Instant noodles have become common in the pantries of families in many parts of the world. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, 106.4 billion servings of instant noodles were consumed in 2019, which means approximately 280 million servings were consumed each day. The top three rankings were China, Indonesia, and India, and the US ranked number 6 in the world!
Most people like instant noodles because they are cheap, tasty, and convenient. There are also different flavors, noodle types, and soup types depending on the origin of the product. Read on to check out our choices, and scroll down to our buying guide (reviewed by a ramen blogger) for more shopping tips!
Cody Mizuno is the editor and founder of Ramen Guide Japan, a website dedicated to sharing ramen with the English-speaking masses. He has eaten at over 500 ramen restaurants throughout Japan and documents his trips on his website where he writes detailed reviews and translates menus, as well as on his Instagram where he uploads photos of all the bowls he eats.
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There are plenty of instant noodles choice on the market. Although flavor plays a big factor in your decision, there are also other things you should look at before purchasing one!
Each country has its own traditional flavors and brands of instant noodles, but the three most popular on the market tend to come from Japan, Korea, and Thailand.
Instant noodles originated in Japan with Momofuku Ando's Cup Ramen in 1958. With that much history, you can expect that Japanese brand instant noodles to have a lot of variety! The taste of Japanese instant noodles tends to be subtle but full of umami. Some common brands are Nissin, Maruchan, and Sapporo Ichiban.
Besides the normal soup noodles, they also come in non-soup options, such as yakisoba. Yakisoba is Japanese stir-fried noodles that are often flavored with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fruit purées, for a salty-sweet taste.
If you prefer light soup bases, we recommend flavors such as soy sauce and shio (salt). Soy sauce broth is made with stock and soy sauce and looks quite clear. It has a savory and salty flavor. Shio soup is made with salt and broth, so it tastes savory and salty.
For those who prefer thick and rich broth, consider miso, tonkotsu, or curry broth. Soybean-based miso broth was first invented in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It's made with stock, miso, and might also contain butter for a rich, nutty, and hearty taste to provide comfort for the cold weather.
Tonkotsu, which is pork bone-based, is rich and pretty heavy, as it's cooked with pork bones. There is also curry broth, which is rich and fragrant thanks to the addition of different spices.
The first instant noodle developed by Momofuku Ando was actually the Chicken Ramen brand packs that you can still see today in most Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores. Funny enough, the instant noodles were first thought of as luxury items, costing about the same as a bowl of ramen you would have typically found in a restaurant during that time.
It has since evolved to what it is today, being a staple in many young, university student’s pantries. Nowadays you can find a variety of different instant noodles in collaboration with established, well-known ramen shops. Definitely recommend grabbing a pack next time you’re deciding which to get!
Korean brands are especially known for their often red appearance, fiery kick, and mix of sweet and spicy flavors. If you want in-your-face spice, then consider Korean brands like Nongshim, Paldo, and Samyang.
But Korean spicy noodles come in different heat levels. Hot peppers are measured by the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). The larger the SHU number, the spicier the peppers are. You can look up noodle brands to find their Scoville ratings, too.
For example, Samyang's Buldak Bokkeummyun Light (Buldak Fried Noodles Light) has a Scoville rating of 1,762 and is suitable for those with low spice tolerance. Meanwhile, their Buldak Bbibbimyeon has a rating of 12,000 and makes a great challenge for spicy lovers.
Of course, not all Korean brand instant noodles are of the spicy variety, but they do tend to be stronger in flavor compared to their Japanese cousins. We recommend flavors such as kimchi, jjajangmyeon, and bibimbap flavors.
Both jjajangmyeon and bibimbap instant noodles often come without soup. Jjajangmyeon noodles are made with a black bean sauce, which has a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Meanwhile, bibimbap noodles use the traditional Korean gochujang sauce and have a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.
The best part about Korean instant noodles is their versatility, and they can be used not only as a meal on their own, but also as a side to your favorite Korean dishes. Having some kimchi on the side is a fantastic way to supplement your instant noodles, or adding the noodles to your favorite Korean hot pot can give some extra carb-y goodness to your meal!
