Instant cup ramen is super easy to make and is a convenient late-night snack. Nowadays, there is a wide variety of instant cup ramen anywhere from ones made in collaboration with or created by top-rated Japanese ramen shops, to regional ramen varieties such as Hachioji ramen. So, it's no surprise that many of us find ourselves being stuck at the ramen aisle, puzzled as to which one to choose.
To figure out which one is the best cup ramen, we bought the best-selling cup noodles available on Japanese e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Rakuten, and Yahoo! Shopping to come up with the 10 best cup noodles.
Keep on reading to find out more!
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.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
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Table of Contents
Instant ramen was first invented by Nissin's Ando Momofuku in 1958 by freeze-drying ramen noodles. Initially, to make instant ramen, you needed a pot to boil the noodles and soup. However, in 1971, Nissin then released Cup Noodles, which revolutionized the instant ramen world; no longer did you need to wash your pots and bowls after eating, all you needed to do was pour boiling water and wait a few minutes!
Today, there are literally hundreds of different brands of instant cup ramen being sold by a wide array of manufacturers. In recent years, instant cup ramen manufacturers have even collaborated with famous ramen restaurants to recreate their signature bowls, allowing you to enjoy the flavors of these ramen restaurants at home or on the go. Additionally, instant cup ramen manufacturers have also recreated regional ramen, like Hokkaido's Sapporo miso ramen, and Fukushima's Kitakata Ramen, to name a few.
In general, ramen is comprised of 3 key components; soup, noodles, and toppings. With soup you typically see it broken down into 3 parts; broth, tare seasoning, and aroma oil.
Broth types can be anything you fancy, but the most common are chicken, pork, and dried fish. As for the tare seasoning, this is where the flavor is injected and is typically shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt), or miso. Finally, the aroma oil helps give the soup a bit of fat and is usually any oils like rendered chicken fat, lard, and sometimes even olive oil for those who are vegetarian!
As for the noodles, one of the main characteristics is that it contains Kansui, or lye water/alkaline salts. Kansui is what gives the noodles its alkaline property and is essentially what gives the noodles its bouncy, chewy texture.
Broadly speaking, there are four different kinds of ramen flavors out there: Shoyu, Miso, Shio, and Tonkotsu. They all have unique flavor profiles and offer a different experience.
Shoyu ramen is said to have originated in Tokyo, and is one of the oldest and most traditional styles of ramen, which has since gone to spawn a myriad of regional varieties.
Shoyu ramen is made with a soy-sauce based soup, and is the most basic of instant cup ramen flavors. In fact, the world's first instant cup ramen, Nissin's Cup Noodle, is also shoyu ramen. It's best for those who want to enjoy the richness and sharp flavors of soy sauce.
Important to note, the moniker shoyu ramen can be given to any ramen with a soup that uses a shoyu (soy sauce) tare to season the broth. The base broth can be anything from chicken, pork and even vegetarian!
Shoyu Ramen is probably the best style to get your feet wet when exploring the cup ramen scene as it does take up a majority of the market share. To find the right bowl for you, look around and see what the main ingredient is for the broth and pick whichever one you fancy. I recommend a chicken base for an authentic, old-school experience!
Miso ramen was first created in the city of Sapporo, Hokkaido. As the name implies, miso ramen is made with miso, or fermented soybean paste.
Miso ramen is often characterized its rich and intense flavors, as well as its slight sweetness. If you want a ramen with more substance, this is one to definitely try.
The most common miso ramen found in Japan is the Sapporo style miso ramen which traces its roots to the shop Aji no Sanpei. Legend has it that once a customer came in asking for noodles to be put in his miso soup and that concept evolved to the iteration we see today.
What makes it so special is the way it is prepared, sauteeing the miso tare with vegetables giving the soup a phenomenal aroma and flavor. Sumire is one of the highest-rated shops for this style in Sapporo; definitely give it a try for the most authentic miso ramen experience!
Shio ramen is another ramen that traces its origins to Japan's northern island of Hokkaido, or Hakodate, to be specific. Shio ramen uses a salt-based broth and is light and comforting.
Unlike shoyu or miso ramen, the lightness of shio ramen allows you to taste the ingredients more, which therefore arguably makes it more difficult to make. In addition to salt, where shio ramen gets its name from, it can also feature chicken, seafood, or vegetable stock for further flavors.
Many ramen chefs will say shio ramen is the hardest style to perfect due to its inability to hide behind any dominant flavor profile like shoyu or miso. It can also work as a benefit to certain styles like seafood-based broths where the shio, or salt, can enhance the gentle, delicate flavors of ingredients such as dried fish, scallop, or even shrimp.
