Discovering 30+ Important Ingredients In Korean

Have you ever wondered what makes a Korean dish tasty? The secret lies with the ingredients. So today, let’s learn about ingredients in Korean 성분 (seongbun).

What’s the first thing on your checklist when you go to any Korean grocery store? Is it Korean chili powder, napa cabbage, or Korean chili paste? Every K-culture fan love to recreate what they can see from the locals and Korean dramas. So, when they get a chance to go to Korean grocery stores, they fill up their baskets with different Korean ingredients.

A Korean meal is definitely one of the grandest meals that you’ll experience. Aside from the mouthwatering main courses, they have different side dishes to make your meal complete. These Korean dishes and side dishes are made with different ingredients that Koreans have been using for a long time. So, in this blog, we will learn about different ingredients in Korean.


Korean Cuisine

When you hear the term Korean cuisine, it’s impossible not to mention Kimchi because it is served in almost every Korean meal. But, what exactly is Korean cuisine? Korean cuisine has already evolved since ancient times due to political and social change. If you look at Korean cuisine today, you’ll notice that it’s a combination of the natural environment and cultural trends. In fact, when you’ll have a Korean meal, like Korean bbq, you’ll see meat and a variety of vegetable side dishes.

Korean cuisine, specifically South Korean, is largely based on rice, seafood, meat, and vegetables. Unlike western cuisines, Korean cuisine is not dairy-based. So, if you’re used to a dairy-based diet, Korean cuisine might not be the one you’re looking for, but of course, you can always try something new.

Korean cuisine has been growing its popularity not just in Asian countries but also around the world. Since K-dramas and Korean boy and girl groups have been recognized worldwide, it is without a doubt that Korean culture will continue to be known. The delicious food that Korean cuisine offers will undoubtedly continue to bring pride to the Koreans.


Korean Food

Once you have tried eating Korean food, you’ll never get a hold of yourself. It is incredibly delicious and grand. It’s like you’re always on a feast. Aside from Korean rice dishes that are famous worldwide, they also have all sorts of meats and side dishes. Koreans also have lots of street food that can be easily seen in the streets. Below are some of the all-time favorite Korean food not just in South Korea but also worldwide.

1. 삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal)

Who would not have known this? Being “Korean Soul Food,” 삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal) or Grilled Pork Belly is indeed one of the most popular and in-demand Korean food. It is made of the most expensive cut of pork, and in fact, the word samgyeopsal means “three-layered meat.” The Korean word sam means “three,” gyeop “layered,” and sal means “meat.”

Koreans love to pair it with Soju. There was a story back then when there was a decrease in Soju in the country; Koreans looked for food that perfectly went with it. That’s when 삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal) and Soju being paired started.

2. 불고기 (Bulgogi)

Aside from pork, Koreans also love beef especially went it is also grilled. Korean Beef Barbeque or 불고기 (Bulgogi) is another crowd favorite Korean food. This is a dish made of thin-sliced marinated beef that is traditionally grilled.

3. 갈비찜 (Galbijjim)

The Braised Beef Short Ribs or 갈비찜 (Galbijjim) is one variety of Korean steamed dishes or Jjim. It is made of marinated beef short ribs and is mostly served on different occasions.

4. 비빔밥 (Bibimbap)

Moving on from the meat dishes, let’s have the famous Mixed Rice with Vegetables or 비빔밥 (Bibimbap). Of course, you cannot talk about Korean cuisine without 비빔밥 (Bibimbap). It is made of mixed ingredients like rice, seasoned and sautéed vegetables, meat, soy sauce, mushrooms, chili pepper paste, and fried eggs.

5. 잡채 (Japchae)

Koreans also have different noodle dishes, and one of the most famous Korean noodle dishes is the Glass Noodle Stir Fry or 잡채 (Japchae). By just its name, you can make this dish of glass-like noodles and vegetables. The glass-like noodles are created from mung beans and sweet potatoes.

There are still lots of Korean dishes that you should taste or learn. Korean cuisine is also rich in soups and stews like 김치찌개 Kimchi jjigae, 미역국 Seaweed soup, and 삼계탕 Samgyetang. There is also a variety of street food like 떡볶이 Tteokbokki and 호떡 Hotteok.

It is impossible not to love Korean food. Once you have tasted one, you’ll surely be going to crave it once in a while. But, what makes them delicious are the different cooking methods and, of course, ingredients. So, after learning some Korean food, we will learn about ingredients in Korean.


Essential Korean Cooking Ingredients

If you’re into Korean food, you should fill your Korean pantry with a variety of spices and ingredients. These ingredients are the secret code behind their delicious Korean food. Before we learn about different ingredients in Korean, we should first learn how to say the word “Ingredients” in Korean.

성분 (Seongbun) Ingredients in Korean

성분 (Seongbun)

Koreans use 성분 Seongbun to say “ingredients” in Korean. Korean cooking ingredients vary from dried, paste, liquid, noodles, vegetables, meat, and ingredients from the sea. So, here are the different ingredients in Korean:

Dried Ingredients In Korean

Dried Ingredients in Korean

Let’s start with the dried ingredients. Dried ingredients are often used to add taste or flavor to the food. They are also often mixed with liquid ingredients. Below are the most common dried ingredients in Korean:

고추가루 (Gochugaru) – Korean Chili Powder / Hot Pepper Flakes

Korean Chili Powder or 고추가루 (Gochugaru) is one of the most common Korean ingredients or spices. It has two variants which are coarse and fine. This Korean ingredient is made of dried red chilies. It is used in most spicy Korean dishes.

후추 (Huchu) – Ground Black Pepper

The next ingredient in Korean that we will learn is the Ground Black Pepper or 후추 (Huchu). When you find Korean bbq so tasty, one of the main reasons is the Ground Black Pepper. It is usually used in marinating meats to make barbeques. Huch (후추) can remove the smell of the meat; that’s why it’s perfect to use in marinating barbeque meats.

소금 (Sogum) – Salt

Salt 소금 (Sogum) is definitely one of the most widely-used dried ingredients in Korea and around the world. It is essential in any kind of dish you want to prepare. It is one of the most important ingredients to make salted fish, a popular Korean food in Korea.

설탕 (Sultang) – Sugar

It may not be too obvious at first, but Koreans use a lot of sugar in their dishes. But, why are these food not too sweet? It is because sugar in Korean dishes is used to balance out the salty taste from their main ingredients, such as soy sauce.

볶은 참깨 (Bokken Chamggae) – Roasted Sesame Seeds

If you notice a nutty and crunchy texture in a Korean dish, it’s because of the roasted sesame seeds. There are toasted sesame seeds and crushed sesame seeds. Roasted Sesame Seeds or 볶은 참깨 (Bokken Chamggae) is usually used as a garnish or dipping sauce ingredients.

Paste Ingredients In Korean

Paste Ingredients In Korean

The next ingredients in Korean that we will learn are the paste ingredients. If you are an OG Korean food lover, you know that Koreans have lots of paste ingredients. These paste are used in cooking, marinating, and dipping sauce. Here are the paste ingredients in Korean:

고추장 (Gochujang) – Korean Chili Paste/Chili pepper paste

When we talk about paste ingredients, of course, we cannot miss the most popular Korean paste, which is the Korean Chili Paste or 고추장 (Gochujang). This Korean paste is made of chili powder, fermented soybeans, salt, and glutinous rice. This is present in different types of Korean dishes such as soup, stew, side dishes, main dishes, and even marinade.

된장 (Doenjang) – Soybean Paste

Another type of paste that is essential in Korean cuisine is the Soybean Paste or 된장 (Doenjang). It is a fermented paste made of soybean and brine. Another interesting fact about Soybean Paste or 된장 (Doenjang) is that it is a byproduct of the production of soup soy sauce. One famous way to enjoy the taste of Soybean Paste is the Korean Soybean Paste Soup 된장찌개 (Doenjang jjigae)

춘장 (Chunjang) – Korean Black Bean Paste Sauce

The Korean dish 자장면 (Jajangmyeon) or Noodles in Black Bean Sauce is one of the most famous Korean noodle dishes. What makes 자장면 (Jajangmyeon) notable is the Korean Black Paste Sauce or 춘장 (Chunjang) used in making it. Korean Black Paste Sauce or 춘장 (Chunjang) is thick dark brown or black paste with a smooth texture.

쌈장 (Ssamjang) – Korean Spicy Dipping Sauce

Another must-have in a Korean bbq dining experience is the Korean Spicy Dipping Sauce or 쌈장 (Ssamjang). It is a sauce that fits the taste of Korean bbq. What’s more interesting about this is that it can be easily made at home because it uses ingredients that can be easily found in a Korean kitchen or Korean pantries like sesame oil, garlic, chili paste, soybean paste, onion, and more.

Liquid Ingredients In Korean

Liquid Ingredients In Korean

We will talk about another group of essential ingredients in Korean is the liquid ingredients. We are done talking about the dried ingredients, so let us now go to the liquid ingredients. These liquid ingredients are usually used to add flavors, make dipping sauces, or make sauces for marinating. So, here are the liquid ingredients in Korean:

간장 (Ganjang) – Soy Sauce

Soy sauce or 간장 (Ganjang) is definitely one of the most used condiments in Korean cuisine. But, in Korea, they don’t use just one kind of soy sauce. In fact, they differ in terms of ingredients used and brewing methods. The naturally brewed soy sauce is best to use in daily cooking. For making soups and stews, soup soy sauce is best to use. It is saltier than the other soy sauce, but it has lighter color. It also adds extra umami flavor to the food.

미림 (Mirim) – Rice Wine/Cooking Wine

Using wine in cooking brings out the flavor of the dishes. The rice wine or 미림 (Mirim) is a cooking wine that Koreans use to enhance the flavor of a dish they are cooking. Mirim 미림 can also be used to remove the odor of raw meat and make the meat tender.

쌀식초 (Ssal Sikcho) – Rice Vinegar In Korean

Rice Vinegar is made from fermented rice. The kind of vinegar that is standard in Korean cuisine is mild and basic.

물엿 (Mulyeot) – Korean Malt Syrup/Corn Syrup/ Rice Syrup)

If you want to add a hint of sweetness and shiny glaze in your dish while braising, grilling, or seasoning it, Korean malt syrup or 물엿 (Mulyeot) can do the magic.

액젓 (Aecjeot) – Korean Fish Sauce

One of the essential ingredients in Korean cuisine that you must not miss is the Korean Fish Sauce or 액젓 (Aecjeot). It gives a full of umami, savory, and a little bit sweet flavor in a dish. Korean fish sauce is also used to substitute for soy sauce in other recipes.

If you look into it, Korean fish sauce has varieties like Korean anchovy sauce (멸치액젓 | Mulch Aecjeot), Salted Fermented Shrimp Sauce (새우젓 | Saeujeot) and Sand Lance Sauce (까나리 액젓 | Kkani Aecejot). Korean fish sauce or 액젓 (Aecjeot) is used to season soups and fasten Kimchi fermentation. It is also a substitute for Vietnamese fish sauce or Thai fish sauce.

들기름 (Dulgireum) – Perilla Oil

Perilla oil or 들기름 (Dulgireum) is a nutritious ingredient mainly used in side dishes. It is made from cold-pressing perilla seeds.

참기름 (Chamgireum) – Sesame Oil

The last liquid ingredient in Korean that we will talk about is, of course, sesame oil. Bringing savory flavor and nutty aroma, Sesame Oil or 참기름 (Chamgireum) is one of Korean cuisine’s most commonly used ingredients. It is involved in the side dishes, rice dishes, dipping sauces, and more. It is also used as a finishing touch in some Korean dishes.

Noodle And Grain Ingredients In Korean

 Ingredients In Korean

Korean cuisine is rich in noodles and grain ingredients. In fact, you cannot watch a K-drama without craving while they are eating their famous ramyeon or jjajangmyeon. So, what’s the secret behind these tasteful dishes? Learn these noodle and grain ingredients in Korean:

쌀 (Ssal) – Short Grain White Rice

Rice is also one of the staples in a Korean meal. This is why it is no surprise that rice is one of the essential ingredients in Korean cuisine. But, little did we know that rice can have three main categories: short-, medium-, and long-grain. So, what is short-grain rice?

If you know what sushi is, then you’ll know how short-grain rice looks like. It is small, stout, and starchy, perfect for making rice dishes meant to be sticky. Since Koreans use chopsticks, using short-grain white rice will make it easier for them to eat it from their bowl.

당면 (Dangmyeon) – Sweet Potato Noodles/Korean Glass Noodles

Korean Glass Noodles or Dangmyeon 당면 is made with sweet potato starch. These are sweet potato noodles, also known as glass noodles, and are a necessary component of japchae. It is called Korean glass noodles because the noodles are transparent, which looks like glass.

Vegetable Ingredients In Korean

Vegetable Ingredients In Korean

From the main dishes down to side dishes, vegetables are indeed one of the essential ingredients in Korean cuisine. One of the most practiced religions in South Korea is Buddhism, so vegetables are the main ingredients in temple food. In fact, there was a time during their history when meat was restricted. So, why don’t we learn some vegetable ingredients in Korean?

배추 (Baechu) – Napa Cabbage

When talking about Korean cuisine, it is impossible not to mention the Koreans’ holy grail, which is the Kimchi. There are different ingredients used in making Kimchi but Napa Cabbage 배추 (Baechu) is the most common one, which makes it very important. Aside from Kimchi, you can also use Napa Cabbage 배추 (Baechu) in sautéeing side dishes, making napa cabbage soup, or you can even use it as a wrap like a lettuce wrap.

깻잎 (Gganip) – Perilla Leaves

Another famous ingredient in Korean is the perilla leaves. It is mint, and it has a strong aroma. Perilla leaves or 깻잎 (Gganip) are usually used in pickled and stir-fried dishes. It can also be used as a wrap.

마늘 (Manul) – Garlic

Garlic 마늘 (Manul) is definitely one of the most commonly used ingredients in cooking worldwide. You can find garlic in almost every Korean dish unless it’s a dessert or plain rice. Garlic is one of the best ways to season food or to make a dish, marinating sauce or dipping sauce flavorful.

생강 (Saenggang) – Ginger

Ginger 생강 (Saenggang) is also a common ingredient in Korean cuisine along with garlic 마늘 (Manul). But, in Korea, ginger is also used as a tea aside from using as an ingredient in main dishes, dipping sauces, and marinating sauces.

파 (Pa) – Green Onions/Spring Onion/Scallion/Shallots

If you take a look at Korean dishes, it is impossible not to see green onions or 파 (Pa). It is used not only as an ingredient but it is also used as a garnish to make food visually pleasing.

무(Mu) – Korean radish/Daikon Radish/White Radish

Cube radish Kimchi is another kind of Kimchi that is famous among Koreans. This Kimchi is made primarily of Korean radish or 무(Mu). It is also used to make white radish pickles usually served in Korean restaurants as one of the side dishes. Korean radish is also an ingredient in different Korean soups and stews.

Korean Ingredients From The Sea

Korean Ingredients From The Sea

South Korea is also rich in fresh ingredients from the sea. In fact, Korean cuisine is rich in seafood dishes that can be easily found in streets and high-end restaurants. So, let us learn these common ingredients in Korean cuisine from the sea:

김 (Gim) – Seaweed/Dried Seaweed

If you’re a Kimbap lover, one of the ingredients used is the non-seasoned seaweed or 김 (Gim). There are other kinds of seaweed like seasoned seaweed, which is used as a side dish and oil brushed seaweed which is popular with the young ones.

어묵 (Eomuk) – Korean Fish Cakes

Korean fish cakes are indeed one of the most famous ingredients in Korean cuisine from the sea. It can be easily seen in streets, and it is also used as an ingredient in different main dishes.

다시마 (Dashima) – Sea Kelp/Dried Kelp

Sea kelp 다시마 (Dashima) is usually used in Korean cuisine to make a stock. The dried sea kelp is soaked in water for at least an hour to make a tasty stock. It can also be used as an ingredient in making a side dish.

마른 멸치 (Marun Myeolchi) – Dried Anchovies

Dried anchovies or 마른 멸치 (Marun Myeolchi) might be small, but it brings flavor when making stir-fried or braised Korean side dishes. There are also large dried anchovies that are typically used in making stock.

Meat Ingredients In Korean

Meat Ingredients In Korean

There’s no doubt that South Koreans really love meat. In fact, Korean bbq is one of the most famous Korean food around the world, and it’s fast-growing. So, why not learn these different meat ingredients in Korean?

삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal) – Korean Pork Belly

The Korean pork belly or 삼겹살 (Samgyeopsal) is already discussed above. This three-layered meat is best enjoyed in Korean bbq with a bottle of Soju.

등심 (Deungshim) – Sirloin Or 안심 (Anshim) – Tenderloin

If you’re familiar with bulgogi, sirloin (등심 | deungshim) or (안심 | anshim) tenderloin is the meat used making them. You can also add them to make Japchae or Korean seaweed soup.


Other Korean Condiments And Spices

HangulRomanizationEnglish Translation
중조jungjobaking soda
베이킹파우더beikingpaudeobaking powder
피망pimangbell paper
인삼, 진생insam, jinsaengginseng
핫 소스hat soseuhot sauce
고구마gogumasweet potato


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