Cheese and ramen might not seem like an intuitive combination, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it… plus the fact that it’s ridiculously delicious doesn’t hurt either.
Cheese is naturally rich in free glutamates, a building block for umami flavor, and ramen is already packed with umami. By adding cheese, you also add fat and carbohydrates, further enriching the broth.
The real strength of the bond between instant ramen noodles and cheese is that most folks usually have both on hand, which makes cheese one of the easiest and tastiest ramen hacks around.
Cheese + Ramen Noodles = LOVE
Combining cheese and ramen noodles is one of the simplest and easiest ways to turn a simple bowl of noodle soup into a full-on ramen experience.
One of the joys of instant ramen is that when it's well prepared, you can match and even at times surpass the ramen shop experience in the comfort of your own home.
Hacking ramen is probably our favorite pastime here at Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen, and we like to think that we've become pretty good at it by now.
While we didn't invent the cheesy ramen hack, it has become one of our go-to ramen upgrades, and we go through a pretty ridiculous amount of cheese every month.
Which cheese works best with ramen noodles?
Choosing a cheese to use with your ramen noodles is serious business. Not all cheese will work equally well, and it depends on what your recipe calls for.
If you just want to add some cheesy goodness to the top of a delicious bowl of craft ramen noodles, the answer might surprise you.
1. American Cheese.
The best cheese to use with broth-based ramen is processed American sliced cheese, like Kraft Singles or something similar. This is why American cheese is so awesome on ramen.
It may seem odd, but processed cheese possesses an ability to melt and stretch, which makes it a perfect topping for broth-based ramen. By adding the sliced cheese to the top of your bowl of ramen and allowing it to steam for a minute or so, you end up with a cheesy layer to your noodles that will stretch and stick to them as you slurp enjoy your delicious ramen.
This video is a perfect example of what well-made cheesy ramen noodles look like!
2. Mozarella Cheese
While mozzarella won't work well for broth-based ramen, it can be the star of the show in stir-fried or sauce/noodle-forward recipes.
This recipe for Korean Cheese Corn Ramen, for example, relies on Mozarella's unique ability to melt and create a super chewy, cheesy texture that is great on everything from pizza to this incredible ramen dish.
This ramen recipe combines two incredible foods to create a super-powered hybrid based on classic Korean comfort food Corn Cheese, which is often served with Korean barbecue; this ramen recipe combines two fantastic foods to create a super-powered hybrid!
3. Parmesan Cheese.
Adding parmesan cheese to your ramen can be done in a few specific instances.
In general, adding parmesan to any broth-based dish can be tricky. Some recipes like Italian Wedding Soup rely on parmesan rind in the broth for flavor and then fresh parmesan on the side when the soup is served.
Parmesan will not easily emulsify into a soup or broth, and this is why it's almost always added to fatty or thickened broths/sauces like alfredo sauce or carbonara sauce.
This recipe for Instant Ramen Carbonara combines the rich umami flavor of classic ramen noodles with bacon, egg, ground black pepper, and parmesan cheese, making classic Pasta Carbonara such an umami bomb on its own.
The result is a mouthwatering combination that will leave you complete and ready for a nap so enjoy with caution!
4. Cheddar Jack/Blended Cheese.
We recommend not using cheeses like sharp or even mild cheddar in broth-style cheese ramen, but it can have its place.
If you want a cheddar flavor in your next bowl of noodles, we highly advise using a cheddar jack blend as the higher moisture jack cheese will melt more evenly, and you can avoid the grainy, unpleasant texture that can sometimes come from melting cheddar into broths or soups.
When you melt cheddar cheese and other similar cheeses, a fatty base to help build the emulsion is key to success; because ramen is naturally a brothy dish, it's not ideal for cheddar alone.
How to add cheese to your ramen noodles.
Adding cheese to ramen is a pretty straightforward premise, but there are certainly a few tips and tricks we can impart that will vastly improve your experience.
There is no right or wrong way to incorporate cheese into your ramen, but you can definitely avoid a few pitfalls along the way. Don't hesitate to get inventive with your additions or use whatever you have on hand. Sometimes the best ramen hacks are created by accident or necessity!
1. Be careful with your temperatures.
If you're adding cheese to ramen, temperature control is one of the keys to success.
Cheese is incredibly temperamental, and it can break or do weird things when you least expect it. By carefully incorporating cheese into your ramen, you can ensure an incredible ramen experience every time.
For broth-style ramen, you'll want to make sure you add your cheese after the ramen has finished cooking and is plated.
This video on classic cheese ramen from our TikTok does a great job of explaining the process.
To put it simply, by adding sliced cheese at the last second before serving, you allow the cheese to incorporate itself without dissolving into the broth, creating that super stretchy cheese ramen bite that you've been waiting for.
If you add cheese to your broth-style ramen during the cooking process, you'll melt the fat, protein, and sugars into the broth. While this will create a delicious soup, it kind of defeats the point of adding cheese to your ramen in the first place.
On the other hand, if you're adding cheese to stir-fry or dry noodle styles like our Korean Cheese Corn Ramen, or Elote Street Corn Ramen, you'll want to make sure you add it directly to the saute pan during the stir fry phase.
While cheese will break down and melt into broths or soups, when placed into the noodle stir fry, it will melt and caramelize, creating an incredible cheese crust. If you wait until the end of the stir fry, the cheese won't melt as fully, leaving you with a chewier texture overall.
2. Choose the proper ramen for the job.
Not all ramen is suited for all recipes, but that mostly depends on your tastes and preferences. What works for one might not for another, and who are we to judge!
There are a few types of ramen flavors that compliment cheese ramen a bit more thoroughly than others.
Spicier ramen flavors like the Spicy Kimchi Ramen from MMG are perfect for classic cheese ramen or the Korean Cheese Corn recipe we love.
The spicy kimchi base combines with the rich cheese, mellowing the spice and creating an even richer, rounder flavor palate.
The Pork Tonkotsu Ramen from MMG is the base for this Crazy Good Ramen Carbonara Recipe. The slow-roasted pork flavor with rich parmesan cheese, egg yolk, and bacon creates a level of umami that will haunt your dreams.
There are really no bad choices when it comes to ramen and cheese combinations. Whether you're craving a miso and parmesan take on Italian wedding soup, a plate of Cheese Corn Ramen, or a simple bowl of Classic Cheese Ramen, there is really never a bad time for a cheese and ramen combo.
Final Thoughts on Cheese and Ramen Noodles.
There are really no bad choices when it comes to cheese and ramen.
Whether you're incorporating a few slices of American cheese, a handful of parmesan, or a cup of mozzarella and corn, it's pretty tough to go wrong when you start blending ramen and delicious cheese.
While cheese may not be a traditional ramen ingredient, its popularity in ramen shops and home kitchens worldwide speaks to how well these two ingredients complement one another.
If you think we're forgetting a great ramen and cheese combo, we absolutely want to know about it! Let us know what your go-to ramen and cheese hack is in the comments, and we'll give it a try for ourselves!