12 best substitutes for ramen noodles | healthier, vegan and gluten-free options

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  May 25, 2021

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Ramen noodles are one of the most popular noodles varieties in Asia and North America.

In Japanese, the term ‘ramen’ means ‘pulled.’ These noodles are made from wheat flour, egg, and kansui water.

They are usually sold dry, fresh, and even frozen, but (instant) dry ramen is most popular, as it’s sold in convenient packets or styrofoam cups.

Unfortunately, ramen has a bad reputation because the noodles contain high amounts of sodium and MSG in some cases.

Therefore, many people look for alternatives and healthier substitutes for ramen noodles.

12 best substitutes for ramen noodles | healthier, vegan and gluten-free options

The best ramen noodle substitutes have to be slurpable, chewy, and springy in texture.

Therefore, the best substitute for ramen is any type of air-dried egg noodles with a similar flavor and texture, such as Chinese egg noodles, which come in many varieties.

A healthy Japanese alternative to ramen noodles is udon noodles because they are made of similar ingredients: wheat flour, salt, and water, but without egg, so they’re vegan. Udon is thicker, with a chewy texture, and goes well with soups, just like ramen.

The best gluten-free substitute for ramen is soba noodles which are made of buckwheat and have a similar thickness to ramen.

In this post, I’m sharing a lengthy list of tasty ramen substitutes, including egg noodles, healthy noodles, vegan options, and even the best gluten-free varieties.

Keep reading to find out more about each option!

Top pick ramen noodle substitutes Image
Chinese egg noodles  

Best substitute for ramen noodles Chinese egg noodles Blue Dragon

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Wonton noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Wonton instant noodles

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Chow mein noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Sapporo Ichiban Chow Mein

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Lo mein noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Simply Asia Chinese Style Lo Mein Noodles

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Spaghetti best substitute for ramen noodles BARILLA Blue Box Spaghetti Pasta

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Somen best substitute for ramen noodles JFC Dried Tomoshiraga Somen Noodles

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Healthier ramen noodle substitutes
Udon noodles  best substitute for ramen noodles Matsuda Japanese Style instant Udon fresh noodle

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Gluten-free ramen noodles substitutes
Rice noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Vietnamese Rice Stick vermicelli Three Ladies Brand

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Soba noodles best substitute for ramen noodles J-Basket Dried Buckwheat Soba Noodles

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Glass noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Rothy Korea Glass Noodle

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Shirataki noodles best substitute for ramen noodles YUHO Organic Shirataki Konjac Pasta

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Kelp noodles best substitute for ramen noodles Sea Tangle kelp noodles

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What is ramen, and what does it taste like?

Did you know that ramen is originally a Chinese noodle? However, it’s now most popular in Japan.

In Korea, it’s called ramyeon, and it’s a savory, brothy dish.

Some people will say that ramen tastes like a chewy plain noodle. But, the truth is that ramen is more complex than that basic definition.

Ramen has a strong, chewy texture, and it is commonly squiggly, but there are straight varieties too. When buying instant noodle packets, you’ll notice it’s not a straight pasta like spaghetti.

Ramen is famous for its springy and slurpable texture, so it’s best known as being a broth noodle.

Ramen is slurpable because it’s made with a mix of high-protein and high gluten flour.

The flavor is savory, and that’s a result of kansui. This ‘kansui’ refers to alkaline water or the alkaline elements added to the wheat flour and egg.

Alkaline elements make the noodles have a slightly salty and savory flavor.

Fresh ramen contains eggs, but dried ramen might not. That’s especially true for those 99 cent ramen packets.

Also read: Are ramen noodles fried? The instant ramen are, here’s why

Top pick ramen noodle substitutes

Alright, so you’re looking to replace ramen and wondering what to use. Here are my favorite ramen noodle substitutes.

Chinese egg noodles

Best substitute for ramen noodles Chinese egg noodles Blue Dragon

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Chinese egg noodles are often used as a ramen or udon substitute. They are made with egg and wheat flour and usually have a yellow color.

