5 Easy Ideas to Turn Instant Ramen Noodles into a Healthy Dinner
Whether it's the nostalgia or undeniable convenience, most of us would agree that a package of instant ramen noodles is one of our favorite quick comfort foods. They can be totally satisfying on their own, but have you considered upgrading your instant ramen? Read on for our favorite hacks to help you cut the sodium and transform that bowl of noodles into a healthy and satisfying meal. We've also included five simple recipe ideas to get you started.
Related: Healthy Ramen Soup Recipes
A Word on Sodium...
Traditional packaged ramen is high in sodium—about 800 mg per serving—with nearly all of the sodium coming from the flavor packet. If you're attempting to cut back on salt, try using half of the packet and add flavor with other ingredients, like spices or fresh herbs. Check out our flavor boosting suggestions below for more ideas! You can also look for varieties made with less sodium. We're fans of Thai Kitchen packaged instant noodle soups, which come in more reasonably at about 550 mg sodium per serving.
To keep the salt in check, some recipes serve 2, while others serve 1! You'll see the serving sizes listed below each recipe image.
How to Turn a Package of Instant Noodles into a Complete Meal
Bulk it up with vegetables
You may have guessed this would be the first thing we'd suggest! In addition to their healthy perks like vitamins and antioxidants, vegetables bump up the volume in your bowl. Quick sautéed carrots, celery and onion become the flavorful base in our Pasta e Fagioli with Instant Ramen Noodles, but don't shy away from frozen vegetables, which cook quickly in simmering broth. Or stir in a handful of fresh baby spinach at the very end (it wilts in 30 seconds).
Add a source of protein
A package of ramen doesn't contain much protein, so adding some of your own will help turn your bowl into a satisfying meal. Keep things simple—think canned beans, frozen edamame or cooked shrimp. Leftover cooked chicken or cubed tofu works great, too. And don't forget about eggs, one of our favorite convenient proteins. We use them in both the Egg Drop Soup with Instant Noodles, Spinach & Scallions and Sesame Instant Ramen Noodles with Broccoli & Soft-Boiled Egg.
Read More: 10 Foods with More Protein Than an Egg
Boost flavor and freshness
You likely have a number of flavor-boosting ingredients in your pantry and spice cabinet. If you're trying to reduce the sodium, swap out some of the seasoning packet for dried herbs and spices. Garlic powder, curry powder, dried ginger and red pepper flakes all work well. Add fresh herbs like cilantro, scallions and parsley just before serving for a pop of freshness. Toss cooked and drained noodles with toasted sesame oil or add canned coconut milk to the broth for added richness (like we do in Coconut Shrimp Curry with Instant Ramen Noodles).
5 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Instant Ramen Noodles
Take that quick bowl of instant noodles to the next level with these five extra-easy and fast recipes ideas. Refer to package label for water amounts and cook times.
Quick sautéed vegetables, canned tomatoes, dried oregano and canned beans transform ramen noodles into this classic Italian favorite in minutes.
- Saute vegetables like chopped onion, carrot and celery in olive oil, then add water and part of the seasoning packet.
- Add in canned tomatoes and dried Italian-style herbs like oregano to flavor the broth. Stir in noodles (broken into bite-size pieces) and cook until tender.
- Lastly, stir in rinsed canned white beans and top with chopped parsley.
Jazz up basic ramen noodles with toasted sesame oil, cooked broccoli and a jammy soft-boiled egg. (Here's how to soft boil an egg)
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add frozen broccoli and noodles and cook until noodles are tender.
- Drain broccoli and noodles and toss with toasted sesame oil and part of the seasoning packet.
- Top with a soft-cooked egg and toasted sesame seeds.
Whisking a beaten egg into simmering broth is a quick and easy way to add creaminess and protein to ramen noodle soup. Add freshness with a handful of baby spinach at the end.
- Bring water to boil and add part of the seasoning packet. Add noodles and cook until tender.
- In a small dish, beat an egg. Slowly pour it into the simmering soup while stirring gently.
- Stir in a cup of baby spinach until it just wilts, about 30 seconds. Serve topped with sliced green onions.
A splash of coconut milk and some curry powder elevate ordinary ramen soup into a memorable bowl of noodles. Add protein with cooked shrimp or cubed tofu and a pop of freshness with cilantro and lime juice.
- Bring water and some canned light coconut milk (about ⅓ cup for 2 cups water) to a boil. Whisk in a spoonful of peanut butter, curry powder and part of the seasoning packet.
- Add noodles and frozen peas and carrots and cook until tender and heated through.
- Stir in cooked shrimp and heat through. Serve topped with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice.
See More: Healthy Curry Recipes
Spice up a package of instant noodles with fresh garlic and red pepper flakes for heat, plus edamame for added protein.
- Saute thinly sliced red bell pepper, garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes in olive oil, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes; set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add frozen edamame and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in noodles and cook until tender.
- Drain edamame and noodles and toss with the red bell pepper, garlic and any remaining oil from the saute pan along with part of the seasoning packet.