Best ramen side dish picks | 23 tasty ideas for your favorite noodles
A hot bowl of ramen noodles is the perfect quick lunch or dinner. But what if you’re hungry and want to make a complete meal of it?
You might be curious about what goes well with ramen noodles.
While ramen noodles are considered a complete one-pot meal if you have enough ramen per person, there’s no rule against having some delicious side dishes too. The most popular side dish for ramen noodles is gyoza (Japanese pork dumplings) and other potstickers or light salads.
In this article, I’m sharing a whole variety of side dish options for ramen. Some are more like toppings, and others are full-on hearty dishes.
So you’ll never get bored of ramen, and it’ll become your favorite comfort food! Are you ready to find 23 side dish ideas?
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Are side dishes served with ramen?
- 2 The 23 best ramen side dishes
- 2.1 1. Gyoza
- 2.2 2. Potstickers & dumplings
- 2.3 3. Fried rice
- 2.4 4. Chashu
- 2.5 5. Banh-mi
- 2.6 6. Grilled shishito peppers & shichimi togarashi spice
- 2.7 7. Fried tofu
- 2.8 8. Fried chicken & Thai Hat Yai
- 2.9 9. Japanese-style salads
- 2.10 10. Spring rolls
- 2.11 11. Steamed vegetables
- 2.12 12. Takoyaki
- 2.13 13. Okonomi stick
- 2.14 14. Octopus karaage
- 2.15 15. Kimchi & pickled vegetables
- 2.16 16. Onsen eggs
- 2.17 17. Ebi furai
- 2.18 18. Mini donburi
- 2.19 19. Mini ten-don
- 2.20 20. Yakitori
- 2.21 21. Stir-fries
- 2.22 22. Fried eggplant
- 2.23 23. Edamame with sea salt
- 3 Takeaway
Are side dishes served with ramen?
In most Asian countries, ramen is a one-pot meal, and it doesn’t require a side dish.
The reason is that ramen is supposed to be devoured quickly while the broth is still piping hot. When you eat ramen fast, the noodles don’t have time to go soft and soggy.
Another reason why there are usually no side dishes is that ramen can have lots of tasty toppings like eggs, scallions, fish cakes, and more. Therefore, it’s considered to be a complete meal.
The idea is that if side dishes are served with ramen, it slows down the eating process. In Japan, it’s more common to share an appetizer before the ramen than to have side dishes alongside the noodle soup.
However, many restaurants, especially Western ones, offer a host of delicious side dishes to eat with ramen. The most common are potstickers, dumplings, gyoza, and Japanese salads.
The 23 best ramen side dishes
Just because side dishes are uncommon doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other tasty foods with your ramen bowl! In fact, the combination of flavors is sure to satisfy your appetite and keep you full for longer.
That’s why I’m sharing a long list of the 23 best ramen side dishes.
Gyoza is pan-fried Japanese dumplings filled with ground pork meat and vegetables. Each dumpling is first steamed, then pan-fried. Gyoza is a type of Chinese dumpling turned Japanese favorite.
You can also try an order of chicken wing gyoza, which is made of deboned and stuffed wings.
2. Potstickers & dumplings
There are many types of potstickers and dumplings to choose from.
Potstickers are small Chinese-style fried dumplings with various fillings, including beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, seafood, and vegetables. They’re usually served in portions of 5 or 6 pieces, and you dip them into a delicious soy-based sauce.
Shrimp dumplings are another popular side dish. The seafood flavors of the shrimp add a nice touch of flavor to the noodles.
3. Fried rice
Although fried rice isn’t the most popular side dish, it’s usually served in small portions alongside ramen.
Noodles and rice are 2 iconic staples of Asian cuisine. The fried rice usually contains vegetables like peas and carrots.
Chashu (or nibuta) is actually one of the most popular ramen toppings. It’s fatty slices of pork that’s been roasted, simmered, or braised.
It’s a juicy cut of meat, and it adds lots of meaty flavor to ramen. It melts in your mouth, and it’s a great tender addition to any ramen bowl.
If you like it, you can also have more as a side dish.
Banh-mi is a Vietnamese type of sandwich. It’s usually made with a sourdough baguette with chicken or pork, and cucumber, carrots, pickled daikon, and cilantro.
6. Grilled shishito peppers & shichimi togarashi spice
For a hot and spicy side dish, grilled shishito peppers are the best choice. These peppers are grilled and put on a skewer.
They’re usually seasoned with shichimi togarashi spice, which is also known as seven spice.
7. Fried tofu
If you’re enjoying vegetarian or vegan ramen, a great pairing is fried tofu or aburaage. It adds a bit of crunch and chewy texture.
Agedashi tofu is deep-fried tofu in a savory tsuyu (delicious sauce by the way!) broth.
The tofu can be added as a topping or served on the side.
Check out this YouTube video by user Champ’s Japanese Kitchen to see agedashi tofu being made:
8. Fried chicken & Thai Hat Yai
Thai food goes well with ramen noodles! One of the most popular fried chicken dishes is called Hat Yai.
