Instant noodles have become common in the pantries of families in many parts of the world. According to the World Instant Noodles Association, 106.4 billion servings of instant noodles were consumed in 2019, which means approximately 280 million servings were consumed each day. The top three rankings were China, Indonesia, and India, and the US ranked number 6 in the world!
Most people like instant noodles because they are cheap, tasty, and convenient. There are also different flavors, noodle types, and soup types depending on the origin of the product. Read on to check out our choices, and scroll down to our buying guide (reviewed by a ramen blogger) for more shopping tips!
There are plenty of instant noodles choice on the market. Although flavor plays a big factor in your decision, there are also other things you should look at before purchasing one!
Each country has its own traditional flavors and brands of instant noodles, but the three most popular on the market tend to come from Japan, Korea, and Thailand.
Instant noodles originated in Japan with Momofuku Ando's Cup Ramen in 1958. With that much history, you can expect that Japanese brand instant noodles to have a lot of variety! The taste of Japanese instant noodles tends to be subtle but full of umami. Some common brands are Nissin, Maruchan, and Sapporo Ichiban.
Besides the normal soup noodles, they also come in non-soup options, such as yakisoba. Yakisoba is Japanese stir-fried noodles that are often flavored with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and fruit purées, for a salty-sweet taste.
If you prefer light soup bases, we recommend flavors such as soy sauce and shio (salt). Soy sauce broth is made with stock and soy sauce and looks quite clear. It has a savory and salty flavor. Shio soup is made with salt and broth, so it tastes savory and salty.
For those who prefer thick and rich broth, consider miso, tonkotsu, or curry broth. Soybean-based miso broth was first invented in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It's made with stock, miso, and might also contain butter for a rich, nutty, and hearty taste to provide comfort for the cold weather.
Tonkotsu, which is pork bone-based, is rich and pretty heavy, as it's cooked with pork bones. There is also curry broth, which is rich and fragrant thanks to the addition of different spices.
The first instant noodle developed by Momofuku Ando was actually the Chicken Ramen brand packs that you can still see today in most Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores. Funny enough, the instant noodles were first thought of as luxury items, costing about the same as a bowl of ramen you would have typically found in a restaurant during that time.
It has since evolved to what it is today, being a staple in many young, university student’s pantries. Nowadays you can find a variety of different instant noodles in collaboration with established, well-known ramen shops. Definitely recommend grabbing a pack next time you’re deciding which to get!
Korean brands are especially known for their often red appearance, fiery kick, and mix of sweet and spicy flavors. If you want in-your-face spice, then consider Korean brands like Nongshim, Paldo, and Samyang.
But Korean spicy noodles come in different heat levels. Hot peppers are measured by the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU). The larger the SHU number, the spicier the peppers are. You can look up noodle brands to find their Scoville ratings, too.
For example, Samyang's Buldak Bokkeummyun Light (Buldak Fried Noodles Light) has a Scoville rating of 1,762 and is suitable for those with low spice tolerance. Meanwhile, their Buldak Bbibbimyeon has a rating of 12,000 and makes a great challenge for spicy lovers.
Of course, not all Korean brand instant noodles are of the spicy variety, but they do tend to be stronger in flavor compared to their Japanese cousins. We recommend flavors such as kimchi, jjajangmyeon, and bibimbap flavors.
Both jjajangmyeon and bibimbap instant noodles often come without soup. Jjajangmyeon noodles are made with a black bean sauce, which has a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. Meanwhile, bibimbap noodles use the traditional Korean gochujang sauce and have a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor.
The best part about Korean instant noodles is their versatility, and they can be used not only as a meal on their own, but also as a side to your favorite Korean dishes. Having some kimchi on the side is a fantastic way to supplement your instant noodles, or adding the noodles to your favorite Korean hot pot can give some extra carb-y goodness to your meal!
Thai noodles are often available in a mixture of sweet, salty, and sour flavors, with acidic notes. They can range in spiciness levels, from mild flavors like salted egg to hotter ones like green curry. Some popular Thai noodle brands are Mama, Waiwai, and Yum Yum. We recommend tom yum, pad thai, green curry, and salted egg flavors.
Chinese instant noodles are usually made with many spices such as Sichuan peppers, onions, garlic. Some common flavors include spicy beef, tomato and egg, and spicy chicken.
Similar to Chinese noodles, Taiwanese noodles are also famous for their rich and deep flavors. For example, TTL's Pickled Vegetable Beef noodles are well-loved by many Taiwanese for their rich beef broth. Taiwanese dry noodles are also very delicious, with some famous flavors being ginger and sesame and Sichuan pepper.
Many of the Thai and Southeast Asian instant noodle varieties can be quite heavy on the spice but still very delicious. If you want to try some of the flavors but need something to tone the spice down, I recommend adding a sunny-side-up egg with a runny yolk to give the noodles a creamy finish.
