You probably have a few bags of ramen instant noodles at the back of your pantry and you may be wondering, how long does ramen last before going bad? This article answers all of your burning questions.
What is ramen?
Ramen is a noodle soup dish that is integral in Japanese cuisine. The dish consists of wheat noodles in a clear broth with various meat and vegetable components. There are several varieties of ramen ranging from very spicy to simply savory.
Instant ramen is popular in many countries and has a long shelf-life, making it a great survival food. The noodles come dehydrated alongside a seasoning packet. Both are added to boiling water to rehydrate the noodles and dissolve the seasoning.
Ramen actually originates from China, which is surprising considering it’s often associated with Japan. In the period ranging from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Japan became open to trade from other countries.
Chinese traders came to Japan and established restaurants serving dishes similar to what we now know as ramen. Ramen noodles cook faster than other noodles like udon and quickly became a popular “fast food”.
Post World War II, instant ramen noodles were developed, creating the infamous brand Nissin Foods. This product turned ramen noodles into an easy and beloved dish anyone could make at home, even college students.
In the 1970s, Nissin opened a factory in California which brought instant ramen noodles to America. Today, ramen noodles are enjoyed all over the world.
How to cook
Instant ramen noodles are very easy to prepare. Variations like the Cup Noodles are prepared by simply adding some hot water and a seasoning pack to the styrofoam cup and letting it sit until the noodles are fully cooked.
As for the noodles that come in a package, it’s a little more complicated. You will need to boil some water over a heat source, then add the noodles and flavor packet and cook until the noodles are done, usually 3-5 minutes.
Another way to cook your dry noodles is by adding them and seasoning packet to a bowl and adding hot water, enough to cover the noodles. Then cover with a plate and let the noodles soften until it’s ready to eat.
You can also add additional ingredients like boiled egg, pork, wontons, bok choy, nori, green onions, radish, corn, mushrooms and more. This is when you can start getting creative.
Where to buy
You can buy instant ramen noodles at almost every grocery store nowadays. If you can’t find any you can also try your local gas station or Dollar Tree.
For more of a variety of ramen noodles, I would recommend checking out your local Asian grocery store. I recommend trying Korean varieties like Shin and Buldak as well as Japanese varieties like Top Ramen and Sapporo Ichiban.
How long do ramen noodles last?
The shelf life of ramen noodles varies depending on the brand and variety, if you’re using proper storage techniques and if the noodles are dehydrated, fresh or cooked.
In the package
The shelf life of ramen noodles depends on the brand and variety. Most options have a shelf life of about 8-12 months. This can vary depending on the kind and level of preservatives in the product.
Because of the lack of moisture in dehydrated ramen, it has a much longer shelf life than fresh ramen. Fresh ramen noodles, on the other hand, may only last about 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
After cooking your ramen, it will only last about 3-4 days in the refrigerator before going bad. Since the broth is high in water content, the contents of the ramen is prone to bacterial growth.
To ensure the ramen lasts a full four days, you can try separating the broth from the noodles. This will also ensure the texture of the noodles stay chewy. Unfortunately it will be difficult to make your ramen last longer unless you freeze the remains.
Can you eat expired ramen?
To be on the safe side, it is best to discard a ramen package that has gone past its expiration date. The flavor will likely be off as the food isn’t as fresh as before.
But, in survival situations, you can consume ramen past its expiration date. Examine the ramen for signs of mold or signs of spoilage before consuming. If anything looks off, toss the package.
It’s also important to note the difference between a best-by date and an expiration date. A best-by date refers to the date in which the flavor or quality will begin to diminish.
Expiration dates actually aren’t a requirement in the United States with the exception of infant formula. Some manufacturers will add these labels to indicate when a food should be discarded.
How to store ramen packets
It’s best to store your instant ramen in a dry place at room temperature. You should avoid putting it in an area in direct sunlight, instead choose a dark place like a pantry or cabinet.
Keep your ramen in its original packaging as well. Transferring it to a plastic container or plastic bag will not make it last longer and it may even reduce its long shelf life by exposing it to more light.
How to store fresh ramen noodles
If you purchase fresh noodles from the store, you will have to store them differently than instant noodles which are dehydrated to extend their shelf life.
The best way to store fresh ramen noodles is in a sealed container in the refrigerator. They should last about 1-2 weeks stored in this way. If they came in a sealed bag, keep them in the original packaging.
How to store cooked ramen
If you have some leftover instant noodles or some leftover noodles from the ramen shops, you should store it correctly at home to ensure it doesn’t go bad.
The best option is to store your broth and ramen noodles separately in an airtight container. Separating the two components will ensure your noodles don’t absorb extra liquid and become bloated.
Your ramen noodles and broth should last about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Once you are ready, combine the broth and noodles and microwave or heat over the stove until hot.
The best packaged ramen
Instant ramen noodles are hard not to love, but there are different types and brands that I consider to be top notch. If you are looking for a pack of instant noodles to satisfy your taste buds, here are a few I recommend.
The links above are affiliate links.
Is ramen bad for you?
Ramen noodles are often described as unhealthy, but this isn’t necessarily true. They are high in sodium, fat and refined carbohydrates, but you can always make a few small adjustments to increase the nutrient density of the dish.
I recommend using half the seasoning packet to reduce the sodium in the dish. Your soup will still be very flavorful, don’t worry. Then, add a source of protein like eggs or pork and lots of vegetables like greens, corn, green onion, mushrooms and/or radish.
To create a longer shelf life, there are various preservatives added to instant noodles like citric acid and TBHQ. All preservatives in instant ramen may sound scary, but they are perfectly safe in small quantities. There is no reason for concern, even in the long run.
Overall, ramen noodles may not be a health food, but they are not dangerous or toxic. If you are mindful about what you eat, try adding less seasoning and adding nutrient dense foods to round out the dish.