Easy Ways To Upgrade Instant Ramen

Instant noodles are their own kind of deliciousness, and sometimes there's nothing better than that bowl of basic ready-in-three-minutes ramen, MSG-filled flavor packet and all.

Now, there is absolutely no shame in eating your ramen as-is, but if you have a few seconds to spare, that basic bowl can become an Instagram-worthy meal with these super-simple add-ins. And if you want to take things a step further, you can turn your ramen into a whole new experience with these "recipes" that are so easy they can hardly even be called recipes.

Drop in an egg

One of the quickest ways to fancy up your ramen is to crack a raw egg into the hot broth for a faux poached effect. Drop the egg in just after you take the pot off the heat (you should have already stirred in the flavor packet), cover, and let it sit for about a minute. This produces a more ethereal white than a classic poached egg, and infuses the broth along with the runny yolk. As someone who is incapable of making a real poached egg, I can tell you that this method is very doable and absurdly good.

Add more eggs

If the poached technique isn't doing it for you, there are plenty of other ways to get some extra protein in your ramen:

  • Stir a beaten egg into the broth for an egg drop soup effect.
  • Top your finished bowl with a fried egg.
  • Nestle a soft-boiled egg atop your noodles (hard-boiled works, too).

Add cheese

Do yourself a favor: Take a page from Roy Choi's ramen book and stir two slices of American cheese into your finished broth. (I can't recommend white American strongly enough, but I'm sure yellow gets the job done, too.) The cheese melts to add an amazing creaminess to the bowl, and you'll slurp this soup up wondering where its been all your life.

Add veggies

Ramen is the perfect exuse to clear out your crisper without having to plan an elaborate meal. Toss in whatever produce you have on hand — green onions, bean sprouts, sliced jalapeños, broccoli, spinach, bok choy — and then feel smug about all those healthy nutrients in your bowl. A handful of frozen veggies, like shelled edamame or peas, is another easy way to get some green in.

Add herbs

Hit that crisper up one more time and grab the cilantro, basil, and mint. Nothing perks up a bowl of ramen like fresh herbs.

Add spice

If you prefer to sweat when you eat your ramen, consider stepping away from the vinegary Tabasco and adding one of these to your bowl instead.

  • Sriracha: The old standby with the rooster on the bootle — hot and tangy with a hint of garlic.  
  • Gochujang: The Korean fermented chili paste that's been busy unseating Sriracha as everyone's favorite hot sauce — adds tons of depth with a sweet, salty kick.
  • Sambal oelek: The Indonesian chili paste made of crushed red peppers — gives your dish a raw, fresh spiciness.
  • Red curry paste: The Thai seasoning infused with aromatic herbs — flavors your broth with that classic curry taste.

Add sauces and condiments

Make use of all those bottles lining your fridge door; a dash of this and a spoonful of that will go a long way to liven up that standard broth.

  • For sweetness and depth, try hoisin or plum sauce.
  • For brightness, add rice vinegar or a squeeze of lime.
  • For saltiness, stir in a bit of miso paste or soy sauce. (Be careful here since the flavor packets already tend to be fairly salty).

Add protein

Meat eaters, raid the leftovers and add in crumbled bacon, cooked shrimp, or shredded chicken to instantly bulk up your ramen. Pro tip: If you have very thinly sliced beef on hand, you can add it to the hot broth raw.

Vegetarians, toss in cubed tofu for a protein boost.

Add coconut milk

Aside from the glorious American cheese hack, another way to add silkiness to ramen is with coconut milk. Go with the full fat kind for maximum effect, and stir it in to the finished broth until your desired level of creaminess is reached.

Ditch the broth

The best ramen ever (as determined by me) is made as follows: Cook and drain the noodles. Mix in a ridiculous amount of butter, a dusting from the seasoning packet, and a few squirts of Sriracha. HEAVEN. (Also happens to be the perfect hangover food.)

Make chicken soup ramen

This soup is simple enough to make even when you're sick. Start with chicken-flavored ramen, toss in a handful of frozen veggie mix (like carrots, peas, and corn), add some shredded chicken, and you're on the road to recovery. Don't forget the saltines.

Make coconut curry shrimp ramen

Mix up a quick and easy rendition of your favorite Thai soup by adding coconut milk, a teaspoon of red curry paste, a dash of fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime to shrimp-flavored ramen. If you happen to have cooked shrimp on hand, toss them in, too. 

Make breakfast ramen

Who says ramen is only for lunch and dinner? Start your morning off right with a bowl of pork-flavored ramen topped with plenty of bacon and a fried or poached egg.

Make spicy sesame peanut noodles

You can skip the takeout tonight and whip up your own version of sesame peanut noodles in minutes. Mix together a spoonful of peanut butter, a few dashes of sesame oil and soy sauce, and a teaspoon of sambal oelek. Cook and drain the ramen, reserving some hot cooking water. Combine the noodles and peanut butter sauce, adding water as needed to thin it out. Dinner is served!