21 Surprising and Delicious Ways to Cook Instant Ramen
Let's not kid ourselves — ramen is no health food. But sometimes when time or money is tight, a packet of instant ramen can be a meal-saver. If you get a little creative, you can make your ramen a little more interesting and a little more delicious. (See also: Cheap and Healthy Filler Foods)
Note: Although most instant ramen is deep-fried to get it dry and crunchy, there are some brands of ramen that are air-dried, making them somewhat healthier, though also somewhat more expensive. Look for air-dried ramen at Asian grocers.
1. Make Your Noodles a Meal With Easy Add-Ins
The easiest way to doll up your noodles is to add ingredients that can be heated up or cooked right in the hot soup as your noodles cook. These simple add-ins are an easy way to add nutrients and heft to your meal without fundamentally changing the cooking method of the instant ramen. They include:
- Baby spinach, bok choy, lettuce, bean sprouts, or other quick-cooking vegetables
- Frozen peas, corn, carrots, edamame, and other frozen vegetables
- Furikake (a Japanese seaweed condiment) or dried seaweed
- Frozen dumplings, meatballs, fish balls, frozen shrimp (just cook them a little longer in the hot soup before adding the noodles)
- A beaten egg stirred straight into the soup, or fried/boiled eggs
- Kimchi, sauerkraut, and other pickled/fermented vegetables
- Canned tuna, salmon, or crab
- Shredded rotisserie chicken
- Sliced tofu
- Canned soup (chicken or vegetable work well, just add the noodles without the sauce packet)
- Leftover meat and vegetables
- Condiments such as soy sauce, miso, lime juice, sriracha, hoisin sauce, BBQ sauce, curry, fish sauce, red pepper, etc… Adding your own condiments also allows you to use less of the sauce packet.
If you're ready to graduate beyond just adding stuff to your basic ramen, the following recipes reinvent the instant noodle dish, transforming that instant ramen into something altogether more interesting.
2. Kim-Cheese Ramen
Spicy kimchi and American cheese are no strangers to each other in Korean home cuisine, so why not put them together with a bowl of noodles? Cook the ramen according to package directions, but use only half the spice packet. When ramen is almost done, add some spicy kimchi and a slice of American cheese. Stir it all together until it's all melty and delicious.
3. Spicy Peanut Noodles
Add a little protein and a whole lot of savoriness to your instant noodles with this easy ramen upgrade — add peanut butter, a little soy sauce, and spicy sriracha sauce to your noodles.
4. Hawaiian Cold Noodle Salad
This refreshing noodle salad is typically made with somen noodles, but a package of instant ramen can stand in in a pinch. Lots of fresh lettuce, cucumbers, eggs, and ham make this an entire meal. Just substitute cooked ramen noodles (plain) for the somen noodles in this recipe.
5. Eggs and SPAM Ramen
Combine the unfairly maligned SPAM (canned ham) with a couple of eggs (hard-boiled or fried) on top of a bowl of instant ramen and you've got yourself a classic breakfast that could be served in any cafe in Hong Kong or Hawaii. Hint: Don't use the SPAM straight out of the can (ugh, slimy!). Instead, pan-fry slices of SPAM with a little low-sodium soy sauce, and use just half of the seasoning packet (the SPAM is salty enough).
6. Ramen Yakisoba
This classic Japanese fried noodle dish is easy to make with instant ramen. While yakisoba is usually made with yakisoba noodles, ramen is widely-available, cheap, and an easy substitute. Adding the ramen spice packet as seasoning for the fried noodles adds flavor, but can be omitted, just add extra soy sauce or salt.
7. Ramen Frittata
Eggs and ramen are both fast, cheap foods. Put them together in a frittata, and you've got yourself lunch! Put cooked ramen noodles together with beaten eggs and fry them up in a frying pan. Add shredded cheese and vegetables of your choice. Here's a basic ramen frittata recipe to get you started.
8. Tex-Mex Ramen
Brown some ground beef in a pan and mix in taco seasoning and some cooked ramen noodles. Transfer to a plate and top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, sour cream, and grated cheese. Taco shells are optional.
9. Ramen Snack Mix
Mix raw, uncooked ramen, broken into chunks, with Chex cereal, pretzel sticks, nuts, and other small snacks. Sprinkle the sauce packet over the snacks and mix well.
10. Ramen Marinara Casserole
This super easy ramen bake resembles a cross between lasagna and chop suey, according to the author. Put broken up raw ramen noodles in a pan with cooked ground beef, cover with marinara sauce and cheese, and bake in the oven. Sounds like a fast and easy meal!
11. Ramen Broccoli Casserole
Even the esteemed Alton Brown has a recipe for a ramen casserole. While the ingredient list may seem odd (ramen with mayonnaise, yogurt, and blue cheese dressing, along with broccoli and chicken), the end result is a crowd-pleaser!
12. Grilled Ramen
If you've got some burgers on the grill, why not up the fun factor and throw on some ramen as well? This grilled ramen recipe has you soak the ramen block in a soy sauce-based marinade until it is slightly softened, and then grill it until charred and crisp.
13. Thai Green Curry Ramen
Aromatic green curry and lots of fresh vegetables bring a bowl of ramen to a whole new level. This curry ramen recipe uses fresh ramen noodles, available from Japanese grocery stores, but you can substitute instant ramen too.
14. Ramen Crust Pizza
One surprising use for ramen is in a ramen crust pizza. Put cooked ramen noodles in a cast-iron skillet, add pizza toppings, and stick it in a hot oven until the noodles are crisp and the cheese is melted.
15. Ramen Pad Thai
You can make a simple Thai dish at home by using ramen noodles and adding a pad thai-inspired sauce along with some veggies and chicken. It's a great alternative if you don't have the time/budget to go out.
16. Ramen Cacio e Pepe
Chef David Chang recreates the classic pasta dish, cacio e pepe, using ramen noodles. The parmesan cheeses, olive oil, and black pepper make for a comforting but simple meal.
17. Kimchi Ramen Grilled Cheese Sandwich
If you don't mind carb-loading, this ramen grilled cheese sandwich certainly sounds interesting. Health food it's not, but it might be delicious.
18. Chinese Coleslaw
Although I don't think you'd see this dish on any traditional Chinese table, it is definitely a unique twist on coleslaw. The raw ramen noodles add crunch to the fresh vegetables.
19. Ramen Burger
Ramen actually makes a great substitute for burger buns, if you'd like to make burgers with a little Asian flair. This recipe comes with a from-scratch burger patty recipe and a shoyu-based sauce.
20. Creamy Bacon Ramen
Craving fettuccine alfredo? This creamy bacon ramen might do the trick. A little cream simmered with bacon thickens right up to coat the cooked noodles — creamy, savory, and comforting.
21. Ramen Pancakes
These fun ramen pancakes are like potato latkes with a little Asian fusion added in. They'd make a great appetizer or snack, and they reheat great the next day for breakfast.
How do you like to eat your ramen? Give us ideas in the comments!
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