I love Instant Ramen. I’ve been making instant noodles for as long as I can remember; my parents always stocked packs of Maruchan instant ramen in the pantry and it was a dish that I could easily make myself even at a young age. That classic package of crispy fried noodles and flavor dust is extremely cheap and pretty tasty without any upgrades. But over time I’ve learned a few hacks, including what to add to instant ramen, that have elevated my noodle slurping experience.
- Explore: Shrimp “Tonkatsu” Ramen
1. Experiment with New Brands of Instant Ramen
Browse the soup section at any supermarket today and you’ll find a whole host of instant ramen brands lining the shelves. I’ve noticed dozens of new options showing up in my local grocery store just in the last year. These packs can be a bit more expensive than the most basic blocks of instant noodles, but are still very affordable and usually less than a couple of bucks.
I also recommend checking out your local Asian grocery store for an even wider range of instant noodle options. I’ve been making regular stops at my local Korean megastore, H-Mart, over the past year. There, I’ve found several new brands of instant ramen that I love—and, honestly, I haven’t even scratched the surface of their stock.
These deluxe versions of instant ramen noodles boast noodles with a better texture and also often come with several seasoning packs per portion. The extra flavor packs add extra depth of flavor to your basic bowl of instant noodles. At H-mart, I’ve also found packs of instant ramen with fresh noodles that even further level-up my instant soup game. Those are certainly the priciest, at about $3 a serving, but are worth it for a far superior noodle experience.
2. Start with Stock
This is one of the best instant ramen hacks: instead of using water, use stock. I’ve been making Instant Pot stock regularly over the past year—I even made a video about it—and you can’t beat the rich mouthfeel that homemade stock brings to soups of all kinds, including instant ramen.
♥ Related: How to Make Stock in an Instant Pot (Video)
If this is a step too far for you, use a good quality box of store-bought stock or bone broth. Just be careful to use a brand with low sodium or no added sodium because those flavor packs sold with your instant ramen have all the salt you need. I have found that with a very good broth, I can get away with adding only half of the sodium-heavy seasoning packs and my heart thanks me for it!
3. What to Add Instant Ramen? So Many Tasty Things!
A plain pack of instant ramen is so basic—just noodles and broth. But there are plenty of things to add to ramen to make it heartier. What to add to ramen? I like adding some protein packed mix-ins which can help make instant soup feel like more of a meal. First, check your freezer. Frozen meatballs work great in instant ramen—just toss them in your broth while it comes up to a boil. The meatballs will help flavor your soup base while they cook.
I also love frozen fish balls which I find at my local Asian grocery store and always keep handy. Another freezer find I like to add to my ramen: wontons. I always buy a bag when I find them for adding to my ramen.
During the summer, we smoke lots of meat on our Big Green Egg and package leftovers in small zip top bags to store in the freezer. These leftovers make for tasty ramen mix-ins. I love how the smokiness of the BBQed meat adds flavor to the broth.
If nothing else add some leftover chicken. Or, cut some raw bacon into 2-3-inch chunks and add them to your broth toward the end of cooking—they won’t need much time to cook through.
One non-meat mix-in I love to add while my broth is coming up to a boil: scallions. Specifically, I like to use slices of the heartier scallion ends to help season the broth while saving the green ends for garnish—oh yes, this is foreshadowing!
Things to Add to Instant Ramen: Ideas for Hearty Ramen Add-Ins
- Frozen meatballs
- Rotisserie chicken
- Leftover BBQ meat
- Fish balls/fish cakes
- Thin-cut bacon
- Thinly sliced beef or pork belly
- Sliced mushrooms
- Dehydrated wakame seaweed
- Chopped Bok choy
4. Supplement the Seasoning Pack
Flavor doesn’t have to stop with stock and your seasoning pack. I like to supercharge my flavor pack with some condiments I keep on hand. Try one of these add-ins. Whisk in sesame paste or peanut butter to give your instant ramen a nutty flavor and the broth a richer mouthfeel. Or make a miso ramen soup by stirring in some miso into your broth. For a little Korean spice, whisk in a dollop of gochujang.
I also like the umami that a bit of instant dashi powder brings to the party. Just remember, if you’ choose to add some of the more sodium-heavy options, hold back on the seasoning pack until you can taste your soup. You can always add more seasoning but not take away.
And I like to add a little heat to my ramen when it’s served: sambal, Sriracha, or Chinese hot oil are some of my favorite ways to add some spice to my bowl.
Things to Add to Instant Ramen: Ideas for Ramen Seasoning Add-Ins
5. Top with Tasty Garnishes
The final step to a souped up bowl of instant ramen: tasty toppings. When I was a kid, I used to whisk up and egg and drizzle it in to the hot broth sort of like egg drop soup. These days, I prefer a jammy egg on top. To get a perfect egg, I cook my eggs in the Instant Pot with a cup of water on high pressure for 5 minutes.
I also love the green parts of my scallion, some chopped cilantro, and some squares of nori.
Things to Add to Instant Ramen: Ideas for Ramen Garnish Add-Ins
6. Bonus Hack: Buy a Bowl
One final hack: get yourself a nice ramen bowl and some chopsticks. Having the right serving ware goes a long way to feeling like you’re at a good ramen restaurant even if your noodles cost just a few cents. I bought some inexpensive, but pretty—and more importantly—deep bowls at H-Mart. And now I use these bowls for all manners of noodle-y dishes!
- Shop: Ramen Bowls on Amazon
I hope my instant ramen hacks will inspire you to make your inexpensive blocks of ramen taste just a little lux. Even adding just a few extra ingredients can help make your soup more slurpable.
Instant Ramen Hacks: How to Make Instant Ramen Better
- 1 pack instant ramen noodles
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock or a good quality boxed bone broth
- 1 scallion sliced
- 2 frozen meatballs
- 2 frozen fish balls
- 2 frozen wontons
- 1 tbsp white miso paste
- 2 tbsp cilantro roughly chopped
- ½ sheet nori seaweed torn into two squares
- 1 medium-boiled egg
- ½ tbsp sambal chili paste
- In a medium soup pot, bring your stock to a boil along with half of the seasoning packet, the frozen meatballs, frozen fish balls, and the hearty white part of the scallions.Once at a boil, cook for about 5 minutes to make sure the meatballs are heated through.
- Add the noodles and wontons to the soup pot. Cook until the noodles are cooked but still have a good chewy texture to them. This will only take a couple of minutes. The wontons will also cook in that time.
- Add the miso paste to your serving bowl. Add about half a cup of hot broth to the bowl and whisk until the miso paste is fully incorporated. Then add the rest of your soup to the bowl.Taste the broth and if it needs to be seasoned a bit more, add a little more of the seasoning packet to your taste.
- Slice your egg in half. Garnish the soup with the green parts of the scallions, cilantro, the egg, and nori squares. Add the sambal. Slurp away!