When looking for a shio ramen to try, have a look at some of the seafood-based options. You’ll get to really key into those seafood flavors for a full-bodied tasting experience.
Allegedly originating in Tokyo, but perfected in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, located in west Japan's island of Kyushu, and where it's most heavily associated with, Tonkotsu ramen gets its flavor from pork bones, creating a rich, milky broth.
A major highlight of tonkotsu ramen is that it is divided into three subcategories, depending on what it's combined with: tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu miso, or tonkotsu shio.
Tonkotsu ramen in Fukuoka actually got its start in Nagahama city which is a port town right on the bay. The story goes that a chef fell asleep while preparing pork bone stock for the evening. When he woke up, he was met with a rich, creamy broth, the result of the collagen and fats in the bones breaking down overnight. Rather than toss the broth out, he decided to serve it to the delight of his customers.
The specific noodles for tonkotsu ramen were born out of necessity to cater to the main customer base. Many of the diners worked in the nearby port and needed something hot and quick to eat in between their shifts. In order to adapt to their fast-paced dining style, the thin noodles were born to get them their bowls as quickly as possible.
The popularity of the style grew to other parts of Fukuoka and soon spread to Hakata, where a majority of the top shops can now be found, and is now synonymous with the city and often called Hakata style Tonkotsu Ramen.
In addition to the soup and noodles, the toppings complete the trinity of elements that make up a bowl of ramen. Ramen can have an incredibly wide range of toppings, which are all meant to add character to the bowl.
Some ramen toppings include:
The most common ramen toppings you find at a typical ramen shop are nori (dried seaweed), naruto (fish cake), and chashu (typically braised pork).
All of these can be found at your local Asian supermarket and is a great way to add substance to your cup noodles. However, be adventurous! There is nothing stopping you from putting in some leftovers from last night's dinner to spice up your cup noodles.
As mentioned earlier, in recent years, instant cup ramen manufacturers have been creating regional ramen, or ramen that is associated closely with a specific region, as well as have been collaborating with famous ramen restaurants, allowing you to enjoy unique flavors without having to actually visit the region or restaurant!
There are 47 prefectures in Japan, and almost all of them have their own take on ramen, usually embodying characteristics of their respective regions.
Some examples of regional ramen include:
Other regional styles you might want to try is the Katsuura tantanmen born out of Katsuura, Chiba. The ramen is a Japanese chef's take on Chinese Dan Dan Noodles and is sure to give you a spicy kick!
If you enjoyed the Sapporo style Miso ramen, try a bowl of Akayu Spicy Miso ramen, the regional style of Yamagata Prefecture. A dollop of spicy miso paste tops your bowl, giving a zesty zing to the already flavorful soup!
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Seven & i Holdings Co., Ltd.
Ippudo Akamaru Shinmi Hakata Tonkotsu
A Shockingly Authentic Hakata-Style Tonkotsu
Shinshu Miso Ramen
A Flavorful Nagano-Style Miso Ramen With Chili and Meatballs
Nissin Raoh Rich Miso
An Instant Cup Ramen With Chewy Noodles and Rich Soup
An Instant Cup Ramen With A Massive Char Siu Topping
Nissin Men Nippon Hachioji Onion Shoyu Ramen
An Elegant Soup With a Special Touch of Crunchy Onions
Shizuoka Yaizu Bonito Ramen
A Unique Ramen With Authentic Bonito Flakes
Nissin Raoh Se-Abura Shoyu
Instant Cup Ramen With a Strong Chicken-Based Soup
Ramen With Crunchy Vegetables and Chewy Noodles
Maruchan Seimen Rich Shoyu
Satisfyingly Deep Shoyu Flavors With Chewy Noodles
Maruchan Seimen Cup Fragrant Mild Miso
Rich and Flavorful Miso Soup With Chewy Noodles
Seven & i Holdings' Ippudo Akamaru Shinmi Hakata Tonkotsu is made in collaboration with Ippudo, a famous Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen restaurant. The pork bone broth features spicy miso, which adds richness and sharpness to the soup.
The tonkotsu soup is rich and thick, filling your mouth with creamy flavors. This instant cup ramen is so authentic that it's hard to believe that you're not eating at the Ippudo restaurant!
Additionally, the noodles were incredibly high-quality, with a firm texture that blends well with the soup, emulating fresh noodles.
If you want to have authentic tonkotsu ramen but are too busy to go to a ramen restaurant or don't have one nearby, this is an instant cup ramen you should definitely try!
