Last Updated on October 30, 2021 by Guillermina
A college dorm room staple, instant ramen noodles have been around for decades as a budget-friendly meal. This beloved bowl of noodles is convenient and easy to make but may not always be vegan-friendly. The good news is Top Ramen noodles have a Chili flavor that is mostly vegan!
What Is Top Ramen?
If you’re at the grocery store and need to pick up a quick fix for ramen noodles, you’ve probably had Top Ramen. Packaged in bright-colored packs, these original, ready-to-cook noodles come with dried noodles and a seasoning packet to add while cooking. Top Ramen has 6 unique flavors that are all super easy to make, including:
- Soy Sauce
- Hot & Spicy Beef
Out of the six flavors, the Soy Sauce and Chili are marketed as ‘vegetarian’ on their labels. But are they vegan-friendly? Let’s unwrap the ingredients and nutrition information.
Top Ramen Chili Flavor Ingredients
It’s always best practice to read the ingredients list to determine if a food is vegan, even if a label claims to be vegan friendly. These ready-to-cook noodles have a long list of ingredients, most likely due to the seasoning packet included.
- Enriched flour
- Palm oil
- Caramel color
- Citric acid
- Crushed red chili pepper
- Disodium Guanylate, Inosinate, Succinate
- Dried Leek Flake
- Garlic Powder
- Hydrolyzed corn protein
- Onion powder
- Potassium carbonate
- Silicon dioxide
- Sodium Alginate, Carbonate, Tripolyphosphate,
- TBHQ (preservative)
- Tomato powder
The good news – the ingredients in the noodles themselves are completely vegan! They can be cooked and enjoyed alone without concern. However, the seasonings packet has a long list of mostly vegan ingredients and a few questionable ones as well.
This preservative is used mostly in packaged foods to prolong shelf life. Known as an “oil antioxidant”, TBHQ preserves fats and is more heat stable. It is chemically made, making it a vegan-friendly ingredient.
Some vegans choose to include ingredients that other vegans may not. This includes items like sugar, oil, and other additives. Depending on how you define vegan, there may be a couple of ingredients on the Top Ramen Chili flavor worthy of flagging.
While in a very small amount, there is non-organic sugar added in the Top Ramen seasonings packet. Refined cane sugar itself is not an animal product. However, it’s processed using bone char, and some vegans consider it unsuitable for their diets.
A controversial ingredient amongst the vegan community, palm oil is technically vegan. However, the methods used to obtain this oil has been known to negatively affect animals and their natural environments. There are sustainable palm oils out there, but Top Ramen doesn’t source them for their products.
Several of the above ingredients listed aren’t your typical household ingredients. While the packages boast “No Added MSG”, a common flavor enhancer, it doesn’t mean there aren’t any enhancers in Top Ramen products.
The three additives starting with “disodium” enhance the savory flavors of packaged goods. Essentially, it’s what makes certain foods taste irresistible. Specifically, the origins of disodium inosinate vary and may not be vegan.
Spice And Color
Vague, these umbrella terms summarize a group of FDA-approved ingredients in the ‘spice’ and ‘color’ categories. Food manufacturers use these categories to shorten ingredient lists and keep competitors in the dark. Unfortunately, doing so makes it impossible for vegan consumers to know if a product is truly vegan friendly.
Top Ramen Nutrition
Moving onto the nutrition facts, there are a few points to highlight for the Top Ramen Chili flavor. First, per one packet serving, these ramen noodles have 380 calories, 14 g fat, 54 g carbohydrates, and 9 g of protein. Overall, the protein content is decent for a packaged meal, especially considering there aren’t any added protein sources.
When it comes to sodium content, Top Ramen Chili flavor ranks a bit lower. There are 1240 mg of sodium per serving, which is a lot! The Daily Value for sodium is less than 2,300 mg per day – one pack of Top Ramen meets over half the amount of salt for the entire day.
Finally, there are only 2 g of fiber per serving. Fiber is important for digestive health and feeling full after meals. Women and men need 25 g and 38 g of fiber per day, respectively.
Are Top Ramen Noodles Healthy?
These convenient instant ramen noodles can be part of a healthy diet. Depending on how you prepare them, vegan instant ramen noodles can have more nutritional benefits when adding your own spices and vegetables.
Alone, Top Ramen noodles can make a mediocre meal from a health perspective. If you make them according to the instructions, there is a large amount of salt and only a couple of grams of fiber. One way to eliminate some of the sodium is to drain some the broth after preparing.
If you have a little extra time and resources available, there are a few ways to make these classic noodles healthier. The seasonings packet included has a long list of ingredients and additives, some of which aren’t vegan. First, create your own blend of seasonings. By adding your own, you can largely reduce the amount of sodium while increasing the flavor profile with fresh herbs and spices.
Additionally, try throwing in your favorite chopped vegetables to the pot while cooking the noodles. This will add extra fiber and at least one serving of veggies to your meal. For example, add vegetables like peas, leafy greens, peppers, or mushrooms.
For some extra protein, consider adding tofu or another vegan-friendly protein source. Having protein in a meal will keep you fuller for longer. You’ll be surprised at how much this adds to your meal – both nutritionally and flavor-wise!
Read more about Are Sesame Balls Vegan?
Top Ramen is a budget-friendly staple, making a quick and easy fix during mealtime. There are two flavors of Top Ramen, Soy Sauce, and Chili, that are mostly vegan. Consider adding your own vegetables and protein to make Top Ramen a healthier meal option.