Life

Every Cup Noodles Flavor, Ranked From Horribly Putrid To Legitimately Tasty

I had a Cup Noodles — I still mistakenly say “Cup ‘O Noodles” — just two weeks ago. I was buzzed, it was crazy late, I was in a new city, and I needed a snack. I think that’s how a lot of adults experience Cup Noodles and, as such, it typically hits the spot. It’s not a food I’ve intellectualized much or ever had much brand loyalty for.

But when the chance came to taste and rank the full line, I snatched it. Mostly, to see if Cup Noodles hits me like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese — which I find to be legitimately good, no matter your age — or if I’d grown out of eating the stuff (at least while sober). “My palate is very sophisticated now” (said the guy who recently tested 22 hot dogs), could I still enjoy the stuff?

The answer is “yes.” I found a solid handful that I liked, in fact. Which was a surprise, because I assumed Cup Noodles only had a handful of flavors all together. Discovering that there were actually 17 varieties on the market (plus Top Ramen and various instant “bowls of noodles”) came as something of a shock. I’d signed up for a bigger project than I realized.

Still, I tested them all. There were some stinkers (including one which tasted like poison), a bunch in the middle, and a few absolute gems. The chasm between the horribly putrid and legitimately tasty was so large, in fact, that if you have Cup Noodles in your meal rotation, even if it’s just on drunken nights, you’ll definitely want to know which is which. So I feel like I’m doing a public service here — if I can keep even one person from buying entry #18, I’ve done my job.

Check the full ranking below.

THE ABSOLUTE WORST

18. Cup Noodles — Pumpkin Spice

NISSIN FOODS

This is a terrible idea. I know it’s a stunt. But even as a stunt, it’s horrible. Borderline offensive.

And yes, I know that stunt food is not truly meant to be eaten, it’s meant to get free PR from media companies. Which — when viewed through the right prism after a nonsense explanation by an expert in incoherent #brandspeak — theoretically increases overall awareness and is, therefore, a net positive for the company who made it. I even know that this technique actually worked with Starbucks when they did those dumb neon shakes. A craze to which Uproxx’s food section directly contributed. (Help, I’m being devoured by an ouroboros of my own design!)

But even with all that context, this is putrid. The brainchild of someone who hates food and maybe also… humanity at large?

I ate these soups in batches based on how much water my electric kettle holds and had to taste this one first because its smell was putting me off all five of the other soups I prepped with it. It’s not like “a pumpkin spiced latte with noodles” or even a riff on Elf’s “candy-syrup spaghetti.” As bad as those ideas sound, this is worse.

I think the biggest problem — beyond the entire concept and the very existence of this flavor — is that the ramen noodles have a natural savoriness to them. Perhaps the noodles are made in the same factory as the spices and absorb some flavors by osmosis. Frankly, I don’t want to see how this particular sausage is made. But the result is like a weak-chicken Cup Noodles that then is piled with sugar and cinnamon and — most of all — strange compounds that taste distinctly chemically.

Please note: This is going to be a theme in this ranking. Nissin does sugar in a way that tastes nothing like sugar and everything like a toxic approximation of sugar invented in a lab. They should stick to savory and never try to hit sweet flavor notes at all.

I could go on about all of this. I have more to say. I have jokes and cutting metaphors. Alas, time marches on. We are but finite beings doing our damndest to savor the brief, liminal space between “before birth” and “after death.” Knowing that our time on this mortal coil is but a blink, let us not tarry any longer with such noxious frivolities as this one.

The Bottom Line:

Some 12-year-old is going to make eating this insanely popular on TikTok and make me look like an asshole. There will be a viral challenge and the person who came up with this concept will become a billionaire and buy Uproxx Life just to fire me.

And still, I will not repent: this tastes awful.

But who knows, maybe I just didn’t like it because I didn’t put WHIPPED FUCKING CREAM on it.

NISSIN FOODS

Locate your nearest noodles here.

THE BAD

17. Cup Noodles — Spicy Chile Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

I have no understanding of why Cup Noodles would use “chile” here vs. “chili” but the “e” must stand for “experimental chemicals.” This has a very distinct and odd — extremely off-putting — chemical flavor.

It’s not spicy but it is troubling.

The Bottom Line:

From my notes: “I’m… discomfited.” That’s not a reaction you want when tasting soup.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

16. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Sweet Chili

NISSIN FOODS

I don’t like sweet chili in general and definitely not sweet chili-flavored consumer packaged goods — which always taste artificially sweet. This entry, from Nissin’s “Stir Fry” line, is no exception to that rule. There’s no actual spice to these noodles but the sweet flavor is a little too strong to be enjoyable and a little too chemical-tasting to feel comfortable eating at all.

