Landed here after a hangry Google search to find out whether that dusty packet of instant ramen at the back of your kitchen cabinet is safe to eat? Well, we see your question, “How long does ramen last?”, and raise you ours:
Just how hungry are you?
Like most of our favorite foods (ah, if only we lived in a world where avocados were forever ripe), ramen has an expiration date. But honestly, eating an expired version is unlikely to kill you.
The shelf life of ramen depends on:
The way your ramen has been delivered to you (did you Uber Eats it or buy frozen ingredients to cook later?) and how you store your ramen noodles also plays a role in its levels of lasting edibility.
Going from the shortest shelf life to the longest, we’ve laid out how long different kinds of ramen last. We’ve also given you tips to store ramen noodles, soups, and toppings so that when you’re ready to eat it, you still get the best of what a bowl has to offer.
First of all, what do we mean by fresh ramen? In this case, we’re talking about a delicious bowl of ramen that has already been cooked. Either you have taken it home from a restaurant, ordered ramen takeout, bought a ready-made packet or decided to cook up a bowl at home using fresh ingredients — and (somehow) had the willpower to end up with leftovers.
Let’s break it down by the individual components that make up a bowl of ramen.
Of all of the noodles you can make ramen with, fresh noodles have the shortest shelf life.
Fresh ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, salt, and kansui, an alkalized water that regulates the acidity of the noodle dough giving it that special springy, slippery texture that’s so perfect for slurping.
In their quest for optimum slurp-ability, ramen chefs will play with the ratios of ingredients to tweak the harmony between the broth and noodle. The higher the water content of your noodles (which gives you a more elastic noodle), the quicker they will go bad.
If you have bought a batch of fresh raw or precooked noodles, these should last about two to three weeks in the fridge. On the other hand, frozen raw or frozen pre-boiled noodles can last up to a month in the freezer.
If your noodles have already been getting cozy in the bowl with their soup and topping partners, then they can only be saved for later by removing them from the broth and storing them separately. They’ll last about one or two days in the refrigerator, and up to 30 days in the freezer.
But, of course, you don’t want to be eating only ramen noodles by themselves.
While it’s the kansui-based noodle that differentiates ramen from soba or udon, you wouldn’t have ramen without the soup. The ingredients of the soup also mark an important milestone in the shelf life of your ramen.
Different ingredients are simmered together to make a ramen soup base. The expiration date of fresh ramen will vary according to which ingredients are in the soup.
Lighter soups, sometimes classified as assari, might consist of a vegetable ingredient such as kelp or seafood ingredient like bonito flakes. Where meat is used, it will be simmered for a shorter time at a lower temperature to create a clearer broth.
Heavier or richer ramen soup bases, classed as kotteri, can be made by boiling pork, chicken, and/or fish bones for longer periods to create a rich, milky and opaque base.
Since you’ll have a diverse set of ingredients in your soup base, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when it might reach its expiry date. But you can watch out for umami bombs that have a big impact on the flavor of your ramen, such as dried bonito flakes. These tend to lose their intensity of flavor as time passes, diminishing the taste of your ramen overall.
Much like your fresh noodles, you can keep cooked ramen broth in the fridge for one or two days. The best option, if you want to save a precooked soup base, is to freeze it. A frozen ramen broth will keep for up to a month.
Toppings affect how long your ramen lasts, too.
If you’ve gone for the classic chashu pork slices or soft-boiled ajitama egg, your ramen will be off within one or two days of being refrigerated.
Veggie toppings like raw scallions, wood ear mushrooms, or moyashi (mung bean sprouts) will get slimy pretty fast, though you could still eat them without getting sick as you would with meat or eggs.
Dried seaweed or fried onions can retain their quality just a little longer.
Again, if you are trying to save your cooked ramen for later, it’s smart to separate the toppings from the soup and noodles before you store them, and to do so in the freezer.
If you haven’t caught on by now, we think that the key to storing fresh ramen is to separate out the critical elements and to freeze them.
Put the toppings, noodles, and broth in their own airtight containers to reassemble later. When you come to reheat it, check the individual elements for any signs of deterioration just in case.
Bought fresh or frozen ready-made ramen where everything’s already mixed together? Check the packaging for the best-before date.
Freezing your ramen noodles, soup, and toppings in freezer bags will help preserve the taste and texture. In fact, we think it’s a pretty genius idea. That’s why we do it with our own ramen meal kits to maintain the restaurant quality and umami of our ingredients.
Freezing your different ramen elements at peak quality and thawing it out later actually protects the taste better than if you stored it in the fridge and ate it sooner.
Freezing ramen ingredients also fortifies its nutritional value as a whole by slowing down enzyme and other chemical activity taking place, which also helps to maintain the flavor, look, and mouthfeel of fresh noodles, soup base, and toppings at the point when it is cooked.