If that’s not enough, a dash of vinegar will give the dish some acidity while helping break down some of the spiciness for a more mild flavor profile!
Wheat-based noodles are the most common type used to make instant noodles. This category can further be divided into fried and non-fried varieties. 80 percent of all instant noodles on the market use the fried version!
Soba broths tend to be rather light, while udon and ramen can pair well with heavier types of soups and flavors. And, just a side note: yakisoba, although it has soba in the name, is actually made with wheat noodles!
There are also rice noodles, which are made from rice flour and contain no egg. If you've ever had pho, the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, then you've eaten rice noodles!
Alternative noodles are usually made from vegetables. This type of noodle includes varieties such as glass noodles and shirataki.
Glass noodles are usually made from mung bean, and shirataki noodles (also known as konjac noodles) are made from glucomannan, a type of fiber that comes from the konjac root. They make a great low-calorie option if you crave noodles but have dietary concerns.
Instant noodles have three main types of broth: thick soup, clear soup, and no soup. So, think about whether you like soupy or saucy noodles before choosing a product.
Clear soup is light and low in calories. It's usually made from broth with salt or soy sauce, so the taste is mild and light.
On the other hand, thicker soup varieties can be higher in calories, because there are more ingredients added to them. They often contain thickening agents like fat, flour, or starch, but provide a smooth mouthfeel and heartiness that lighter soups may not.
Remember that old adage, "don’t judge a book by its cover"? While the clarity of the broth can sometimes infer how light or rich a soup will be, there is always more than meets the eye.
A lot of the flavors can come from the seasoning such as the shoyu (soy sauce) or miso in the tare seasoning sauce. Clear soups can also be achieved despite infusing the broth with tons of chicken and vegetables, so be sure to play around and try an assortment to find what’s best for you!
If you aren't interested in broth, but want some saucy noodles, then there are still options for you! Yakisoba is a well-known no-soup noodle dish that still packs a flavorful punch without much water.
Jjajangmyeon, noodles with black bean sauce, and bibim naengmyeon, spicy cold noodles, are some famous and delicious Korean dry noodles.
You could also try boiling a regular pack of instant noodles, draining the water, then mixing them with the included flavor packet to make your own no soup ramen!
Instant noodles usually come with toppings such as dehydrated vegetables and dehydrated meat. Although they may not be exactly like fresh ingredients, they still add some extra flavor and texture to your instant noodles.
Many products also come with seasoning oil packets. These oil packets are usually made with oil and spices such as onions, garlic, and ginger to make your noodles richer and more flavorful.
Cups or styrofoam containers are the most convenient type of packaging, since you can just add hot water to the package right away. These containers are lightweight and pretty durable, so you don't have to worry about them getting punctured if you bring one for lunch in your backpack.
However, cups and styrofoam containers take up more storage space than noodle packs. Noodle packs are also somewhat more eco-friendly, since less material is used to make their packaging. Packs are less convenient when it comes to preparation and cooking time, though, since you can't prepare them in their own container.
If you're concerned about calories, make sure to check the nutrition facts carefully. Sometimes, one package of instant noodles can contain more than one serving size. For example, if it says two serving sizes on a package with 300 calories per serving, this means this package actually contains 600 calories. On average, one serving is about 300 to 500 calories.
There are also many types of soups, with varying nutritional values. Usually, clear soups like salt or soy sauce-based broths have the lowest amount of calories. Try avoiding spicy or thick soups because they tend to add extra oil, flour, or cornstarch. Some noodles don't come with any soup or sauce, so you can make your own healthy version!
Many instant noodles are fried noodles and tend to be high in calories and saturated fats. But you can choose instant noodles that are air-dried instead of fried to reduce the amount of fats. There are also vegan and vegetarian options! For example, Paldo's kimchi-flavored noodles and Bibim Men are made without any meat ingredients.
While instant noodles can look simple from the outside, there is a lot that goes into each pack, and they can be deceptive about their ingredients and caloric content.
If you have any allergies such as fish or seafood, be sure to check the labels, as most Japanese stocks have some sort of seafood for added umami. The same goes if you’re a vegetarian or pescatarian; many of these cup noodles use pork as a base for their soup packets, so be sure to check their labels at the store!
We’ve extensively combed through reviews to pick out 10 of the most popular instant noodles. We also chose them based on factors such as their flavor, spice level, soup type, and so on. Take a peek at our list!
*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not affiliated with or recommended by Cody Mizuno unless explicitly stated so. Prices were gathered from respective EC sites on September 16, 2022.
