I Tried 17 Different Korean Instant Noodles — These Are the Ones That Have a Permanent Spot in My Pantry (2024)

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James Park is a food content creator, food personality, and social media strategist based in Brooklyn. He was professionally trained at the International Culinary Center. He loves to share his love and passion for Korean cuisine and culture, fried chicken, and all things noodles. He’s currently working on his debut cookbook that’s all about chile crisp.


updated Jun 12, 2023





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I Tried 17 Different Korean Instant Noodles — These Are the Ones That Have a Permanent Spot in My Pantry (1)

As an unofficial Korean ramyun instant noodle expert, I’ve slurped countless amounts of noodles. My mom confirmed I was slurping noodles as a baby, and she was slightly concerned about my love for noodles at such a young age. Fast forward to now, I always have at least 10 varieties of instant noodles filling rows of my bookshelves.

There are three major components that make up an instant noodle package: dried, most-likely-fried noodles, broth seasonings or sauce packets, and dried flakes. Each element gives the instant ramyun unique characteristics. Is the noodle circular or rectangular? Is the seasoning powder-based or sauce-based? What types of dried vegetables do I see? I geek out on these details whenever I try something new.

The combination of savory broth (or sauce), chewy noodles, and a variety of flavorful toppings make this beloved staple a fantastic meal that satisfies all of my taste buds. But with so many creative options hitting shelves each year, choosing where to start can be confusing and overwhelming. On behalf of all the noodle lovers out there, I set out to test over a dozen different raymuns. Here’s what I discovered.

How I Tested the Instant Ramyuns

I carefully selected 17 different noodles that I noticed at most H-Mart stores and Asian markets. When it comes to instant ramyun, there are mainly two big categories: brothy ones and non-brothy ones. But Korean ramyun offers way too many varieties just to shrink them into two big umbrellas. (Within the umbrella category of brothy ones, some are extremely spicy and others are mild with no hint of spice.) So I grouped them into different subcategories to cover as many different kinds as possible. Think of these categories as guides, not rigid rules.

Even though I’m a big fan of zhuzhing up my instant ramyun with other proteins and vegetables, for the sake of testing I didn’t add any additional ingredients. I followed the instructions exactly, paying attention to the amount of water. (Some ramyun noodles require more water than others, and not measuring correctly changes the flavors dramatically!)

I also know that making multiple packages of noodles at once might result in different flavors than making one singular package; so to keep things consistent, I tasted a single package across each option. After a day of boiling and tasting, I found the ones that deserve a permanent spot in my pantry.

Best Overall: Nongshim Shin Noodle Soup

Since hitting the Korean market in 1986, Shin ramyun has been one of the most popular ramyun in and out of Korea. One of many reasons this iconic ramyun has remained at the top of the chart is the distinct spicy flavors in the broth.

Drawing inspiration from many spicy soups in Korean cuisine, Shin Ramyun has created a perfect formula for broth that balances the deep, flavorful, and mouthwatering peppery taste. The ruby-red seasoning powder contains flavoring agents like onion, kelp, and mushroom extracts and transforms water into a deep-red broth instantly. The smell of strong spicy peppers and onions hits your nose within seconds. The noodles are bouncy, and the dried flakes resemble dehydrated scallions and carrots.

Compared to other brands, it had the most ideal flavor balance that hit all the notes of spice and umami. I might be slightly biased (I have so many nostalgic memories with this brand), but it represents what a standard Korean ramyun should taste like more than anything else I tried. Even though there are other versions of Shin Ramyun, like Shin Ramyun Black and Shin Ramyun Non-Frying Noodles, which I enjoy, I see myself always coming back to the original.

Pro tip: Don’t throw away any broth after you devour the noodles. It goes perfectly with slightly cold rice, which absorbs all the flavors when added to the broth. I like to leave a little bit of noodles in the broth too, so I can enjoy noodles and rice in one perfect bite.

