Instant ramen noodles are the star food item of university life – easy, simple, and quick to make. And they’re tasty to boot! But sometimes a cup of classic instant noodles just doesn’t cut it. If you love spices—that tingling sensation lingering on your lips and your tongue after a good bowl of extra spicy ramen noodles, then you need to find the right pack!
We’re here to help you pick out what’s spicy and what’s not with our handy buying guide and list of picks. Personally, we loved Samyang’s 2x Spicy Hot Chicken Ramen for its extra-hot blend of spices, broth, and notoriety. Check out some more of our favorites below, and read some valuable insight from an experienced ramen blogger.
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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Table of Contents
When choosing a spicy ramen noodle, there are a couple of things you should consider. These include looking at the spice level, how much spice you can actually handle, how much flavor besides pepper that you want, and seeing how much time the ramen takes to prepare.
Just because you want spice, doesn’t necessarily mean you want spicy! Everyone's spice tolerance is different, and you’ll have to know yourself well on whether or not you can handle spice or not. If provided, we suggest looking at the Scoville scale information when deciding on spice levels of the ramen you're considering.
The Scoville scale measures the hottest peppers in the world on an easy-to-read graph in SHU (Scoville heat units), ranging from the completely unspicy bell pepper to the terrifyingly spicy ghost pepper. It’s based on the measure of capsaicin, the compound causing that burning feeling on your tongue, in the food item.
For reference, we’ve listed some of major ones below:
Generally, less broth means more concentration of spices, so go for soupy ramen if you don't want it too spicy. You can also opt for a spicier ramen and dilute it with more water than the package recommends to try and lessen the spice levels!
The most important part in understanding your spice tolerance level is to not jump headfirst into the spiciest noodles you can find. A great way to experiment with spice is adding hot sauce to your neutral noodles and gauging how much heat you can tolerate.
Buldak actually bottles and sells the spicy sauce they use for their noodles. I would definitely recommend buying a bottle and adding some in, bit by bit, to see how hot your taste buds can tolerate.
If you are looking for strong spices, then watch out for a few special ingredients that help to kick up the spice level. These are mainly concentrated in the soup or sauce part of the noodles, rather than the noodles themselves.
As you’ll note, many of these are pepper varieties. So, keep an eye out for black pepper powder, red pepper powder, paprika, or chili peppers – or combinations of all of the above for a spicier meal!
You can also look for sauce names, such as Mala, for more specific kinds of spicy. Mala is a sauce based on Szechuan peppercorns, which is the ingredient that gives it its signature, tingly feeling (this is from the hydroxy alpha sanshool molecule).
Unfortunately, there are only a few studies done on peppers and their effects on the perception of "slow-burning" versus the "immediate burning" sensation you feel on your tongue when you eat spicy foods. So, to make sure of the exact type of spice sensation you're going to get with a spicy ramen, take a look through the reviews.
What you want to avoid when looking for spicy noodles or even hot sauces are synthetic/artificial spice flavoring or pepper extract that mimics the heat of natural chili without actually using them.
Chili pepper extract is the easiest way for manufacturers to increase the Scovilles of their sauces, but oftentimes it brings in the heat without any flavor (as they aren’t using the natural chili). If you see any chili pepper extracts on the ingredient list, be prepared, it may be spicy just for the sake of being spicy.
If you like a simple flavor or prefer to customize your own noodles, you can go for simple flavors like spicy chicken, spicy beef, or kimchi. Since the flavor is nothing too complicated, you can add your own spices like garlic, hoisin sauce, or gochujang paste to make the noodles more special!
But of course, there are many noodles with a complex flavor profile. Undeniably, Korean noodles are the king of heat. Noodles from brands such as Samyang and Nongshim are widely recognized for their intensely spicy taste. Some are so spicy that you might need to drink milk while eating.
Besides having a lot of heat, Korean noodles are flavorful as well. Try jjajangmyeon, dried noodles covered in savory black bean sauce. Jjamppong is a Korean spicy seafood noodle soup that has umami and a rich taste!
Besides Korea, there are plenty of other countries creating ramen noodles packed with flavor. Thai noodles tend to be more acidic, balancing sweetness, saltiness, and spiciness together in perfect harmony.
Japanese noodles are more subtle in flavor, toning down spiciness in favor of clean, smooth tastes. Chinese noodles that are inspired by Szechuan can also pack a punch with their spicy peppers. There are also spicy and cheesy noodles for those who like a creamy flavor.
In general, when looking at flavor profiles, checking the reviews is your best bet. Find comments on tasting notes such as sweet or sour – not just spicy. This will give you an idea of whether or not you’ll be able to enjoy your ramen noodles beyond that fiery exterior.
One of the beauties of instant noodles is that it comes in so many different styles and is a blank canvas for you to add whatever toppings and extra sauces you’d like.
If you find a spicy Korean noodle to your liking, head on over to your local Korean supermarket and pick up some kimchi and other Banchan (Korean side dishes to amp up your meal). For Thai noodles, grab some Thai chili or even some basil to give it an authentic, fresh aromatic kick.