Shrimp Tom Yum Instant Noodles
Guanmiao Noodle - Hakka Sesame Oil and Scallion
Instant Lunch Chicken Flavor
Jjajang Buldak Spicy Black Bean Roasted Chicken Noodles
Best Spicy Beef Noodles for Spice Lovers
Best Ramen With Rich and Savory Pork Bone Soup
Best for the Complex Flavor Thanks to the Inclusion of 5 Toppings
Best Seafood Noodles With Fragrant Spices
Best Vegetarian Knife-Cut Chewy Noodles
Best Basic Chicken Broth-Based Noodle
Best Korean Noodles With a Spicy and Savory Black Bean Sauce
Best Yakisoba in 4 Minutes With No Mess
Best for the Aromatic Black Garlic Oil
Best Low-Calorie Option for Dieters
|Flavor profile||Spicy beef||Rich pork soup||Sweet, spicy, and salty fried noodles||Shrimp tom yum||Salty and fragrant sauce||Chicken flavor||Spicy chicken flavor||Teriyaki chicken flavor||Black garlic oil, pork||Konjac noodles|
|Spice level||Hot||-||Mild to medium||Medium||None||None||Extra hot||None||-||-|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables||Spices||Seasoning oil, sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, fried onion||Dehydrated vegetables||Dehydrated green onion, sesame oil and scallion sauce||Dehydrated vegetables||Dehydrated vegetables, textured vegetable protein||Dehydrated vegetables||Black garlic oil, sesame oil, dehydrated green onion||-|
|Packaging||Pack||Pack||Pack||Pack||Pack||Foam cup||Pack||Microwavable tray||Pack||Pack|
|Best for||Spice lovers||Japanese ramen lovers||Choosing your spice level||Seafood lovers||Vegetarians||Packed lunches; quick, no-mess meals||Spice lovers||Quick, no-mess meal||Garlic lovers||Dieters|
|Amount||4.2 oz.||5 servings||5 pack, 3 oz. each||2.11 oz.||4 servings||2.25 oz.||3 pack, 4.94 oz. each||8 pack, 3.98 oz. each||30 pack, 3.5 oz. each||9.52 oz.|
|Flavor profile||Spicy beef|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables|
|Best for||Spice lovers|
|Flavor profile||Rich pork soup|
|Toppings or oils||Spices|
|Best for||Japanese ramen lovers|
|Flavor profile||Sweet, spicy, and salty fried noodles|
|Spice level||Mild to medium|
|Toppings or oils||Seasoning oil, sweet soy sauce, chili sauce, fried onion|
|Best for||Choosing your spice level|
|Amount||5 pack, 3 oz. each|
|Flavor profile||Shrimp tom yum|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables|
|Best for||Seafood lovers|
|Flavor profile||Salty and fragrant sauce|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated green onion, sesame oil and scallion sauce|
|Flavor profile||Chicken flavor|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables|
|Best for||Packed lunches; quick, no-mess meals|
|Flavor profile||Spicy chicken flavor|
|Spice level||Extra hot|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables, textured vegetable protein|
|Best for||Spice lovers|
|Amount||3 pack, 4.94 oz. each|
|Flavor profile||Teriyaki chicken flavor|
|Toppings or oils||Dehydrated vegetables|
|Best for||Quick, no-mess meal|
|Amount||8 pack, 3.98 oz. each|
|Flavor profile||Black garlic oil, pork|
|Toppings or oils||Black garlic oil, sesame oil, dehydrated green onion|
|Best for||Garlic lovers|
|Amount||30 pack, 3.5 oz. each|
|Flavor profile||Konjac noodles|
|Toppings or oils||-|
Instant noodles tend to be plain when there's nothing except noodles, soup, dried vegetables, and meat. If you want to turn instant noodles into a gourmet meal, try adding toppings! If you can't think of anything off the top of your head, you can just follow the picture on the package.
In general, people like to add soft boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, and meat. Green onions also add a great flavor kick and make your noodles look beautiful, too!
You should also carefully read and follow the cooking instructions printed on the packet. Many people mistakenly overcook their noodles; the perfect texture should be a little bit chewy and not mushy.
Still curious about some aspects of instant noodles? Cody is here to answer a commonly asked question.
Instant noodles are made in one of two ways. The most common method is the frying method in which noodles are dried by oil frying. This lowers their moisture content to below 5 percent. The frying method is what you typically find in your cup noodle and has the longest shelf life.
The second method is the air-drying method, which is exactly what its name suggests. Noodles are air-dried in a temperate room, which lowers their water content to about 10 percent. The air-drying method gives the noodles are fresher texture when it is re-hydrated but has a shorter shelf life.
Whether you want noodles that only require adding boiling water, or you want to get adventurous and cook up something unique, we've got you covered.
Looking for more options? Check out Amazon's best-selling instant noodles!
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
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