Easy ramen noodle soup transforms cheap noodles into a full meal

This easy ramen noodle soup provides comfort food that lifts your mood and warms your belly. It’s a simple weeknight dinner for all seasons and a terrific meal for camping. Use your creativity or follow the recipe exactly. Either way, you’ll have a bowl of rich, bold flavor.

Serve with your favorite herbs — cilantro, basil, roasted seaweed.

Not long after we arrived at our Sonoma campsite, the temperature reached 93ºF/34ºC. A sign announced that there was no running water at this campsite. There wasn’t central air conditioning either.

The heat did nothing to dampen my excitement. We were camping, which meant I could eat as much instant ramen noodle soup as I could fit in my belly (that’s the rule whenever we go camping).

Sure enough, an hour after sundown, I started preparing this noodle soup. Yes, it’s so good that I was willing to consume a steamy soup and risk dripping in sweat for the rest of the evening.

You’ll love this instant noodle soup recipe just as much. Luckily, you can make this noodle soup anytime in the comfort of your home. Or take it camping and backpacking. Let’s learn more about how to prepare it.

Types of noodle to use

While this recipe is based on 30¢ per packet instant ramen, I happily apply this technique to cooking all kinds of noodles. Here are the noodles that you can serve with this recipe:

  • Fresh rice noodles: No need to cook these noodles
  • Rice noodle rolls: Ready-to-use from the package
  • Soba noodles: Boil according to package instructions
  • Udon noodles
  • Wonton egg noodles: Boil for 30-60 seconds in water
  • Chinese thick wheat noodles
  • Italian pasta noodles: Cook according to package instructions in salted water with 2 teaspoons of baking soda. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking and wash away the baking soda.
  • Refrigerated pad Thai/Vietnamese pho noodles: Soak for 10 minutes in boiling water or boil for 1-2 minutes in boiling water, then add to the soup
  • Dry pad Thai/pho noodles: Cook according to package instructions

TIP: Cook the ramen for 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions because the noodles keep cooking from residual heat. Unless you’re draining the noodles and running them under cold water, they get mushy when they sit in hot water. Undercooking by 1-2 minutes keeps the noodles al dente.


Umami soup base

A flavorful soup serves as the tasty base for instant noodle soup. You’ll notice the depth of flavors in every bite.

Ramen from the Asian market usually has a delicious (albeit MSG-laden) spice packet that adds an umami flavor bomb to your noodles. I have zero problems using this spice packet in my soup.

Unfortunately, Top Ramen and Maruchan instant ramen supply lackluster flavoring packets. Ditch these disappointing spice mix if the ramen isn’t from the Asian grocery store. You’re better off cooking your noodles in homemade or store-bought broth and serving them with fragrant and spicy sauces.

Creating a soup base that’s packed with umami is straightforward with a well-stocked pantry.

How to create a delicious soup for your noodles

  1. Start with a broth

    Use homemade broth, broth from a carton, or broth concentrate. In a pinch, you can use bouillon cubes. If you want to be extra fancy, you can make bone broth from scratch. Use vegetable broth if you’re vegan.

  2. Add mushrooms

    Use dried shiitake mushrooms to add glutamates to your soup. Here are extra umami ingredients you could include: kombu, bonito flakes, and a tablespoon of tomato paste.

  3. Layer umami-packed sauces

    Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and other savory condiments to create a mouthwatering soup. If you like the spice packet that comes with the noodles, you can add it to the soup.

NOTE: In this recipe, I use concentrated chicken broth. I like using broth concentrate because you can go camping with this recipe’s ingredients without carrying heavy cartons of broth. When we go camping, I use a hot pot stove or a camping stove to boil the water and noodles. You can get concentrated broth packets from Trader Joe’s. Most grocery stores sell a similar concentrate in glass jars.


Instant noodle variations

The cool thing about this recipe is that you can make it using leftovers or fancy ingredients. For example, you could toss in an old carrot stump. Or you could swirl in finely sliced beef chuck. The variations are endless. Customize it based on your cravings or whatever is in your fridge.

Here are my favorite variations:

