Ramen Noodle Salad Is A Thing And You Need It At Your Next Cookout

If you've been looking for a unique way to spice up your next potluck on a dime, look no further than the instant ramen packets that are probably already in your pantry.

Instant ramen noodles typically come in the form of a rich, warming soup, perfect for a cold winter's night. But these inexpensive noodle packets can be transformed into a medley of different dishes with some creativity and skill. Take, for example, the Midwestern potluck classic: ramen noodle salad.

While the words "ramen noodle" and "salad" might not sound like they mix, this picnic side dish is a popular treat in the Midwest, where recipes and variations abound. Composed of crushed dry ramen noodles, shredded coleslaw mix, nuts, seeds, mandarin oranges, and a zippy dressing, the dish is a perfect open-and-dump recipe. It's easy and fast to make, and requires little actual cooking or preparation. You don't even have to cook the ramen noodles!

Ramen noodle salad's mysterious origins

While this dish is ubiquitous across Midwestern cookouts and immortalized in many a church cookbook, the origins of how ramen noodle salad came to be are shrouded in mystery. While it seems to have just appeared in recipe books at some point during the late '80s or early '90s; there are no records of the first instance of the recipe. However, the dish does bear a resemblance to Chinese chicken salad, an American dish that may have originated as early as the 1930s.

Unlike other Midwestern salads, which are stereotypically full of mayonnaise, bacon, cheese, and other less-than-healthy ingredients, this salad is mostly vegetables, nuts, and fruits. It does have a high sugar content, however, between the sugar in the dressing and the optional canned mandarin oranges in the recipe. Every household seems to have its own slight twist on this dish, but the base remains the same: shredded cabbage, ramen noodles, and nuts.

Make your own ramen noodle salad

Among other clever ways to use ramen noodles, this salad stands out for its simplicity: You can whip up a bowl at home in just a few short minutes. Start with a bag of coleslaw mix — the one with shredded carrots and cabbage combined. Add in slivered almonds, roasted and shelled sunflower seeds, and a bag of crushed dry ramen noodles. You can also dress up the salad with some cooked, shreaded chicken (rotisserie chicken works well here), as well as mandarin orange slices. Canned mandarin oranges are the classic, but be sure to drain and rinse them first before using. Toss all the ingredients together until well-combined. 

For the dressing: Whisk together olive oil, a small amount of white vinegar, a ramen seasoning packet, and some diced green onion. You can optionally use soy sauce instead of the ramen seasoning packet. Sesame seeds and a touch of sugar or other sweetener are other options as well.

Mix the dressing into the salad and serve. The salad will keep in the fridge for several days. Just remember the longer it sits, the softer the noodles will get. So if you want to keep the crunch, don't wait too long to serve it!