I Tried All The Cheap Instant Noodles At No Frills & This Brand Makes The Best Budget Meal

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Tristan Wheeler holding all of the noodles.

Tristan Wheeler holding all of the noodles.

Whether you're looking for a quick lunch or you're a student in need of a cheap meal, instant noodles are always a great go-to.

But which brand makes the best instant noodles, and which ones are worth your money at your local grocery store?

In your local No Frills, you might be strolling the aisle and thinking "OK, these are all pretty inexpensive, but which one is actually going to taste good?"

I took it upon myself to try a bunch of instant noodles from my local grocery store to find out which one is best, which ones to avoid and which ones are worth adding to your snack cupboard for an emergency meal at home.

How I picked the noodles that I covered was very scientific. I went into my local No Frills and bought every single noodle packet that was advertised as being chicken flavour, which I felt was a classic, down-the-middle option. I figured comparing different flavours would be a bit unfair, so I kept it as simple as possible.

I bought five instant noodle brands to compare, and my haul included some big brands and a few that I hadn't heard of. They were all available at No Frills, but I imagine you could find most of them at other grocery stores around the country.

Here's how they all compare.

No Name

A package of No Name noodles.

A package of No Name noodles.

Tristan Wheeler | Narcity

Price: $0.39

The No Name brand at No Frills is often among the cheapest options you can get for any product, and that applies to their instant noodles, too.

With its yellow, utilitarian packaging, it's become iconic as a staple of Canadian grocery shopping. But does great value mean great taste?

While preparing the noodles, I first noticed how strong the chicken soup base smelled. It was maybe the most "chicken-y" smelling of all of the ones I tried, which made me a bit worried. I thought that maybe they'd over-torqued it with flavouring and it would be a bit stomach-churning.

My suspicions were correct.

While this was more flavourful than some of the others I tried, unfortunately, those flavours weren't doing it for me. The broth had a "fake-y" flavour that didn't sit well with me. While it didn't make me feel sick, I had an inkling that it would so I stopped at only a few bites.

Score: 1/5

Mr. Noodles

A package of Mr. Noodles.

A package of Mr. Noodles.

Tristan Wheeler | Narcity

Price: $0.39

Please, Mr. Noodles is my father!

These are another staple in the world of instant noodles and among the most popular brands out there.

However, compared to some of the other ones I tried on my journey, I actually found Mr. Noodle to be a little bit on the tasteless side.

And while I accept that user error can be a factor, I found that the broth just didn't have anything to it. It didn't stick to the noodles and didn't have that rich comforting taste that instant noodles should have.

That being said, the actual noodles were good, although the broth doesn't do them justice.

Score: 2/5

Sapporo Ichiban

A package of Sapporo Ichiban.

A package of Sapporo Ichiban.

Tristan Wheeler | Narcity

Price: $1.00

These are the noodles I would always get growing up. Subjectively, these are incredibly nostalgic and taking a bite of the noodles or a sip of the broth, I'm transported back to all the times my grandma made me lunch.

However, the nostalgia got washed away pretty quickly during my taste test, and after a few bites I got a much clearer picture of what Ichiban is really cooking.

The first thing I noticed in this one was the herbs in the broth. While not as rich as the top contenders, it has a really spice-forward (although not necessarily spicy) flavour, and the chicken element really takes a back seat.

As for the noodles, they slurp well and the broth does a good job of sticking to them.

If you're looking at the best of the most basic — those being Mr. Noodles, No Name and Sapporo Ichiban — this is the one!

Score: 3.5/5


A package of Nissin noodles.

A package of Nissin noodles.

Tristan Wheeler | Narcity

Price: $0.99

I would consider this one a bit of an underdog and a brand I haven't tried before, but I was really pleasantly surprised by Nissin's noodles.

What really made these stand out was not just the fact that the soup base was among the best, but they also came with a little baggie of sesame oil which made the entire dish sing.

The soup base was rich and tasty and that sesame oil really made it taste like something I didn't just whip up in a few minutes in my kitchen.

As for the noodles, again, relatively basic, but they were good, tasty and worked well with the other ingredients.

Score: 4/5


A packet of Mama noodles.

A packet of Mama noodles.

Tristan Wheeler | Narcity

Price: $0.75​

The winner of the bunch also turned out to be the one I had neither heard of nor tried before, but I was really blown away by it.

These instant noodles by "Mama" were my favourite of all the ones I tried as well as were the biggest surprise.

On the broth level, these noodles definitely had a chicken flavour, but they came with a spicy, flavourful and unique taste that all the other brands came nowhere close to.

Along with this super unique and tasty broth, the noodles were a whole lot different from the others. They offered a little bit of a richer bite and they were a great vehicle for the unique and spicy broth.

My biggest problem with these is that they are made a bit different than typical instant noodles, with you needing to cover them in boiling water rather than boiling them in the pot.

Still, for that price, they are among the best deals and best tasting.

Score: 5/5

So, next time you're stalking the noodle aisle, hopefully, this run-down will provide you with some insight into what you should grab if you're feeling like stocking up on a cheap, no-nonsense meal.

Of course, this is all that I think and is my opinion and, heck, maybe I'm being a snob and you love No Name — I'll accept that critique!

So, get out there and enjoy some noodles!

Tristan Wheeler
Tristan Wheeler was a Creator for Narcity Media focused on money and budgets and is based in Toronto, Ontario.