4 healthy ramen noodle soup recipes
Ramen noodles are known to be cheap and tasty. But good for you? It depends. The cups and wrappers of salted and boiled instant noodles that you might have feasted on in college don’t have much to offer nutritionally. But it is still possible to turn ramen noodles into a healthy and complete meal.
“Ramen noodles can vary in terms of nutritional content,” explains Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Fresh or dried plain ramen, without seasoning packets, has a similar nutritional profile to other refined white flour pastas. Although they don’t offer a lot of fiber, “they do provide vitamins and minerals, like iron and B vitamins,” says Dr. Banna.
When it comes to instant noodle bricks or mugs with seasoning sachets, that’s another story. The ingredient list is surprisingly long for a cup of noodles, mainly because of stabilizers and additives like yolk # 6, according to data from the US Department of Agriculture. Plus: “Seasoning packets have a very high sodium content,” says a Seattle-based nutrition expert. Liz Wyosnick, RDN. One cup contains 1,100 milligrams (mg), which is almost half the recommended daily amount. And because the noodles are fried, they also provide over a third of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat.
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Most instant ramen no longer contains added monosodium glutamate, or MSG, the transformed taste enhancer that is anecdotally known to sometimes cause headaches, flushing or sweating, according to the mayo clinic. Instead, seasoning sachets get some of their umami-rich flavor from natural glutamates, amino acids found in high-protein foods like cheese, meat, fish, and mushrooms. (MSG is made by combining natural glutamates with additional sodium and water, according to the International Food Information Council.)
But instant noodles still contain other highly processed ingredients that you might not want to eat on a regular basis, such as palm oil and synthetic preservatives like tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), Wyosnick notes. Preliminary research in mice indicates fatty acid in palm oil may help spread cancer, says research article published in November 2021 in Nature. And TBHQ, a preservative in many packaged foods, has been studied for its potential role in food allergies.
Sodium and additives aside, a packet of ramen on its own – instant or not – likely won’t keep you satisfied for long. “They have a very low fiber content and a relatively low amount of protein for a meal,” says Wysonick.
But with a few smart tweaks, you can turn these simple noodles into a meal that’s both filling and good for you. “They can be included as part of a healthy diet,” says Banna. “Since they are primarily a source of carbohydrates, it would make sense to eat ramen with a source of protein and vegetables. “
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Even better? Use half the seasoning packet to reduce the sodium content, suggests Wyosnick. Or skip the seasoning sachet completely and just use the noodles as a base for soup bowls or other dishes made with fresh ingredients. While you’re at it, swap the fried noodles in the instant packs for fresh or dried ramen, which will cut down on saturated fat, recommends Banna. “It gives you the most control over the ingredients. “
Then try one of these four recipes.
1. Bowl of DIY ramen noodles with broccoli, egg and basil
Cook a 3-ounce (oz) package of plain ramen noodles in 2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth. Add a splash of low sodium soy sauce and toasted sesame oil to taste. Add three-quarters of a cup of broccoli florets to the broth while the noodles cook. Top the broth bowl with a boiled egg cut in half, 2 tbsp (tbsp) fresh bean sprouts and 1 tsp (tsp) chopped fresh basil.
Nutrition Per Serving (1 Serving): 510 Calories, 21g Total Fat, 9.3g Saturated Fat, 21g Protein, 60g Carbs, 1.5g Fiber, 2g Sugar, 808mg sodium
2. Sauteed Chicken Ramen with Peppers
Sauté 4 oz cubed chicken breast in 2 Tbsp. canola oil. Add 1 cup finely sliced bell pepper and 1 minced garlic clove, and cook until the peppers are tender and crunchy. Stir in a 3 oz package of plain cooked ramen noodles and 1 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce. Toss and garnish with grated green onions.
Nutrition per serving (1 serving): 649 calories, 28 g of total fat, 9 g of saturated fat, 36 g of protein, 61 g of carbohydrates, 2 g of fiber, 4 g of sugar, 661 mg of sodium
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3. Leftover vegetables and ramen frittata
Whisk 8 large eggs with 2 cups leftover chopped cooked vegetables. Stir in a 3 oz package of cooked ramen noodles. Pour mixture into an oiled 9-inch pie plate and top with a quarter cup of grated cheddar or jack cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the frittata is golden brown and slightly puffed.
Nutrition per serving (4 servings): 322 calories, 17 g total fat, 6.6 g saturated fat, 18 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 459 mg sodium
4. Coleslaw-peanut salad with ramen
In a bowl, whisk a quarter of a cup of smooth natural peanut butter with 1 tbsp of low sodium soy sauce, 2 tbsp of lukewarm water, 1 tbsp of lime juice and 1 tbsp. of sugar, and set aside. Toss 2 cups of shredded napa cabbage or coleslaw mix with half a cup of grated carrot and thinly sliced bell pepper. Toss vegetables with peanut dressing, a 3 oz package of chilled cooked ramen noodles and 1 cup of peeled edamame. Garnish with chopped peanuts and chopped fresh cilantro.
Nutrition per serving (2 servings): 566 calories, 30 g of total fat, 7.2 g of saturated fat, 24 g of protein, 49 g of carbohydrates, 9 g of fiber, 7 g of sugar, 623 mg of sodium