Ranking Every Maruchan Ramen Flavor From Worst To Best

A brains-like noodle concoction from 1960s Tokyo, Maruchan [mah-roo-CHAN] brand ramen noodle soup probably never dreamed it would become the unofficial food of broke undergrads across the globe. And also everyone else looking for a fast meal on a budg' ... (Just trying to make being smart with money sound fun!)

But as "send noods" (The cool way to say noodles, goobs) fever sweeps the nation, we're diving headfirst into squiggly, savory, spicy, ready-in-three-minutes, bowls of freakin' delicious dinner. Lunch. Breakfast. Whatever. It's always a good time for ramen.

From picante chicken, to roast beef, and chili lime shrimp, we sipped, chop-sticked, and sniffed our way through all 11 Maruchan ramen flavors. And, now that you ask, yes, we may have inhaled some of the seasoning, which is now coating our lungs. Still, when it comes to ramen, we'll happily take one for the team! Grab 'ya noods, we're going all in.

How we ramen'd the ramen

Full disclosure: We had already developed a deep appreciation for ramen noodles and their various broths and accoutrements. But you should know that none of that ever involved a bowl that we cooked for ourselves, from a little plastic package. Not even in college. (We adapted to our minimal funds by subsisting on the other college standard: Cold pizza.)

Maybe we had unknowingly become certified ramen snobs, slurping bowls of tonkotsu (pork broth) ramen at Fukurou Ramen or chowing down on Soul ramen topped with kikurage mushrooms and gochujang miso paste at Tatsu. Still, we promised ourselves we wouldn't let any of that color our Maruchan mission.

So we got to work, cooking each individual package according to the instructions, using 2 cups of water to boil the noodles, and then adding the entire packet of seasoning. And nothing else. No soft-boiled eggs, no meat, no fancy sprinkly seaweed, not even a pinch of salt. We wanted that pure, unadulterated experience. And lo and behold ... we got it. Which was the worst? Which was our favorite? Here's how our ranking shakes out.

11. Pork

Well, the gray flavor powder sure isn't selling it. Sorry, pork fans, this one's a total punch in the gut for traditional tonkotsu (pork broth) lovers. (Hi, same.) We don't know what this is, but it's definitely not pork. It might actually be chicken. Jury's still out.

We spent an inordinate amount of time trying to mentally will this to become more pork-y, while swirling it around in our mouths and hoping for a miracle. We sipped the broth, closed our eyes, and envisioned Porky Pig happily stewing in a pot, ladling hot water over his pink little body like a jacuzzi with vegetables in it. (Then he got out, and headed to the sauna.) But still nothing. Still chicken.

Once the seasoning mixed with the water, the first hint of fragrance was a vaguely rubbery one. If there is a good type of rubber smell, this was not it. We would totally buy the color of the grayish-brown broth had it been labeled as, say, mushroom. But as it stands, this rubber chicken-ish flavor lands at the bottom of the list. #NeverAgain

10. Shrimp

To be honest, the shrimp flavor wasn't exactly jumping out as a possible frontrunner, even before we cooked it. Does anyone like just shrimp? Hello, shrimp is merely a vehicle for all the tasty stuff around the shrimp. The cocktail sauce, the Cajun seasoning, the garlic butter. Ugh, the garlic butter. Like those Red Lobster commercials with the shrimp slo-mo cannonballing into a pool of warm butter for all-you-can-eat Shrimp Fest. (A buttery tear rolls down our cheeks.)

This bowl of ramen actually made us forget what shrimp is supposed to taste like. We're giving it a few points for the little bits of seasoning we could see floating around in the broth like it was once real, human food. The whole thing was perfectly edible, but also unidentifiable as the shrimp flavor it claimed to be. Of course, it's still gonna be satisfying if this is the only package you've got sitting in the cupboard.

As we imagined the ways in which the company could boost the yumminess of this one, we came up with clearly terrible ideas. Like, sea monkeys. Admittedly, we would be terrified to see tiny shrimp-like sea monkeys drop from the seasoning packet. But we might also be like ... yes, maybe it works? Okay, never mind. Looks like it's back to the drawing board. Sayonara, shrimpy.

9. Creamy Chicken

For the record, ramen that's creamy, chicken-y, and also shelf-stable for the next 12 months is already a little suss. We were also pretty bummed not to discover a tiny packet of Kraft macaroni and cheese powder tucked inside the packaging. (Tragically, this apparently isn't a Maruchan yakisoba tasting where we would get to sample the cheddar cheesiness of our dreams with their version of boxed mac 'n cheese.)