That said, the noodles in the Stir Fry series are better than that the standard Cup Noodles noodles.

The Bottom Line:

These are not good. Even for sweet lovers, the reminder that you are ingesting serious chemicals just feels too blatant and distracting.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

15. Cup Noodles — Curry

NISSIN FOODS

Once again we’re suffering from the sweet-chemical issue. I cook curries (Indian, Thai, etc.), I eat a lot of curries, I have lived in nations that rely on various curries as pillars of their cuisine, but Cup Noodles Curry does not taste like any curry I’ve ever sampled. It tastes like if a first-year food engineering student who took Chem 1 as a pass-fail course was tasked with making a “curry flavoring” but couldn’t use any plant-derived spice to complete the task.

The Bottom Line:

According to the label, this is the #1 curry-flavored instant ramen in Japan. So… maybe it’s an acquired taste? I personally found it inedible.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

14. Cup Noodles — Original

NISSIN FOODS

This is the OG Cup Noodles. Not the one you remember from your childhood — these noodles predate that. I remember this variety being accessible in the 80s, but chicken and beef were already the standards. Anyway, if you told me this flavor had never been updated, I would 100% believe you. The egg is unsightly and tastes like drywall, the beef (or chicken? pork?) is troublesome in shape, color, and texture, and the shrimp looks almost identical to a plastic shrimp from a child’s play kitchen.

Taken all together, it’s distinctly un-good. And that egg, in particular, is trash.

The Bottom Line:

Nissin has moved on from the Original flavor. You should, too.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

13. Cup Noodles — Hot & Spicy Shrimp

NISSIN FOODS

I was excited for spice with this flavor but… it’s not here. What is here is a sort of taco-spice season that doesn’t work well with broth or ramen. It’s incongruent and, even more, it’s a light flavoring.

It’s both wrong-seasoned and under-seasoned — not a great combo.

The Bottom Line:

Not spicy. Not well seasoned. Sort of like taco-seasoning flavored ramen. But tasting far worse than that sounds.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

THE MEH

12. Cup Noodles — Shrimp

NISSIN FOODS

Am I justified in being deeply unnerved by these shrimp? They’re minuscule? Where do you find a shrimp this small? Sure, they seem to shrink in dehydration and not re-hydrate very well but they’re definitely weird, right?

NISSIN

As part of my due diligence, I ate that shrimp above and it was fine. Small, obviously — I had to make an effort not to swallow it whole — but its taste was okay. It was hard and had the texture of Lucky Charms marshmallows, but the flavor was fine and tasted akin to real shrimp. The problem is that the broth is also shrimpy in a way that felt significantlyly more artificial.

The bigger issue: it’s one of the lighter broths from the brand, so it’s a little low on flavor.

The Bottom Line:

You can do better. Even if you want a shrimp flavor, you can do better. So why waste time with this?

Locate your nearest noodles here.

11. Cup Noodles — Hearty Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

This is supposed to be “hearty” and I guess the noodles are. But the broth itself tasted weaker than regular chicken — making that the better flavor overall and this irrelevant.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re not the best plain chicken flavor in your instant ramen line, is there even a reason for you to exist? Discuss.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

THE… FINE

10. Cup Noodles — Seafood

NISSIN FOODS

I’m not exactly a fan of “seafood broth.” I like shellfish soups but not fish soups. But I can certainly see the allure to this. Compared to most Cup Noodles flavors, it’s absolutely brimming with ingredients and the crab and clam taste crabby and clammy (I’m sure the crab is artificial but it’s still very passable). Those same elements are also chewy and gummy, which is sort of disconcerting with seafood, but I got over it.

I guess this really comes down to preference. I don’t like this that much, but it is much more seafood-forward than any other cup noodles and there’s certainly nothing offensive about it, like so many of the previous entries. If you’re a lover of seafood broth, I could see this becoming your favorite

The Bottom Line:

Very fish soupy with tons of accouterments, if that sounds tasty to you, I’d recommend this.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

9. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Teriyaki Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

This actually doesn’t have the sweetness problem seen in so many of the low-ranking soups (the sweetness is fake, but it’s not overpowering). But it has the overall chicken problem — in that it’s a little underseasoned. That feels crazy to write about something that is so famous for being high in sodium, but here we are.

