8 Spices to Add to Instant Ramen Noodles

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It’s not always easy to cook a tasty meal when you’re on a budget. Fortunately, there are plenty of spices you can add to a simple pack of ramen noodles that barely cost a dime.

You can use anything from white pepper, scallions and chili flakes all the way to miso paste and furikake. Most of these seasonings go well together and will bring your ramen game to the next level.

In this article, I’ll cover the best spices you can add to ramen, so you never have to eat another cup of bland noodles ever again.

The best seasonings to add to ramen

The best way to spice up your ramen is to learn how it’s made traditionally. Traditional ramen is made of five key components: stock, oil, noodles, toppings and tare.

Even though each of these components is equally important, the tare usually impacts the flavor the most.

The word “tare” comes from Japanese and it essentially means sauce. In instant noodles, it refers to the concentrated seasoning that’s added to the broth.

However, the small sachet that we use to season our ramen doesn’t contain much spices. Due to this it’s usually packed with tons of sodium and MSG that compensate for the lack of flavor.

Fortunately, you can use plenty of spices and ingredients to turn around the taste of your ramen.

Miso

Miso is a soybean paste that’s made from fermented soybeans, salt and a fungus called koji.

It’s commonly used in Japanese cuisine in soups, sauces or as a condiment.

Its flavor can best be described as being slightly sweet, yet salty at the same time. It also brings a touch of umami which makes it perfect for ramen.

There are three types of miso paste:

  • white
  • yellow
  • red

White miso has the mildest flavor and is well suited for anyone who hasn’t tried miso.

If you aren’t afraid of taking risks, then I recommend using red miso since it provides a deeper umami taste.

To season your ramen with miso paste simply:

  1. Add one teaspoon to a bowl.
  2. Place the noodles on top.
  3. Soak the noodles in hot water.

For richer taste, you can use stock or add some bouillon.

Even though miso is relatively unpopular in the west, you can still find it in Asian stores or on Amazon.

It’s typically sold in 35 oz bags that can last you for months even if the only thing you eat is noodles.

Peanut Butter

For some bizarre reason, peanut butter goes extremely well with ramen. However, when I first found out I can use it to season my noodles, I felt quite skeptical.

Before that, I used to use peanut butter mostly for desserts so adding it to a savory dish seemed unnatural. Fortunately, my curiosity prevailed and I discovered that peanut butter can make ramen extraordinarily tasty.

After my initial surprise, I started experimenting and found a few ways in which you can incorporate peanut butter into your noodles.

The easiest one is:

  1. Combine one tablespoon of peanut butter with one tablespoon of Sriracha sauce at the bottom of a bowl.
  2. You then add the drained noodles to the bowl and mix them well with the sauce.

The addition of Sriracha will make your ramen spicy and help with the consistency of the sauce.

Alternatively, you can swap out the Sriracha with soy sauce and add a teaspoon of sesame oil for a milder taste.

Sesame Oil

Aromatic oils are one of the key ingredients that make ramen taste special. They’re used to provide an additional layer of taste and distribute the flavor of the other ingredients over our palate.

But more importantly, aromatic oils in ramen serve as a bond between the broth and the noodles. Without them, the broth simply doesn’t stick to the noodles and they end up tasting bland.

And there’s nothing worse than a bowl of bland noodles.

Having said that, sesame oil is probably the most affordable and easily available aromatic oil you can use.

I recommend you add two tablespoons to your seasoning sauce before you assemble the rest of your ramen.

I’ve found that even though this may seem too much, it will drastically improve the taste of your noodles. Using less oil simply won’t lend you the same results.

Hot Sauce

The best way to bring up the heat in your ramen is to add some hot sauce.

You can do this in two different ways.

The first is to use the hot sauce as a base for your tare and mix it with equal amounts of soy sauce.

Adding one tablespoon of hot sauce and soy sauce is usually enough for this purpose.

Alternatively, you can toss out the broth and add as much hot sauce to your noodles as you want.

I personally love using Sriracha, but you can try out any hot sauce you like.

For additional heat, you can sprinkle in some chili flakes or Sichuan pepper.

Dashi Powder

Dashi is a Japanese broth that’s typically made with kombu seaweed and dried fish flakes.

Similarly to other broths, dashi is used to infuse dishes with a rich umami flavor.

However, it provides a more intense flavor than other broths thanks to the unique chemical properties of its ingredients.

Put simply, the seaweed in dashi is rich in glutamate, while the fish flakes contain inosate which boosts the effect of glutamate on our taste buds.

Fortunately, you can find dashi in a powder form so you don’t need to make the broth on your own.

With this in mind, you can improve the taste of your ramen by adding some dashi powder.

To do this, simply:

  1. Mix one teaspoon of dashi powder with a tablespoon of soy sauce.
  2. Put the uncooked noodles on top.
  3. Soak the noodles in 1 ½ cup of broth.

If you don’t have any broth on hand, you can soak the noodles in hot water and add some bouillon.