After we carefully sprinkled the contents of the seasoning packet into the pot with the noodles and water, we caught whiffs of tea-like aromas. It was pleasant, if also confusing. Where is the creamy part? Did we forget to add heavy cream somewhere during the process?

Nope! It turns out that creamy chicken may be slightly misleading as a title. It's got a chicken-like broth, but zero cream factor. Perhaps it tastes slightly creamy, if the creamiest thing you've ever tasted is tap water. Ugh, now the word creamy looks weird. Everything is ruined. We can never eat anything creamy again.

8. Chicken

You may have noticed we're on a bit of a chicken streak here (not including the last-place pork flavor, which is totally desperate to be chicken). The Maruchan chicken ramen lineup is four flavors deep. And while they're all ... just fine ... they're also nothing to write home about. So, humor us as we deconstruct the most basic of all the chicken flavors: Chicken. (Surprise!)

This is a completely decent, standard broth that could work as a base for literally anything. Classico chicken-o! The flavor is light, well-seasoned, and cozy chicken noodle soup-y. Plus, the seasoning is yellow colored, just in case you already forgot it was supposed to be chicken. Equally fortunate for us is that this actually tastes more like chicken than the pork flavor does. Phew.

Here, we have a total blank canvas that's screaming for bits of tender, juicy, chicken, or bright veggies added to the bowl. But we promised ourselves we would throw nothing extra into the mix. And for that, dear chicken, you get an eight out of 11.

7. Roast Chicken

As we delve further into the apparent "No Chicken Left Behind" strategy from Maruchan HQ, we have finally come across a chicken that we kind of like. Cancel all previous chickens. Roast chicken forever! (Please. Somebody save us from having to decide between plain chicken, and roast chicken with a shred of green onion floating around in it.)

The main question is this: Why offer a regular chicken flavor at all, when there exists a roasted variety with a seasoning packet that makes the flavor pop? They could even combine several of the chickens into one big ol' Creamy Roast Chicken situation. (Three in one!) It would solve the flavor blahs, and at the same time provide the perfect touch of creepy creaminess! A win-win. At least for that Doug guy in accounting and finance.

Just one thing before you Amazon Prime a case of roast chicken ramen for family dinner. If you've ever tasted a beautifully roasted chicken, hold onto that memory because this isn't it. While this flavor tops the core chicken series, it barely scrapes past the plain chicken variety. It also features less of that fake chicken yellow coloring, which makes it skew semi-sophisticated when it really isn't. No. Put your pinky down. It's just regular chicken disguised as fancy chicken. (Yes, obviously with a mustache and a monocle. Is there another kind of fancy chicken?)

6. Beef

Save us, unnatural beef flavoring! While we were hoping for delicious beefiness that wouldn't look out of place at Muscle Beach, we are instead morphing into that old lady from the 1980s Wendy's commercial. "Where's the beef?" (For the kids: She couldn't find the competitor's beef patty because it was so small inside the bun! How we laughed at that kind of thing back then.)

Back to the ramen, the broth is definitely brown, and seasoned to seem like savory beef stock. But the texture is so much more watery than beefy things usually are. There isn't any richness, or standout flavor. No, it doesn't taste like chicken. But it doesn't taste much like beef, either.

We admit that, as far as we're concerned, beef just naturally ranks higher than chicken when it comes to depth of flavor. So whatever meat this is, it packs more punch than even the most roasted of chickens. But even so, we're left wondering if we believe that this flavor is, indeed, beef — just because the label says so. Or because the packaging shows us a picture of a hunk of meat? Maybe we should have tasted this one blind. But since we were operating this very scientific study without outside intervention, we likely would have been tasting it blind and also spilled all over our lap.

5. Picante Chicken

Hold onto your chicken butts. A chicken flavor has cracked the top five! All of the previous chicken flavors are dead to us. Picante chicken for president! So what in the hell-o is picante, you ask? Spice! It's literally Spanish for bite. As in a zippy pepper biting your mouth. The flavor packet even has a tiny jalapeño on it that says "hot." (You were warned. Adorably, but still. You were warned.)

The initial fragrance hits like an astringent shot to the back of your throat. It kind of took our breath away, and almost distracted us from all the (joy!) visible spicy bits. Are these red peppers the same ones from the packaging? We almost cried — it looked like the picture! Or maybe we were dying of terminal picante. (Just kidding, honestly, this is a fun spicy heat, not a hot-pepper-eating competition kind of heat.)