The Bottom Line:

Ultimately, this is good. But if the Korean Chicken is this one’s sister flavor, that’s significantly better.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

8. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Teriyaki Beef

NISSIN FOODS

This is marginally better than Stir Fry Terriyaki Chicken but not better than regular chicken. What a horrible place to be trapped! Moreover, this is redundant — there are better flavors that hit similar flavor notes still to come, so I can’t imagine what would motivate you to get this.

The Bottom line:

Fine. It’s fine. We’re all fine. Everything’s fine.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

7. Cup Noodles — Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

This tastes like classic ramen in a cup that I grew up with, chicken flavor (or rather, chicken flavoring flavor) and some nice heartiness. It’s not a revelation, but as a 3 am snack it definitely still works.

The Bottom Line:

Things improve significantly from here, so don’t get this unless you’re feeling nostalgic.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

6. Beef

NISSIN FOODS

All the cool kids at my school knew that beef Cup Noodles was better than chicken. But chicken sold more and it was what more families seemed to buy in bulk. So there was a beef exclusivity issue when I was growing up.

It was cooler. Rebel ramen.

The Bottom Line:

Memories aside, beef is more savory than the chicken flavor and, therefore, marginally better.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

5. Cup Noodles — Spicy Lime Shrimp

NISSIN FOODS

I’m an avowed hater of lime in foods — it’s why I don’t go to Chipotle, where they overuse lime seasoning on freaking everything — and expected to hate this. I literally dreaded tasting it at all. But I have to say, it worked. In fact, it worked really well.

There was some actual spice to this and a nice depth to the broth. Much more depth than the actual shrimp flavor. If there was much lime, I certainly wasn’t put off by it.

The Bottom Line:

Cup Noodles is best when it leans into savory. This is the first flavor I could see myself buying retail when I needed a snack.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

THE GOOD

4. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Korean BBQ

NISSIN FOODS

There’s a hint of fake sweetness but not as much as teriyaki. What this has — and it’s a literally brilliant call — is flakes of cabbage. They rehydrate nicely and taste real and fresh. The freshest-tasting vegetable in the whole line. And that brightness accents everything wonderfully.

The Bottom Line:

The addition of cabbage in this soup levels it up significantly. You will notice it and be glad it’s there.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

3. Cup Noodles Stir Fry Rice With Noodles — Korean Spicy Beef

NISSIN FOODS

This has al dente rice! And cabbage! And these long carrot strands that taste like real carrots! And it’s actually spicy! There’s no fake sweetness or strange chemical notes. The broth is deep and savory.

It’s a really good snack.

The Bottom Line:

This works really well. So well that you have to begin to speculate why Nissin even has so many other flavors. Because I know everyone has a different palate, etc. but there is no chance on earth that someone likes the “Chlie” flavor more than this.

Cut a few flavors, Nissin — play the hits!

Locate your nearest noodles here.

2. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Firey Korean Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

Drunk or hungover, this is a win. It’s the spiciest of the flavors and doesn’t suffer from any artificiality issues. Plus it’s got… you guessed it, cabbage! The second best Nissin innovation in my lifetime. If this was at my grocer, I’d buy a dozen today.

The Bottom Line:

This is very good. In fact, it’s so many miles better than the bottom entries that it almost feels bizarre to think that they’re from the same company at all. And with the fact that everything about Nissin labeling — from the spicy scale to the spelling of “chile” — is irregular, I legitimately wonder if some of these aren’t made by completely different third-party vendors.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

1. Cup Noodles Stir Fry — Hot Garlic Chicken

NISSIN FOODS

This is the best Nissin flavor, hands down. It’s the toasted garlic that does it. How could you have 17 varieties and only one featuring that brilliant ingredient? The brand should be doing so many riffs on garlic that it has to buy a few garlic farms. It’s just such a good taste for instant ramen. And these toasted garlic chips taste both real and potent — making the whole soup seem fresher and more complex.

Beyond the garlic, which rules, the chicken is hearty, the big noodles are wonderfully springy, and there’s actually some spice. To be real, I didn’t think there was going to be a flavor that I liked this much. This surprised me by how good it was in precisely the opposite way that pumpkin spice surprised me with how bad it was.

The Bottom Line:

Does it compare with any sort of restaurant Ramen? No. But I have certainly ordered late-night ramens that are only marginally better and cost 1500% more. Certainly this could beat a few late-night fast food bugers in a drunk food face-off.

Locate your nearest noodles here.

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