instant ramen
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I Tried 13 Kinds of Instant Ramen and These Were the Best (and Worst)

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instant ramen
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Instant Rameniacs

There is practically no food more humble than instant ramen, yet there can be practically no food more delicious. Beloved by children, chefs, and inebriated college students alike, instant ramen touches the soul like not many other things. Plus, you can (usually) whip them up in the microwave in less than five minutes. As a true lover of the cuisine, I tried 13 types of instant ramen and ranked them from best to worst.


Related: Hacks to Make Instant Ramen More Delicious Under $1

Shin Black Beef Bone Broth instant ramen
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

Best: Shin Black Beef Bone Broth Flavor

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You know that kid in class who always had to outdo everybody? The one that went not only the extra mile, but two or three extra miles? That's Shin Black. It's showing up here with dried mushrooms and other veggies that fill out perfectly in the microwave, as well as a much deeper, richer stock than other brands. The noodles feel more bountiful here, and the cooking instructions are spot-on. Just a tad spicy too; beautiful. I'll be buying this again and again and again.


Related: This Is the Best Ramen in Your State, According to Customers

maruchan beef flavor instant ramen
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2. Maruchan Beef Instant Lunch

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What is there to say about Instant Lunch that hasn't been said? It's a bit irritating to pour boiling water over the top rather than just microwave it up, but once you've cooked your Instant Lunch like a caveman, it begins to absorb the beef broth flavor. The aroma alone is better than Nissin's entire beef flavor line. You slurp up noodle after noodle and then it hits you. Corn, scallions, the endless noodle pull; this is childhood. This is college. Maruchan Beef hits like almost nothing else. It's perfect food.

Hot & Spicy FireWok Scorchin' Sesame Shrimp instant ramen
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3. Nissin Hot & Spicy FireWok Scorchin' Sesame Shrimp

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Allow me to begin by stating that I'm allergic to shrimp. Allergic, yes, but a professional. I immolated myself with this delightful nightmare anyway. I tasted the broth before I added the "Fire Sauce." It was very spicy. Then I added the sauce. This ramen is hotter than the blazes of the underworld, and I am absolutely here for it. The aforementioned sauce is thick, almost like gochujang, and it gives the whole bowl a texture that coats the noodles perfectly. I love this so much. Too bad I can never have it again.

Annie Chun's Japanese Shoyu instant ramen
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4. Annie Chun's Japanese Shoyu

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From the start, this feels one step more luxurious than the other brands. Layering shoyu broth base, dried toppings, and noodles (which come fresh and vacuum-sealed) into a cute little paper bowl almost feels like actual cooking. The broth here is a lot lighter and more aromatic than other ramen broth, and though the noodles are a bit bland, this whole bowl feels fresh and comforting.

maruchan gold spicy miso ramen
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5. Maruchan Gold Spicy Miso

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Not too spicy, but definitely full of miso. Instant ramen is a lazy man's dish, and I'm disappointed to see Maruchan Gold not giving any microwave instructions — you need to make this in a pot. I'd gladly swap these noodles for the Trader Joe's Spicy Miso broth and call it a perfect dish. 

trader joes spicy miso flavor instant ramen
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6. Trader Joe's Spicy Miso Flavor

Here's the deal with all the Trader Joe's instant ramens: The cooking instructions are dumb as can be. You must first microwave the noodles in water for a minute and a half, then "securely cover" the top for an additional six. Securely cover with what? The ripped up paper top we were just instructed to remove? Not everybody has a tiny ceramic coaster that is the perfect shape for the cup like I do. And at the end of it all, it doesn't even really work. The noodles are undercooked every time, and take a long while of sitting in the soup to form into anything edible. The broth is very good in this one, but the noodles are bad and the cooking instructions insane. Just drink the broth.

Top Ramen Beef Flavor instant ramen
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7. Nissin Top Ramen Beef Flavor

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Nissin puts together an airtight ramen experience, that's for sure. You've got two packets to dump in before the microwaving, and even a packet of the illustriously named "Flavor Sauce" to add after it's done cooking. Carrots and other dried vegetables float across the surface, shimmering with the sodium that will eventually put me in my grave. The broth is pretty bland — could use more Flavor Sauce, really — but this will do in a pinch.

Lotus Foods Spicy Kimchi Rice Ramen
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8. Lotus Foods Spicy Kimchi Rice Ramen

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Remember when I said I was allergic to shrimp? Well, I still am! Lotus Foods has some tricks up its sleeve, I noticed after taking my first slurp, realizing the broth contains dried shrimp and fish sauce. Didn't see that one coming. The good news is, I'm still alive and kicking, but the bad news is, this ramen is pretty good and I wish I could eat it more often. It's made from brown rice rather than wheat, but the kimchi flavor is nice and it even has big chunks of tofu floating around. Not bad, Lotus Foods, but please try not to sneak attack me next time.

maruchan hot and spicy chicken ramen
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9. Maruchan Hot & Spicy Chicken

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Here's the deal, Maruchan. The chicken broth, corn, and dried veggies are a nice touch, but you can't call this "Hot & Spicy" when you're out here competing with Nissin's line of spicy ramen. This might be a 5-star chicken ramen had it not advertised itself as spicy, but excessive hubris drops it down to a 3-star chicken ramen. 

Trader Joe's Chicken Flavor instant ramen
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

10. Trader Joe's Chicken Flavor

I don't care for the noodles that Joe's uses for any of these ramens, but every single broth is a hit. This one is like a classic chicken soup infused with miso. Delicious. Unfortunately, the mediocre noodles drag this one down.

maruchan gold soy sauce instant ramen
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11. Maruchan Gold Soy Sauce

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Did anybody really ask for this? I can get behind a little drizzle of soy sauce across the top of my ramen, but to salt up an already salty broth seems like a backward idea. This isn't Maruchan's best. You can make this at home for a lot cheaper by boiling some water and soy sauce with a little sesame oil, because that's all this is. "Gold Soy Sauce" is my new rapper name, by the way.

Trader Joe's Miso Flavor instant ramen
Wilder Shaw / Cheapism

12. Trader Joe's Miso Flavor

Another tasty broth from the TJ line that suffers from the same cook-time problems and measly noodle portion as the others. Reach for the Spicy Miso instead.

Dr. McDougall's Vegan Miso Ramen
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13. Dr. McDougall's Vegan Miso

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I'll tell you this: The last person I want ramen from is somebody named Dr. McDougall. It also became clear to me as soon as I opened the package just which company Trader Joe's is white labeling for its house-brand ramen, because these are identical. This is once again subject to preposterous microwave instructions and a pitiful portion size. The broth is bad, the noodles smell and taste like cardboard, and the instructions don't get them cooked properly. Skip this one, or better yet, pick it up and punt it across the supermarket.