When it comes to soupy noodles, you can choose between light or thick and rich soup bases. Light soup bases are usually made from chicken stock, vegetable stock, or soy sauce. Meanwhile, creamy and rich soup bases often contain bone broth and animal fat. Some broths have milk or cheese powder for added creaminess and flavor.
There are also soupless ramen noodles for those who don't like to drink broth! Some great examples include Indomie's Mi Goreng and Maruchan's Spicy Yakisoba. Soupless noodles tend to be spicier and more flavorful than soupy ones since the noodles are directly covered in the spicy sauce or seasoning.
Another factor to keep in mind is the texture of the noodles. If you like thick, chewy noodles, opt for noodles that require boiling like pasta. They will also remain chewy in sauce or broth for a longer time!
On the other hand, noodles that only require hot water to cook tend to be thinner and less chewy. They soak up sauce and broth well. However, you should eat them quickly or else they will become soggy.
Ramen can come in two main types of packaging: cups or bowls, or packets. Cups and bowls are extremely convenient since the ramen can be made right away without having to transfer the noodles from stove to bowl. They also tend to have more extras packaged with them to add more flavor to your noodles.
However, packets are more commonly available to buy online, and they take up less storage space in your home. They also tend to come in multiples and are cheaper to purchase. It’s easy to personalize packets because they come with fewer additional ingredients. You can cook them on the stove or in a microwave.
Though cups and bowls are more convenient for preparation time reasons, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they take a shorter time than packets to make! Make sure to check the label for how much boiling time is required for making the ramen before purchasing.
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2X Spicy Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen
Best Spicy Noodles to Challenge Your Spice Tolerance
Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
Best for Spice Lovers Looking for a Slightly Milder Level
Hot Pepper Yeul Ramen Noodles
Best for the Spicy Ghost Pepper Flavor and Black Color
Volcano Spicy Chicken Noodle
Best Sweet and Spicy Curry Flavored Ramen
New Spicy Chicken Roasted Noodles
Best for the Creamy and Buttery Carbonara Flavor
Best for Seafood Lovers
MALA 4x Spicy Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen
Best Vegan Instant Noodles
Hot & Spicy Mi Goreng Instant Stir Fry Noodles
Best Indonesia-Style Spicy Noodles
Hot and Spicy Chicken Bowl Noodles
Best for Classic Chicken Ramen Fans
Spicy Pork Tonkotsu Ramen Noodle Soup
Best Mildly Spicy Noodles With a Creamy, Cheesy Soup
Featured in many YouTubers’ videos, these Korean noodles were made famous for their extremely challenging level of spiciness. In fact, these noodles come in 8,800 SHU. For reference, Tabasco brand sauce is no more than5,000 SHU. If you love hot and spicy foods and want to challenge yourself a little, these are a great choice
A couple of buyers mention that the noodles are so spicy that they have no depth of flavor. Many reviewers suggest adding some slices of cheese or some milk to tone down the heat and make the noodles creamier. On another note, the majority love the chewy texture of the noodles. They also praise the slightly sweet and savory flavor of the broth.
This spicy ramen from in South Korea has a bold, hot flavor, but the dried toppings included—a mix of mushrooms, beef, and carrots—still come through clearly. The soup is made from beef fat, beef stock, beef extract, and other spices, so it tastes rich and flavorful. Shin Ramyun also comes in cups and bowls, if you want that convenience.
One common complaint from some buyers is that the noodles are a bit salty, while some find it just spicy. Nevertheless, the majority are fans of the thick, chewy noodles and like that these have more flavor than your standard cup noodles. Reviewers recommend adding in toppings such as a boiled egg or bok choy for more substance.
With a ghost pepper-based sauce, Deabak's dry black noodles are very spicy and will challenge your palate. They come in a convenient cup, so you only need to pour water in and wait for about four minutes. There's a disposable fork included as well. What's more, it's free from artificial coloring.
Some critical reviewers say the noodles are spicy, but don't have a lot of flavor. However, for many buyers, the texture of the noodles is a highlight of this packet of ramen. They say the noodles are springy and have a nice chew to them. It's said that the noodles are easy to prepare as well!
Paldo Fun&Yum's Volcano Chicken Noodles have a high spice level and a savory chicken and beef flavor. The flavor is rounded out with garlic, curry powder, toasted sesame seeds and seaweed. The thick noodles remain chewy and cling to the sauce really well.
Tasters are divided on the spiciness, with some saying that these noodles are not hot enough for a spice challenge; but most feel that it packs a good punch of heat. Many praise the sauce, saying it's slightly sweet and delicious. Reviewers suggest adding eggs, scallions, and kimchi to amp up the flavor.
Samyang's Buldak Carbo has an SHU of 2,000 and is packed with flavor that tastes like spicy carbonara sauce. Besides the soup pack, you'll also get a powder packet that contains whole milk, mozzarella cheese, butter and spices to make the chicken-flavored sauce creamier and tastier.