Thai noodles are often available in a mixture of sweet, salty, and sour flavors, with acidic notes. They can range in spiciness levels, from mild flavors like salted egg to hotter ones like green curry. Some popular Thai noodle brands are Mama, Waiwai, and Yum Yum. We recommend tom yum, pad thai, green curry, and salted egg flavors.
Chinese instant noodles are usually made with many spices such as Sichuan peppers, onions, garlic. Some common flavors include spicy beef, tomato and egg, and spicy chicken.
Similar to Chinese noodles, Taiwanese noodles are also famous for their rich and deep flavors. For example, TTL's Pickled Vegetable Beef noodles are well-loved by many Taiwanese for their rich beef broth. Taiwanese dry noodles are also very delicious, with some famous flavors being ginger and sesame and Sichuan pepper.
Many of the Thai and Southeast Asian instant noodle varieties can be quite heavy on the spice but still very delicious. If you want to try some of the flavors but need something to tone the spice down, I recommend adding a sunny-side-up egg with a runny yolk to give the noodles a creamy finish.
If that’s not enough, a dash of vinegar will give the dish some acidity while helping break down some of the spiciness for a more mild flavor profile!
Wheat-based noodles are the most common type used to make instant noodles. This category can further be divided into fried and non-fried varieties. 80 percent of all instant noodles on the market use the fried version!
Soba broths tend to be rather light, while udon and ramen can pair well with heavier types of soups and flavors. And, just a side note: yakisoba, although it has soba in the name, is actually made with wheat noodles!
There are also rice noodles, which are made from rice flour and contain no egg. If you've ever had pho, the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, then you've eaten rice noodles!
Alternative noodles are usually made from vegetables. This type of noodle includes varieties such as glass noodles and shirataki.
Glass noodles are usually made from mung bean, and shirataki noodles (also known as konjac noodles) are made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the konjac root. They make a great low-calorie option if you crave noodles but have dietary concerns.
Instant noodles have three main types of broth: thick soup, clear soup, and no soup. So, think about whether you like soupy or saucy noodles before choosing a product.
Clear soup is light and low in calories. It's usually made from broth with salt or soy sauce, so the taste is mild and light.
On the other hand, thicker soup varieties can be higher in calories, because there are more ingredients added to them. They often contain thickening agents like fat, flour, or starch, but provide a smooth mouthfeel and heartiness that lighter soups may not.
Remember that old adage, "don’t judge a book by its cover"? While the clarity of the broth can sometimes infer how light or rich a soup will be, there is always more than meets the eye.
A lot of the flavors can come from the seasoning such as the shoyu (soy sauce) or miso in the tare seasoning sauce. Clear soups can also be achieved despite infusing the broth with tons of chicken and vegetables, so be sure to play around and try an assortment to find what’s best for you!
If you aren't interested in broth, but want some saucy noodles, then there are still options for you! Yakisoba is a well-known no-soup noodle dish that still packs a flavorful punch without much water.
Jjajangmyeon, noodles with black bean sauce, and bibim naengmyeon, spicy cold noodles, are some famous and delicious Korean dry noodles.
You could also try boiling a regular pack of instant noodles, draining the water, then mixing them with the included flavor packet to make your own no soup ramen!
Instant noodles usually come with toppings such as dehydrated vegetables and dehydrated meat. Although they may not be exactly like fresh ingredients, they still add some extra flavor and texture to your instant noodles.
Many products also come with seasoning oil packets. These oil packets are usually made with oil and spices such as onions, garlic, and ginger to make your noodles richer and more flavorful.
Cups or styrofoam containers are the most convenient type of packaging, since you can just add hot water to the package right away. These containers are lightweight and pretty durable, so you don't have to worry about them getting punctured if you bring one for lunch in your backpack.
However, cups and styrofoam containers take up more storage space than noodle packs. Noodle packs are also somewhat more eco-friendly, since less material is used to make their packaging. Packs are less convenient when it comes to preparation and cooking time, though, since you can't prepare them in their own container.
If you're concerned about calories, make sure to check the nutrition facts carefully. Sometimes, one package of instant noodles can contain more than one serving size. For example, if it says two serving sizes on a package with 300 calories per serving, this means this package actually contains 600 calories. On average, one serving is about 300 to 500 calories.
