Instant ramen noodles can be a godsend when you're hungry, in a rush, overtired, overworked, or just craving something salty and spicy. But how spicy is too spicy? If you've ever stood in front of a wall of instant noodles, wondering how to tell which ones have the level of heat you want, we might be able to help. We've ranked several easy-to-find options in order of increasing spiciness, from a bit of a tingle to one that's equivalent to a nuclear meltdown. Every one of these is available at Walmart or Amazon, as well as being stocked at loads of Asian markets across the country so you can have a little instant noodle showdown of your own.
The noodles on this list come in two different styles — with and without broth. Something to remember when trying out spicy noodles is that the soup version allows you to dilute anything too spicy simply by adding more hot water. In ranking our noodles, we followed the instructions exactly and didn't add any extraneous ingredients, to give you the best idea of the product's true taste. We used all the seasonings included, although we wished we hadn't on more than one occasion. Some of these were delightful, some were over-the-top furnace blasts of chili. One even made us question our life choices. Read on to see the results.
Indomie Mi Goreng Fried Noodles
Starting with the mildest one in the group, the Indomie Mi Goreng Fried Noodles are the company's best-selling flavor worldwide. One of the stir-fried choices on the list, the portion isn't overwhelming, nor is the spiciness. You might enjoy these if you're not looking for the full-on fire-breathing ramen experience, as they have just enough heat to give some interest. The cup also includes a pretty cute folding fork and five packets of flavorings for the full mi goreng taste. The packets include kecap manis (a sweet soy sauce), hot sauce, bumbu seasoning (a dried chicken-flavored enhancer with garlic and sugar), a shallot seasoning oil, and a package of fried shallots for topping.
This entry scored high on tastiness, likely because of all the levels of seasoning happening here. The noodles smelled pretty strongly of onions during the preparation but, once fully assembled, everything melded together deliciously. We all agreed that a larger-sized portion wouldn't go amiss here, as it was rather enjoyable. When it comes to spiciness, though, it was lacking.
Sapporo Ichiban Hot And Spicy Ramen Soup
Sapporo Ichiban's Hot and Spicy Ramen lands on the milder end of the spectrum. This one was tested at about the midway mark and actually made for a lovely distraction from our burning tongues. It did have enough spice to taste, while the noodles were pretty much what you'd expect from instant ramen — tender but still chewy. This is a good option for someone looking for a light broth, nothing too fancy or overwhelming. While the ingredients listed lots of dehydrated veggies, there were only three very small bits of green onion floating around and nothing else.
However, you can upgrade your instant ramen with a few simple ingredients. Obviously, there are loads of ways to add more heat to your bowl by using everything from chili crisp to buffalo sauce. But what if you just want a little more depth of flavor? A splash of soy sauce, sesame oil, or even lime juice will perk those noodles right up. Stir in some miso or butter to give the broth a bit more richness. And don't forget ingredients like pork, eggs, or mushrooms for a more filling bowlful.
Lucky Me! Pancit Canton Hot Chili Noodles
Getting spicier, the Lucky Me! Hot Chili Pancit Canton is Philippine-style noodles with a sweet and salty sauce. The flavors in this one were also pretty enjoyable — again, layers of flavor come from the three included packets that get mashed together before the cooked noodles are added. The packets include a sweet and spicy powder, some soy sauce, and a squeezy tube of palm oil. A word of caution about the palm oil; it does make the noodles a little greasy but worse, once the noodles cool, they tend to seize up a little bit. Fortunately, the mildness of the chili makes it a quick snack and the portion is very manageable. In fact, this pack contained the smallest amount of noodles of all that were tried.
Lucky Me! has an enormous range of instant noodles, including a couple that are spicier than this particular version. However, the hot chili noodles seem to be among the easiest ones to find and really were pretty tasty without going overboard with the spiciness.
Ottogi Jin Spicy Ramen Soup
About half of the instant noodles on this list are simply soaked in boiled water, whereas the others are dropped into boiling water and cooked. The biggest difference this makes is in the texture of the noodles. These Korean-style spicy ramen noodles lose most of their chewiness as they get boiled but you end up with a tenderness that works well with the broth. As for heat, we're finally getting somewhere here. The broth has a spiciness that hits the back of your throat first, before making its way into your sinuses. Not uncomfortable yet but a pretty big step up from the Indomie noodles. Taste-wise, it was just average. Not bad, certainly — no off-putting chemical flavors or anything else undesirable. Where Ottogi Jin beats the previous four entries on spiciness, those noodles all dominate as far as flavor goes.
Instead of boiling some water and whipping up a sub-par bowl of instant ramen, we have some alternative uses for the seasoning packets that might just be a better way to spend dinner. Don't be afraid to add a little extra spice or an umami hit, either.
