Otsu Recipe

The first time I made this 101 Cookbooks Otsu recipe was in 2011 according to an email I sent to my sister about how great it was. The recipe has been passed around my family and friend groups so many times that no one even remembers where it started… Don’t worry, I do. It was me. I found it πŸ™‚

101 Cookbooks has consistently been my favorite healthy recipe blog (I own all of Heidi’s cookbooks too) for a decade because she is creative, fresh, and creates bright and beautiful vegetarian recipes that become staples in our home. And this recipe is the best one I’ve ever made from her archives. Next on my list is her Instant Pot Minestrone.

But back to the Otsu…

Otsu is a type of Japanese tofu and soba noodle salad, and while I almost never cook with tofu, it’s so good in this recipe that I usually use it. That said, you can marinate steak or chicken in the same sauce and they work well too.

A fun fact about me is that my family lived in Japan for a little while when I was a kid and I even went to Kindergarten there. The flavors and textures of this recipe bring back so many memories from that time. None of the Japanese food I’ve eaten in the states has ever done that before and I think that’s a big part of why I love this dish so much.

I also love it because it’s lemony, fully of umami, herbaceous, and I always feel good after eating it. If you want to make the recipe gluten-free, use 100% buckwheat soba noodles. I prefer the soba noodles made with wheat and buckwheat because I personally like the texture better, but either one works.

Let me know if you try the recipe and what you think of it! And yes that’s the #amazonnightgown in the photo above.

Otsu Recipe:
Serves 4, original recipe by Heidi Swanson

– Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
– 1 tablespoon, grated fresh ginger (I buy minced ginger in a jar and keep it in my fridge at all times and use that)
– 1 tablespoon, honey
– 3/4 teaspoon, sea salt
– 1 tablespoon, lemon juice
– 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
– 1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
– 2 tablespoons, extra-virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons, toasted sesame oil
– 1 package, dried soba noodles
– 12 ounces extra-firm tofu
– 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
– 3 green onions, chopped
– 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
– A small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
– 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish


Make the dressing: Combine the lemon zest, ginger, honey, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, tamari/soy sauce, and oils and blend until smooth.

Cook the noodles: Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.

Cook the tofu: While the soba noodles are cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into small squares. Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss them a few times, then cook for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.

Combine: In a large bowl, combine the noodles, 1/4 cup of cilantro, green onions, cucumber, and about 2/3 cup of the dressing. Toss to combine. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve garnished with cilantro sprigs and toasted sesame seeds.


Photos by Julia Dags.

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  1. Elizabeth Hajost said:

    Can’t wait to try this but more importantly, what are you wearing in the pic??!! I LOVE the colorful sleeves which seem like a dramatic tease for something gorgeous!

    9.19.19 · Reply
  2. Kristin said:

    Another complete winner. The sauce on this is amazing. I used Udon Noodles instead of Soba. Also swapped tofu for super thin pork that I coated in five spice seasoning and browned then baked a bit. Added shiitake mushrooms as well.

    Def on the rotation in our house. I’ve made probably half a dozen of your recipes now and they are always very good. I appreciate that – getting recipes isn’t easy.

    10.30.19 · Reply
  3. Linda Teweles said:

    Sounds yummy, do you serve this cold or warm?

    3.26.20 · Reply
    • Julia said:

      Either one. I usually serve it cold though.

      3.26.20 · Reply
  4. Mary said:

    Am I missing a way to print this recipe? Thanks!

    1.21.21 · Reply