Some varieties, like Hong Kong egg noodles, are much thinner than regular egg noodles.

Just like ramen, all varieties of egg noodles have a springy texture, and they are firm. Some egg noodles also contain alkaline elements, just like ramen, so there’s not much difference tastewise.

You can use the egg noodles to make stir-fries too, but they have a pleasant chewy texture which is ideal for ramen.

Wonton noodles

best substitute for ramen noodles Wonton instant noodles

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Some egg noodles are used exclusively for brothy soups. Known as wonton noodles, these egg noodles are a type of pasta made from wheat flour and egg.

But, don’t be confused – not all egg noodles are wonton noodles.

The wonton noodles are made explicitly for wonton soup. Thus, they have a similar texture to ramen. Usually, egg noodles are best served fresh and have a yellow color.

The noodles are available in thin and thick varieties, depending on what dish they’re used for. The reason why egg noodles are the best ramen substitute is because of the flavor, which is very similar.

Wonton noodles are sometimes packaged like ramen in small packets and sold as a type of instant soup.

Chow mein noodles

best substitute for ramen noodles Sapporo Ichiban Chow Mein

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Chow mein noodles are also called Hong-Kong-Style pan-fried noodles. They are very thin and already par-cooked, so they’re also great for making stir-fries.

When fried, the noodles become very crispy. However, if you’re out of ramen, you can boil them and use them as a substitute.

Just be careful because they cook in under one minute, so you need to dip them into boiling water for about 50 seconds and then add them to the ramen broth.

Lo mein noodles

Simply Asia Chinese Style Lo Mein Noodles in two bowls on the table

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Lo mein egg noodles are the thick alternative to chow mein. They are thicker than ramen noodles but have a similar savory taste.

Although less springy than other noodles, they absorb the broth well.

Therefore, if you want to make thick ramen with egg and vegetables, the thicker lo mein noodles pair well.

These noodles take about 3 to 5 minutes to cook, and they taste great when left in ramen broth.

Spaghetti

best substitute for ramen noodles BARILLA Blue Box Spaghetti Pasta

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Turning spaghetti into ramen is impossible, but you can improve the spaghetti to give it that unique chewy and savory flavor and texture.

The secret is baking soda. Think of it as the pasta hack that turns Italian pasta into an Asian-style noodle.

The problem with spaghetti is that it’s a straight, long pasta without the classic savory flavor of ramen.

When you cook the spaghetti, add one tablespoon of baking soda. This makes the pasta water alkaline and makes the pasta taste similar to ramen noodles.

When you add baking soda, the pasta becomes springier, just like ramen, and takes on a similar yellow color.

Somen

best substitute for ramen noodles JFC Dried Tomoshiraga Somen Noodles

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Sōmen (素麺,そうめん) is a type of long white Japanese noodle, and it is very similar to ramen.

Like ramen, somen noodles are also made of wheat flour; however, they are thinner (about 1mm thickness), and they tend to stick together like angel hair pasta.

Also, they are white in color, whereas ramen is yellowish.

The reason why somen is one of the best Japanese ramen substitutes is that it is also air-dried and has a similar texture once added to ramen broth.

Healthier ramen noodle substitutes

Ramen noodles aren’t very healthy or nutritious. They lack fiber and other important proteins, so they’re basically full of carbs and sodium.

But, if you love to eat ramen and don’t want to give up this quick dish, then you can use a healthy vegan substitute called udon noodles.

Udon noodles (vegan)

best substitute for ramen noodles Matsuda Japanese Style instant Udon fresh noodle

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I love udon noodles because they’re egg-free, vegan, and have a great chewy and springy texture like ramen.

Usually, udon noodles are made of two basic ingredients: wheat flour and water. Therefore, most people can eat them, and they are a great alternative for ramen.

But what makes this such a close match to ramen is the slurpability of udon. Just like ramen, you have to take long slurps to get them all into your mouth!

