The Japanese Mayo Hack That Makes Cheap Ramen Taste Luxurious

We know what you're thinking. But don't knock it until you've tried it.

Published Mar. 2, 2021.

This is a story about not judging a book by its cover. In this case, the book is amped-up supermarket packet ramen. The cover? The unlikely addition of mayonnaise, a raw egg, and garlic. 

I’ll say this several times throughout: Stay with me.

This hack began with one of my favorite YouTube channels, Way Of Ramen, which helps noodle freaks (like myself) achieve their home-cooked ramen goals. One recent video referenced an idea gaining traction among Japanese ramen geeks: Adding Kewpie mayonnaise, a whole raw egg, and minced garlic to supplement instant ramen—specifically Sapporo-brand miso-flavored ramen, which can be found at my local supermarket for under $1.

The reaction to this mayo addition has been overwhelmingly positive, according to commenters on the original YouTube video. The Way Of Ramen host was skeptical. I was too.

But as with many viral food recipes, there’s a good reason why it takes off. (Remember the Reddit-famous Mississippi pot roast: slow-cooker beef with a stick of butter, ranch dressing powder, and pepperoncini peppers?)

Adding Kewpie mayo, a raw egg, and grated garlic to a pot of instant ramen came out well. Shockingly well. Like, you can fool a lot of people into thinking it’s legit, 18-hour simmered broth from some back alley ramen-ya in Kagoshima. (For ATK members, we've got a really great slow-cooker miso pork ramen recipe from Cook's Country—yet another reason to sign up!)

Slow-Cooker Miso-Pork Ramen

Truly great ramen isn't built on a powdered soup mix—it's built on a deeply flavorful homemade broth. Enter the slow cooker.
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Let’s walk through the steps. First, add a healthy squirt—about a tablespoon—of Kewpie mayonnaise into a bowl. It’s got to be Japanese mayo, the stuff from the red-capped squeeze bottles, no exceptions. (Kewpie is silkier than American mayo, with rice vinegar and MSG that gives it a distinct flavor.)

Into the bowl goes a whole egg and one garlic clove grated with a microplane. Then the seasoning packets are added. Everything gets whisked into a slurry. Finally, I boil the brick of ramen noodles in water. While the noodles are still toothsome, I dump the whole pot into the bowl and combine until the broth turns silky.

Stay with me.

The Mayo Ramen Hack

The soup becomes rich and luscious. It turns an otherwise thin and salty broth into something that feels luxurious, like the finest tonkotsu ramen. Garlic lovers rejoice: The grated garlic adds a powerful pungency to the soup. If the idea of mayo in a broth makes you shiver, consider it’s just eggs and oil, and it’s no stranger in a Greek avgolemono or Chinese egg drop soup.

You might not take my word for it, but no less an authority than Cook’s Country Executive Food Editor Bryan Roof tried this. He too was won over:

If adding Japanese mayo, an egg, and garlic to your instant ramen seems weird, I accept your hesitation. For the rest of you willing to give it a try, you will be very, very surprised at how good it turns out.

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