Picante chicken is 1,000 percent the best Maruchan chicken ramen choice. (And it totally outpaces our imaginary Creamy Roasted Chicken, which was probably made of three separate flavor packets.) Dare we put four packets together and create a ramen chicken behemoth? No ... this one's too good to be diluted by a lesser chicken.

4. Chili

Mkay, you know we love our spicy ramen. And the chili flavor was our first pick of the tasting. So, long story short, in the midst of the excitement of this noodly experiment, our debut slurp went straight up the nose with a little bit of noodle going into the lungs. Hot tip: Maybe don't inhale while you're suckin' up spicy noodles.

First impressions: Tostitos Hint of Lime. It's weird, and makes no sense, but it's exactly the same flavor profile. While we don't know where the corn tortilla vibes were coming from, and you are correct in noting that there is zero lime involved here, we couldn't stop thinking about it. Totally Tostitos. But chips as soup? Bring it on. We seem to be living somewhere near tortilla soup territory and we're loving every minute of it.

Heck yeah to the flavorful and spicy kick (now that we can safely say we survived the first punch). Plus, the reddish hue of the broth only adds to the festive chili-ness. This is another flavor that packs some heat and would also make for a great base for additional flair. A sprinkling of cheddar cheese? Come on, you know you want to.

3. Roast Beef

We're quick learners around here, and we know that when the word roast appears in the title, it's gonna be tastier than the original. And what's better than regular beef? Roast beef — coming in hot at number three!

If you're a meat person, it's hard to beat the complexity of a really great beef stock. And while this beef flavoring emerges from water and a tiny packet of seasoning, it serves up tastiness that far exceeds its light-as-a-feather packaging.

Consider this the Sunday dinner of Maruchan ramen, with a flavor that's much more dimensional and savory than that other what's-its-name. (Ugh, regular beef — you're still here?) The broth this time appears as a much richer brown color, and its slight oiliness (is this even real right now? Is there actual meat in this?) almost gives us the sensation of a stew that's been simmered on the stovetop all day long. It's a total comfort nosh that takes just minutes to make.

2. Lime Chili Shrimp

We're bringin' shrimpy back! Okay, be honest — what could possibly be better than combining Tostitos Hint of Lime with shrimp, and then making a bowl of ramen! (Did someone forage weird mushrooms from the forest and start making "ramen flavors"?) Lime Chili Shrimp brought its A-game, and we couldn't be happier. Or spicier. (Try not to think about the sea monkeys from earlier. Ah, too late.)

There is, in fact, lime involved in this seasoning combo, and it's exactly what every ramen needs. The bright and tangy citrus plays really well against the hot, spicy broth. We loved it so much, we didn't even miss the shrimp flavor, whatever that's supposed to be. Instead, this killer profile perfectly complements the essence of shrimp. And hey, if we were adding things to our bowl, we'd toss in some real grilled shrimp in the blink of an eye. Avocado. Cilantro. Some of that sesame, red pepper, and seaweed Japanese togarashi seasoning. We can't stop. Love is blind!

Super into shrimp with your ramen? Pick this one of the Maruchan lineup. The kicky seasoning lingers on your tongue long enough for you to savor every bite. It's so good, we didn't even mind the spice sweats. (Don't play like you don't get the dewy upper lip!)

1. Soy Sauce

What? Soy sauce is number one?! Okay, hang on a minute. Trust us, there's something next level about the O.G. of ramen flavorings. The first bowl of soy sauce ramen — served in Asakusa, Japan, in 1910 — essentially launched the ramen craze that would one day take over the world. Let us not disrespect these historical noods.

We love the simple beauty of soy sauce ramen. While lime chili shrimp ramen is all tequila shots, fireworks, and getting smashed at her own birthday party, soy sauce ramen gently transports us to another world. A peaceful, centered place. (Ah, is that the soulful sound of a shakuhachi flute?) It's a space that feels as humble as it is sacred. A collective story, held in a little bowl, warming your hands and face. You watch a lone sliver of green onion swim for safety atop a reef of squiggly noodles. Oops ... ah, he almost made it. (Okay, it's not like we're actually in a Japanese garden.)

The Maruchan soy sauce flavor offers the fanciest aroma of the bunch, from the moment the seasoning packet hits the water, until the last possible slurp. It smells like a complex herbal vacation from whatever you were worried about earlier. Toasty and savory, this is one healing ramen noodle soup that we'll definitely be coming back for.