Buy: Nongshim Shin Noodle Soup, $12.99 for 10 packages at Weee! (originally $14.99)

Best for Seafood-Lovers: Ottogi Jin Jjambbong Spicy Seafood Noodle

Ottogi has a whole lineup of Jin Ramyun, including the original Jin Ramyun, which is considered one of the most affordable instant noodles in Korea. But Jin Jjambbong, inspired by a popular Korean-Chinese dish called jjamppong, delivers spicy, savory, seafood-forward flavors like no other. It’s on the pricey side, compared to other Jin Ramyun, but its components and flavors make the extra cost worth it.

Compared to other types of noodles, these are flatter rather than circular, but still wavy, mimicking the look of hand-pulled noodles used for jjamppong. Dried vegetable flakes are more abundant than other brands, with sizable chunks of dried seafood, like squid. The biggest difference, though, is the seasoning packets.

The seasoning is liquid, not powder, which dissolves in water quickly, and it even comes with a small package of chili oil, which you add toward the end, emphasizing the fiery taste that resembles being cooked in the hot wok. The broth tastes like rich seafood stock, mixed with savory chicken broth. It’s not super spicy, but there’s enough spice that allows you to taste different layers of vegetables and a variety of seafood that makes up the seasonings.

The final result tastes more like a dish you would expect from Korean-Chinese restaurants than an instant noodle package. To amp up the seafood flavors even more, I recommend adding a handful of frozen seafood mix.

Buy: Ottogi Jin Jjambbong Spicy Seafood Noodle, $7.49 for 4 packages at Weee!

Best for Extreme Heat Enthusiasts: Ottogi Yeul Super Spicy Ramen

If the big red peppers on the packaging don’t warn you how spicy this is, let me: This is truly one of the spiciest Korean noodles I’ve ever had. The dangerous smell of spicy seasoning powder will hit your nose immediately (be careful, you’ll probably cough!). It has a more red pepper flakes-forward taste than Shin Ramyun, and when you take a sip of the broth, it might even hurt your stomach a little bit (based on my personal experience).

Even though Yeul ramen has had a dedicated fan base for many years, it became even more mainstream recently, thanks to the viral recipe that adds silken tofu. Silken tofu mellows down the spice in the broth, and the pudding-like tofu texture goes really well with the noodles. And, as someone who sweats so much while slurping this noodle, I highly recommend adding silken tofu. It’s a quick way to replicate the flavors of soondubu jjigae, a Korean spicy silken tofu soup.

Buy: Ottogi Yeul Super Spicy Ramen, $13.63 for 5 packages at Amazon

Best Non-Spicy: Paldo Gomtang

Not all Korean instant noodles are spicy, though, and this beefy, rich noodle has been a staple in my collection for many years. Compared to other non-spicy noodles, this tastes the closest to beef bone broth, or seollungtang (Korean ox-bone soup). And the beefy seasoning powder is super versatile, used as a base for other dishes like yukgejang (Korean spicy beef soup) or tteokbokki.

The noodles are thinner than the other brands I tried, mimicking the textures of somen that’s used in bone broth soup. It’s slightly garlicky, wonderfully rich, and mild yet very flavorful. If you have a few slices of leftover beef, I recommend adding them here to make the noodles extra hearty.

Buy: Paldo Gomtang, $6.29 for 5 packages at Weee!(originally $6.99)

Best Cheesy with a Kick: Samyang Buldak Ramen Carbonara

I can’t even keep up with the wide varieties of Buldak Ramen. There are at least five or six different brands when I walk into my local bodega (!), which is truly impressive. Samyang Buldak ramen is famous for its next-level, mouth-punching spicy sauce. The original and extra-spicy ones damaged my tongue for good (and yes, I still devour them!). If you are looking for something that has that iconic buldak sauce, sans permanent scarring, this carbonara is exceptional.

Compared to other brands, this one doesn’t come with any dried vegetable flakes. Even the original buldak has a packet with toasted sesame seeds and seaweed, but this particular kind only has noodles, buldak sauce, and cheese powder. The noodles are slightly thicker than other kinds, reminiscent of knife-cut noodles, and they still have those square-ish shapes, not the circular ones.

The cheesy powder that comes on top of its iconic blood-like liquid seasoning changes the flavors and textures of the spicy noodle. The powder, which has little flakes of dried parsley, adds a creamy coat to the noodles and it tastes as if you’ve just made a cream sauce with milk, Parmesan, and a little bit of cream cheese; it’s slightly sweet and milky. I recommend adding even more cheese, like American or mozzarella (which is my go-to), to this to turn it into the cheesiest noodles you can imagine. Oh, it’s still spicy — not to the way it destroys your tongue, but similar to Sriracha spice, so don’t underestimate the buldak sauce.

Buy: Samyang Buldak Carbo Hot Chicken Flavor Ramen, $7.99 for 5 packages at Umamicart (originally $8.99)

Best Brothless Cold Noodles: Paldo Bibimmen

Inspired by a popular noodle dish Bibim Guksu, this spicy and tangy noodle is a refreshing change in the collection of brothy noodles. The liquid, zingy-and-spicy seasoning coats the noodles effortlessly, as if coating the pasta with tomato sauce. It’s especially ideal for hot summer days when you don’t feel like sweating while slurping spicy, brothy noodles.

Compared to other cold noodles, it has more zesty flavors than mouth-punching heat. You distinctly taste the acidic zing in the sauce, which makes your mouth water while slurping the noodles. The spice level isn’t so aggressive, but it lingers in your mouth pleasantly.

Great as is, it also pairs well with herbs like perilla leaves or chives. My favorite way to enjoy this noodle is to top it off with oily canned tuna. The residual oil from canned tuna balances well with the punchy, spicy sauce, and it’s an easy, satisfying meal in 10 minutes.

Buy: Paldo Bibimmen, $6.99 for 5 packages at Weee!

Best Black Bean Noodles: Paldo Jjajangmen

One of the most popular subcategories of Korean instant noodles is black bean noodles. And ever since the success of the iconic Korean movie Parasite, many people have become aware of Jjapaghetti, powder-based black bean noodles. Jjapaghetti’s unique formula mimics the savory taste of jjajangmyeon, but it has a less-concentrated, earthy flavor of black bean paste. It’s still packed with umami. If you are looking for a thick jjajang sauce with chunks of vegetables, this instant noodle brand comes closest.

It comes with a generous portion of thick jjajang sauce, more than any other jjajang ramen brand. It’s sweet and slightly earthy from black bean paste. Visible chunks of vegetables in the liquid-based sauce make you think you are eating the restaurant-quality jjajangmyeon, not the instant version.

I would fry pork belly and diced onions to make it taste even closer to jjajangmyeon and amp up the pork fat flavors, often used as a base of building jjajangmyeon sauce. I’m not saying this is better than jjapaghetti; it feels like you are comparing apples and oranges. But if you are in the mood for an extra-saucy, highly slurpable black bean noodle experience instantly, this is the best option.

Buy: Paldo Jjajangmen, $6.29 for 4 packages at Weee! (originally $7.49)

Did your favorite make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.

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I Tried 17 Different Korean Instant Noodles — These Are the Ones That Have a Permanent Spot in My Pantry (2024)


What are the different Korean noodles? ›

In Korea, traditional noodle dishes are onmyeon (beef broth-based noodle soup), called guksu jangguk (noodles with a hot clear broth), naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles), bibim guksu (cold noodle dish mixed with vegetables), kalguksu (knife-cut noodles), kongguksu (noodles with a cold soybean broth) among others.

What is the number one instant noodle in Korea? ›

Shin Ramyun is the most popular instant noodle brand to date in South Korea.

How unhealthy is Korean instant noodles? ›

A study in 6,440 Korean adults found that those who regularly ate instant noodles had lower intakes of protein, phosphorus, calcium, iron, potassium, niacin and vitamins A and C, compared to those who didn't consume this food.

