We all know that there are several enticing traditional foods in Korea, such as noodles, kimchi, and different kinds of soups served on special occasions. But there’s more about Korean food that you should know about. Today, we will talk about the flavorful and delicious popular Korean desserts you should not miss out!
Like Filipinos, Koreans are often described as friendly and hospitable, and they also enjoy serving guests some sumptuous food. The locals genuinely have a unique love for eating tasty and sugary food, from traditional tea, biscuits, and cookies to rice cakes. Sometimes they eat fresh fruits like strawberries, watermelons, apples, and pears, but usually, they love traditional Korean desserts.
Throughout the years, the locals also adopted a love for desserts from other countries. Today, tons of Korean desserts integrate elements from foreign recipes, such as cakes with whipped cream, bread with sweetened red bean paste, and the famous Korean shaved iced dessert with condensed milk. Moreover, traditional Korean drinks now have additional ingredients, and flavors like matcha green tea powder served with mini bundt cakes.
Let’s learn more about this in today’s post!
The Best And Most Popular Traditional and Modern Korean Desserts
Traditional Korean Desserts
1. 떡 (Tteok) – Korean Rice Cakes
Korean rice cake is the most popular traditional dessert in the country, served during holidays and important celebrations, you will find different variations of this delicious dessert. The most famous types of Korean rice cake that you should try are: 꿀떡 (Ggul Tteok), 가래떡 (Garaetteok), 백설기 (Baek-seolgi), 인절미 (Injeolmi), 찹쌀떡 (Chapssaltteok), 영양찰떡 (Yeongyang-chaltteok ), 술떡( Sultteok), and 시루떡 (Siru-tteok).
Korea is famous for this sweet rice cake because rice is the staple food in the country. Like the other South-East Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines, they use rice (glutinous rice or glutinous rice flour) as the main ingredient for making sweets, main dishes, or snacks.
The main ingredients used to prepare Korean rice cake are water, glutinous rice flour, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Besides, you can add red bean paste, sesame seeds, chopped walnuts, caramel syrup, and other ingredients that suit your taste buds. If you travel to Korea, try to attend a cooking class to learn how to prepare traditional rice cakes for your friends and family back home!
2. 약과 (Yakgwa) – Korean Honey Cookies
Korea is a country that has kept its traditional medicine (Hanbang) very close to its modern way of life. Used even today to treat injuries or illnesses, we can even see medicinal herbs as cooking ingredients. Just like in Yakgwa, which is a medicinal snack for Koreans. But don’t let the word ‘medicine’ give you the wrong idea. This Korean dessert made of honey is actually delicious and one of the most popular in the whole country. Besides honey syrup, other ingredients of Yakgwa are sesame oil, wheat flour, fried rice, and sesame seeds.
Korean honey cookies are usually served in Korean rituals, ceremonies, holidays, and feasts. So don’t miss out on attending traditional ceremonies to have a bite.
3. 화전 (Hwajeon) – Pan-Fried Sweet Rice Cakes With Flower Petals
Aside from the traditional Korean rice cake, they also have the pan-fried sweet rice cake with flower petals traditionally served in a particular season and special occasion. The flower petals placed above the pan-fried rice cake depend on the season when they will serve the traditional dessert.
The main ingredients in making the pan-fried Korean sweet rice cake are glutinous rice flour, water, brown sugar, flower petals. This traditional dessert uses flowers because it is highly rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.
4. 경단 (Gyeongdan) – Sweet Rice Balls
Korean sweet rice balls are similar to Japanese rice balls. The difference is that Gyeongdan is made from local ingredients in each province in the country. For instance, people from mountainous regions use sweet potatoes instead of glutinous rice flour, offering a diversity of flavors to choose from.
This distinctive and sweet taste of Gyeongdan came from these main ingredients: kneaded glutinous rice covered with black sesame seeds, mugwort powder, or roasted soybean powder.
5. 호떡 (Hotteok) – Korean Sweet Pancakes
Korean Sweet pancake is a tasty dessert snack commonly available in different street foods. This is usually served during winter because it is best eaten when hot. Also, you can add other fillings like fresh fruit, chocolate, cheese, and others. Moreover, you can also buy a ready-mixed hotteok recipe in various convenience stores in Korea if you desire its sweet flavor.
The main ingredients of Hotteok are cinnamon powder, brown sugar, pine nuts, and filled with sweet syrup.
If you are craving Korean pastries, don’t miss the chance to try Hotteok the next time you find a vendor on Seoul’s streets.
6. 다식 (Dasik) – Pressed Sweets
Dasik is a sweet treat traditionally served with tea. The designs of Dasik are usually flowers, fruits, and other symbolic characters in Korea. Also, the colors of this sweet treat are red, blue, yellow, black, and white are common colors of candies.
The main ingredients of this sweet treat are kneaded chestnut powder, pine flower powder, starch powder, bean powder, sesame powder in honey.
7. 강정 (Gangjeong) – Crispy Snack
Gangjeong is another traditional sweet treat occasionally served in every Korean memorial, feast, and ritual with Yakgwa and Daksi. This is usually prepared in different shapes, drying in the shade, and deep-fried in oil, then covered with honey syrup.
The main ingredients of this traditional Korean dessert are mixed glutinous in alcohol, vegetable oil, and honey syrup.
8. 엿 (Yeot) – Sweet Taffy
This traditional Korean dessert is part of the culture of Koreans. Their ancestors used to believe that Yeot could predict their future (who would live longer) when they sliced and counted the holes inside. Up to now, Yeot has been a good fortune in several young students who hopefully passed their examinations. Because of its sticky texture, they believe that they will pass the test or ‘stick to the exam if they have this lucky charm when taking an exam.’