There are also many types of soups, with varying nutritional values. Usually, clear soups like salt or soy sauce-based broths have the lowest amount of calories. Try avoiding spicy or thick soups because they tend to add extra oil, flour, or cornstarch. Some noodles don't come with any soup or sauce, so you can make your own healthy version!
Many instant noodles are fried noodles and tend to be high in calories and saturated fats. But you can choose instant noodles that are air-dried instead of fried to reduce the amount of fats. There are also vegan and vegetarian options! For example, Paldo's kimchi-flavored noodles and Bibim Men are made without any meat ingredients.
While instant noodles can look simple from the outside, there is a lot that goes into each pack, and they can be deceptive about their ingredients and caloric content.
If you have any allergies such as fish or seafood, be sure to check the labels, as most Japanese stocks have some sort of seafood for added umami. The same goes if you’re a vegetarian or pescatarian; many of these cup noodles use pork as a base for their soup packets, so be sure to check their labels at the store!
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Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
Best Spicy Beef Noodles for Spice Lovers
Organic Millet & Brown Rice Ramen
Best Ramen With Rich and Savory Pork Bone Soup
Best for the Complex Flavor Thanks to the Inclusion of 5 Toppings
Shrimp Tom Yum Instant Noodles
Best Seafood Noodles With Fragrant Spices
Best Vegetarian Knife-Cut Chewy Noodles
Instant Lunch Chicken Flavor
Best Basic Chicken Broth-Based Noodle
2X Spicy Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen
Best Korean Noodles With a Spicy and Savory Black Bean Sauce
Yakisoba Teriyaki Chicken Flavor
Best Yakisoba in 4 Minutes With No Mess
Vietnamese Beef Pho
Best for the Aromatic Black Garlic Oil
Best Low-Calorie Option for Dieters
Shin Ramyun is one of the best-selling brands in Korea. The soft and chewy noodles pair well with the spicy beef broth base. The soup is made with beef fat, beef stock, and spices such as garlic and ginger for a flavorful taste. The dehydrated vegetables further add texture to the noodles.
Some reviewers say Shin Ramyun is pretty salty, and a few also couldn't handle the spice. However, these hot instant noodles would be a great choice for spice lovers. Moreover, many buyers love the texture of the noodles, saying they are thick and chewy. They find the soup very flavorful as well.
Ichiran is a famous ramen brand in Japan. But even if you're not in Japan, you can still try their ramen using these instant noodles! The tonkotsu pork bone broth is rich and flavorful. Plus, the noodles are thin and firm, so they don't get soggy in the soup at all. There's also a spice packet for you to add to your noodles.
Some think the noodles are a bit salty. Still, many others who have tried Ichiran ramen in Japan say that these noodles taste really close to the real one. Most buyers love the flavor of the broth, mentioning that it's savory and fatty. They suggest adding toppings like green onions, chashu pork, or soft-boiled egg to further authenticate the experience.
Mi goreng is a famous Indonesian fried noodle dish. Indomie's mi goreng Instant Noodles allow you to take home and create this classic dish yourself! It comes with five toppings, including seasoning oil, sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, and fried onion, so it has the perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and salty flavors.
A few buyers complained that these noodles were on the sweet side. Still, many like that the noodles have a chewy texture and say the flavor is delicious and complex. A lot of buyers further mention that they have just the right amount of spices and suggest adding eggs and vegetables to amp up the flavors.
These tom yum noodles from MAMA are made with the flavors of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai chilies for a fragrant, spicy, and sour taste. They have a base soup that is clear, medium-spicy, and has a non-greasy texture. The noodles are thin and processed through hot air circulation; in other words, they're non-fried noodles that are lower in calories.
While some reviewers complain about the high sodium level, a few others don't like the thin texture of the noodles. Nonetheless, most buyers say the soup is wonderful, the flavor is balanced, and not too spicy. They love pairing the noodles with some extra meat or veggies for a filling meal.
These noodles from A-Sha are wide and flat, with a chewy texture, so you won't have to worry about them getting soggy in sauce. The flavor comes from soy sauce, onion sauce, and white sesame oil for a fragrant and salty taste. These noodles are vegetarian-friendly and have no MSG or preservatives.