Yamadai's Shinshu Miso Ramen offers a rich miso soup made with 100% Shinshu miso. It also includes a small pouch of fragrant shichimi chili pepper made by Yawataya Isogoro, a famous shichimi chili manufacturer based in Nagano Prefecture.
The soup has a refined miso flavor with a tangy spiciness from the chili pepper that adds to the overall experience. The soup is thick, but not overpowering, and you can easily gulp it down. The noodles were chewy and smooth, with a texture similar to that of ramen noodles served at Chinese restaurants in Japan.
This ramen is packed with toppings, including hearty meatballs and mushrooms, offering a unique experience that other instant cup noodles don't have.
If you're a fan of miso ramen with a kick, then this instant cup noodle is one you should definitely try!
Nissin's Raoh Rich Miso offers a thick miso soup with straight noodles that emulate the texture of fresh noodles. The soup is tonkotsu-based, with sesame seeds to enhance the flavor, and red chili peppers and chili oil to give it a spicy kick.
The miso soup and noodles harmonize perfectly, and the quality is unbelievable for instant cup ramen. Additionally, the slightly sweet miso soup is rich and full of flavor with a touch of spiciness, and the firm and chewy noodles have great texture as well.
This ramen is great for anyone who loves miso ramen.
Yamadai's Sano Ramen is made with noodles that reenact the chewy texture of flat noodles and a soup that is light yet rich. Sano ramen is a regional ramen from Tochigi Prefecture, a few hours away from Tokyo, and is characterized by its flat noodles, traditionally made by flattening the dough with bamboo.
When eating this ramen, the first thing you see is the thick char siu pork, which has a big presence and is of incredibly high quality for an instant cup ramen ingredient. The soup is light, but you can feel the flavor of the broth and fat. It has a comforting soy sauce flavor that is favored by everyone.
The noodles have a thick texture, realistically recreating fresh noodles. All components of this ramen are of solid quality to create an authentic, satisfying instant cup ramen without having to leave the comforts of your home.
Nissin's Nippon Hachioji Onion Shoyu Ramen features all the hallmarks of the regional Hachioji ramen; a chicken-based shoyu soup with hints of additional dried niboshi fish and oil flavors, char siu, bamboo shoots, and onion.
This ramen hits you with the delightful aroma of soy sauce with just the right amount of fat, and the crispy onions in the soup give it uniqueness. The soup has the refreshing and elegant taste of soy sauce, but it is also quite rich.
The medium-thick straight noodles have a supple and fresh texture and are easy to slurp. This is a great instant cup ramen for someone who wants to try authentic Hachioji-style ramen.
Yamadai's Shizuoka Yaizu Bonito Ramen uses bonito from Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture for its soup, oil, and toppings. Its soup is also made with seafood, pork bone, and soy sauce, topped with fragrant and flavorful bonito flakes.
The bonito-based soup has a strong yet gentle flavor, giving it an authentic feel. It is especially recommended for those who are a fan of seafood flavors. The soup is light, but it has a rich aftertaste, creating a deep flavor.
The noodles are chewy and have an enjoyable firm texture. If you want to try a new kind of ramen, this is the one for you!
Nissin’s Raoh Se-Abura Shoyu has an extremely rich chicken broth-based soy sauce soup with pork fat floating on top. The soup clings onto the noodles, which have a fresh texture.
The soup has an impactful taste due to the chicken stock and has just the right amount of richness and oil. The back fat in the soup is actually quite light and not overpowering. We would recommend it to those who prefer a light flavor but still want some umami.
The noodles are chewy and firm and offer the texture of hand-made noodles. This instant cup ramen is for those who want to be fully satisfied with both the noodles and soup!
Yamadai's Yokohama-Style Sanma-Men uses fresh bean sprouts and carrots as toppings with a thick soy sauce soup with a hint of oyster sauce. This is an authentic sanma-men recognized by the Kanagawa Sanma-Men Association.
The crunchy vegetables included as toppings have a strong presence and make this instant cup ramen more filling than expected. The shoyu flavored soup offers a deep, rich taste. It also has a thick texture, and we felt that it clung to the noodles in an amazing way.
The noodles themselves are chewy and springy, creating a pleasant texture. This instant cup ramen is great for those who want ramen with satisfying toppings.
Toyo Suisan's Maruchan Seimen Rich Shoyu features smooth and firm noodles and a flavorful shoyu soup with a hint of dried niboshi sardines.
