We taste-test the new high-protein, low-carb version of the instant ramen king.

At its core, what makes dieting difficult is that it usually involves some combination of giving up foods that are convenient and delicious for ones that aren’t. So you’d think that instant ramen would be at the top of the list of natural enemies of people trying to improve their eating habits.

And yet, Cup Noodle maker Nissin has come up with a way it claims will let us have our ramen and eat it too. Its new Cup Noodle Pro doesn’t stand for “professional,” but for “protein,” and the company promises that it delivers the familiar and enticing Cup Noodle flavors with extra protein and far fewer carbs. So to see if they kept that promise, we went out and picked up some Cup Noodle Pro as soon as it went on sale this week, and set up a side-by-side comparison taste test with regular Cup Noodle.

A cup of Cup Noodle Pro is boosted up to 15 grams of protein thanks to an enhanced version of Nissin’s “mystery meat” (as it calls the pork/soy mix) with 1.8 times the protein of the regular Cup Noodle’s. Meanwhile, the Cup Noodle Pro’s noodles are made with a special three-layer frying method that cuts their carbohydrate count roughly in half, for a total of 15.3 grams of carbs in the soy sauce broth/original-flavor Cup Noodle Pro and 18.2 in the Seafood Cup Noodle Pro. On the cost side, there’s a tiny premium for Cup Noodle Pro, which costs 206 yen (US$2) instead of the 193 yen for regular Cup Noodle.

OK, now that we’ve got the numerical data out of the way, let’s get down to eating this stuff!

▼ Left to right: Cup Noodle Pro, regular Cup Noodle, Seafood Cup Noodle Pro, and regular Seafood Cup Noodle.

We’re happy to report that Cup Noodle Pro tastes almost exactly like regular Cup Noodle, so much so that unless you’re eating it immediately back-to-back with the normal version, you probably won’t notice any difference between the two.

One point of slight divergence, though, is the noodles. The Pro’s low-card version has the same smooth outer texture as regular Cup Noodle noodles, but there’s a bit more chewiness at their core. Again though, this is something we probably wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t alternating bites with the normal version, so it’s not like the Pro’s noodles are unpleasantly mushy.

▼ Pro (left) and regular (right)

So in the end, yes, if you like Cup Noodle, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be satisfied with the flavor of Cup Noodle Pro. 15 grams of protein and 15.3 of carbohydrates may not make it as diet-friendly as a steamed chicken breast served on a bed of raw lettuce, but those numbers are still better than regular Cup Noodle, so if the idea of a lifestyle completely lacking in instant ramen is unfathomable to you (a feeling we can totally understand), Cup Noodle Pro is a step in a healthier direction.

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