Some reviewers weren't a fan of the slight sweetness of the sauce. But many mentioned that although these noodles were less spicy than their cousin, there's still a good amount of heat. They also enjoyed the creamy, buttery flavor and the chewy, thick noodles.
If you love seafood, these noodles are a must-try. The broth is a blend of rich, hearty beef stock, savory umami anchovy, cuttlefish extract, tuna extract, and bonito extract. The addition of spices like garlic, onion, and red chili pepper further gives the flavor a boost. These noodles also come with dehydrated vegetable topping.
Some reviewers say adding the whole flavor packet makes the noodles too salty and suggest using only a third or half of it. Still, the majority are pleased with the rich, flavorful broth. The noodles are another plus point for buyers, as they are thick, chewy, and hold up well in the broth.
Nongshim's Kimchi Noodle Soup is certified vegan by the Vegan Society. Despite being made without any meat, seafoods, or bones, the broth is still flavorful as it contains many spices, herb- and vegetable-flavored oils such as garlic, ginger, green onion, and onion flavored oil. There are also dried kimchi flakes!
Although a few reviewers complain about the high sodium content of the noodles, most are happy with the flavorful and mildly spicy taste. They like the texture of the noodles as well, mentioning that they aren't too soft or too chewy. Reviewers love that they only need to add hot water to the cup and wait for three minutes or microwave the whole thing.
Indomie is famous for its mi goreng, Indonesian fried noodles. This mi goreng kicks up the flavor a notch with a healthy dose of chili and fried onions. It's also halal-certified and vegetarian. They have little broth, so the texture is more saucy than soupy like ramen.
There are some reports saying that these noodles are only mildly spicy, so they're more suited for people with low spice tolerance. However, the majority find the noodles flavorful and savory. They also like that all condiments come in separate packets, so they can adjust the salty or spicy taste to their liking.
This bowl of ramen from Nissin ups the flavor with a hint of spice, but keeps that subtle, chicken-flavored broth that people are familiar with. It also has a hint of lime and lemongrass for a fresh flavor. To prepare, you just need to add hot water to the bowl and microwave for about three minutes.
Some reviewers wished they were more spicy, but for many, this heat level was just right. Most buyers also like that it's easy to prepare. They also find it hits the spot as a lunch or snack after drinking beer.
Ottogi's noodles have a light, soy sauce-based broth. But once you put in the cheese powder mix, it will turn creamy and savory. The spice level is mild, and soybean paste in the broth gives it an umami punch.
A couple of buyers share that it turned out too watery, and suggest adding water little by little until you get the right consistency. But most are pleased with the mild spice level and that the spice packet is separate, so they can control how much to add to the noodles. They further mention that the noodles have a nice texture.
Instant ramen might come with dried veggies or meats as a topping, but sometimes this doesn't feel like enough! Maybe you want some acid or some crunch—adding texture, additional spices, or fresh ingredients can really help to make a bowl of noodles sing.
The most common additional topping you'll see on ramen bowls are eggs. They can be softboiled for those who love the creamy, runny consistency of the yolk, or they can be hardboiled for more density. Then there's also spring onions—adding just a bit of it into the soup makes the ramen taste lighter and fresher. This same idea applies to the addition of lemon juice.
Other additions you can think about include sriracha or ginger, for just a bit more spice, and bean sprouts or crispy onions, for crunch. Any fresh vegetable can work, and succulent meats such as big chunks of pork or stewed beef could also pair well with ramen!
For the more adventurous home chef, consider making your own pork chashu. The process is a lot easier than it sounds, and you can often level up from the most basic pan-fried versions to more advanced sous vide styles.
One of the most useful guidebooks on ramen is available free online written by Mike Satinover, or Ramen_Lord as he is called over on Reddit. There, you can find a variety of recipes to help sharpen your ramen topping game and class up any instant noodle you might find.
Cody says, "Before I dive into a spicy noodle, I will often eat yogurt or have a yogurt-based drink to help coat the inside of my stomach. This will help you later on as it keeps your stomach from feeling too fiery after your meal.
As for the noodles themselves, I will often prepare an egg, sunny side up with a runny yolk, and have it as a topping if I find the dish to be too spicy. The yolk can coat the noodles and make the impact of the spice a bit less intense. I also will have a bit of Kewpie mayo on the side, and I find that the creaminess of Kewpie will help lessen the spiciness of the sauce."
Have you ever wanted to create your own ramen from scratch? There are various ingredients involved in the process, but we’ve got you covered with our top picks for each. Check out the links below for more helpful tips on choosing the best products to make and plate your own perfect bowl of noodles!
No. 1: Samyang | 2X Spicy Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen
No. 2: Nongshim | Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup
No. 3: Daebak | Hot Pepper Yeul Ramen Noodles
No. 4: Paldo | Volcano Spicy Chicken Noodle
No. 5: Samyang | New Spicy Chicken Roasted Noodles
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