If you grew up watching Naruto (like my younger brothers and I did), you may remember that the main character, Naruto, was always eating his favorite ramen dish.
Ramen is one of the most popular dishes in Chinese and Japanese cuisine, both abroad and in the United States. Every year, I see more and more authentic ramen spots pop up around my city!
However, are ramen noodles vegan?
The answer is a bit tricky… Ramen noodles, by themselves, are typically vegan and are made using wheat, salt, and water. However, some ramen noodles are made with egg, making them non-vegan.
Ramen dishes, as a meal, can be either vegan or non-vegan, depending on the broth and toppings used in the dish.
I always try to give straightforward answers. However, ramen is one of those topics that’s very hard to give a clear, definite answer to. Ramen noodles are almost always vegan.
The main problem you’ll run into is that most ramen dishes aren’t vegan and contain animal broth, meat, and eggs.
In today’s post, I’ll break down everything that vegans need to know about ramen noodles. I’ll show you all of the ingredients used to make ramen noodles, and even show you how to make your own vegan ramen!
Is Ramen Vegan?
Most historians agree that ramen originated in China and eventually made its way to Japan in the mid-1800s. Throughout its long history, it’s been made as both a vegetarian dish and a carnivorous dish.
Ramen is one of those flexible dishes that can either be prepared as a vegan-friendly dish (using plant-based ingredients) or can be prepared using meat, eggs, and broth. Vegetarian ramen is more popular in China, whereas meat ramen is more popular in Japan.
In this way, it’s a lot like pasta. Pasta, in and of itself, is 100% vegan and is made by turning wheat dough into long stringy noodles. It’s what you put on top of the noodles that matters!
Are Ramen Noodles Made With Egg?
Traditionally, most ramen noodles are made without eggs. However, in certain regions of China, ramen is made using eggs. These noodles are referred to as “egg noodles.”
Eggs are often added to Chinese noodles to give them a higher nutritional value (more fat and protein). The egg also makes for a slightly firmer noodle and gives the noodles a more complex flavor.
That being said, most traditional ramen noodles are 100% egg-free. If you’re making your own ramen at home, just be sure to buy a variety of ramen noodles that are egg-free. If you’re ordering ramen in a restaurant, double-check with the waiter to ensure that they use egg-free noodles.
What Are Ramen Noodles Made Of?
Ramen noodles are made using a few incredibly simple ingredients. After all, the Chinese were making noodles over four thousand years ago! This was long before you had to worry about artificial ingredients and meat by-products being used in everybody’s food.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the main ingredients used in ramen noodles.
Most ramen noodles use a wheat base. The dough is made using a combination of water and wheat flour. Wheat flour is 100% vegan and is simply the by-product of grinding up dried wheat fruit.
Some ramen dishes may be made using rice flour, but this is rare. However, if you do encounter it, rice flour is just as vegan-friendly as wheat flour is!
Water is the second main ingredient in ramen noodles. This is because water is used to turn the dry wheat flour into a thick dough.
A small amount of salt is typically added to the dough to give it a better flavor. Otherwise, the ramen noodles would taste a bit bland.
4) Alkaline Water (“Kansui”)
Kansui is easily the most interesting ingredient used to make ramen noodles. Kansui is a type of water that has a high level of alkalinity. It’s generally not used for drinking, but it’s often used in Chinese and Japanese cooking.
After the noodles are formed, but before they’re cooked, the noodle dough is coated with a layer of kansui. The kansui gives the noodles a firmer texture. Once cooked, the resulting ramen noodles have a slippery consistency, which ramen noodles are traditionally known for.
Is Restaurant Ramen Vegan?
If you’re ever out at a Japanese or Chinese restaurant, then you may come across ramen on the menu. Unfortunately, most traditional ramen dishes served in restaurants are NOT vegan-friendly.
This is because the majority of traditional ramen recipes are cooked in meat broth. Chicken or beef broth is the most common, but some restaurants may also use pork broth. None of these are vegan as they’re made by cooking down animal bones and tendons.
The broth isn’t the only non-vegan thing about traditional ramen, though.
Most traditional ramen recipes contain some form of meat. Pork belly is the most common meat found in ramen, but pulled pork, chicken, and slices of beef are also popular, depending on the style of ramen.
Last but not least, many ramen dishes traditionally contain a poached (boiled) egg on top. Eggs aren’t vegan as they contribute to animal cruelty in the poultry industry.
Thankfully, vegan ramen restaurants exist, though!
Recently, I got the chance to travel to Boston, which is known for its growing vegan culinary scene. One of the first restaurants I got the chance to visit was this little spot called Red White Ramen.
Everything at Red White Ramen is 100% vegan, and ramen is the main dish served at the restaurant! All of their ramens are made using vegan-friendly vegetable broth, and all of the dishes are either topped with vegan eggs or use no eggs at all.
Plant-based protein is used in place of meat, so you can eat your heart out without having to question what’s in your food.
So, if you’ve got a craving for ramen, my best advice is to check out your local city and try to find a vegan (or at least vegetarian) ramen restaurant.
How To Make Vegan Ramen
If you live in a smaller town or city that doesn’t offer vegan-friendly ramen, then your best bet is to make your own vegan ramen at home. Thankfully, the dish is relatively easy to make and doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients.
Essentially, it’s just a vegetable broth soup that contains boiled ramen noodles, fresh vegetables, and your choice of plant-based protein and spices. Here are a few great pointers to keep in mind while you’re planning your homemade vegan ramen.
Substitute Veggie Broth For Meat Broth
As I mentioned, traditional ramen dishes typically use a meat-based broth, such as chicken or beef broth. However, you can make great-tasting vegan ramen using vegetable broth instead.
Veggie broth provides the same salty, savory punch that you’re looking for in a soup without the cruelty of eating meat.
Most grocery stores also offer low-sodium vegetable broth, if you’re trying to be more health-conscious.
Say No To Pork & Yes To Tofu
Delicious ramen doesn’t need to use pork, beef, or chicken. Instead, you can use a plant-based protein like tofu! Tofu is an ages-old plant protein that’s been used for thousands of years.
It’s made from coagulated soy milk, and is a great source of protein! The great thing about tofu is that it absorbs the flavor of the broth, so it goes great with just about any dish.
Another vegan-friendly alternative is tempeh. Tempeh is another soy-based protein that’s made from dried, fermented soybeans. It has a thicker, chewier texture compared to tofu and has a slightly more savory flavor, which many people prefer.
Skip The Eggs
You can make some awesome vegan ramen without using any eggs at all! Just use extra veggies instead.
Check out this video for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own vegan ramen at home:
Is Maruchan Ramen Vegan?
Unfortunately, there are no vegan-friendly flavors of Maruchan instant ramen. While the noodles themselves may be vegan, all of the seasoning packets contain at least one or two different animal-derived ingredients.
This is the case with most store-bought instant ramen noodle brands. There are a couple of vegan-friendly instant noodles you can find online, though!
Conclusion – Can Vegans Eat Ramen?
Vegans can certainly eat ramen! You just have to visit a vegan ramen restaurant or make your own homemade vegan ramen at the house.
Ramen noodles, by themselves, are almost always vegan and are made using simple plant-based ingredients. It’s the toppings you need to watch out for.