Ramen Showdown: Fresh vs. Instant – 10 Key Differences

Ramen noodles are not limited to the dried instant noodles that you’re used to. Fresh ramen noodles are upscale, gourmet fare, while instant noodles are affordable and convenient food. Today, we’ll take a look at the differences between ramen and instant noodles …

Traditional ramen made in Japan is fresh, has less sodium, and is thicker than instant noodles. Instant noodles are fried, were invented in 1958 in Japan, and come with instant broth packets that contain MSG and other preservatives. Ramen noodles originated in China rather than Japan.

Fresh Ramen vs. Instant Ramen Noodles: A Comparison

2.Longer cooking timeLittle cooking required
3.Less sodiumMore sodium (About 1,700 mg)
4.Thicker noodlesThinner noodles
5.Cooked from scratchFlash Fried
6.Fresh toppingsSeasoning packets
7.Originated in the late 1800sCreated in 1958
8.Served in restaurantsUsually eaten by people on a tight budget
9.The broth takes time to cook.The broth is literally made in seconds.
10.Originated in ChinaCreated in Japan

Let’s dig in to learn more about these differences!

1. Traditional Ramen Is Made Fresh.

Traditional ramen noodles originated in China, then migrated to Japan with Chinese immigrants. But they were fresh-made noodles made from wheat. In contrast, instant noodles are processed and deep-fried to stay crisp until you remove it from the package and cook it. They are flash-fried to aid in the drying process and help preserve them longer. 

For celiac customers, fresh ramen noodles are made from rice flour. Then, the ramen is placed in a pot of fresh broth that’s been cooking most of the day and served, ready to be eaten.

2. Instant Noodles Require Very Little Cooking.

A few minutes in the microwave, and you have a fully cooked meal when you add water and the seasoning packet to instant noodles. Since the noodles are pre-cooked, they require very little cooking. 

Fresh ramen noodles are cooked longer like normal fresh noodles in the broth. The noodles are cooked in salted boiling water for a few minutes, then added to the soup and served. But it takes more time to hand-make fresh noodles than it would for you to cook instant noodles. 

3. Instant Noodles Have More Sodium.

The seasoning packets for instant noodles contain more than half of a day’s sodium allowance. On the other hand, fresh noodles are cooked in a homemade broth if the broth is made from scratch. If a canned stock is used, there might be more sodium in the broth, but still less than in the seasoning packet. 

Even when not including the seasoning packets, in most cases, there’s still more sodium in instant noodles than there might be in handmade ramen noodles. If you’re watching your sodium intake, you may want to switch to fresh ramen noodles. 

4. Traditional Ramen Noodles Are Thicker.

When made fresh, traditional ramen noodles are cut slightly thicker than instant noodles. When you make homemade ramen noodles, you don’t have the machine to cut them to size, nor would you want to. Since they are fresh, they are cooked a bit longer in a broth. The broth has plenty of room with the wider noodles to work its taste magic in the noodles. 

Instant ramen noodles are thin and crispy, which helps them cook faster, but they don’t absorb the broth as easily as fresh noodles do. However, if you were to cook the noodles in the microwave for 2 ½ minutes, then stir and let sit for a few minutes, they would absorb the broth a bit more than if you were to eat the freshly cooked instant noodles right away.

5. Instant Noodles Are Fried. 

Instant noodles are usually deep-fried to get that familiar crispy texture. They are fried with extra moisture so that they don’t go bad so quickly. The downside for most people is the additional fat content that comes with fried noodles, as they might be watching their fat intake.

Fresh ramen noodles are hand-pulled and cooked for one to three minutes in salted boiling water, then added to the noodle bowl, along with the fresh toppings that are popular in ramen restaurants. 

6. Ramen Noodle Soup Comes With Fresh Toppings.

Traditional ramen noodles served in restaurants come with fresh toppings, such as scallions, sliced chicken or beef, and a hard-boiled egg nestled in the middle or side. They are known as “Ramen Bowls” and are usually sold for $10 and up in upscale restaurants. 

Instant noodles are sold in packages with seasoning packets and don’t normally come with toppings, but you can add toppings if desired. Several online recipes call for instant noodles without the seasonings. 

7. Instant Noodles Were Invented in 1958. 

While fresh ramen noodles are a Chinese invention from the late 1800s, instant noodles were invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin and Top Ramen. He took the traditional ramen noodle recipe and turned it into an instant noodle. 

His creation took the world by storm, and by 1971, he introduced cup noodles to the American market after seeing that Americans did not have the right kind of bowl for ramen noodles. 

When ramen was first introduced, they were a luxury item because they cost more than fresh soba noodles. 

8. Fresh Ramen Noodles Are Served in Restaurants.

Often, upscale restaurants sell fresh ramen bowls at a high price tag, with toppings like hard-boiled eggs, scallions, and other toppings the customer requests. The broth served with fresh noodles takes several hours to make and has less sodium per serving than instant noodles. 

Usually, instant noodles are reserved for broke college students and people who need to stretch their food budgets. On average, instant noodles cost around $0.20 to $0.30 per package. If you were to eat ramen (every meal) every day, you would spend about $200 for the year on your food budget (not advisable at all!). You might not be very healthy, but you would save money.

9. Ramen Broth Is Cooked for Quite a Bit of Time.

Traditional ramen broth is made in parts and can take several hours to put together. Every piece takes at least an hour or two to make. You can make the ingredients ahead of time if you wish, which can shorten the process when you are ready to put it all together. 

If you want to make fresh ramen at home, it may be best to start preparing your ingredients ahead of time and storing them in the fridge until you are ready to make your ramen bowl.

Instant noodle broth is made in seconds once the seasoning packet is poured over the cooked noodles and stirred into the hot water. 

10. Ramen Originated in China.

Traditional ramen noodles did not start in Japan, even though that is the popular opinion. They originated in China as a wheat-like soba noodle and were a “working man’s” food. Chinese immigrants brought their favorite noodles to Japan and started selling them on the street, and the Japanese loved the noodles. 

But Japan did not embrace noodles until after World War II, when American soldiers bragged about how the Western diet of meat and wheat was superior to tofu and rice. Since the Japanese people were at the point of starvation, and wheat was brought in from America, they started making ramen noodles.

Instant noodles were developed in Japan in 1958, as you read earlier, and became an instant hit in Japan, then in America. Cup noodles came later in 1971. 

Last Word

When the term “ramen noodles” is mentioned, most people assume it’s referring to the instant noodles that come in a package from the store. But this assumption is incorrect, as you have just read about. 

Fresh ramen noodles may be healthier than their instant counterpart, as they don’t have the preservative TBHQ like instant noodles. Fresh ramen also comes complete with several toppings that add nutrition to your meal, and usually with less sodium per serving. If you want to make your instant ramen healthy, add some sliced steak, chicken, or grilled shrimp to the meal, as well as some fresh vegetables.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.