6 Healthy Ramen Recipes to Make at Home
Looking for a filling lunch or dinner meal and wondering if healthy ramen recipes would be a good choice? Give these 6 noodle bowls a try.
You may be most familiar with ramen from your college years. However, traditional ramen is a healthy Japanese noodle soup that is versatile and easy to make. These soup recipes can include a variety of vegetables, lean protein, herbs, and spices.
In this article, we’ll review what ramen is, how to make it healthy, and what to watch out for. We’ll provide six healthy ramen recipe ideas for you to make the next time you hear ramen calling your name!
What is Ramen?
Traditional ramen is a Japanese dish based on thin wheat noodles and broth. The soup is filled with vegetables and a variety of meat, fish, or eggs and seasoned with spices and herbs. While traditional to Japanese cuisine, it has become popular throughout Asia, and the rest of the world is catching on too.
You will find a variety of vegetables used, including leafy greens like bok choy and seaweed, mushrooms, carrots, peppers, and onions.
Most ramen bowls are filled with protein, including eggs, sliced pork, chicken, beef, or tofu.
Pros and Cons of Ramen
Ramen can be a perfectly healthy and wholesome meal with the right additions, but there are also some things to watch out for. Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of enjoying ramen.
Pros with Ramen
Can be Filling
Ramen can be a fairly low-calorie meal that can be filling. It is full of vegetables and broth, which are low-energy foods but make a great lunch or dinner option to keep you full and satisfied.
In one recent study of overweight women, those who focused on eating lower energy-dense foods had greater weight loss than those who followed a standard weight loss program.1
Can Be Customized
There are hundreds of variations for ramen. While the noodles and broth are the characterizing ingredients, fill the bowl with a couple of vegetables and lean protein to amp up the healthfulness and help fill you up.
Healthy Broth Base
Ramen starts with a good broth, typically chicken-based or pork-based. Some ramen broth may also be made from miso. All are fairly low in calories and fat, and can be low in salt.
Good Source of Protein
Lean protein helps balance this healthy soup. Whether you use meat, chicken, pork, fish, eggs, or tofu, ramen can be a good source of healthy protein that will fill you up.
Good Source of Iron
Ramen noodles, broth, protein, and vegetables can all provide iron making this a good source of this mineral.2 Adding vegetables that contain vitamin C, like tomatoes or peppers, or serving a salad rich in vitamin C on the side will help with iron absorption.
Good Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Depending on the vegetables and protein added, ramen can be an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Dark green leafy vegetables like bok choy, spinach, or seaweed add vitamin K and healthy carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin that support your eye and heart, and brain health and promote blood clotting. Seafood provides omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium, and B vitamins. Pork, beef, and chicken provide healthy amino acids that promote brain health and muscle strength.
Cons of Enjoying Ramen
While there are many pros to enjoying a bowl of ramen, there are a few things to be mindful of.
High in Sodium
The broth can be high in sodium. If you are making ramen at home, you can control how much salt you add and use a lower sodium chicken broth and low sodium soy sauce to help minimize the amount.
Many packaged varieties also contain a seasoning packet that typically adds a lot of sodium. Use ½ the packet and fill the bowl with extra veggies and herbs for additional flavor.
When enjoying it in a restaurant, it’s a bit more difficult. One trick is to enjoy half a serving and a salad and take the other half home to enjoy another day.
High in Carbohydrates
The noodles in most ramen are made from refined wheat flour and are not high in fiber. While they are the base of this tasty soup, you don’t need to fill the bowl with them. Adding plenty of vegetables and lean meat will help you reduce the number of carbohydrates, help keep your blood sugar stable, and still enjoy a delicious bowl of ramen.
High in Fat
While ramen is a healthy meal, extra fat can sneak its way in. Occasionally butter may be added to make the soup feel silky and creamy. The added protein may also be a fattier cut of meat that adds calories and fat to the soup.