Some reviewers are concerned about the high sodium content. Meanwhile, many others enjoy the flavorful taste of the noodles and also the chewy texture. They further mention that the noodles hold the sauce really well.
These chicken noodles have clear and non-spicy soup. If you think the soup is too plain, the noodles can also pair with cheese, cooked veggies, or other toppings that you want to add. The packaging is small, simple, and portable. It’s made of styrofoam, which insulates well and protects your hands from the hot broth.
Some reviewers think the broth is too salty and the chicken flavor lacking. Most reviewers are happy with the brand and soup taste. They also say it’s convenient and good to eat when you're in a hurry.
Samyang is famous for making very spicy instant noodles. These noodles are made with thick black bean sauce and topped with dehydrated vegetables and meat. The level of spice is about 1,920 Scoville Heat Units, which makes it quite spicy, but not to the point of overpowering the other flavors!
A few buyers still find the noodles too spicy. We suggest adding some mozzarella cheese on top to cut down on the spices if you find it too hot. On another note, the majority love the black bean sauce, saying it's savory and slightly sweet. They also love the thick and chewy noodles.
Yakisoba is a popular Japanese stir-fried noodle dish. Maruchan's teriyaki chicken yakisoba has a good combination of salty and sweet notes. It's convenient to prepare as well. Simply add water to the noodles and microwave them for about four minutes. Then drain out all the water and add the seasoning sauce.
Some people say they were too similar to cup ramen, and not yakisoba. On the other hand, many more comment that these noodles are quick, easy to make, and have a great taste. They also say that these noodles are very convenient to take for lunches at school or work.
What makes these instant noodles from Nissin special is the seasoning oil, which combines black garlic oil, garlic flavor, and sesame oil for an aromatic taste. The soup has a pork base and pairs really well with the seasoning oil. To make the dish more fulfilling, you can add extras like soft-boiled egg, pork, or vegetables.
A few reviewers actually wanted more garlic, and some said it was sweet. However, the majority love the rich, creamy taste of the broth. Many also like that the black garlic oil isn't too overwhelming but really enhances the taste of the noodles. They like the soft texture of the noodles, too!
Skinny Pasta's konjac noodles are free from fat and very low in calories and carbohydrates, making them perfect for people on a diet. These noodles are pre-cooked and will be ready in just a few minutes. Add your own sauce or spices, but keep in mind they don't absorb sauce well.
Konjac noodles have a distinct rubbery texture that some buyers found takes some getting used to. But a lot of reviewers think that they are excellent low-carb noodle substitutes and love how the noodles have no fishy scent like other konjac products. They say if you add chicken or beef bouillon, they make a delicious ramen.
Instant noodles tend to be plain when there's nothing except noodles, soup, dried vegetables, and meat. If you want to turn instant noodles into a gourmet meal, try adding toppings! If you can't think of anything off the top of your head, you can just follow the picture on the package.
In general, people like to add soft boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, and meat. Green onions also add a great flavor kick and make your noodles look beautiful, too!
You should also carefully read and follow the cooking instructions printed on the packet. Many people mistakenly overcook their noodles; the perfect texture should be a little bit chewy and not mushy.
Still curious about some aspects of instant noodles? Cody is here to answer a commonly asked question.
Instant noodles are made in one of two ways. The most common method is the frying method in which noodles are dried by oil frying. This lowers their moisture content to below 5 percent. The frying method is what you typically find in your cup noodle and has the longest shelf life.
The second method is the air-drying method, which is exactly what its name suggests. Noodles are air-dried in a temperate room, which lowers their water content to about 10 percent. The air-drying method gives the noodles are fresher texture when it is re-hydrated but has a shorter shelf life.
Whether you want noodles that only require adding boiling water, or you want to get adventurous and cook up something unique, we've got you covered.
Looking for more options? Check out Amazon's best-selling instant noodles!
No. 1：Nongshim｜Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
No. 2：Ichiran｜Organic Millet & Brown Rice Ramen
No. 3：Indomie｜Mi Goreng
No. 4：MAMA｜Shrimp Tom Yum Instant Noodles
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