Our meal kits contain one pouch of soup, one bag of noodles, and four toppings made to be stored in your freezer and cooked inside the pouch in boiling water (sous-vide) in just 10 minutes. You can keep our ramen meal kits in the freezer for up to 30 days.
Let’s be honest though, in the game of how long ramen lasts, can you really sit on the sidelines for that long?
This one’s for the aspiring ramen chefs out there. While you can of course use fresh noodles when making ramen at home (in which case follow the storage tips above), you’ll probably be using dried noodles as they’re cheap, widely available, and last long.
Dried wheat noodles that you get in a packet, much like pasta, have a shelf life of around three to six months. In the drying process, the air and moisture is largely removed from the noodles which means they tend to be less elastic and denser than fresh ramen noodles once cooked.
It’s a good idea to check the expiration date on the packaging to make sure that your noodles have a good few months left until they go bad. The closer they are to the expiry date, the more likely it is that they’ll lose that bouncy texture.
This is because the noodles have more chances of being exposed to moisture and oxidation over time, both of which impact the molecular integrity (i.e., the development of the gluten) in the noodles.
Aside from their long shelf life, one benefit of using dried noodles is that they are quick to prepare. All you need to do is boil them for a few minutes. You could easily make a few batches of ramen and focus on exploring some of the different broth flavorings and topping combinations each time.
You can check out some examples of what inventive ramen chefs in Tokyo are doing with flavors elsewhere on the Ramen Hero blog, like this spicy ramen and soup curry hybrid from Ten To Sen in the hipster hood of Shimokitazawa.
To make your ramen noodles last, store them in a dark, dry place at room temperature. Once the package has been opened, place any leftover dry noodles into an airtight container and put them back in the cupboard.
Back to that dusty packet of ramen noodles you found in your kitchen cupboard raid.
Instant ramen was invented in 1958 by the godfather of noodles, Momofuku Ando of Nissin Foods, after a year of tinkering in his backyard shed. A lifelong inventor, Ando went on to create Cup Noodles in 1971, and even space ramen two years before his death in 2007.
The survival food of broke college students and be-suited Tokyo businessmen, instant ramen looks (and tastes) like it might outlive us all. That said, manufacturers are legally obliged to write a specific expiration date rather than just marking the package “forever,” and you’ll usually see a date between one and two years from the time you bought it.
Despite having a long shelf life, instant ramen and its flavoring will start to taste pretty stale as it approaches its expiration date, though you could still eat it — the noodles won’t be contaminated as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
While we can’t knock instant ramen for its convenience and cool origin story, there’s a reason that instant ramen lasts for a long period of time.
During the production process, all of the moisture is removed from instant ramen noodles by flash-frying or air-drying them so that bacteria and other microorganisms can’t grow. Preservatives are then added to extend their shelf life.
For fried noodles in particular, the oxidation of the oil over time will cause the taste to deteriorate the closer you get to the expiration date.
The little flavor packet of dehydrated meat or vegetables that comes with instant ramen is designed to survive around the same length of time as the noodles, although it’s usually more susceptible to mold as its chances of exposure to air and moisture increase in storage.
Check that the toppings look OK before adding. We’d suggest upgrading your instant noodles with your own toppings anyway!
As long as your instant ramen packaging is sealed with no tears or kept in an airtight container, you can store it in a dark, dry place at room temperature. This way, it should retain its freshness until close to the expiration date, and be edible until well after that.
Your storage spot doesn’t have to be the aforementioned cupboard. It could be anywhere from under your bed to the basement — basically, anywhere that’s easy to access in a zombie apocalypse.
Make sure there’s no chance for your instant ramen packaging to get wet, especially if it's in a styrofoam cup. If water gets inside the packaging, bacteria and mold will grow. Other odors from your cupboard will also start to transfer to the noodles, creating a questionable flavor.
Ramen was created to be served and slurped quickly. In Japan, even though it is cheap and widely available, ramen is sacred. There’s even a movie about it. Of all the special, ritualistic ways to eat ramen, none of them involve eating it when it’s moldy.
Any ramen chef worth their shio
(get it?!) knows that there’s only a five-minute window between when noodles are added to the soup and when they lose their perfect chewiness. If your ramen has been cooked and your noodles have already touched the soup, then eat immediately. Those that insist on saving precooked ramen for leftovers in the fridge have two days to finish it.
If we’re talking about fresh ramen that you’re keeping in the freezer to bring together later, then the best time to eat it is within a month.
And the optimal time to eat instant ramen? Those in a hurry or hiding from zombies should aim to consume before the expiration date on the packet.
If you want to be sure your ramen is fresh every time, order a bowl of authentic ramen that you can cook yourself. You’ll have everything you need, including delicious broth, fresh noodles, and gourmet toppings, all conveniently packaged to keep in the freezer for up to a month.