With the dense fragrance of lard, we felt the soup was incredibly rich in flavor. This is a great instant cup ramen for those who are fans of a strong soy sauce flavor. While the flavors are on the heavier side, it's surprisingly mild and is easy to eat.
The noodles have a chewy, firm texture and were popular among our testers. This is a high-quality instant cup shoyu ramen that offers more than what you'd expect!
Maruchan Seimen Cup Flavored Maro Miso from Toyo Suisan offers smooth, firm noodles and a rich miso soup that uses various spices such as sansho Japanese peppers, which add a citrus-like tanginess.
With authentic soup and noodles that were well-matched, this instant cup ramen was incredibly balanced. The rich full-bodied miso soup has a strong flavor that leaves you craving more, while the noodles are firm and chewy.
This is definitely an instant cup ramen that we can recommend to miso fans!
Toyo Suisan's Maruchan Menzukuri Chicken Broth Shoyu has a strong soy sauce flavor with hints of chicken flavors, paired with non-fried, smooth noodles.
The soup is both light while refined, and is so delicious that we were able to drink it all down with no issues. The noodles were also chewy and easy to eat.
While this instant cup ramen didn't have any prominent features, the noodles and soup were well-balanced. This is a great instant cup ramen for those who want to eat a quick and easy bowl of a light shoyu ramen.
Toyo Suisan's Maruchan Menzukuri Chicken Broth Shio has a mellow, chicken-based soup with the sweetness of onions and kombu kelp broth.
You can fully taste the chicken broth in the soup, adding depth to its flavor. While the soup itself is It is light and gentle, you can taste the richness of the ingredients used in the broth.
The noodles are springy and easy to eat and blend well with the soup. This is an instant cup ramen that's great for those who want to enjoy a comforting chicken broth.
Sanyo's Sapporo Ichiban Tabimen Aizu Kitakata Shoyu Ramen is an instant cup ramen that lets you enjoy regional flavors at home.
This is a Kitakata-style shoyu ramen, using soy sauce from Fukushima and seafood flavors, as well as featuring Kitakata-style ramen's signature thick noodles.
The shoyu broth is light yet rich in flavor, while having prominent seafood notes. The noodles are thick and filling and have a juicy texture to them. This is a great ramen to buy in bulk to always have at home!
Nissin's The Noodle Tokyo Afuri Yuzu Shio Ramen Mini is a mini-sized instant cup ramen made in collaboration with famous Tokyo-based ramen restaurant Afuri, known for their light ramen with Yuzu citrus flavors.
This instant cup ramen faithfully recreates the refreshing zestiness of the yuzu, as well as the seafood-based shio ramen, combined with noodles that are less likely to get soggy.
The elegant fragrance and flavor of the yuzu was well-received by our testers, creating a light broth that you might find yourself finishing all of it effortlessly. Moreover, the noodles were also firm yet easy to slurp down. If you want a delicious snack to satiate you, this is a great place to start.
Seven & i Holdings' Sumire Sapporo Rich Miso is made in collaboration with famed Hokkaido ramen restaurant Sumire, famed for their fragrant ramen using oil extracted by heating miso and vegetables with lard.
The soup has a strong miso flavor, harmonizing well with lard, making it incredibly satisfying to eat.
The noodles are thick, chewy and firm, while still being easy to slurp down. This is a must-try for those who want to enjoy a rich, intense miso ramen.
Toyo Suisan's Maruchan QTTA Rich Miso features noodles fried in lard, which adds further flavor, and a miso soup with hints of aromatics like ginger and garlic.
The rich and sharp miso flavor packs a punch and is delicious to eat. The soup has a rich aftertaste, with some slightly spicy undertones.
The noodles have a chewy texture that can only be attained with fried noodles. This is definitely an instant cup noodle to consider if you're a miso-lover!
Sugakiya’s Ginza Kamitoku Tottori Gold Beef Bone Broth Ramen was made in collaboration with Kamitoku, a ramen restaurant originally from Tottori Prefecture, now with shops in Tottori, Tokyo, and Hawaii, famed for its take on the Tottori regional ramen, beef bone broth ramen.
The soup was rated highly for its beef bone broth, adding added fragrance and flavor. The noodles are thick and firm enough to slurp up, while also harmonizing well with the soup.
The biggest draw of this instant cup ramen is its unique broth, making it an instant cup ramen to definitely consider for dyed-in-the-wool ramen fans.
Toyo Suisan's Maruchan QTTA Seafood offers a rich seafood soup flavored with seafood extracts.
The variety of seafood ingredients creates a satisfying sea of flavors. The soup has a mild taste that you will never get tired of. This instant cup ramen will surely satisfy the stomachs of seafood ramen lovers.
