The Best Instant Noodles to Satisfy Your Ramen Cravings
There is never a wrong time to eat instant noodles. Sure, it’s the optimal meal when you’re a broke college student or hungry and lazy at 2 am, but the shiny and crinkly packets have called to me throughout my life—regardless of the time of day, my age, or the amount of money in my bank account. Instant ramen’s wide appeal is the ease of which to make it and the surprisingly flavorful results that stem from a single packet or two of seasoning.
If you’re as obsessed with instant noodles as I am (I’ve talked about instant ramen at length on Thrillist’s podcast, have written a handy guide on how to spruce it up at home, and have eaten more iterations of instant noodles than one probably should), but you’re over the styrofoam cups filled with dehydrated corn, peas, carrots, and bland chicken powder, then let me suggest some of my favorite instant ramens that capture the spirit of different noodle dishes from around the world.
All these instant noodles can be purchased online, are non-perishable, and will sustain any noodle connoisseur who’s currently camping out at home. Your pantry will thank you.
Mama - Creamy Tom Yum
Mama is my go-to instant noodle brand because it’s what I grew up on. In Thailand, it isn’t surprising to have a meal made from Mama; sometimes the noodles are separated from the package and reinvented into an entirely new dish (see yum mama, a Thai noodle salad made from Mama noodles). Though all the flavors are nostalgic and delicious, my favorite has to be the Creamy Tom Yum flavor. It’s spicy, slightly thicker than typical Mama broth thanks to powdered coconut cream, and herbaceous due to the inclusion of makrut lime, lemongrass, and dried chiles. Though it’s spicy, the coconut feels cooling, resulting in a well-balanced and bright instant noodle that’s almost as good as your take-out tom yum.
Price: $0.59 each at Asian Grocer
Nongshim - Shin Ramen
The wonders of Shin ramen are not lost on me, seeing that I devoted an entire half of a podcast talking about its magic and discussing ways to spruce up this pantry staple. For those who have never experienced the delight that is Shin Ramen, it’s spicy—enough to make my nose run a bit—and deeply savory in each bite. There are dehydrated slices of carrots, mushrooms, green onions, and chili flakes in each pack that blossom in hot water while the noodles are bouncy and chewy. To enhance this already wonderful instant ramen, throw a sheet of American cheese on a freshly made batch, watch it melt like a snuggly blanket over the noodles, and enjoy.
Price: $7.68/2-pack at Walmart
Indomie - Mi Goreng
Sometimes, when I don’t want to drink the sodium-rich broth at the bottom of a bowl of instant noodles, I’ll just make my noodles dry. Sure, that doesn’t make them any less salty, but a girl can pretend. Hailing from Indonesia and prevalent throughout Malaysia and Singapore, mi goreng is actually intended to be a dry fried noodle. Each pack comes with a soy sauce dressing, garlicky oil, and chili sauce. Sometimes, I fry an egg and gently lay it across the nest of noodles et voilà—breakfast is served.
Price: $36/30-pack on Amazon
Nissin Cup Noodle - Curry
Japanese curry is one of my favorite styles of curry. If you feel the same way, then get ready to buy a pack of these and then immediately consume them all. The curry flavor of these Nissin Cup Noodles is so inviting and warm; it’s not spicy, but extremely aromatic and will definitely satisfy the Japanese curry craving you may have. I recommend throwing some shredded cheese on top for a curry cheese ramen and serving it with a side of chicken karaage or pork katsu. Preparation is as easy as any typical cup noodle—just add hot water and go.
Price: $10.54/6-pack on Amazon
One Culture Foods - Tawainese Beef Noodle Soup
One Culture’s Taiwanese beef noodle soup is shockingly complex despite coming from a ready-to-make cup. It all, quite literally, boils down to the beef bone broth concentrate the brand makes and the thoughtfully crafted seasoning packet. The fragrance of star anise and caramelized onions is evident, and though the noodles aren’t like the fried, gnarled versions you find in most instant noodles, they’re still pleasantly chewy. Oh, and all the ingredients are non-GMO.
Price: $29.95/10-pack on Amazon
Paldo - Jjajangmen
Some black bean instant noodles come with a powder pack, but Paldo’s version of jajangmyeon—Korean-style black bean noodles—contains a saucy, liquid black bean sauce to glaze over all the noodles. Packs are large and hearty, with a sauce that is subtly sweet, sticky, and rich. It’s not a restaurant-level black dish, but it is a non-perishable item that will satisfy any craving for black bean noodles; just julienne some cucumbers to sprinkle on top.
Price: $15.55/4-pack on Amazon
Maggi - Masala
I’m told that Maggi masala noodles are a staple in every Indian household, but perhaps that should change to every household. These tangles of noodles—which can be served in varying levels of soupy consistency, depending on one's preference—contain the enticing perfumes of cardamom, coriander, clove, nutmeg, fenugreek, cumin, and more essential spices that make for a well-seasoned anytime snack. To be honest, Maggi seasoning sauce is a staple in my household, so their noodles are 100% trustworthy in my book.
Price: $19.97/case of 12 on Amazon
Maruchan Gold - Soy Sauce
For far too long, people have judged instant ramen, categorizing it as bland or too simplistic. I am certain these people have never had Maruchan Gold’s soy sauce-flavored instant ramen—reminiscent of the ramen stalls in Tokyo where one can get a cozy bowl of ramen with the push of a button and a handful of yen. The soy sauce is salty without being abrasively so, and the flavors of garlic, ginger, and bonito shine through. Plus, for being dehydrated and instant, the noodles are curly and spring back between each bite. I’d throw in some rings of green onion and a soft boiled egg to complete the dish.
Price: $9.98 on Saqra Mart
Prima Taste - Singapore Curry La Mian
If you're a fan of curry soups, you have to try these curry-flavored noodles from Singaporean brand, Prima Taste. The noodles themselves are chewy and springy, but the main draw is the well-spiced and aromatic curry soup base. It's full of creamy coconut flavor with subtle sweetness and also happens to be halal certified. I like mine served with bok choy, shrimp, and added chili oil for more spice, but if you're the type to order mild curries while out this is the perfect warming broth for you.
Price: $13.99 on Asian Mart
Myojo Ippei - Yakisoba with Mayonnaise
This yakisoba, or Japanese stir fried noodles, comes together in under five minutes but its gloriously rich and savory. The wheat flour noodles are sticky while the sauce, paired with a packet of creamy mayonnaise, coats each strand perfectly. If you're looking for dry noodles as opposed to soup, this is a great option. Spruce it up with slivers of bacon, cabbage, and pickled ginger if you want a fuller meal. To be perfectly honest, the packet of mayonnaise included isn't enough for me, so I'll definitely also pull out my full-sized bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise, too.
Price:$2.69 on Weee!