The main ingredients of this Korean dessert are steamed rice (it can be glutinous rice, pumpkin, corn, or sweet potatoes, water, and brown sugar.
9. 아이스홍시 (Ice Hongsi) – Iced Ripe Persimmon
Because traditional Korean desserts are fresh fruits, they improvise it based on the season they want to serve them. Due to its cold and sweet flavor, the Ice Hongi is usually served during summer and autumn. Since Persimmon is the most common fruit in Korea, this is the main ingredient of this traditional Korean drink. You only need to freeze the red-ripe Persimmon. Afterward, it is ready to be served and eaten like a sorbet.
10. 화채 (Hwachae) – Traditional Korean Punches
Traditional sweet drinks are some of the Korean desserts made from the past. Unlike modern Korean drinks, this sweet drink is made from seasonal fresh fruits. Also, this is usually served during summer because it is best when served cold to beat the heat.
The main ingredients of this traditional Korean drink are fresh fruits, honey, water, and ice.
11. 수정과 (Sujeonggwa) – Korean Cinnamon Punch
These traditional drinks were served on special occasions and drank by high-ranking aristocrats and high officials. This is because the main ingredients of this dessert drink, like cinnamon, are imported from other countries. That’s why it was considered a luxury drink in the past.
The main ingredients of this traditional Korean drink are cinnamon, ginger, honey or sugar, and water, Persimmon, and pine nuts.
12. 식혜 (Sikhye) – Sweet Korean Rice Beverage
This sweet Korean rice beverage is also one of the famous dessert drinks in Korea. In the past, it was very hard to have this drink because it should be fermented, which is a complex process. But today, you can buy canned sikhye in various convenience stores in the country. Also, sikhye is another medicinal drink because it aids digestion.
The main ingredients of this traditional beverage are fermented malt, barley and rice, and water.
13. 오미자 차 (Omija Cha) – Magnolia Berry Tea
This another fresh dessert drink is usually served during summer. Like the other iced tea in Korea, this will help Koreans beat the heat when they drink Omija. Also, Omija is a unique dessert drink because it has five flavors (sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, and salty) because of its ingredients and the process of making this drink. The dried omijas are needed to be sweetened, boiled in hot water, and then left overnight. It is ready to drink the following day. All you have to do is to add ice to enhance the taste.
The main ingredients of this tasty drink are dried omija, water, ice, and sugar.
14. 매실차 (Maesilcha) – Plum Tea
This is another medicinal drink and a dessert drink from the past. Since plum tea helps aid digestion and detoxify the body, it is usually served and drunk after a heavy meal.
The main ingredients of plum tea are plum syrup, hot or cold water, and sugar.
Modern Korean Desserts
15. 팥빙수 (Patbingsu) – Shaved Ice With Sweet Red Beans
This modern Korean dessert is also one of the well-known desserts outside the country. And If I were to ask ‘What is the best Korean dessert that I tried outside Korea?’, I would answer ‘Bingsu!’
Patbingsu is another variety of Bingsu. since ‘Pat’ came from the Korean word ‘red beans.’ Bingsu is different from other shaved ice because this Korean shaved ice dessert comprises shaved milk. You can also try different varieties of Bingsu with toppings like fresh fruits, jellies, chocolates, or rice cakes.
The main ingredients of Patbingsu are shaved ice-milk and sweet red beans.
16. 허니 브래드 (Heonibeuledeu) – Honey Bread
We all know that there are many cafes in Korea, and some of the coffees and teas are served together with mini bun cakes. One of these is the Honey bread. This is a thick bread divided into nine parts filled with whipped cream.
The main ingredients of Honey bread are whipped cream, honey syrup, caramel syrup, and cinnamon powder.
17. 호두과자 (Hodu-gwaja) – Walnut Cookies
This is another well-known dessert snack in Korea. Unlike other cookies from European countries, these cookies have sweet red bean filling that satisfies the taste buds of Koreans.
The main ingredients of this dessert snack are walnuts and red bean filling.
18. 황남빵 (Hwangnambbang) – Hwangnam Bread
The taste of bread filled with sweet bean paste will remain in your memory for a long time as one of the most delicious dishes you tried in Korea. Hwangnam Bread is a famous bread snack from Hwangnam-dom, Gyeongju city, where the name was derived.
The main ingredients of this Korean dessert are sweet red beans, eggs, and wheat flour (wheat dough). And rest assured that it does not use artificial preservatives and sweeteners.
19. 달고나 (Dalgona) – Korean Sponge Candy
Probably, this is one of the special sweet treats in Korea. The sponge candy became more eminent because of the Korean movie ‘Squid Game.’ The ingredient of Dalgona is the same as sweet taffy, by melting the sugar and adding a little bit of baking soda.
The Korean sponge candy is available in various street food and is commonly bought by Korean children because it is affordable from other Korean desserts.
20. 붕어빵 (Bungeo-ppang) – Korean Fish Shaped Pastry
If the Japanese have ‘Taiyaki,’ Koreans have ‘Bungeo-ppang’. But Bungeo-ppang has this one filling: the sweet red bean paste. It is also grilled in a fish-shaped molder.
This sweet red bean paste pastry is usually bought during winter. However, during summer, you can try it with other fillings like vanilla ice cream, strawberry ice cream, and different cold fillings.
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As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you can discover the mouthwatering desserts that Korea has to offer. If you enjoyed this post and figured that you would love to learn more, you can read our other Korea-related posts like Korean Proverbs and Korean Foods.
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