Dying to hit up that new ramen spot in town but avoiding gluten? Gluten-free ramen can be hard to come by at a restaurant, which is why making ramen at home is a stellar alternative. Luckily, the very nature of Asian cuisine makes it easy to work around the main glutinous issue: noodles.
The Japanese diet, along with many other Asian cuisines, has so much to offer outside the classic wheat flour ramen noodles.
You can find gluten-free recipes made with anything from rice to sweet potatoes, each with their own unique flavor and tasty contribution to whatever broth you’re serving.
Our goal is to make ramen accessible for everyone — a gluten-free diet shouldn’t keep you from slurping on one of the best foods in the world.
Here are some of the best gluten-free ramen noodle options to try out next time you’re heating up that ramen bowl.
1. Gluten-Free Ramen Noodles
There are tons of noodles made to taste just like the OG noodles you love. Heck, you can even find gluten-free instant ramen.
Ramen noodles labeled as gluten-free are usually made from a combination of ingredients like:
- Brown rice flour
Lotus Foods makes a ton of certified gluten-free ramen noodles with interesting flavors, like forbidden rice ramen or purple potato and brown rice ramen. Brown rice noodles are not only high in fiber but add an extra nuttiness, so you might even like them better than regular ramen noodles.
Other than Lotus Foods, Toa Foods, a Japanese brand, also makes a great gluten-free noodle that’s specially designed for ramen.
They use a special type of rice called Japioca, and a process of slowly air drying the noodles to help build that chewy texture so quintessential to a wheat-based ramen noodle. Look for Toa noodles at your local Asian grocery store.
2. Soba Noodles
Soba noodles, often referred to as buckwheat noodles, are commonly used in Japanese cooking. They’re thin like spaghetti and made from buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten-free.
Soba noodles are used in hot and cold dishes in Japan, and have a nutty and earthy flavor. Bonus: They’re loaded with protein and fiber.
Soba noodles are surprisingly pretty easy to find. You’ll likely see them on the shelves at your neighborhood grocery store (try King Soba!). But if not, head to the Asian market or a health food store.
Warning: Careful with soba noodles! Some brands use a combo of buckwheat and wheat flour, so check the ingredient list for 100% buckwheat to make sure they’re gluten-free.
Also, if you’ve never had buckwheat before, make sure you’re not allergic. Buckwheat is actually one of the most common allergies in Japan (kind of like peanuts in the U.S.).
3. Glass Noodles
Glass noodles, or cellophane noodles as they’re commonly called, show up in a lot of Asian cuisines. Made from a combo of mung bean, tapioca, potato, and sweet potato, these super thin and practically translucent noodles are a great gluten-free option.
You’ve probably seen them in spring rolls or a stir fry, but they work wonders in ramen too. You’ll likely need to hit up the Asian market to find glass noodles.
4. Shirataki Noodles
Shirataki noodles, sometimes called miracle noodles, are made from something called konjac starch, a type of Japanese root vegetable. They’re round and thin, but a little thicker than a glass noodle.
Shirataki are loaded with fiber and are famously known for being insanely low in calories. And because they’ve got a nice chewy and springy texture, they fare excellently in ramen.
Shirataki are usually sold soft and packaged in water, so it’s a good idea to rinse them before cooking to get a cleaner taste. You can easily find them at an Asian grocery store, or look for brands like Skinny online.
5. Rice Noodles
Asian cuisine is full of rice-based noodles. You’ve probably tried some version in a pad thai, Vietnamese pho (a brothy noodle soup), or a Chinese stir-fry.
There’s the classic and clean white rice variety with its many shapes (like a super thin vermicelli), there are whole grain options made with brown rice, and you may even come across a black rice noodle.
Their textures range from soft and delicate to firm and chewy. And the thick and wide versions (sometimes called rice sticks) work just as well in Japanese ramen broth as they do in Vietnamese pho broth.
The other great thing about gluten-free rice noodles is they have a super fast cook time. With some styles, all you have to do is pour boiling water over the noodles and let them rehydrate.
You can find great rice noodles in the international aisle in practically all grocery stores.
6. Kelp Noodles
Kelp noodles are a Korean noodle made from, well, kelp. Kelp is a type of brown algae seaweed with tons of iodine, calcium, vitamin K, and iron.
The nutrient-dense noodles are made by taking the inner part of the kelp plant (the outer skin is removed), drying it, and making it into a powder.
Check out the brand Sea Tangle for all your kelp noodle needs.
7. Veggie Noodles
Veggie noodles are an extra healthy and light option for gluten-free ramen noodles. You can use zucchini for a more neutral flavor (called zoodles), butternut squash and sweet potatoes for a sweeter addition, or even daikon radish for a spicier and refreshing zing.
To make veggie noodles, you can cut them by hand, grate them, or get fancy with a veggie noodle maker. Some grocery stores sell prepared versions too.
Tip: Careful With Cook Times
No matter the ramen recipe or the noodle you choose, make sure you take into account the boiling method.
You can’t cook a veggie noodle like you would a classic wheat-based ramen noodle, and a soba noodle won’t cook like a glass noodle. Some cook so quickly you could end up with soggy noodles (careful with those instant noodles). And others just need a little more love.
Read the package of your gluten-free noodles to ensure you’ve got the cook time on lock. Then adjust your prep time and make your ramen accordingly.
Tip: Go Tamari
Keep in mind that some ramen toppings or sauces contain soy sauce. And soy sauce is not gluten-free. Look for ramens without soy sauce or use tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce) or coconut aminos instead.
Ramen for All
The best part about ramen noodle alternatives is that most of them just happen to be gluten-free. They’re noodles people have been making and eating for years throughout Asia, and they’re flexible enough in flavor and texture to make a great ramen.
Your gluten-free diet shouldn’t stop you from slurping up ramen on the regular, so head to the Asian market, your local grocery store, or even Amazon for some solid alternatives.
For more tips and tricks on customizing ramen, recipes, and a little bit of ramen history, check out our other posts on the Ramen Hero blog. You’ll find everything you need to know to become a full-fledged ramen expert.