The noodles are fairly standard but still have a chewy texture. This is an instant cup ramen that you should always have in stock in case you ever crave seafood ramen!
Nissin’s Cup Noodle is the world’s first-ever instant cup ramen, and has been sold all over the world for over 50 years.
It is the golden standard for all instant cup ramen, and after trying it in the taste test, we could confirm that this ramen’s mainstay flavor is still going strong. The soy sauce with chicken broth has a strong presence as well.
The noodles are flat and have a slight firmness. This is the perfect instant cup ramen to fill your stomach when you need a little snack!
Sanyo Foods' Sapporo Ichiban Tabimen Sapporo Miso Ramen recreates Sapporo's regional miso ramen by using miso from Hokkaido to create a rich soup.
While the miso flavors in the soup were somewhat lacking, we did notice some spiciness. The soup was also on the saltier side, so it would make a good match with rice.
On the other hand, there was nothing in particular to note about the noodles; they were neither great nor terrible. However, we did feel like they weren't as firm as the other instant cup ramen that we tested.
In order to find out which instant cup ramen is the most delicious, we tasted them all! We had Japanese testers from mybest's Japan editorial staff test each instant cup ramen for the following four points and then gave a score for each aspect out of five.
First, we tested how delicious each instant cup ramen was. We had five Japanese male and female testers from the mybest editorial team conduct a taste test of each ramen. We then had them score the ramen out of five, based on whether the taste is close to that of an actual ramen restaurant, or if it has a junk-food flavor (in a good way!) that’s unique to instant cup ramen.
In addition to the overall taste, we also evaluated the quality of the soup itself, as it’s one of the most important elements in ramen. We defined high-quality soup as those that have a clear and distinct flavor and savoriness.
Now that we tested the soup, we of course want to delve into the quality of the noodles. Because noodles come in different shapes, sizes, and cooking methods, such as thick and thin, fried and non-fried, we conducted a taste test just for the noodles. We also tested the firmness of the noodles when cooked according to manufacturer instructions.
When eating ramen, you can’t ignore the toppings. In addition to testing their overall deliciousness, we also evaluated the amount and deliciousness of each individual component.
When eating instant cup ramen, you might find yourself occasionally wanting more flavor. If you ever find yourself in this predicament, we recommend adding grated garlic. Adding garlic adds depth to the soup by giving it a rich and appetizing scent.
In Japan, grated garlic is usually available as a topping at ramen restaurants, and is arguably a top contender for the best topping for ramen. Give it a try if you feel like you want to upgrade your instant ramen!
The dish we commonly know as ramen actually can also be called "Chuka Soba," which directly translates in Japanese to "Chinese noodles." While some may believe that Chuka Soba refers to more traditional styles of shoyu ramen, originating in Tokyo, this is actually a misconception, and ramen and Chuka Soba essentially mean the same thing.
Before the term ramen was popularized, this bowl of noodles in a broth was called Chuka Soba, since it was a dish that originated from China. However, after World War II, the term ramen saw more mainstream use. While the exact origins of the term are unclear, the term stuck and became what we use most commonly to refer to the dish today.
Unless specified otherwise, you should never microwave instant cup ramen. Microwaving instant cup ramen could either cause the container to melt, or even start fires, as instant cup ramen lids are often lined with aluminum.
Cody says, "One of the best ways to brighten up your cup ramen is to simply add an egg! Poached egg, boiled egg, or even a raw egg can add an egg drop soup-like consistency, and are all fantastic toppings for your cup ramen.
Also, since a lot of the toppings which come with cup ramen are freeze-dried, adding a few fresh herbs like green onions, cilantro, parsley can really liven up your meal."
Cody commented, "Since the noodles for a majority of instant cup ramen are freeze-dried, the best way to store them is in a cool, dry environment. Always be sure to check the expiration date on them as well since they can go off.
Also, keep a sealed bottle of water handy nearby as you'll need it to cook them up."
Are you a ramen fanatic that just can't get enough of it? Do you want to make your own ramen? Don't worry, we've got you covered with some helpful links below!
No. 1: Seven & i Holdings Co., Ltd. | Ippudo Akamaru Shinmi Hakata Tonkotsu
No. 2: Yamadai | Shinshu Miso Ramen
No. 3: Nissin Foods | Nissin Raoh Rich Miso
No. 4: Yamadai | Sano Ramen
No. 5: Nissin Foods | Nissin Men Nippon Hachioji Onion Shoyu Ramen
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