It’s no wonder udon soup is also very popular. There’s something about slurpy noodle broths that makes them irresistible.

In Japan, udon is the “down-to-earth” noodle that people use to make comfort foods.

Read more about Ramen vs. Udon Noodles | Comparing Flavor, Use, Taste, Cooking Time, Brands

Gluten-free ramen noodles substitutes

There are so many Asian noodle varieties out there. The good news is that there’s a whole bunch of gluten-free ramen substitutes.

So, if you’re gluten intolerant or simply don’t like ramen, then why not give these a try?

Rice noodles

best substitute for ramen noodles Vietnamese Rice Stick vermicelli Three Ladies Brand

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Rice noodles are a type of very thin translucent Vietnamese noodle. You’ll also see them labeled as vermicelli.

They are made of rice flour and look like glass noodles. They’re not quite like ramen noodles, but they’re healthier. The texture of rice noodles is slippery and not springy.

Usually, rice noodles are used for pad thair or pho (Vietnamese soup). But, they are a good fit for ramen broth, too, as they absorb the tasty flavors of the liquid.

Soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)

best substitute for ramen noodles J-Basket Dried Buckwheat Soba Noodles

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Think of soba noodles as Japan’s best healthy noodles. Authentic soba is made from buckwheat flour only, but some cheaper varieties also contain wheat flour, so be careful and read the label.

Soba noodles are used to make cold soba dishes and stir-fries. But, they are also commonly used to make hot soups, so you can add them to ramen broth.

Soba noodles have a similar thickness to ramen noodles, but they are even more slurpable.

In terms of flavor, it’s not quite the same savoriness because you can feel the buckwheat. Soba noodles are also brown in color.

Glass noodles

best substitute for ramen noodles Rothy Korea Glass Noodle

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Glass noodles are a type of translucent noodles made from either mung bean or sweet potato starch. Some people also call them cellophane noodles because they are very thin and look like long glass threads.

These noodles are almost flavorless and plain but combined with a savory ramen broth, they taste great. What makes them so similar to ramen is that they have the same springy texture.

Shirataki noodles

YUHO Organic Shirataki Konjac Pasta prepared in bowl

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Shirataki noodles are not only gluten-free, but they are also low carb and keto-friendly. Therefore, they are a healthy alternative to ramen noodles.

Shirataki noodles, also called konjac noodles, are made from yam starch.

They’re known for being very chewy and springy, so they’re a good alternative to ramen.

When cooking these noodles, though, you have to wash and soak them beforehand because they have a strong odor. Their flavor is very mild, so they are very similar to ramen.

Kelp noodles

best substitute for ramen noodles Sea Tangle kelp noodles

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Kelp noodles are full of healthy nutrients. If you don’t mind a bit of sea taste, you can use kelp noodles instead of ramen.

These noodles are so much healthier because they contain lots of calcium, iron, iodine, and vitamin K. As a bonus, kelp noodles are also low-fat and diet-friendly.

The noodles are very chewy, and you can cook them or eat them raw. Simply pour the ramen broth over them and get ready to eat.

These are the best no-cook option if you’re in a hurry.

Learn more about the benefits of Kombu, Wakame, and Kelp and how to use them

Can you use any noodles for ramen?

When you’re out of ramen noodles, you can actually use almost any type of Asian-style noodles. You can use fresh, dried, or frozen noodles to make a bowl of hot ramen.

The best way to make ramen is to cook the noodles separately and then add them to the broth with veggies and toppings.

Again, I recommend using egg noodles to copy that ramen texture, but realistically you can use any noodles you prefer. You might have to sacrifice some of that chewy and springy texture, though.

Conclusion

No ramen noodles at home? No problem. Grab any noodles you have on hand, add savory broth and prepare to eat yummy comforting soup.

The bottom line is that you can use almost all types of noodles. Luckily, you can find all kinds of healthy, low-fat, vegan, and gluten-free options on Amazon and in supermarkets.

Learn more: 8 Different Types of Japanese Noodles (With Recipes)

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

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.