Ramen noodles. You love them, or you hate them, and probably not much in between. That being said, you have to respect them for becoming so ubiquitous and so cheap.
Whether they are tossed into a pack as a reliable if uninspired camping meal or used to desperately stretch the dollars of broke college kids, there is a flavor and style of ramen noodles to suit any budget and any preference.
But if you are relying on them for long-term storage, what we need to know is if they will ever go bad. So, do ramen noodles ever expire?
Yes, ramen noodles can expire and go bad. However, when stored properly and sealed they have an extremely long shelf life. you should expect your ramen noodles to keep for at least 2 years in good conditions.
That is pretty exceptional by the standards of any processed food. Certain types of ramen noodles stored with care and climate control can even go upwards of 5 years in storage.
That’s pretty nuts when you think about it. There are lots of high-dollar survival meals and military MREs that won’t last that long, but a humble, dollar-cup of noodles will.
There is a lot more to learn about the long shelf life of ramen noodles, and we will tell you all about it below.
How Long Can I Expect Ramen Noodles to Last?
Ramen noodles will last a very long time. Assuming you keep them in a typical pantry, they should last at least 2 years without spoiling, although they might taste a little stale.
And heavy-duty packaging or supplementary containers and kept cool and dark, ramen noodles might last as long as 5 years with no ill effects. That is pretty remarkable!
Why Do Ramen Noodles Last So Long?
Let us consider just why ramen noodles last so long. Is there something inherently special about this cheap pasta? Not really, it just happens to be a confluence of factors that contribute to an extremely long shelf life.
First of all, ramen noodles are produced in such a way that they are completely, absolutely dry.
The noodles themselves are mass produced in a factory setting, usually in huge, big sheets that are then cut to size before being flash fried and then just as quickly flash frozen for a freeze drying process. All of the other ingredients go through the same process or a similar one.
In essence, this gives absolutely no opportunity for any sort of microscopic contamination to live, much less survive in the packaging.
Every step of the way during the production process, germs are killed off and conditions for their survival are eliminated.
And speaking of packaging, the packaging of ramen noodles also contributes to their long shelf life.
Professionally sealed inside styrofoam or plastic container with an airtight or nearly airtight lid and then usually given a protective enclosure of airtight shrink wrap, moisture and air are both kept out and away from the ingredients with extremely high levels of effectiveness.
What are the Ingredients in Ramen Noodles?
Ramen noodles, as a general rule, contain three ingredients but sometimes four.
They will contain the freeze-dried, precooked noodles as described above, freeze-dried bits of vegetables, and a powdered broth or consommé with seasoning that may or may not be in its own separate packet inside the container.
Many kinds of ramen noodles also contain pre-cooked and freeze-dried meat, be it chicken, beef, pork or something else.
The Type of Packaging Counts
When considering the shelf life of ramen noodles you’ll want to pay attention to the type of packaging it comes in, its condition, and then consider using additional containers of your own to further increase the shelf life.
Generally speaking, the more heavy-duty the factory packaging is the more reliable and longer the shelf life.
Heavy-duty plastic bowls or trays tend to be best, especially if they have a snug-fitting lid that is then wrapped with plastic all the way around.
The usual styrofoam bowls or cups are also okay, but because they flex more they are more likely to pop a seal somewhere along the lid, letting in moisture and potentially compromising your noodles.
These are an okay choice so long as they are entirely surrounded with plastic wrap, although I advise you to be cautious and handle them gently.
For my money, by far the best kind of packaging is the heavy-duty plastic or cellophane wrapped around a brick of noodles.
These are far less likely to puncture, tear or fail so long as you handle them with a little bit of caution.
If you want even better results when storing ramen noodles, consider placing them inside an airtight container or, even better, a container that you can vacuum seal yourself.
The Sell-by Date is Not an Expiration Date
Another thing that you should be aware of concerning ramen noodles is the sell-by date, sometimes called the best-by date, on the package.
Although many folks take this date as the expiration date, the reality is very far from that assessment.
The truth is, that is only an indication of when you should consume the food for ideal taste and experience, or a date that the retailer should sell it by. It is in no way a reliable indicator of how long the food will be good for under any conditions.
In short, this date is totally arbitrary, and derived from nothing more than government meddling in food production and commerce.
Whether that is a good or a bad thing is a subject for another day, but what you need to know is that this date is, broadly, well, well short of the actual expiration date of any given brand of ramen noodles.
Now, this isn’t a guarantee either, and you always need to use a good portion of common sense when making this determination.
That being said, all ramen noodles are so heavily preserved and thoroughly packaged at the factory that you can always count on that 2-year shelf life, perhaps more, so long as you do your part when storing them.
Make Sure You Store Them in the Right Place
Okay, I have really talked up the shelf life of ramen noodles, but you’ll only realize this shelf life on a regular basis if you do your part in storing them.
The basic rule, like most packaged, preserved foods, is to store them in a dark, dry and cool location.
Your pantry might be the best place for them, or it might not if you want to maximize shelf life as many pantries can get quite warm or downright balmy depending on your home. Also, it should go without saying, do your best to keep them out of direct sunlight.
You should also consider storing your ramen noodle stash in some other bulk container.
The reasonably reliable when it comes to maintaining a seal, pretty much all ramen noodle containers are easy to break into for insects and rodents. Both tend to love pasta.
If you are relying on ramen noodles as a sort of survival ration, keeping them in a vehicle, camping pack or some other piece of luggage you shouldn’t count on that 2-year shelf life unless they are kept in a hard container that is proof against all the bumps, shocks, knocks and rubbing that will invariably occur.
It shouldn’t be a big deal so long as you remember to rotate it out regularly, just don’t forget about it, and then count on it when the chips are down!