Instant ramen has a reputation of being meant for those who don’t have the time or money to eat a “real” meal. But these noodles have the potential to be so much more. A few simple changes and additions can take instant ramen from a struggle meal to one that feels comforting and hearty, without sacrificing convenience and affordability.

1. Create your own broth

The flavor packet often makes a broth that’s either too salty or lacks flavor. A good way to avoid these issues is to make your own broth, which is a lot simpler than it sounds. Miso paste, bouillon, and store-bought broths are all easy options. If you’re feeling up to it, you can also make a soup base from scratch by boiling your favorite aromatics like ginger, seaweed or onions with some seasoning for a little while. 

2. Ditch the soup altogether

A different solution to boring broth is to skip it completely. The noodles in instant ramen packs are incredibly versatile: use them to make quick stir fries or even as a crunchy salad topping. One of my favorite ways to cook ramen noodles is making the vegetable stir fry below. You can even use the flavor pack as seasoning to avoid doing much work.

Shray Vaidya

3. Make your own seasoning

Experimenting with different flavor profiles is a fun and exciting way to break the monotony of the provided flavor pack. It doesn’t have to be super complex; the noodles pictured below were made with a sauce of lemon juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, and red chili paste. The sky’s the limit when it comes to making your own flavors. Gochujang, oyster sauce and sriracha are just some of the options you have.

Shray Vaidya

4. Add some aromatics

One minor change that can really make your ramen pop is to use aromatics like ginger, garlic, sesame oil and onions. These are staples in Asian cuisine, so even just frying them together in some oil or boiling them in your broth before adding the noodles can enhance the flavor of your meal.

5. Vegetables and protein

Mixing in vegetables and some form of protein is key to making ramen feel heartier and more fulfilling. The classic option is egg — drop it into your soup to make an egg-drop broth or fry one on the side to add as a topping — but other great options include tofu, chicken breast or shrimp. Vegetables don’t have to require prep work either. My favorite hack is using frozen peas, corn, and carrots to save time and avoid any worries about overcooking.

Shray Vaidya

One final piece of advice: none of the options above are mutually exclusive. Feel free to try just one or combine as many as you’d like!