Nongshim Bowl Hot And Spicy Noodle Soup
Maybe the most familiar entry, good old Bowl Noodles are easy to whip up, a decent price for a large portion, and a good mix of both heat and taste. What more could you want? Not all that hot, these have a nice level of spice to make you feel warm inside without your nose starting to run. It's familiar and kind of safe, which can be a good thing some days. Labeled simply as hot and spicy, this soup actually has quite a pronounced beefy flavor. Beef bone broth and beef fat are listed in the ingredients, giving the dish a much truer flavor than others on the list.
One of our favorite things about this particular entry was the inclusion of adorable, mini naruto slices in the bowl. Naruto (meaning whirlpool in Japanese) is the pink and white swirls you've likely seen before — maybe even just scrolling through your emojis. Made from fish paste, they're a very common ramen topping with cultural significance. While these ones had very little taste, they were still a welcome surprise.
Buldak Spicy Chicken Cream Carbonara Noodles
If you're not acquainted with the wide world of instant noodles, Buldak's Cream Carbonara Spicy Chicken flavor might seem like a bit of a stretch. However, it's truly a thing — even TikTok says so. And if you need even more proof, we even have our own version of instant ramen carbonara if you want to give that a go. The Buldak version is pretty spicy — at least spicier than we expected it would be. Don't be fooled by the soft pink packaging or the contented little chicken gingerly slurping away at a bowl of Italian noodles. The version we ended up with was a blazing Cheetos orange shade and was spicy enough that our lips burned for a while after finishing.
This entry is still only classified as mid-level spicy, and unfortunately, that's about where the flavor lands, too. The inclusion of cheesy powder was interesting and made the product stand out but, sadly, it didn't taste all that great. Overly sweet and a little cloying, we wouldn't reach for this one again.
Ching's Secret Schezwan Noodles
This pick was a bit of a wild card; we really had no idea what to expect. From the super-stoked future man on the package to the slogan "I Heart Desi Chinese" to the curious spelling of Schezwan, we honestly couldn't wait to boil some water and dig in. Desi Chinese, as we learned, can be thought of as Indian-style Chinese food. However, unlike North American Chinese food, this version was created by Hakka Chinese immigrants in India who combined both cuisines into something really tasty. As for the spelling? It turns out that's the name given to the spicy chutney used in India that is based on the Chinese version.
For spiciness, this ramen comes in at the halfway mark. The sauce has a really nice level of heat without being eye-wateringly aggressive. The flavor and level of heat were really well-balanced here, as well as the contrast of Indian and Sichuan influences. The noodles weren't so spicy that the flavors got lost, in particular carrot and tomato, but you'll still get that fiery goodness you crave. There are no actual Sichuan peppercorns but we did find a lovely bit of tingly numbness during tasting. Definitely one of the instant noodles we'll buy again.
Menraku Spicy Miso Tonkatsu Soup
The other buy-again instant noodles on this list are Menraku's Restaurant-Style Spicy Miso Tonkatsu Ramen. One of the more expensive options we tried, we all agreed that the end product is worth splurging. The only other ramen from Japan on the list, this one is quite a bit spicier than the Sapporo Ichiban offering and packs a lot more flavor, too. The broth itself was rich and creamy, the noodles had a satisfying chew, and the heat provided a good balance. The packaging urges you to try these noodles in tsukemen style, which also sounds incredibly delicious. Tsukemen is a way to enjoy cold noodles during the heat of Japanese summer, by cooking and then cooling the noodles. Make a dipping sauce from the seasoning and sesame chili oil (with a little cool water) and you're ready for a spicy, yet cool, summer delight.
While there is a big difference between real ramen and instant noodles, this might be a viable option if you're looking to fill that particular void quickly or without travel. Menraku's offering will easily take to whatever additions you'd like to try out, braised pork belly in particular.
Nongshim Shin Ramyun Spicy Beef Ramen Soup
This particular entry has a terrific combination of hotter-than-average spiciness with a lot of excellent flavor. The broth is tasty, with a lot of black pepper and garlic overtones, but it also has a pretty salty finish. If you're really seeking that combustible level of heat, though, this bowl likely won't satisfy your craving. But we can heartily recommend this option as an all-around good choice when you're craving a decently spicy and tasty instant noodle.
One of the ways to make sure that your instant noodles are the best they can be is to realize that you're probably overcooking them. The fact that they're called instant should give you a hint as to how long they take to cook (meaning it's not long at all). In less than five minutes, you can have a steaming, spicy snack in front of you. If you're taking much longer than that, you've likely overcooked those tender and chewy noodles. Cooking the noodles to just barely al dente will give them a minute or two to continue cooking, without getting mushy, while you get settled at the table. Finally, remember that ramen is meant to be eaten right away, whether instant or freshly made, so don't leave it sitting before you start slurping.
