Usually we buy ramen noodles for a couple of reasons. Number one, they’re very cheap (especially when bought in bulk) and number two, they last for ages and can sit in the pantry as a relatively shelf stable food waiting for those days we haven’t gone to the store and need to whip something up. Oh, and the third reason: Ramen noodles are delicious and versatile!
Ramen noodles were initially popular in Japan. In fact, the name ramen refers to a type of noodle soup (you’ll have had it if you love instant ramen, no doubt) that’s popular in Japan, and was often used to describe the flavor of their instant noodles and sauce packets too. In the US and beyond, ramen noodles now means any instant noodle blocks. And these instant noodles aren’t just popular in the USA and Japan — Maggi noodles have often been declared India’s favorite snack, and students throughout Europe often live off instant noodles when they begin cooking for themselves just like American kids tend to!
The noodles we know as ramen, both the packet and cup varieties, are heavily processed. They’re precooked and dried through either frying (which is the most popular method) or hot air drying. The moisture content of ramen noodles ranges from 2-5% if dried through frying and 8-12% if they’re dried with hot air.
Because of this low moisture content and their modern packaging, ramen noodles have a long shelf life and stay best-quality for up to a year. That’s best-quality though, and you need to know how long you can eat ramen noodles for, and whether they ever go bad. Plus, if you’ve bought ramen in bulk and want it to last as long as possible you’ll be wondering how best to store your noodles for the longest possible shelf life. I’ll answer those questions and more below.
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Do Ramen Noodles go Bad?
Ramen can go bad. Specifically, ramen fried in oil at the drying stage can go rancid because of their oil content. That doesn’t happen often, however. Usually ramen will simply taste a little stale or not have their usual snap if they’re older than is ideal. In most circumstances you can still eat them, it might not be quite the enjoyable experience of eating fresh ramen, but they won’t hurt you!
The exception to this is if any moisture has gotten into your ramen noodles. If the noodles have become wet somehow, even just a little, then they may begin to decay or mold. This can happen even if the packaging seems to be intact, though obviously it’s much more likely to happen if the package is compromised in any way. Plus, if the packaging has been compromised in any way there’s the chance of creepy crawlies getting in to feast on the fat in your noodles. Again, this doesn’t happen often, but if your noodles have been sitting around for a while waiting to be eaten then you should check the package before you cook and eat the noodles. And never leave an open package of noodles out anywhere without putting it in a clean airtight container!
Overall, ramen noodles are unlikely to go bad but as with all foodstuffs it’s best to err on the side of caution and, of course, it’s essential that you store your ramen noodles properly.
How to Store Ramen Noodles
When the packets are still sealed, whether cup or bag, dried ramen noodles aren’t all that particular about how they’re stored. Simply keep the unopened packages in a cool, dry place away from extreme changes in temperature. This might be a pantry or a cabinet, as long as it isn’t too close to the stove or any other heat source. Other dried noodles should be stored in the same way, including wheat noodles.
Once you have opened a package of dried ramen noodles (or other dried noodles) you’ll need to reseal it if you want to store it at all. Alternatively, keep it in an airtight, clean, dry container. This should go back somewhere cool and dry. Never the fridge, because of the moisture in there.
The final kind of ramen noodles you might encounter are fresh ramen noodles. Fresh noodles don’t last more than a few days, and must be kept refrigerated. The other option, to extend their shelf life, is to freeze fresh ramen noodles.
Can You Freeze Ramen Noodles?
You can’t freeze dried ramen noodles or any other kind of dried noodle (or any dried food really) because in order to freeze, a food needs a decent water content. If you put dried noodles in the freezer you’ll just get slightly cold dried noodles!
You can, however, freeze fresh ramen noodles. They actually freeze exceptionally well, and frozen fresh ramen have a much longer shelf life than fresh ramen just kept in the fridge.
If your fresh ramen are still sealed, you can just stick them in the freezer in their original packaging. If you’ve already opened them, then put the noodles in a freezer bag and squeeze as much air as you can out of the bag. To offer extra protection from excessive cold and freezer burn you can double up the freezer bags, but as I have quite a full freezer in which being squashed is a risk for something as soft as fresh noodles I put the first freezer bag into a sealed plastic container. As always, remember to label everything you’re storing in your freezer, especially if it isn’t in its original packaging!
When you want to use the frozen fresh ramen you’ll need to defrost them overnight (or while you’re out at work, etc) in the fridge first.
How Long do Ramen Noodles Last?
The best-by of dried ramen noodles will be anything from 3 months to a year from the date of purchase. Depending on the type of ramen you’ve got, its ingredients and how it was dried, the best-by will differ. Largely, though, most ramen will be good for some time past its best-by. In fact, dried ramen tends to stay good (and by good I mean pretty much perfect) for a year after its best-by as long as you store it carefully away from heat and moisture and its packaging isn’t compromised. Wheat ramen doesn’t last quite as long in peak condition — up to 6 months after its best-by.
Fresh ramen will be good for 2-3 weeks in the fridge, max, and will genuinely go bad if left longer. In the freezer though, noodles can last 6+ months.
How to Tell if Ramen Noodles Have Gone Bad
You’ll be able to tell dried ramen is past its best by looking at the block of noodles most of the time. If there are any soft spots, or any mold or discoloration then chuck them out. Likewise, of course, if any bugs or dirt have made their way into the packaging. Most of those things will only have happened if the packaging has torn. To check if the noodles are past best rather than fully bad, snap sme of the block off. If it’s a very soft snap then they may be stale. In rare cases, oil fried noodles may have begun to turn rancid. Give them a sniff if you’re worried about that — a sharp, almost acidic smell will tell you if oil has gone bad.
Fresh noodles will turn bad more obviously. If they’ve changed texture and are either very hard or very soft and sticky, don’t eat them. They may also show signs of mold or have an acidic smell about them. It should be very clear when fresh noodles are no longer okay to eat.
Ramen is one of those foods most of us always have in the house, but it’s easy to let foods that are always around get a bit past their best. Hopefully you can make your next multi-pack last as long as possible with these tips and tricks.