How to Make Homemade Healthy Ramen Noodles
Preparing Ramen Noodle Dough
You can buy packaged ramen noodles or make your own at home if you have a pasta machine and are up for a little arm workout. Ramen noodles contain four typical ingredients:
1. High Protein Flour
A blend of bread flour with some wheat gluten will give you a high protein flour that gives the noodle its characteristic “chewiness.” You can make it without the wheat gluten, but adding it should give you a better, chewy noodle.
Kosher salt works best in most recipes and is 40% lower in sodium than regular table salt, so that is a win!
3. Baking Soda
Classic ramen noodles have a chewy, springy bite from alkaline water. Traditional ramen noodles use an ingredient called kansui, which is an alkaline mineral that has a slight yellow hue.3 Baking soda is a great alternative if you want to make these noodles yourself.
Water is mixed with baking soda and salt to form an alkaline solution. It is then gradually added to the flour until a stiff dough forms.
Combine the water, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and swish to dissolve the salt. Combine the flour and wheat gluten and add it to the bowl of a food processor or mixing bowl. With the processor or mixer running, slowly add the water, salt, and baking soda and mix until the dough is crumbly. Cover it and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
Then, divide the dough into 4 - 5 pieces, flatten them, and run them through your pasta machine, starting at the thickest setting and gradually working your way down to the thickness you want. Then run the dough through using the spaghetti attachment. Lightly dust the noodles with flour, gently wrap them into a loose pile, and place them in a resealable bag in your refrigerator overnight.
Preparing a Healthy Ramen Soup
Healthy ramen soup starts with a rich broth. Most often, a hearty chicken broth is used with extra veggies and a bit of soy sauce added for an additional savory or umami note. Once you have the broth made, you can add any additional vegetable and protein you are in the mood for, along with those silky noodles, of course!
Here’s a quick and easy ramen soup base that takes less than 15 minutes to assemble. No sense delaying all that goodness!
- Toasted Sesame Oil + Grapeseed Oil
Heat a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil with a teaspoon of grapeseed oil in a large saucepan.
- Vegetables: ½ Onion, chopped; 1 Carrot, sliced; 1 Celery Stalk, sliced
Add chopped onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until they are slightly tender.
- Garlic, 1 clove, sliced thinly
Add garlic clove and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
- Chicken Broth, Low Sodium or Mushroom Broth, 4 cups
Add the chicken broth and heat it over medium heat.
- Low Sodium Soy Sauce, 1 teaspoon
Stir in the soy sauce to give the broth a savory flavor.
Optional - add fresh cilantro or parsley at the end for a little extra flavor.
Choosing Ramen Topping Ingredients
Now that the broth is made, it’s time to choose your toppings and add those to the noodles.
1. Chili Paste
If you like a spicy kick, add some chili paste or sriracha sauce to taste.
2. Leafy Green Vegetables
Sliced bok choy, baby spinach, or kale are all delicious in a ramen soup. Slice them before adding them to the soup, as they will be easier to eat. These vegetables will add some iron, magnesium, and healthy carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which support your heart, brain, and eye health.
3. Other Vegetables
Peppers, mushrooms, sprouts, and red cabbage are all common in ramen soups and add antioxidants like vitamin C, selenium, and beta-carotene.
Don’t forget the lean protein! Besides the protein, they provide B vitamins, iron, and other nutrients that give you energy and support muscle repair.
Traditional ramen often uses fatty cuts of meat. They add a luxurious flavor but add a lot of calories and saturated fat that aren’t so great for your metabolic health. Some good swaps include:
- In place of pork belly, use thinly sliced and marinated pork tenderloin or pork loin that has been trimmed.
- Chicken thighs are common and full of flavor. You can replace them with chicken breast or turkey breast easily. Cook the meat in the broth to infuse it with flavor and tenderize it.
- You may see bacon added to ramen to help amp up the flavor. If you find a recipe that uses bacon, swap it with some turkey bacon and cut the amount in half. You’ll still get tons of that good salty bacon flavor!
- Ramen made with beef often uses a beef short rib, but you can easily swap some sliced flank steak or skirt steak to lower the amount of fat and saturated fat.
