Fast and Easy Hacks to Make Instant Noodle Healthier

We can’t live on instant noodles alone! Here are some hacks to make instant noodles healthier.

Instant noodles may not be the healthiest choice but they are our guilty pleasure. It’s quick to make, easy to cook, and fills us up when there’s no open restaurant nearby at night. Besides, our kids love it also because it’s a flavor bomb: it’s a perfect balance of both sour and spicy for the beloved chilimansi flavor. Then, there’s Batchoy, Bulalo (or Pochero in Visayas) flavor — recipes that usually take longer because it takes time to soften the meat and make a flavorful broth.

But those are local flavors — Korean, Japanese, and even Chinese instant noodles offer more complex flavors and there’s nothing to prep. Just tear open the powder sachet and mix in water.

As a standalone meal, instant noodles are an alternative source of energy as carbohydrates. But if we know that’s the only meal we’re going to be getting and we’re not in the mood to clean, here are some hacks to make instant noodles healthier.

Instant noodles hack

1. Add Malunggay (or Moringa)

Malunggay (or Moringa, in English) is a cheap and highly nutritious vegetable that we can find almost anywhere. In supermarkets, it’s around PHP 10.00~PHP 15.00 for 2-3 stalks and the streetside vegetable vendors sell it for around PHP 8.00 ~ 10.00. And if we have nice plantita / plantito neighbors who have fluffy, tall malunggay trees, they won’t mind giving a branch or two for free to maintain its height.

Rich in minerals like calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron, and copper, malunggay adds more substance to our instant noodles instead of just being carbs and sodium.

Half a branch of malunggay leaves should be enough for one pack. Boil the noodles and the leaves for 5 minutes before adding the flavoring and we’re done!

2. Add eggs.

Public transportation drivers like tricycle drivers and taxi drivers thrive on the usual combination of boiled eggs and instant noodles. Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein. One egg, at around PHP 8.00 ~ PHP 10.00, provides a lot of important micronutrients like Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, and others! It may not completely replace meat but it does have half the amount of protein which is better than nothing.

Although boiled eggs are the healthiest way to eat them, poached eggs without salt can offer the creamy texture we sometimes look for in noodles.

3. If we can copy the flavor without the powder, the better.

All the umami flavor we love in instant noodles comes from MSG which we would rather not have in big amounts. But if we know the basic components of the flavors, it won’t be hard to replicate them. For example, chilimansi is just chili, garlic, calamansi, and soy sauce. Mix and let it sit for 2-3 minutes on top of hot noodles to marry the flavors and we can just set the umami powder aside.

4. Garlic, garlic, garlic

A wise mom once said, “You can never have too much garlic.”

Garlic is a staple in every Filipino recipe; when the recipe calls for 3 cloves, we put the whole head. The same applies to instant noodles — using the oil that comes with the instant noodles, sauté around 8 minced garlic cloves to add a stronger aroma and flavor. Because it has its own umami, we can also reduce the amount of powdered flavoring.

If fresh garlic isn’t available, supermarkets also sell garlic powder in sachets.

If we need that crunch then, we can just toss in some toasted garlic.

5. Frozen vegetables

Stores like S&R and Landers often sell frozen vegetables in bulk, ranging between PHP 199.00 to PHP 299.00 per 907g. Although nothing beats fresh vegetables, Time isn’t always on our side to wash and prep them. Frozen vegetables are usually parboiled, meaning they’re cooked halfway and we just need to steam them for 3-5 minutes to soften up. What else takes that short of a time? Instant noodles!

Simply let the frozen veggies sit on the uncooked instant noodles so that the noodles serve as a “tray” to hold them up and prevent the nutrients from getting lost in the water. Usual frozen vegetable choices include broccoli and spinach.

6. Roast chicken

In the Philippines, it’s impossible to miss out on a street stall that sells Lechong Manok or roasted chicken. One whole chicken runs around PHP 250.00 to PHP 350, depending on where we buy and that’s more than enough protein. Just cut off the part we prefer to have with our noodles and we’re good to go. A tip for those who are protein-loading: the chicken breast has the highest amount of protein.

Assuming we’re not even eating the whole chicken, we can save its bones and other parts for other creative leftover ideas!

7. Canned tuna or chicken

Also known as the “chicken of the sea,” tuna offers a decent amount of protein. But when it’s canned, there’s a lot of sodium. Simply drain the water into the sink (or oil into the trash to prevent clogging) and then steam with the instant noodles. Because it was canned, the tuna should have stayed immersed long enough with the sauce seeping into the meat.

Instant Noodles: they’re not much but, they’ll do!

Because instant noodles are flavorful and don’t take long to prep, it becomes our usual go-to. Sometimes, it’s the only thing we can cook because everything takes too long and restaurants are full. But it’s not something we can do every day; the amount of sodium may also destroy our kidneys in the long run. It’s just meant to fuel us up until we have the time to sit down and have a good meal.

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