It’s chicken wings in a soy and garlic marinade. The wings and other dark meat cuts are deep-fried to crunchy perfection.
But regular fried chicken is also a tasty side dish for ramen.
9. Japanese-style salads
When you go to a Japanese restaurant, you’ll notice a lot of side salads. The salads are different from your traditional lettuce, tomato, and cucumber salad.
Here are some you’ll likely find:
- Seaweed salad – usually made from wakame or hijiki
- Manpuku salad – a kimchi cucumber salad
- Wagyu beef salad – a tender beef cut with cucumber, onions, and leafy greens
- Classic leafy greens salad with dressing (like this delicious miso ginger dressing)
- Japanese potato salad – made with potatoes, cucumbers, egg, carrot, mayo
- Japanese spinach salad
A salad is always a healthy, low-calorie, and light side dish for ramen noodles.
10. Spring rolls
Spring rolls are considered appetizers, but you can have them on the side with your ramen noodle soup.
The rolls are crispy with various fillings, usually vegetables, like cabbage, bean sprouts, shrimp, and meat. All the ingredients are wrapped in a thin sheet of dough and fried to crispy perfection.
11. Steamed vegetables
If you want to increase your daily vegetable servings, then you can opt for steamed vegetables as your side dish for ramen.
The most common steamed veggies include:
- Bean sprouts
- Bok choy
But any veggie works, and it’s a way to make ramen just a bit healthier.
Why not go all out with a delightful octopus snack?
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. It’s made of dough shaped in the form of balls and filled with octopus. Then it’s topped with green onion and ginger.
Since takoyaki is one of Japan’s favorite street foods, it’s a good side dish for noodle soup.
13. Okonomi stick
This is basically okonomiyaki on a stick. It’s made with octopus, calamari, and cabbage in a runny batter and placed on 2 sticks. It looks like a big, long pancake and it’s the type of dish that’ll surely complete any meal!
14. Octopus karaage
Karaage is a type of fried chicken, but it’s even more delicious when made with octopus.
The octopus is sliced into small bite-sized pieces, seasoned with salt and pepper, coated with potato starch, and then deep-fried.
You can even add the karaage on top of the ramen noodles to make it extra tasty!
15. Kimchi & pickled vegetables
Since ramen is quite filling and satisfying, pickled vegetables are a great way to enjoy a healthy side dish. And they’re not heavy on the digestive system either.
Kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish and it has a slightly pungent and sour flavor.
Pickled vegetables like cucumbers, cabbage, daikon radish, onions, and carrots are commonly served in small bowls. You can have a mouthful of ramen and then some sour pickles to cleanse the palate.
Also check out my top fermented foods list + benefits of eating fermented foods
16. Onsen eggs
Also known as hot spring eggs, onsen tamago refers to slow-cooked eggs. The egg is cooked slowly at a low temperature. Therefore, the egg white has a custard-like texture, and the yolk is firm.
It’s a delicacy often served on a bed of rice or simply placed on soy sauce and enjoyed like that.
So it’s a suitable side dish for ramen. You can even put it on top of the noodles!
17. Ebi furai
Many Americans know ebi furai as “torpedo shrimp”. But it’s basically shrimp covered in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
Sure, deep-fried foods aren’t the healthiest option, but it’s the kind of comfort food that pairs well with savory noodles.
18. Mini donburi
Donburi is a traditional Japanese rice bowl with meats, seafood, and vegetables. Mini donburi just refers to smaller portions that are eaten as appetizers or side dishes for ramen and other foods.
19. Mini ten-don
Ten-don is a tempura and rice dish. The mini version is a small bite-sized serving of ten-don. Usually, restaurants serve it in tiny (2-inch diameter) plates.
Rice is topped with a cake made of tempura, burdock, carrot, and green onions. A sweet dipping sauce is also served, and it balances the savory ramen flavors.
Yakitori is Japanese grilled chicken skewers. It can also be made with grilled pork and shiitake mushrooms.
Chicken is the most popular and authentic type of yakitori. If your ramen is a bit plain, a yakitori skewer is an excellent way to add some protein to your dish!
Pork and hakusai stir-fries are popular side dishes for ramen soup.
“Hakusai” is the word for Chinese cabbage, and it’s combined with tasty tender pork. This type of stir-fry is served in a mini size to be enjoyed alongside a hearty dish.
22. Fried eggplant
Fried eggplant (or miso eggplant) is a popular staple in Japanese cuisine. The eggplant is usually marinated in the classic nanbanzuke sauce and then fried.
It can be filled with minced pork and various spices. This spicy dish is a hot addition to your ramen bowl!
23. Edamame with sea salt
If you’re looking for a light, crunchy snack, there’s nothing like edamame with sea salt. The edamame is boiled or steamed for a few minutes and then seasoned with sea salt.
It’s a simple side dish and is light on the stomach.
Now that you’ve seen the 23 best side dishes for ramen, you can be confident about your next visit to a ramen restaurant.
It’s entirely OK to order side dishes and enjoy all kinds of tasty foods alongside ramen. If your appetite is there, you can mix all sorts of flavors with the classic savory taste of ramen!
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.