Udon vs. Ramen – Differences You Must Know

Now that we are getting into the colder weather soon, you are probably dreaming of udon or ramen. If you have tried these two soups before, then you know that they can make you feel at home. However, do you know what these two foods have in common and which they do not? 

Keep on reading to find out what makes udon and ramen unique and different. You will now be able to decide whether this is the right choice for you or not. 

What Is Udon?

Udon refers to the noodle made from wheat flour traditionally found in Japanese cuisine. Many consider udon a comfort food that can be prepared and served in various ways. However, you have likely seen it served as a hot soup. 

When served as a soup, udon contains a mild broth known as kakejiru, which has dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. Sometimes the soup is topped with scallions, prawns, tofu, or fish cakes. The type of broth varies by region and ingredients. 

A dark broth with soy sauce is also called koikuch and is common in eastern Japan. A lighter soy sauce known as usukuchi is common in the west. You can also find udon noodles sold commercially and ready to eat. 

Although the origins of the udon noodle are not well understood, many stories show that these noodles have been around for centuries. You should prepare udon noodles in hot water. However, the noodle is usually served cold during the hot weather and hot during the winter months. 

Cold udon salads contain a combination of egg omelet, chicken, and vegetables. When udon is served as a soup, you can choose the toppings depending on what is in season. Even though most toppings are served raw or cold, some can be tempura. 

Udon noodles are not only served in Japan, they are also common in Korea, the Philippines, and Micronesia. The thickness and shape of udon vary in each region and cuisine in Japan, making it appear very different. Since udon contains wheat, it might not be suitable for those with gluten allergies, although some gluten-free varieties exist now. 

Nutrition Facts  

One serving of udon (250 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 310 calories  
  • 7 g protein 
  • 0.5 g fat 
  • 70 g carbohydrate 
  • 4 g fiber 
  • 0 g sugar 
  • 25 mg calcium 
  • 25 mg potassium 
  • 290 mg sodium 
  • 0 mg cholesterol 

Is Udon Healthy? 

Like other noodles, udon can be a healthy and nutritious choice for a meal. It is high in certain vitamins and minerals, while also containing some protein. You can pair your noodles with lean protein choices too, like fish or chicken. 

Since udon is made with wheat flour, the noodle contains B vitamins, including B1, B2, B9, and folic acid. These vitamins are essential for a variety of body processes, including cellular metabolism, energy production, and immunity. Certain individuals are more at risk for B vitamin deficiencies, including pregnant women and teenagers. 

Udon also contains more fiber than other noodles, which is a good option for your body. Eating udon can keep you full longer while also slowing down the absorption of sugar and removing cholesterol from your blood. Still, these noodles are easier to digest than pasta and other simple carbohydrates. 

For the most part, udon noodles are low in fat but they do contain a lot of carbohydrates. Preparing them in boiling water with a little salt will keep your noodles healthy. In some cases, you will see udon noodles fried, which you should avoid if you want to keep your meal nutritious. 

As with any instant noodles, udon can have extra sodium. If you choose to prepare your noodles at home, go with uncooked noodles that do not have added salt. The instant packets will likely have too much sodium as well as sugar. 

Sometimes udon noodles are served with tempura prawns or tofu, which increases the fat and sodium content. Instead, with a leaner protein source, like fish, chicken, or regular tofu, your meal will be healthier. Be sure to use lower sodium soy sauce instead of adding more salt.  

Pairing your udon noodles with fibrous vegetables will make your meal more filling and nutritious. You can choose things like broccoli, snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, and bell peppers to add more vitamins and minerals. Some of these vegetables also contain antioxidants, making your meal even healthier. 

Many associate a bowl of hot soup with comfort and safety. Udon noodles are no different and can make you feel at home every time. Make sure to pick flavors you like to make your dish even more comforting. 

Because traditional udon noodles contain wheat flour, they are not safe for those with gluten allergies. If you have a sensitivity to wheat or gluten, then these noodles are not appropriate for you. You can try to find brown rice udon noodles that are becoming more popular as an alternative. 

What Is Ramen?

Ramen is a Japanese noodle dish made with wheat noodles served in broth. It contains miso, soy sauce, pork, nori (seaweed), bamboo shoots, and scallions. A soft, brined egg is also commonly served in the soup. 

There are various types of ramen, but the original dish is inspired by Chinese cuisine. Some types of ramen include tonkatsu (pork bone broth) ramen and miso ramen. Although the exact date is not known, there is a theory that ramen first came to be in the 1660s. 

Most ramen noodles contain four ingredients, wheat flour, water, salt, and alkaline water. This type of alkaline water is called kansui and sets the noodles apart from others, including udon. The kansui is what gives ramen noodles its distinct yellow color. 

These noodles can be thick, thin, or spiral-shaped. In the beginning, ramen noodles were made by hand, but these days most commercial noodles are made with machines. These large machines have been imitating hand-made noodles since the mid-20th century. 

