plain and seasoned. Seasoned rice vinegar contains sugar and salt, and I love it for dressings and quick-pickles. If you don’t have it, sub with plain rice vinegar (or any other mild vinegar, like apple cider, white wine, or champagne) plus a splash of maple syrup.
How to Make This In Advance
This soba noodle bowl is perfect for meal prep since the noodles get even tastier the next day. And, it’s great for taking to work/school – you don’t even have to heat it up. The dressed noodles and cooked tofu will both keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Other summer favorites…
- Magical No-Churn Banana Coconut Ice Cream
- Vegan Sushi Rolls with Crispy Tofu
- Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Seared Tofu
- Vegan Poke Bowl with Sautéed Zucchini
This vegan soba noodle bowl is a flavor-packed summertime meal. Great for weeknights, meal prep, and to-go lunches.
For the Tofu and Noodles
- One 14-ounce block extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- About 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil, like avocado, organic canola, or refined coconut oil
- One 8-ounce package soba noodles (or any other noodles)
- 2 small cucumbers (preferably Persian), very thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts (see note below)
- 2 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
For the Dressing
- 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed, grated, or finely minced
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- Drain the tofu and squeeze out some of the water by pressing on the block with your palms. Place on a plate then top it with another plate or cutting board and weigh it down with something heavy (like a couple of cans) to squeeze out as much water as possible (or use a tofu press if you have one). Let stand for 15 to 30 minutes, periodically draining off the excess water.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place in a medium bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to coat. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
- In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, heat enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook until it forms a brown crust on the bottom, about 2 minutes; watch it carefully since it can burn quickly. Brown the tofu on most sides, cooking it for about 8 minutes total.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil for the noodles.
- While you wait for the water, make the dressing. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 small minced garlic clove, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.
- Cook the noodles according to package directions, then drain and rinse under cold running water, separating the strands with your hands to wash off any remaining starch.
- Transfer the noodles to the bowl with the dressing. Add the cucumbers and most of the scallions and peanuts, and toss to coat (I like to toss with my hands to prevent the noodles from breaking).
- To serve, divide the noodles among 4 bowls and top with the tofu. Garnish with the remaining peanuts and scallions.
If you don’t have peanuts – or have an allergy – garnish with sesame seeds instead.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 520
Keywords: soba, noodles, tofu, vegan, cucumbers