Why are instant noodles cancerous? ›

In a study published on Thursday, the Consumer Council revealed it had detected potential cancer-causing chemicals 3-MCPD and glycidol in 17 out of 19 samples of pre-packaged fried and non-fried instant noodles tested along with their seasoning packets and toppings.

How many types of instant noodles are there? ›

Various kinds of instant noodles are produced, including ramen, udon, soba, yakisoba, and pasta.

What is the name of the Korean noodle brand? ›

SAMYANG Ramen Korean 2X Hot Spicy Noodles, 140 Grams (Pack of 5)

What was the first Korean instant noodle? ›

Samyang finally introduced Korean consumers to the country's first-ever ramen product on September 15, 1963 with the help of Nissin Foods rival Myojo Foods, which is now under Nissin Foods.

Why do Koreans eat so much instant noodles? ›

But recently, a study in Korea proved how unhealthy eating a lot of instant noodles is. 💢That was the first key to its success, it was the ideal dish to feed simple working people, who had little time to stop and eat. They are also very complete recipes, nutritionally speaking, and there are options for all tastes.

What is the hottest Korean instant noodle? ›

According to Eggbun, here's the 10 spiciest Korean noodles out there based on the scoville score.
  • Hot Chicken Flavor Ramyeon (Black) – 4,044 Scovilles. ...
  • Heat Ramyeon – 5,013 Scovilles. ...
  • Habanero Ramyeon (Black) – 5,930 Scovilles. ...
  • Gap Ramyeon – 8,557 Scovilles. ...
  • Extreme Hot Chicken Flavor Ramyeon (Red) – 8,706 Scovilles.

What is the unhealthiest part of instant ramen? ›

The biggest drawbacks of instant ramen are its high sodium content and lack of micronutrients. However, some brands on the market may also offer low-sodium varieties.

Is mi goreng bad for you? ›

The Bottom Line. In moderation, including instant noodles in your diet likely won't come with any negative health effects. However, they are low in nutrients, so don't use them as a staple in your diet. What's more, frequent consumption is linked to poor diet quality and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome.

How many times can I eat instant noodles in a week? ›

The ideal frequency is between two to three times a week only. They should not be consumed solely, since the dish itself lacks certain key nutrition groups such as protein and fiber, leaving a risk of having malnutrition if consumed in the long term.

What are the healthiest instant noodles? ›

The Best Instant Noodles for Healthy Instant Soup
  • Vite Ramen. The main selling point of Vite Ramen is that these instant noodles have all the nutrition necessary for a human. ...
  • One Culture Foods. ...
  • Immi. ...
  • Noma Lim. ...
  • Mike's Mighty Good. ...
  • Nissin All-In Instant Noodles. ...
  • House Foods. ...
  • Oh So Tasty.

What potential carcinogens found in almost 90% of instant noodles? ›

Council officials said the potentially cancer-causing chemicals 3-MCPD and glycidol were detected in 17 of the 19 samples of pre-packaged fried and non-fried instant noodles that were tested along with their seasoning packets and toppings.

Why are buldak noodles bad for you? ›

ultra processed foods. These noodles are typically high in sodium, artificial flavors, preservatives, and other additives. They may not be beneficial for our health.

What are the Korean thick noodles called? ›

In Korean cuisine, garak-guksu (가락국수) are thick wheat noodles and noodle dishes made with thick noodles. Garak-guksu. Type. Guksu.

What is the difference between Makguksu and naengmyeon? ›

Makguksu is closely related to naengmyeon, the archetypal Korean cold noodle dish. However, its differences lie in the high concentration of buckwheat flour in its noodles — the result of the grain being a staple crop in the Gangwon-do area, and the use of greater amounts of vegetables.

What are Korean spicy noodles called? ›

Bibim Naengmyeon (Korean Spicy Cold Noodles)

What are Korean cold noodles called? ›


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