To finish your soup, add the vegetables and protein to it and continue cooking until the protein is cooked through and the flavor from the broth has infused. If using hard-boiled eggs, add these at the end. Add the noodles and the leafy greens and cook until the noodles are done. If you are using fresh noodles, this will only take a couple of minutes. Dry noodles may take 5 - 6 minutes to rehydrate fully. Follow the package directions.
Healthy & Tasty Ramen Recipe Ideas
Homemade Chicken Ramen
This super simple chicken ramen recipe uses ingredients you likely have in your fridge and is a good way to use leftover roast chicken.
Shred a chicken breast or leftover roasted chicken meat. Heat some chicken broth in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced snow peas, broccoli flowerets, red pepper, and chili pepper flakes. Stir in the chicken meat and cook it over medium heat for 5 - 10 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender and the chicken is hot. Add the ramen noodles and cook until they are tender. Serve in bowls garnished with sliced scallions.
Teriyaki Tofu With Ramen Noodles
Start by squeezing the water out of a block of tofu. Wrap a firm block of tofu in a clean towel and place it on a plate or in a tofu press. Cover it with another plate or a cutting board and put pressure on it by placing something slightly heavy on top. A couple of cans of beans or vegetables will work! Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes to remove the extra liquid.
Then cut the tofu into chunks, toss it with some teriyaki marinade, and let it sit for about 30 minutes while you prepare the broth and the rest of the ingredients.
Slice up some broccoli rabe, sliced mushrooms, red pepper, and scallion.
For this recipe, use a mushroom or miso broth. Heat the broth, add the red pepper and mushrooms, and cook them for about 5 minutes, until they soften. Add the noodles and gently break them apart as they soften. Gently stir in the tofu and broccoli rabe and heat until the broccoli rabe turns bright green and wilts slightly and the tofu is hot.
Serve in bowls with the sliced scallions sprinkled on top.
Ginger Ramen With Pork Tenderloin
Many pork ramen recipes use a fatty cut of pork, like pork belly. While we agree the flavor is amazing, it adds a lot of saturated fat. You can make it just as delicious by adding extra flavor with spices and herbs and using a leaner pork tenderloin cut.
In this flavorful dish, we add sliced fresh ginger and lime juice to the chicken broth and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. It will add a nice burst of fresh and spicy flavor, and you won’t miss the extra fat.
Heat chicken broth in a saucepan. Add about 1 tablespoon of sliced fresh ginger root and a tablespoon of fresh lime juice to the broth and heat it over medium-low heat for 15 minutes to let the ginger infuse into the broth.
Add sliced mushrooms and thinly sliced napa cabbage to the broth and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the ramen noodles and add the cooked pork tenderloin to the broth. Cook until the noodles are softened.
Serve in bowls with a hard-boiled egg and sliced scallions.
Spicy Ramen With Ground Pork
Ground pork can be a delicious lean protein in a ramen bowl. Saute it with a little tomato paste mixed with sriracha sauce before adding it to the ramen bowl.
To make the soup, heat chicken broth in a saucepan. Add some sweet corn and the ramen noodles. Heat until the noodles are softened.
Add some baby bok choy leaves (with the stem for extra fiber) and cook until just wilted.
Spoon into bowls and top with the spicy ground pork mix, a hard-boiled egg, and some sliced scallions. Garnish with some fresh microgreens if desired.
Spicy Beef Ramen
Thinly sliced flank steak, skirt steak, or sirloin steak are delicious in ramen and a good way to use leftover grilled steak.
Start with a beef or mushroom broth. Add some sliced onions and cook until they are softened. Stir in some sliced baby bok choy and mushrooms. Add the noodles and strips of sliced beef. Cook over medium heat until the noodles are softened, and the meat is hot. Ladle into bowls and add sliced scallions on top.
