32 Ways To Spice Up Your Boring Ramen Meals.

It's cheap. It's best when used for surviving freshman year of college and in those days just after barely making rent when you're making your last dollars stretch. And after a while, sure, it can be overrated.

But none of this, prevents a few bricks of ramen noodles from making their way into your cart each time you go to the grocer.

And while recent foodie trends swear by the ways of slow-cooked, handcrafted bowls of restaurant-grade ramen noodles, that's no reason to ignore the instant stuff. Because, if you're willing to look past its alien-like appearance and off-the-charts sodium count, it's a simple and versatile substance that's just a few ingredients away from being a substantial — and surprisingly good — meal.

Best of all, most ramen embellishments can be done on the cheap, keeping up ramen's reputation of being a meal of meager beginnings. So if you're sick of eating the same, plain noodles — or if you're just looking for something to do with those spare packs of slightly questionable origins that have been sitting in your pantry since God knows when — then here are some of the best ramen hacks we deemed worthy of compiling.

Now, aren't you glad you didn't toss those bricks out?

Egg Drop Soup: Drop an egg in your ramen of choice, and stir into the soup until it reaches your desired consistency.
Mac 'N Cheese: The genius of adding cheese to your ramen is that it can be done any way. Seriously: Any way. Just pick a cheese and go for it.
Mandarin Salad: Use crushed ramen noodles to top a salad made with your choice of leafy greens and protein, Mandarin oranges, sugar snap peas and an Asian vinaigrette.
Pizza: Soak bricks of ramen noodles in marinara sauce, then top with cheese and pepperoni and bake until brown.
Broccoli and Cheddar: Just add in your choice of cheese and some chopped broccoli.
Spaghetti: Replace spaghetti noodles with ramen, then add marinara and Parmesan cheese.

Yakamein: Add in some shredded beef, then top with a hard boiled egg, green onions and your choice of soy sauce, Worcestershire and/or ketchup.
Beef and Broccoli: Use sliced beef, broccoli, onions, soy and hoisin sauces. Can be made with the broth or as a stir-fry. Mushrooms optional.
Shepherd's Pie: Substitute potatoes for the quick and easy alternative of ramen noodles. Sauteé ground beef and vegetables, then top with al dente noodles and broil until brown.
Burgers: Replace burger buns using this recipe.
Pho: Use half the seasoning packet to make the broth, adding lime juice, fish sauce, red chili flakes and a tablespoon of sugar. Add raw flank steak, and let it simmer until the meat cooks through. Add cooked noodles and top with your choice of cilantro, bean sprouts and other pho condiments.
Beef and Vegetable Soup: Add sliced beef and chopped carrots, onions, celery and potatoes (optional) for a more hearty meal.
Philly Cheesesteak: Sauteé skirt steak, onions, bell peppers and mushrooms together. Leave in pan. Crumble noodles into mixture and add a little water and half of the seasoning. Cook until noodles are tender, then top with cheese.

Pad Thai: Add peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, we don't judge), a few drops of Sriracha and fish sauce (optional).
Buffalo Chicken: Throw in some ranch dressing and Frank's Red Hot, and pow!
Chicken Noodle Soup: With some shredded chicken (rotisserie chickens work well), carrots, onions and celery, you've got a hearty, quick rendition of a comfort food fave.
Chicken Carbonara: Mix heavy whipping cream, Parmesan, egg yolks, basil and parsley together. Sauteé pancetta (or bacon for the less fancy) until brown. Add some chicken to the bacon pan and toss together with cooked noodles, cream sauce and peas (optional) until cooked through, with salt and pepper to taste. Top with walnuts and lemon zest (optional).

Cream of Mushroom: Add a can of cream of mushroom soup and your choice of vegetables and/or protein.
Stroganoff: Mix ground beef with sour cream, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add onions for extra flavor.

Chicken Lo Mein: Cook chicken in a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of sesame oil. Add another tablespoon of sesame oil when finished, and put to the side. Cook noodles, then mix with chicken, a package of coleslaw mix and soy sauce until cabbage is tender.
Veggie Stir-Fry: Sauteé sliced carrots, onions, cabbage and bean sprouts with garlic and chili paste, then toss together with noodles and soy sauce and cook through. Add tofu for some extra protein.

Barbecue Pulled Pork: Throw together some pulled pork, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese (optional).
“Aloha” Ramen: Just add Spam, pineapple and a fried egg. Soy sauce optional.
Instant “Traditional” Ramen: Build a broth with the seasoning packet and sesame oil. Add slices of pork, green onion and a hard boiled egg, halfed.
Breakfast Ramen: Simply add a slice of thick bacon, a soft-boiled egg, some green onion and a few drops of Sriracha (optional).

Shrimp Scampi Pasta: Throw in some shrimp, butter, garlic, and white wine (optional).
Thai Shrimp Noodle Soup: Build a broth with garlic, ginger, basil, fish and chili sauce. Add shrimp, mushrooms (optional), bok choy (cabbage) and lime. Top with soy sauce.
Gumbo: Up your ramen game with some shrimp and andouille sausage, Cajun seasoning, bell peppers, onions and celery.

Pozole: Add shredded pork, sliced jalapenos, onions, hominy (optional) and top with white cheese.
Chicken Tortilla Soup: Add shredded chicken, garlic, a tablespoon of tomato paste and peppers. Top with cheese and tortilla chip slices.


Chocolate Bark: Boil the noodles the normal way, then drain. Bake until brown, then drizzle with chocolate sauce made from a mixture of the melted chocolate pieces of your choice and butter.
Dessert Pizza: Sauteé bananas (or preferred fruit), brown sugar and butter together. Break up dried ramen into squares, then cover one side with peanut butter (or Nutella or other cookie spread). Evenly spread fruit mixture onto squares, then top with chocolate pieces, nuts, etc. Let sit until warm.

Sources: My Recipes, Serious Eats, Buzzfeed, Foodbeast, One Two Simple Cooking, Huffington Post, Smosh, food.com, Chow and AZ Central. Graphics by Patricia Gonzalez.

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