One of the beautiful things about ramen is just how many ways there are to dress it up. In addition to the noodles and flavor packet, you can add all kinds of ingredients. You can add meat or tofu for protein, veggies for texture and vitamins, or sauce and spices for flavor. The sky really is the limit.
When you think about ingredients for ramen, American cheese probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. That’s a shame, because American cheese and ramen are natural companions.
Mike’s Mighty Good makes organic ramen noodles that are steamed, not fried like most major brands. They’re delicious, they’re wholesome, and they have the chewy texture you expect from authentic steamed ramen.
Not convinced? Here’s everything you need to know about American cheese, and why you should add some to your next bowl of ramen.
American Cheese Ramen Hack
American cheese is one of the easiest foods you can add to your ramen. All you have to do is put a slice of it over the top of your bowl. If you do this when the noodles and broth are still piping hot, the cheese will melt right over your food.
If you want, you can even blend the cheese into your broth. This will make it cheesy and gooey, like a lighter version of mac and cheese sauce. If you went without broth, the cheese itself can be mixed into the noodles and used as an even thicker sauce.
What Is American Cheese?
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s a well-known fact that American cheese isn’t technically cheese. This is true even for the high-quality blocks of American cheese you can have sliced at the deli. But arguing that it shouldn’t be used because it’s not “real” cheese is a bit of an overstatement.
In many ways, American cheese is a lot like meat loaf. It’s true that meat loaf is not the same as a roast beef. The beef is mixed in with bread crumbs and other ingredients to add flavor, texture, and bulk. American cheese is made in much the same way. It starts out as “real” cheese, and other ingredients are added. These ingredients alter the flavor, and allow the cheese to melt in the signature “McDonald’s” style. Even so, there’s plenty of real dairy product in your cheese singles.
American cheese has a reputation for being a lowbrow product. And we’re certainly not going to argue that it has a rich flavor profile. Anyone can see that a blue cheese, a Munster, or a cheddar have far more texture and complexity. But there’s still a place for American cheese in your kitchen.
Let’s clear up some of the misconceptions around American cheese, and how it can be used.
1. All Cheese is Processed
When we talk about American cheese, it’s easy to get lost out in the weeds. There are many cheeses produced in America, and some of them are among the best artisanal cheeses in the world. We’re not talking about those.
We’re talking about what the FDA calls “Pasteurized Process American Cheese.” This is the stuff that comes in little packets with individual slices. Some “premium” brands of American cheese are also available at deli counters, where you can order them by the pound.
One thing that puts people off about American cheese is that it’s “processed.” This is unfair. All cheese is processed. In nature, there’s no such thing as “cheese.” Somebody has to collect milk from an animal, leave it out, and add other substances to it. In the simplest process, this involves obtaining enzymes from an animal or vegetable-based product and collecting the resulting curds.
In most cases, there’s even more processing involved. Mozzarella cheese, for example, has to be drained, pressed, and stretched multiple times in order to achieve its trademark texture. Most cheeses, like cheddar, are inoculated with bacteria, which dries them out and gives them a firmer texture. The longer this kind of cheese is aged, the drier it gets. That’s how you end up with solid, crumbly cheeses like parmesan.
All of these things are intentional actions taken by a human being. In other words, even “real” cheese is processed by definition.
2. It’s Not Originally American
Ironically, American cheese was not invented in the U.S. It was actually invented in Switzerland, where cheese manufacturers collected the scraps from different batches and melted them into a new blended cheese. This allowed them to earn money in exchange for wasted product that would otherwise get thrown away.
In 1916, Canadian-American businessman James Kraft learned about the technique, and developed and patented his own process in the United States. Within a few years, Kraft American cheese became one of the most popular American food products. After the patent expired, other brands started creating their own American cheese, and a phenomenon was born.
American cheese has a longer shelf life than other cheeses, which made it great for sending to troops overseas. During World War II, the U.S. military purchased millions of pounds of it. Afterwards, the federal government continued purchasing American cheese up until the 1980s. It became a staple of food welfare programs, which is where the term “government cheese” comes from.
3. The Processing Is What Makes it Unique
The thing that makes American cheese different from traditional cheese is the additional processing. It begins as ordinary cheese, and the type of cheese varies depending on the recipe. Most American cheeses start out as cheddar, but Colby and goat cheeses are also popular choices.
These cheeses are then blended with additional ingredients, which again vary from recipe to recipe. Sometimes, different cheeses are blended together. More complex recipes involve blending the cheese with additional emulsifying salts, whey, and milk proteins. Depending on the base cheese and the additional ingredients, you can end up with different flavors and textures. You can also get different colors, ranging from white to orange.
American cheese can be sold in individual slices or in larger blocks. Because of its high fat and sodium content, many prefer to avoid it. However, it’s rich in protein and calcium, and it melts without leaving behind a bunch of grease. It might not deserve a place on any fancy cheese platters, but it’s great for any application where you want to melt some cheese over the top of something.
Mike’s Mighty Good Cheesy Ramen Recipe
There are many ways to make a delicious bowl of ramen with American cheese. One of our favorites is the Spicy Cheesy Ramen, which is exactly as spicy and cheesy as you might expect.
You start with any cup or packet of Mike’s Mighty Good ramen noodles. Prepare them as normal, but keep the noodles and the broth separate for now. On medium high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, and add a clove of minced garlic. Fry it for a couple of minutes, just until the garlic is golden-brown.
Next, add a quarter cup of milk to cool things down, and two slices of American cheese. Turn the heat down to simmer, let the cheese melt, and add a tablespoon each of sriracha and hot sauce, along with a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Mix in a tablespoon of broth to thin things out, and add your noodles to the mix.
From there, you’re ready to serve. If you really want to kick things up a notch, you can sprinkle more red pepper on top, or even mix in the flavor packet from your ramen noodles.
As you can see, American cheese is a perfectly legitimate way to improve your next bowl of ramen. But before you prepare anything, make sure you’re starting out with good quality noodles.
Mike’s Mighty Good noodles are steamed, not flash-fried like the major commercial brands. And unlike those other brands, we use less salt, and our noodles are prepared only with simple, wholesome ingredients. There’s no better way to build a bowl of ramen, no matter what you’re topping it with.
If you haven't tried our ramen, our original cup best-sellers sampler pack is definitely the way to go. You get a taste of chicken, vegetable, pork, and beef – all of which are amazing in their own way.
Find some more cheesy ramen recipes here: