Tonkotsu ramen is one of my all-time favorite foods, and this recipe is the result of about 2 years worth of testing ingredients and tinkering to settle on the perfect (to me) bowl of Tonkotsu ramen at home. As with all my recipes, I try to balance both taste and effort- if I can find shortcuts that save time and still taste great, I’m delighted to work those in. This recipe is a combination of incredible premade and homemade ingredients that work together to produce one of my favorite meals.
What is Tonkotsu Ramen
Tonkotsu ramen is one of the most popular styles of ramen in Japan. The soup is made from pork (and often chicken) bones, resulting in a creamy and incredibly rich broth. Typically, tonkotsu ramen is topped with chashu, a style of prepared pork belly. Black garlic oil is a common, though somewhat hard to find, topping for tonkotsu (and despite its name is not made from black garlic but rather from burnt garlic). Soy marinated soft-boiled eggs are a staple in any kind of traditional ramen, and tonkotsu is no exception. Green onion is a very common topping for tonkotsu, and some other veggies you may see include baby bok choy and bamboo shoots.
My Take on Tonkotsu Ramen
The main deviation I make from traditional tonkotsu ramen is in my choice of meat for topping. Traditionally, tonkotsu is topped with chashu which is made from pork belly. Pork belly is a very fatty cut of meat, and I’m personally not super fond of very fatty meats. The soup is already so rich, and so I find the additional richness of the fatty chashu to be a bit overwhelming. Pork tenderloin, on the other hand, is a very lean cut of pork, but when properly prepared it’s incredibly tender. Some may argue that the tenderloin will overcook by sitting in the hot soup, but I’ve never found this to be the case. I love how the lean pork pairs with the rich soup, and in addition, pork tenderloin is much easier to prepare than chashu.
As detailed below, I use premade ingredients for both the broth and noodles in this recipe. For me, this is a bit surprising, but I’ve been able to find such high quality options that the choice to use them is clear. Making homemade tonkotsu broth is a 24 hour+ long process, which would be worth it if these premade soup stocks were not so dang good. Both the Somi and Kikkoman soups are better than tonkotsu broth I’ve been served at many restaurants, and they only take a few minutes to prepare. The same goes for the premium frozen ramen noodles, they are better noodles than what I’ve had at a number of restaurants, and much better than what I was able to make myself from scratch. These ingredients may not be available in your area, but if they are, I highly encourage taking advantage of them! By taking the shortcut on those ingredients, I free up enough time to make the black garlic oil (nearly impossible to find for sale in the US) and the marinated eggs, which must be prepared fresh.
As pictured is my favorite way to prepare this dish, but that doesn’t mean I make it that way every time. Since the broth and noodles are ready to go at any time, sometimes I’ll throw this meal together on short notice and skip the black garlic oil and marinated eggs that require some extra planning and effort. Just cooking the tenderloin and warming up the broth and noodles is a very low-effort weeknight meal. Sometimes I even use pork tenderloin that I’ve already cooked and frozen, making the whole dish come together in about 10 minutes. You can read more about freezing precooked pork tenderloin on the Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin recipe page.
Key Tips – Tenderloin Tonkotsu Ramen
The Key Tips section for this recipe has been broken down by each key ingredient. You can find information on the ingredients and substitution ideas below!
Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin
- The amount of meat you top each bowl with is up to personal preference. A 1 lb raw pork tenderloin should result in about 12 oz of cooked meat, which may be used to top 2-4 bowls of ramen. Pictured is about 6 oz of cooked pork tenderloin per bowl.
- Pork tenderloin is NOT the cut of pork that is traditionally used on tonkotsu ramen. The typical meat is chashu pork, which is made from pork belly. I prefer to use pork tenderloin because its very easy to prepare and I prefer the leaner cut of meat. Some may think that a lean cut of meat will overcook in the warm soup, but I’ve always been very happy with the results!
- This recipe is detailed in an accompanying post, please see that post for the full recipe and more tips!
Frozen Premium Ramen Noodles
- I have tried out all kinds of options for ramen noodles at home, including homemade and dried noodles, but my favorite option by far is to purchase premium ramen noodles from the frozen section of a Japanese grocery store. These noodles are just as good as many ramen shops I’ve tried, and they’re so easy to prepare at home.
- Unfortunately, these noodles may be hard to find if you don’t have a Japanese grocery store near you. They’re also pretty pricey, I usually pay $8-$10 for a pack of 5 servings. If these noodles aren’t an option for you, consider making your own (there are many recipes online), purchasing high quality dried noodles (like these), or using instant ramen noodles you can find at most grocery stores.
- Here’s what the packaging looks like for the noodles I typically buy:
Tonkotsu Ramen Broth from Concentrate
- Making tonkotsu broth from scratch is a labor of love that takes at least 24 hours and involves buying pork bones, which may be difficult to find. There are plenty of recipes online (like this one) if you’re interested in doing this, but I have found that some of the premade concentrates are incredibly good (better than many restaurants I’ve tried) and definitely a great shortcut to amazing ramen at home.
- My preferred stock is the Somi Tonkotsu Soup Base, with a close second being the Kikkoman Tonkotsu Soup Base. Both of these come in a 1 kg (~35 oz) XL bag. 1 oz of the base is diluted to make 1 cup of the soup, I use 2 cups per XL bowl of ramen, so these bags are enough to make about 17 bowls of ramen! Technically, I use about 5 oz of the concentrate (1/2 cup) to make 4 cups of soup, slightly more than the package lists, which means I get 14 bowls of ramen from each bag. The price of these bags typically range from $25-$40 based on availability, so that’s about $2-$3 per bowl.
- The bags are shelf stable, and only need to be refrigerated after opening. I’ve had re-sealed bags in my fridge keep nicely for a few months. The Somi bag is not re-sealable, so I use these bag sealing sticks to get an airtight seal. I have tried freezing the concentrate, hoping that it would set, but it did not freeze solid.
Soy Marinated Eggs for Ramen (Ajitama)
- If you ask me, a bowl of ramen is not complete without a marinated egg! The egg is without a doubt my favorite part of the bowl.
- See the recipe page for the marinated ramen eggs, linked below!
Black Garlic Oil for Ramen (Mayu)
- Black garlic oil (called mayu in Japanese) is a common ramen topping, especially for tonkotsu, that you may see on the menu at a ramen shop. The English name is a bit misleading, because this oil is not made from black garlic. A better name would be “burnt garlic oil” because the oil is made by cooking garlic until it’s completely burnt.
- See the recipe page for the black garlic oil, linked below!
Dietary Restrictions – Tenderloin Tonkotsu Ramen
This dish is naturally Dairy-Free.
A Note On Serving Sizes
Serving sizes are a very personal thing, making it very difficult for me to select a serving size that suits everyone. This recipe makes two XL bowls of ramen, as pictured. This is more like 4 standard servings, so it would also be reasonable to divide this among 3-4 bowls for a smaller portion.
Tenderloin Tonkotsu Ramen
- 8-12 oz prepared hoisin glazed pork tenderloin prepared per linked recipe, use 4-6 oz of cooked pork per bowl
- 2 prepared soy marinated eggs optional, prepared per recipe accompanying this post
- 1-2 tbsp black garlic oil optional, prepared per recipe accompanying this post
- 1/2 cup Somi or Kikkoman Tonkotsu Broth Concentrate or 4 cups of prepared tonkotsu broth
- 2 blocks (200 g each) frozen ramen noodles or sub homemade, or dried ramen noodles
- 2 green onions greens sliced thin
- Please note, this recipe calls for mostly prepared ingredients from other recipes shared on this site. The eggs should be a made a day ahead of time. The black garlic oil may also be made ahead if desired.
- Prepare the Hoisin Glazed Pork Tenderloin per the linked recipe. As the pork cooks, follow the rest of this recipe.
- Begin boiling a large pot of water for the noodles. When the rest of the meal is almost ready, cook the noodles per package instructions, then transfer them directly into the serving bowls. Premium frozen ramen noodles are pre-cooked and typically only need 1-2 minutes of cook time.
- When ready to serve – pour the broth into the serving bowls over top of the noodles. Slice the marinated eggs in half and place in the bowl with the yolk facing up. Top with the sliced pork tenderloin, green onions, and a dash of the black garlic oil.
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