Ramen soup usually contains stock from pork, chicken, or miso. Other ingredients include pork bones, shiitake, onions, and tuna flakes. Some other flavors for ramen are shio or salt, shoyu or soy sauce, miso, and kare or curry. 

Other toppings for ramen are boiled eggs, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, seaweed, corn, butter, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Some common seasonings in ramen are black pepper, white pepper, butter, chili, sesame seeds, and garlic. These days, you can find instant ramen everywhere with various dry seasonings and sauces. 

Nutrition Facts 

One serving of ramen noodles (64 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 300 calories  
  • 6 g protein 
  • 14 g fat 
  • 37 g carbohydrate 
  • 1.02 g fiber 
  • 2 g sugar 
  • 19.8 mg calcium 
  • 2.7 mg iron 
  • 1100 mg sodium 
  • 0 mg cholesterol  

Is Ramen Healthy? 

Ramen can be a very healthy meal, especially if you prepare it yourself. For the most part, this soup can be high in protein and fiber. However, choosing instant ramen will likely also mean more preservatives, sodium, and coloring. 

Homemade noodles are high in fiber and contain various vitamins and minerals. Since the noodles have wheat flour, ramen is a good source of B vitamins, iron, and calcium. Pre-packaged noodles are sometimes fortified with these micronutrients but not always. 

Instant ramen might not be the best choice because it is considered a high-sodium food. In some cases, instant ramen comes in various flavors, but most of these are higher in salt. The best way to ensure that your ramen is still healthy is to check for sodium levels on the nutrition label. 

In recent years, there has also been some concern regarding other ingredients in instant ramen. Because it is supposed to last longer, this ramen contains monosodium glutamate (MSG), tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), and bisphenol A (BPA). These compounds are harmless in small amounts but can become toxic in excess. 

To make your meal more complete, consider adding more vegetables. Ramen noodles are not very high in fiber so add vegetables like bamboo shoots, seaweed, scallions, bok choy, and broccoli. By making your soup denser, you are less likely to overeat but can also add more fiber to your meal. 

Choosing a leaner protein source can also make your ramen a better choice. Go with chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, or tofu. Cooking the meat at home can also ensure you do not use excess salt or fat. 

Making your own broth can also be a more nutritious way to prepare your ramen. Using low-sodium ingredients can also make your soup more balanced. Bones in your broth can also mean more collagen, which will give your body a boost for stronger bones and immunity. 

If you were to prepare instant ramen instead of homemade noodles, there are some ways to make it healthier. Skip the instant packet of seasoning or sauce and use your own ingredients. You can add more protein, like chicken and egg, and vegetables for extra fiber. 

What Are The Key Differences Between Udon And Ramen?

The main difference between these two dishes is the noodles in them. Udon noodles are thick and usually made from wheat flour, salt, and water. Ramen noodles are smaller, thinner, and made with wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui or egg. 

Because they do not have the same ingredients, they do not look similar. Udon noodles are pale, almost white. Ramen noodles are bright yellow. 

The preparation of these two types of soups is also different. Udon broth is usually very light, transparent in color, and with few ingredients. Ramen broth is thicker and richer sometimes due to miso or pork. 

These two foods are also not served the same way. Udon usually contains a few toppings, such as green onions, prawns, or tofu. You can top ramen with different ingredients, including pork, chicken, bamboo shoots, egg, seaweed, and more. 

In terms of nutrition, these two types of noodles are somewhat similar. Udon is considered less processed and will usually give you some protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Ramen can be very processed, which removes some of the nutrients, and can be higher in calories or fat due to the egg. 

Since their production is not the same, they might not be suitable for everyone. Udon noodles are vegan-friendly, although they contain gluten. Ramen noodles also contain gluten, but they are not vegan due to the use of egg when making the noodles. 

Even though they are both Japanese, they are not served or prepared the same. Udon noodles can be served chilled or hot, depending on the dish and season. Ramen is almost always served hot in a thick broth. 

Main DifferencesUdonRamen
Taste and Texture Light, fluffy, and stickyRich, dense, and thick 
Dishes In broth, salads, soups, and noodle-based dishes Broth and soup 
Main ingredientsWheat flour, salt, and water Wheat flour, salt, water, kansui, or egg 
Calories per serving 310 calories 300 calories 

Is Udon or Ramen Better?

Since these two styles of noodles are not the same, comparing them is not necessarily fair. Udon tends to get a better credit because it is less processed and contains fewer additives. However, handmade ramen is always a great option. 

If you are looking for a light and easy dish, udon is the way to go. These noodles are versatile, and allow you to make both cold and hot dishes. They also happen to be ready within minutes. 

Whenever you want a full meal, something homey and satisfying, then ramen is the right choice. You can choose to make the noodles at home or store-bought. Just make sure you check for any additives and excess sodium. 


Do not be confused ever again when choosing between udon and ramen. You can now make these two delicious Japanese dishes and enjoy different flavors. Do not wait any longer to try these two foods! 

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*image by YAY_images/depositphotos

*image by leungchopan/depositphotos

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