  • For premium instant ramen worthy of your local Japanese restaurant: Serve with a soft-boiled egg split lengthwise, green onions sliced on the diagonal/bias, lightly fried fresh shiitake mushrooms cooked with garlic, pickled carrot, fresh cilantro, and a square of roasted seaweed.
  • Vegan version: Use vegetable broth and replace the beef with five-spice tofu sliced into thin strips.
  • Spicy version: Add 2-3 dried chilis or 1-2 red Thai chilis to the broth while it’s cooking. Serve with cilantro and plenty of garlic chili oil, Lao Gan Ma chili sauce, or chili crisp oil.
  • Wonton noodle soup version: Replace the beef with frozen wontons. You can make wontons from scratch or buy them frozen at the grocery store.
  • Curry version: Cook 1-2 tablespoons of curry paste with 2-3 tablespoons of coconut cream. Once this mixture simmers, add the vegetable or chicken broth (similar to the Thai coconut curry recipe). I like to add tofu sponge if available to soak up the curry soup. If I have a kaffir lime leaf handy, I crush it and add it into the soup.
  • Health nut version: Replace the beef with extra-firm block tofu. Add extra shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and pile on raw alfalfa. I like to pour the finished hot soup over raw alfalfa to cook it rather than boiling it in the soup because it’s delicate and falls apart easily.
  • Camping version: My priority is vegetables and proteins that don’t need refrigeration or much cooking. I opt for canned vegetables (especially when car camping, a.k.a. “glamping”, when I don’t have to worry about weight). Other great mix-ins and toppings include: cabbage, pickles, vacuum-packed tofu, green onions, kimchi, leftover sauce packets from takeout restaurants. You can store these ingredients already chopped up in sealed containers packed in a cooler bag with ice packs to keep them fresh.

TIP: If you’d like more ideas on mix-ins, check out the Ramen Stir Rry recipe for a list of vegetables to add.

Garnishes and sauces

Top the ramen soup with herbs and spices before serving. These garnishes and sauces make all the difference to upgrading your instant ramen soup:

  • Garnishes
    • Sliced green onions
    • Torn cilantro leaves
    • Sesame seeds
    • Roasted seaweed
    • Corn kernels
    • Crushed peanuts or cashews
    • Bean sprouts
    • Alfalfa
    • Sliced chives
    • Chopped basil
    • Pickled carrots, radish, turnip, or mustard greens
    • Sliced ham
    • Fried egg with a runny yolk
  • Seasonings
    • Garlic salt
    • Onion powder
    • Red pepper flakes
  • Sauces
    • Garlic chili oil
    • Chili crisp
    • Sriracha
    • Fish sauce
    • Toasted sesame oil

Optimal order of cooking mix-ins

Unlike stir frying, cooking soups is less strict. Speed and order of operations matter less because you’re not cooking at the hottest setting. That said, I’ve developed my optimal way of making noodle soup. Feel free to follow this in case it helps you to cut down the cooking time.

Here’s the order I like to cook the soup, mix-ins, and the noodles:

  1. Prepare the soup first: Boil the water or the broth. Add the umami ingredients like dried shiitake mushrooms and kombu/seaweed. This gives the mushrooms the longest amount of time to hydrate and infuse the soup with flavor. Keep simmering the soup while completing the remaining steps.
  2. If adding soft- or hard-boiled eggs: Boil the eggs in the soup or separately and serve at the end.
  3. Chop the vegetables: Cut the aromatics first. Add into the soup when they’re chopped. Cut the hardest vegetables first, like broccoli or carrots.
  4. Add the vegetables into the soup: Add the hardest vegetables to the soup first. Then chop the remaining vegetables. Add the remaining vegetables to the soup.
  5. If using tofu, add the tofu after all the vegetables are added: Leave out the vegetables you want to eat semi-raw like alfalfa and bean sprouts. Add those delicate vegetables at the end.
  6. If using meat, add thinly sliced meat: Cook it for 1-2 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  7. Boil the noodles: Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water.
  8. Add the noodles to the soup: Mix thoroughly.
  9. Garnish the noodle soup and serve immediately

Tips for success

  • Set aside broken noodles: Use as a crunchy topping by sprinkling the broken noodle bits on top of the soup just before serving.
  • Using the seasoning: If you’re not sure whether you’ll like the flavor mix, dip your finger in and taste it first before you dump the whole packet in. I often don’t need the whole packet because my soup is already salted and flavorful. Add a bit at a time because there are no take backsies.
  • Add the meat after the vegetables: This helps avoid overcooking the meat. If you’re adding a big chunk of meat, like a bone-in chicken thigh, you may want to adjust the order by adding the meat with the hardy vegetables so it can cook longer.
  • Taste the soup before serving: A dearth of salt is one of the top reasons noodle soup doesn’t taste good. Adequately season the soup before serving because it’s more work to season each bowl after serving.
  • Keep the noodles from the soup until just before serving: The noodles continue to soften in hot water. If you add the noodles too early, they become mushy.

How to scale the recipe

This recipe serves 2-4 people. Because it’s a soup, it’s very forgivable when it comes to scaling up the recipe. If you want to double or triple the recipe, use the biggest soup pot you have. You don’t want to run out of room in your soup pot half way through cooking the vegetables. What do you do then?

If you don’t have enough room, cook the ingredients in batches. For example, cook the broccoli in the soup. Once it’s done, remove it with a slotted spoon and set aside. Cook the next vegetable. It’s tedious but it might be the only way to avoid an overflowing pot.

NOTE: Keep in mind that scaling the recipe will increase the cooking time. You can speed up the recipe by using a kettle to boil water, adding ready-cooked ingredients like tofu or ham instead of raw chicken or beef.

TIP: Add enough water if you’re cooking a lot of noodles.


Easy instant noodle soup with mushrooms, beef, and vegetables

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This technique transforms instant noodles into a tasty full meal with luxurious toppings. Take this recipe camping because it's a delicious warm meal that's portable thanks to the broth concentrate. Add your favorite vegetables and proteins to customize the noodle soup to your taste buds.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: 10 ingredients or less, carbs, comfort, family-friendly, noodles, soup, winter
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 391kcal
Author: Anna Rider
Cost: $7

Equipment

  • Kettle
  • Soup Pot
  • Knife
  • Chopping Board

Ingredients

  • 1 handful Dried shiitake mushrooms, about 5 mushrooms
  • 2 package instant noodles, about 8.4 oz/240g, use more noodles if desired
  • 2 packages Chicken broth concentrate, about 0.7 oz/20g, substitute with your favorite broth
  • 1 small Onion
  • 5 cloves Garlic
  • 2 sprigs green onion
  • 2 medium Carrots
  • 1/2 head cabbage
  • 1 can corn kernels
  • 1/2 lb (227 g) Beef chuck, thinly sliced against the grain
  • 1 bunch cilantro, optional, chopped, add to taste

Instructions

  • Gather the ingredients.
  • Begin by boiling water in the kettle. Put 2 cups of boiling water in the soup pot with the dried shiitake mushrooms on high heat.
  • Once the water starts to boil in the soup pot, turn the heat down to medium-low. Allow the mushrooms to simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
    Add the vegetable, chicken, or beef broth concentrate to the soup.
  • Chop the vegetables (onions, garlic, green onion, carrots, cabbage) into thin slices.
  • Add the aromatics (onion, garlic, green onion) and the carrots to the simmering soup.
  • Turn the heat to medium. Once the carrots have softened, add the sliced cabbage. Cover the soup and turn the heat to high to boil the soup.
  • Once the soup is boiling, turn the heat down to medium. Add soup flavorings. In this recipe, I added the flavoring packet from the ramen to the soup. You could add soy sauce instead.
  • Add the thinly sliced beef. Once the meat looks cooked through, turn the heat off and set the soup aside while you cook the noodles.
  • Boil the noodles according to the package instructions. Drain the noodles 1 minute before the recommended time. Run the noodles under cold water.
  • Divide the soup into 4 portions. Pour each portion of the soup, vegetables, and beef into a bowl. Add a portion of noodles and mix thoroughly. Garnish with sauces and serve.
  • Enjoy your instant noodle soup.

Notes

  • The recipe uses chicken broth concentrate that has a ratio of .34 oz/9.6g per 1 cup of water. Use the equivalent amount of concentrate that the package recommends for 2 cups of water. Alternatively, use 2 cups of non-concentrate broth from a carton. Use whatever broth you like, vegetable, chicken, beef, turkey broth are all great options. You can use homemade broth or store-bought, ready-made broth from a carton.
  • The instant noodles I’m using come in a 4.2 oz/120g packages. Double the number of packages if your instant noodles are smaller, and you want more noodles.

Nutrition

Calories: 391kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 1144mg | Potassium: 695mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 5425IU | Vitamin C: 48mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 4mg
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Can you make this in advance?

Ramen soup is best served immediately after cooking. If you want to make this in advance, I would prepare the soup ahead of time. Only cook the noodles once you’re ready to serve the soup.

How to store leftovers and reheat

Leftover noodle soup can be stored in the fridge. However, the noodles get soggy sitting in the broth. That’s why I cook the noodles separately and only mix the noodles into the soup at the last minute before eating.

For the best tasting leftovers: store cooked noodles in a dry container separated from the soup in the fridge. Store the soup in the fridge. Reheat the soup on the stovetop or microwave. Add the cold noodles into the warmed soup. The soup lasts 3 days in the fridge.

Can you freeze it?

You can freeze the soup with the veggies and meat in an airtight plastic container. Keep in mind the vegetables may become mushy upon defrosting. I wouldn’t freeze any of the noodles. You should cook fresh noodles to serve with the reheated soup.

Portion the soup if desired. Defrost it overnight in the fridge and reheat in the microwave. Eat the frozen soup within 3 months to avoid freezer burn.


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About Anna Rider

Hi! I'm Anna, a food writer who documents kitchen experiments on GarlicDelight.com with the help of my physicist and taste-testing husband, Alex. I have an insatiable appetite for noodles 🍜 and believe in "improv cooking".

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