Just be mindful of the amount of bouillon, since it contains sodium which can throw off the overall flavor.

Furikake

Furikake is a Japanese condiment that is often used to season rice and other mellow tasting dishes.

It comes in many different varieties, but it’s traditionally made of sesame seeds, seaweed, dried fish flakes and herbs.

This unique blend of seasonings gives it a distinct savory and nutty flavor which pairs quite well with ramen.

However, you should be careful when using it since it also contains salt.

In my experience, using half a teaspoon is usually enough to add some flavor without making your ramen too salty.

You can find furikake at most Japanese markets and Asian stores.

You can also make your own homemade version by blending toasted sesame seeds, bonito flakes, nori and sea salt in a food processor.

Chilli Oil

Another way to make your ramen spicy is to use chili oil.

Chili oil is typically made from chili peppers that are cooked in vegetable oil.

It can be made from different types of vegetable oil and can contain other ingredients such as garlic, paprika, soy sauce and sugar.

Due to this, its taste will differ depending on the type you use.

Chili oils made with Sichuan peppers, for instance, have a deeper flavor but are also significantly more hot than other types.

Just like sesame oil, chili oil can be incorporated into ramen as an addition to the seasoning sauce.

However, it’s best to start with one tablespoon so you don’t end up with a bowl of ramen that’s too hot to eat.

Ginger

Ginger is an ubiquitous spice when it comes to Asian cuisine.

It’s used to lend dishes with an aromatic, pungent and spicy flavor that can’t be matched by any other ingredient.

So it’s no surprise that it goes hand in hand with ramen as well.

You can use fresh ginger to improve the flavor of your ramen noodles in a few different ways.

If you’re looking for a more delicate taste, you can cut the ginger in chunks and simmer it in the broth for a few minutes.

For a more intense flavor, you can grate it or mince it and leave it to fully cook along with your noodles.

And if you’re an avid lover of ginger like me, you can grate it on top of your ramen once it’s done cooking.

What else can you add to improve the flavor of ramen noodles?

It’s no secret that instant ramen isn’t the most nutritious food you can eat.

Unlike traditional ramen, it doesn’t contain any sources of protein, fiber and vitamins.

However, you can turn a bowl of instant ramen into a much more filling and flavorful meal by adding a few simple ingredients.

Eggs

Eggs are the cheapest and most affordable way to add some protein to a bowl of ramen.

You can incorporate them in several different ways depending on the texture you’re looking for.

The easiest one is to cook the eggs along with your noodles.

If you want to hard boil them, you should place them in cold water, then bring the water to a boil and add the noodles.

This will allow the eggs to cook at the same time as the noodles.

Alternatively, you can hard boil eggs and store them peeled in your fridge until the day you decide it’s ramen time.

For soft boiled eggs, you should add the eggs after the water starts boiling and cook them for roughly 5 minutes. This will give your eggs a nice soft texture and a runny yolk.

You can also poach your eggs straight into the broth.

To do this, simply crack them into the ramen broth once it begins boiling.

Keep in mind that they probably won’t hold their shape well with this technique.

Alternatively, you can beat an egg in a small bowl and slowly whisk it in the broth when it starts boiling.

This will break the egg into fine ribbons that will float in the broth and enrich the taste of your ramen.

Lastly, you can fry an egg in a separate pan and add it to your noodles when they’re finished cooking.

Meat

Another easy way to improve the flavor of your ramen is to add some meat.

Your options here depend on how creative you want to get.

For starters, you can cook thin strips of chicken, pork or beef straight into the broth.

To do this, simply add the meat to the broth once it begins simmering and swish it back and forth until it’s done.

If you don’t like the taste of boiled meat, you can cook the meat in a separate pan and serve it on top of the noodles.

You can also skip cooking entirely and use cured meats like bacon, ham or summer sausage.

I personally prefer using bacon since it pairs quite well with the taste of beef ramen.

In case there are any leftovers in your fridge, you can easily incorporate them in your noodles as well.

Vegetables

In general, vegetables go fantastically with pork and chicken dishes.

Because of this you can add pretty much any vegetable you like to your pork or chicken ramen as long as you time it right.

Leafy greens such as baby spinach, bok choy, cabbage and scallions are a staple in traditional ramen.

They give off tons of flavor, provide texture and add a splash of color. Since leafy greens take less time to cook, they’re usually added right before serving.

Carrots, peas and broccoli also pair quite well with ramen, but they need more time to cook.

Due to this, they’re typically boiled along with the broth.

If you don’t have any fresh vegetables at hand, you can also use frozen vegetables.

Just keep in mind to thaw them before adding them to the broth.

My short recap

Unfortunately, ramen noodles don’t contain much flavor on their own and the seasoning packet they come with is often full of sodium.

However, by adding a few simple spices to your ramen noodles you can turn them into the tasty and nutritious meal they were meant to be.

Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions down in the comments. I’d love to hear about the ramen hacks you use to make your noodles more flavorful.

Also, if you’re into East Asian cuisine, try making these flavorful pork buns.

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