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9 Ingredients to Take Instant Ramen From a Convenient Snack to a Gourmet Meal

by Emmaly Anderson

It’s freezing outside; the snow (and the list of things on your holiday to-do list) are piling up. If you’re anything like me, your bank account is feeling the pressures of the holidays just as much as your mind is. In times like these, no food is as convenient and soul-soothing as a slurpable bowl of instant ramen – warm, savory, and ready-to-eat in five minutes or less. But you and I both know you deserve something a little tastier, nutritious, and satiating to get through the madness of this time of year – so we’ve scoured the internet for the most delicious, wallet-friendly, and easy ways to turn that Maruchan Instant Lunch into a drool-worthy meal. The best part? Most of these upgrades use ingredients you likely already have (and need to use up), so this doubles as a clean-out-the-fridge exercise. 

If you’re in need of some more instant noodle inspiration, the internet is chock-full of creators showing new “ramen hacks” on the daily, including TikToker Lisa Nguyen @lisanguyen, who embarked on a 30-day ramen challenge for the month of December, with each day’s upload showcasing a new, inventive way to turn that pantry staple into something special. 

1. Egg and Kewpie Mayo 

This microwave-friendly recipe had every TikTok foodie’s For You Page in a deathgrip earlier this year because of its convenience and deliciousness. Simply whisk together the seasoning packet, one egg, and some Japanese Kewpie Mayo (if you haven’t tried it already – it’s a game changer) into your ramen bowl before adding the just-cooked noodles and a splash of the water you boiled them in. If the raw egg feels scary, don’t worry – the heat from the noodles and boiling water cooks it to perfection. 

2. Peanut butter 

While there’s no shame in eating that peanut butter straight out of the jar, mixing a few tablespoons into your favorite instant ramen is a delicious and next-to-no-effort-required way to turn unsatisfying noodles into a hearty, filling treat. Add cilantro, lime juice, and chopped peanuts to take it one step further. 

3. Chili crisp

Ah, Chili crisp, our beloved. The Chinese condiment has developed quite the cult following in the United States for its unique flavor and texture that takes just about any dish you can imagine to the next level. There’s no shortage of brands to choose from, but making your own at home is easier than you’d expect. Even one little spoonful of the good stuff will take your ramen from a struggle meal to restaurant-quality.

4. Fresh (or frozen) vegetables

No one’s ever accused instant ramen of being the healthiest meal choice, but bumping up the nutritional value (and flavor) is easy when you have veggies on hand. Take that produce that’s threatening to rot in the back of the fridge and sauté it with your cooked noodles to make a quick and easy stir fry, or just toss it right in the bowl as-is. Frozen veggies work just as well, and if you can’t be bothered to clean another dish, they can be thrown in with the noodles before going in the microwave. 

5. Aromatics

If you want everyone in your house to ask you what smells so damn good while you’re cooking, toss some aromatics with oil in a pan to add to your ramen. Garlic and onion are classics for a reason, but consider adding ginger and scallion to really take things up a notch.

6. Kimchi

This spicy Korean staple has developed a reputation as a health food, due to its probiotic nature, but you should really just keep some on hand anyways because it tastes incredible. With endless brands and spice levels to choose from at any Asian grocer or even the Walmart down the road, a few pieces of this delightful fermented cabbage adds a unique flavor and crunch to any instant noodle dish.

7. Cheese

Melting a Kraft Single into a Top Ramen pack conjures up stereotypical images of a struggling college student living in the dorms, but cheesy ramen can be a delightfully rich and comforting meal that’s much more satisfying than plain ol’ noodles and broth. Add sriracha or another spicy condiment to make it even better.

8. Frozen dumplings

Coming from someone who typically has an unfinished bag of Trader Joe’s potstickers in their freezer, this upgrade is a particularly effective way to use up forgotten groceries and add a little more protein to your meal. Steam, pan-fry, or even microwave any variation of potsticker, gyoza, mandu, or shumai to top off your bowl.

9. Just about any leftovers you have



When it comes to what you can add to instant ramen, the sky truly is the limit. Instead of viewing instant ramen as a cheap, lazy meal, think of it as a blank canvas of opportunities to get creative. Have bacon and eggs on hand? Breakfast ramen! Rotisserie chicken? Toss it in there! Stir-fried veggies from last night’s takeout? Say less! Too many condiments in the refrigerator door? Here’s your opportunity to use ‘em up.

Top photo: Photo by Frank from 5 AM Ramen on Unsplash

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