Instant ramen noodles have all the benefits of the 21st century: they are fast, cheap, and convenient. The ease of adding hot water to a packet of noodles and having your meal be complete is what makes instant noodles the college-kid phenomenon and the poor 20-somethings able to survive.  With this said, instant ramen noodles can also be full of MSG, sodium, and mysterious animal-based products that are frequently found in processed foods. The lack of nutrition in these packets outweighs the convenience factor tremendously, and added preservatives definitely make them a food to avoid buying at grocery stores. But still, there is something about this soup that is irresistible. Lucky for all of us ramen lovers, there are countless noodle bars making their way throughout cities where we can pick and choose which ingredients we would like in our gourmet bowls. Even luckier for us, making our own bowls of gourmet ramen is even easier. With a couple of ingredient adjustments and a little extra time, you’ll forget all about your instant cup noodles. Sure, it might cost a little more than 50 cents, but I can guarantee that your ramen will be much healthier and fulfilling. Here are three ways to craft your perfect bowl of ramen using hearty, plant-based ingredients.

1. Fresh Noodles

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Skip the instant stuff and use fresh noodles in your soup. Most instant noodles are deep fried to be void of moisture and to be prepackaged to have a long shelf life. Because of additives and hidden GMOs, this is a red flag in plant-based eating. While some fried foods aren’t always bad in a plant-based diet, fresh noodles will upgrade your ramen to be healthy and robust. For those on a paleo or gluten-free diet, try using vegetable noodles as your ramen. Not only is this 100% fresher, spiralized noodles are super fun to make and will taste amazing. Try these Zucchini Ramen Noodles, or learn how to make vegetable pasta without a spiralizer. For other wheat-free options, try one of these 7 Wheat-Free Noodle Options. Try to avoid using white pasta as an alternative as this often has a lack of nutrients and preservatives as well. To keep it fresh and balanced, these healthy alternatives to white pasta are sure to please.

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2. Fresh Vegetables

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For a super healthy, plant-based ramen bowl make sure to add plenty of fresh vegetables. Even if you choose to use a dry noodle packet, adding plenty of vegetables to this will make all the difference. Vegetables like carrots, mushrooms and onions are great choices. Slice and cut as you would for vegetable sushi, and simply add them to your broth to lightly tenderize. If you’re using spiralized noodles, adding a lot of vegetables will help to make the ramen more filling. For unique flavors, try using eggplant or sea vegetables. Cabbage is another unusual vegetables to incorporate, with bok choy being particularly great for adding a surprising dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Dark greens like spinach and kale will add substantial texture and increase the protein and fiber in the dish. To top off your ramen bowl, make sure to add a wedge of lime and some scallions for clean, authentic flavors.

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3. Fresh Protein

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It’s difficult to find instant ramen that isn’t flavored with animal-derived ingredients or made without animal protein. Often you’ll see chicken, shrimp, or beef flavor. Pass on these and veganize your soup by adding your own plant-based proteins. Protein is important in any diet and is completely doable with plant-based ingredients. Tofu is easy to add to broth-based soups since it is soft and breaks apart easily. Try using this Pan Fried Tofu in your next ramen bowl for a little crispiness and all flavors of garlic, ginger and sesame. For a protein with a meatier texture, tempeh is a scrumptious choice. Learn these 5 tips on making amazing tempeh dishes and your next ramen bowl will be nothing but satisfying. Seitan is another protein option that has the most similar texture to chicken or beef. Made from wheat gluten, seitan is a soy-free ingredient that can taste delish when cooked properly.

Keep those packets of instant noodles on their supermarket shelf. Although instant noodles are convenient, making your own bowl of ramen with fresh noodles, vegetables and plant-based protein is a much healthier way to enjoy this beloved dish. Still extremely budget friendly, these three tips will help transform your ramen to be more fulfilling. Are you a ramen lover? What’s your favorite way to enjoy this timeless soup?

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Are you as obsessed with noodles as we are? Get out The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Noodles! for all some awesome articles about noodles!

Lead Image Source: Miso Green Tea and Ginger Zucchini Noodle Soup With Tofu