Spicy Shrimp Ramen
Seafood is another lean protein option that can add healthy fats, and, in the case of shrimp, lobster, or salmon, an antioxidant called astaxanthin. This antioxidant is what gives the seafood its pink-to-red color and is thought to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels and may have a role in supporting heart and brain health some research suggests it may help lower high blood glucose levels, although more research is needed.4
Add some onions, carrots, and jalapeno pepper slices to a hearty mushroom or miso broth for this healthy ramen recipe. Once slightly softened, add the ramen noodles and the shrimp and cook for 5 - 6 minutes or until the noodles are soft and the shrimp turns a nice pink color. Spoon into bowls and garnish with sliced scallions.
Is Ramen a Good Option For Weight Loss?
Broth-based soups like ramen bowls can be a good choice when you are trying to lose weight.5 Of course, the ingredients you add to your ramen recipe are also important. Adding nutritious, whole ingredients like vegetables and lean protein will help make your ramen bowl a good choice.
While ramen noodles are the foundation of the soup, they are high in carbohydrates and relatively low in fiber. Keep the portion of noodles to a cup or less, and fill the bowl with extra vegetables and broth.
Vegetables will add fiber, vitamins, and minerals that can support weight loss and are satiating. Add a good variety of colorful vegetables to every ramen bowl.
Lean protein is also a good belly filler. The protein fills you up and will help support muscle growth and repair and energy to keep you going.6
How to Choose Ramen While Eating Out
Ramen has gained popularity on restaurant menus. Since 2017, restaurant menus have increased ramen entrees by over 30%.7 As with other meals when dining out, there are some things to consider to make it a healthy choice.
- Focus on Broth:
There are creamier versions of ramen available, but look for those made with chicken, miso, or mushroom broth to keep the calorie and fat content down.
- Veggie Forward:
Look for options that offer a variety of vegetables in the bowl. If there are only one or two mentioned, ask your server if they can double up on the vegetables in your bowl.
- Plant-Based Protein:
Try ramen that uses tofu or tempeh or maybe has edamame or other beans added for the protein choice. These healthy plant-based proteins will help control the fat content of your ramen choice.
- Lean Protein:
Look for ramen that uses chicken breast or seafood as an option instead of pork or beef. Often the pork and beef cuts that are used are higher in fat. Or look at the cut of meat that is added and
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- Buckland, N. J., Camidge, D., Croden, F., Lavin, J. H., Stubbs, R. J., Hetherington, M. M., Blundell, J. E., & Finlayson, G. (2018). A Low Energy-Dense Diet in the Context of a Weight-Management Program Affects Appetite Control in Overweight and Obese Women. The Journal of nutrition, 148(5), 798–806. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy041
- USDA. Food Data Central. Soup, Ramen Noodle, Any Flavor, Dry. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171177/nutrients Accessed 1/26/23.
- Omnivores Cookbook. Kansui (lye water, alkaline solution). https://omnivorescookbook.com/kansui/ Accessed 1/26/23
- Yaqoob, Z., Arshad, M. S., Imran, M., Munir, H., Qaisrani, T. B., Khalid, W., Asghar, Z., & Suleria, H. A. R. (2021). Mechanistic role of astaxanthin derived from shrimp against certain metabolic disorders. Food science & nutrition, 10(1), 12–20. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.2623
- Flood, J. E., & Rolls, B. J. (2007). Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite, 49(3), 626–634. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2007.04.002
- Dhillon, J., Craig, B. A., Leidy, H. J., Amankwaah, A. F., Osei-Boadi Anguah, K., Jacobs, A., Jones, B. L., Jones, J. B., Keeler, C. L., Keller, C. E., McCrory, M. A., Rivera, R. L., Slebodnik, M., Mattes, R. D., & Tucker, R. M. (2016). The Effects of Increased Protein Intake on Fullness: A Meta-Analysis and Its Limitations. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(6), 968–983. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.01.003
- Restaurant Business. Ramen Wars: Emerging Chains Aim to Become Americans’ Top Spot for Noodles and Broth. October 12, 2022. https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/emerging-brands/ramen-wars-emerging-chains-aim-become-americans-top-spot-noodles-broth. Accessed 1/27/23.