Between the popularity of Kdramas, Kpop (we’ve loved BTS for years!), and the pandemic, people have been really interested in learning how to make Korean food at home. We are no exception! This is going to have to tide us over until we can travel to South Korea. We shop at online Asian grocery stores every month, and we’ve discovered the best Korean ramen instant noodles. Now, we’ve made this list so you can make your own taste buds happy, too!
Before we get into our favorites, we need to be upfront about something — the very best Korean ramen brand is Samyang. We won’t even argue with anyone on this. Hands down, no contest. Samyang, which became the first ramen company in South Korea in 1961, makes so many types of instant noodles, and the quality is always great. You just can’t go wrong with Samyang (even though we do like other brands, too)!
Korean Ramen vs Japanese Ramen
Wondering if there’s a difference between Japanese and Korean instant noodles? There absolutely is! First of all, it’s ramen in Japan and ramyeon or ramyun in Korea. In other parts of the world, we just lump it all together and call it ramen.
Japan’s dishes have more subtle flavors while Korean noodles are bolder, and often much spicier. In fact, the spiciest Japanese ramen I’ve ever had felt like a mild Korean one! I’ve found the Korean noodles tend to be thicker compared to the more delicate Japanese ones. Also, if you follow packet instructions, Japan’s final product is more brothy and soupy than Korean ones. As a result, Korean ramen tends to be higher in calories.
I love Japanese ramen, and I like to make it from scratch at home. Typically, I serve it as a meal for dinner for the whole family. Korean ramen, though, is more of a lunch-time indulgence that I could truly eat every single day if my body allowed it. We each have our own ramen pot so we can pick whichever flavor we want. It’s just so good. I want it right now!
Best Korean Ramen (Spicy)
For the most part, we love spicy Korean ramen noodles the best. We’ve heard many say that the spiciness is invigorating or comforting, especially if you’re feeling down. We have had many moments when we’ve had the “pandemic blues” but felt so warm and fuzzy after a bowl of our favorite Korean ramen. Here’s what we love most!
Samyang Buldak Hot Chicken Flavor
This wasn’t Samyang’s original flavor, but I think it’s what made them so popular. This is their basic (but amazing) hot chicken flavor and it’s delicious.
Samyang Buldak Stew Type
This version is similar to the regular hot chicken flavor, but it’s spicier and has more flavor. Plus, while Korean ramen is not very soupy, this one is because you don’t strain any of the cooking water.
Samyang Buldak Curry Hot Chicken
This is our favorite Korean ramen of all time. It’s spicy and the curry flavor is rich and delicious. We like to add chicken or beef on top with fresh green onions when we’re feeling fancy.
Samyang Carbo Hot Chicken Flavor
The “Carbo” stands for carbonara, and that scared me off from trying this for a while. Creamy Italian-style sauce mixed with spicy Korean ramen? It actually works very, very well. It’s not surprising that this is a very popular flavor.
Ottogi Jin Ramen Spicy
This is a simple ramen that we use in many different ways. Yes, we eat it as directed, but we also use this in recipes. Add some beef, gochujang, Korean soy sauce, cucumbers, matchstick carrots, and green onions, and you’ve got one amazing dish!
Paldo Rabokki Noodle
We love tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) and sometimes people add ramen to the dish, making it “rabokki.” I make this from scratch at home sometimes, but this instant ramen makes it easy to make it fast!
Samyang 2x Spicy Buldak Hot Chicken
A few years ago, filming yourself eating these was part of a viral challenge. My oldest son and I jumped on board, and it was ROUGH. Over the years, though, I’ve gotten more used to these noodles and sometimes I eat them for lunch!
Best Korean Ramen (Not Spicy)
While we love spicy food, there are times when a nice comforting bowl of mild Korean ramen is what we need. Fortunately, there are plenty of great options out there. Keep in mind, though, that most of these still have a small amount of “kick.” By Korean standards, though, these varieties truly are mild.
Samyang Vegetasty Noodle Soup
By far, this is my favorite non-spicy Korean ramen. It’s unbelievably flavorful and it feels nourishing. You won’t strain the cooking water for this one, leaving you a bowl-full of yummy broth to drink when you’ve finishing slurping up the noodles.
Samyang Potato Ramen
This Korean ramen is very similar to the Vegetasty. The only difference is that the noodles contain potatoes. As the packaging suggests, they do have a slightly chewier texture, but it’s super good.
Samyang Buldak Jjajang Hot Chicken Flavor
It took us a while to try this black bean Korean noodle. Growing up, I didn’t love dishes that contain black beans. Fortunately, that’s changing! Even though they have the hot chicken flavor, these noodles are mild by Samyang standards and have a thick, savory sauce (with a hint of sweetness). Worth it!
These are the noodles that started it all. When Samyang launched in 1961, these were their signature noodles. There’s a little spice them, but if you want a plain (but tasty!) Korean ramen to try, this is a good one!
Samyang Kimchi Ramen
If you’ve never had kimchi and want a very soft introduction, try these noodles. You get some kimchi flavor (it’s right there in the dried packet) blended in with a savory broth!
Ottogi Jin Ramen Mild
Everything we said about the spicy version of these noodles applies here. They are great on their own but are very versatile. Add in some shredded chicken, sauteed veggies, gochujang, or any other topping, and it’s easy to use as full meals!
Nongshim Soon Noodle Soup
If you can’t find Vegetasty (it’s hard to find sometimes!), this is a good backup. It’s not as flavorful as Vegetasty, but Nongshim’s not as bold as Samyang. If you prefer something more subtle, this is a fantastic option!
Nongshim Premium Noodle Soup Shin Black
Can Korean instant noodles taste really luxe? It turns out they can! As the name suggests, this Korean ramen feels premium. We love the flavor and texture of the broth!
Where to Buy the Best Korean Noodles
If you have access to a local Korean grocery store or Asian market, check there. Sometimes, you can find singles so that you don’t have to buy a whole pack of something without knowing if you’ll like it. You can also check your local grocery store and even places like Walmart.
We prefer to buy Korean ramen online. We know exactly what we’re going to get (which is great because I tend to spend wayyyy too much on instant noodles!), what’s in stock, and many places offer free shipping with a minimum purchase. We’ve discovered a lot of new flavors this way since it’s easy to scroll and shop!
Whatever you do, have fun. Trying Korean ramen is exciting! Push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try something new. If you like a flavor but it’s too spicy, keep working on increasing your spice tolerance and only eat half a pack at a time. I never thought I’d be eating those challenge noodles for lunch, but here we are. It’s amazing how much our tastes can change and expand. Happy eating!