Samyang Spicy Ramen Soup
This is where things start to get uncomfortable, heat-wise. From this entry on, all of these noodles will give you quite a bit of burn in your mouth, nasal passages, and lips. And who knows what happens when they hit your stomach? Unfortunately for this Samyang Spicy Ramen Soup, it was all fire and no flavor. We had high hopes when we ripped open the veggie seasoning pack because it was full of big chunks of mushrooms, green onions, and cubed carrots. Sadly, none of that really mattered as the chili was all that was discernable. Not only that, but the oiliness of the broth means that the heat really stays with you after the ramen is done, coating your mouth and tongue rather conspicuously. If you want some real heat, though this one's up your alley.
Fortunately, there are ways to make explosive ramen less spicy. Adding sugar or acidity won't make temper it much but it will definitely help to round out the flavors and create a little balance on the tongue. Adding dairy, like cheese or milk (including milk alternatives) is a good way to soften an overly spicy broth. Both will make the broth creamier and will help to moderate the heat.
Buldak Spicy Chicken
For all of the great flavors Buldak has produced, they do have a few misses (the Creamy Carbonara, for one). This offering wasn't super tasty but it definitely came through with the spiciness. So much so, in fact, that it was kind of difficult to get through. The level of spice combined with the harsh and unappealing taste, made it a definite thumbs-down for us. This particular cup is just noodles with no broth, so unless you only use half a seasoning packet, you're just getting a blast of aggressively hot fried chicken flavor without any actual fried chicken deliciousness. If you're familiar with the Korean Fire Noodle Challenge, you'll recognize these as the noodles used to make grown men cry on YouTube. That was back in 2018, however. Buldak has raised the stakes since then but these still carry an intense level of fiery remorse.
Containing a packet of thick chili-spiced soy sauce and another package of seaweed and sesame seeds, the preparation is as simple as you'd expect. Peeling the lid back after the noodles had cooked released an acrid-smelling steam that immediately let our nostrils know who was boss. These aren't noodles for the faint of heart. We'll leave them to the YouTube stunt-eaters for now.
Paldo Hot And Spicy Ramen Soup
Paldo's Hot and Spicy noodle soup is definitely spicy, with enough chili to leave your lips and tongue burning for quite a while after putting your bowl in the dishwasher. Part of this might be just because of the sheer enormity of the serving; the cup is easily twice the size of many other options on the list and the seasoning packet was bigger as well. Whether or not that has anything to do with it, this bucket-sized serving of spicy ramen nearly did us in. Fortunately, this option is also packed with loads of Korean flavor from the addition of kimchi. Some might find it uncomfortably hot (because it is), but it's still a truly tasty soup.
One way to mitigate the ultra-spiciness of your ramen while building on the flavor profile is to add canned cream of chicken to your bowl. By using a can of cream soup (chicken or otherwise, depending on the flavors you've got going on) to replace half the water, you'll end up with a richer finished product, and one that isn't so tongue-scorchingly hot either.
Paldo Teum-Sae Korean Spicy Noodles
These were obscenely hot. Like, nose running, eyes watering, intense hot. And we're not even at the end of the list yet. For something so spicy, we were really surprised at how much the flavors still came through. This entry is the one we'd recommend for someone who loves the pain of maniacally hot foods but still likes to enjoy a decent bowl of noodles.
The noodles alone were perfectly chewy with a nice thickness and texture, and we actually consider them some of the best on the list. The two packets included were much like the ones that came with the Buldak Spicy Chicken — a thick, sweet, spicy soy and chili sauce, as well as a package of sprinkling bits. In this case, seaweed, fried onions, and flaked, dried fish added a lot to the dish, more so than the seaweed and sesame packet from Buldak. However, as great as it tastes, please do not forget that these noodles are hot. Very, very hot. Seriously — don't approach these lightly.
Buldak Chicken 2x Spicy Noodles
It's hard to believe we made it to the end of the list. If you're a fan of eating spicy instant ramen or watching awkward food challenges online, you've likely heard of Buldak's 2x Spicy Chicken Ramen. There are actually people out there who eat these as sustenance, we assume ... but count us out. This was torture from beginning to end and made us feel bad about how we previously turned our noses up at the Creamy Carbonara noodles. Even just opening the seasoning packet made us want to cry. The sweet little foil envelope containing just seaweed was like a liferaft in a sea of artificial chicken-flavored lava.
All hyperbole aside, these noodles are the kind of hot that induces nightmares. In January 2022, they were considered one of the spiciest instant ramens in the world. Since then, other companies have taken it even further and introduced far hotter varieties, including Buldak itself, recently unveiling a 3x Spicy version. As for the flavor, we couldn't get far enough to even ascertain whether or not there was any, besides just "hot". If you've eaten these and enjoyed them, we take our extremely sweaty hats off to you.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.