If you’ve never tried Korean food before, you’re definitely in for cuisine that will definitely have something you’ll find to love. Don’t want to go to a restaurant and not know what order? You’re in luck. Korean food can easily be made in your kitchen and be creatively twisted to cater to your own taste buds and diet.

Here in this list of Korean dishes, you’re bound to find at least one that will get you in your kitchen cooking. All are simple to make and can be as healthy (or as unhealthy) as you want them to be.

This isn’t just for the Korean BBQ lovers. Korean food surprisingly, doesn’t even need to involve red meat. Even if you don’t like vegetables, I’ve known people that don’t eat vegetables that love Korean side dishes such as Kimchi!

The following linked recipes are all meat free but meat lovers, feel free to add or substitute meat in.

1. Bibimbap (“mixed rice”)

Photo courtesy of Alpha on flickr.com

This signature dish is easier to make than you thought. Warm white rice, a stone bowl (if you have one), a bunch of flexible toppings and chili paste is all you need. All toppings are stir fried with just a bit of oil (or you can boil them if you wish).

This recipe includes how to make a chili paste but honestly, I’ve never had to make it. If you have an Asian mart nearby, you’re bound to find Korean chili paste. Add a sunny side-up-egg on top for that extra protein and watch that gooey yolk to flow all over your rice. It’s just heavenly.

2. Kimchi (Fermented Cabbage)

Photo courtesy of Jin Li on flickr.com

Many simple and easy to buy ingredients for Kimchi exist on the internet. Pretty much the food most would think of when they think “Korean food,” and one of the most commonly seen dishes in Korean dramas. It is surprisingly very nutritious and full of good bacteria that’s great for you.

Again, it’s easily found in Asian supermarkets. You can eat it alone or with rice or even adapt it. Check out this Easy Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe for a way to use your next batch of Kimchi.

3. Gimbap (Korean Sushi)

Photo courtesy of Churl on flickr.com

Unlike sushi, it’s not eaten with soy sauce and wasabi. Traditionally filled with no meat, it’s instead filled with yellow pickled radish, sautéed carrots, spinach, and strips of egg. The fillings are also versatile to whatever you desire. Here’s a full recipe for a traditional gimbap.

4. Sigeumchi-namul (Spinach)

Photo by Kristine Mahan

This dish is so simple and also so healthy. Just boiled spinach with usually just garlic, salt and sesame oil for taste. You would be surprised how tasty it actually is. It’s typically served cold and can be refrigerated to be eaten cold again the next day.

5. Kongnamool (Soybean Sprouts)

Photo courtesy of Sierravalleygirl on flickr.com

This has become my go-to preparation method whenever I see and purchase soybean sprouts from the supermarket. Again, they’re just boiled and the seasoning can be quantified for your own tastes. And plus, all ingredients can be easily found in your kitchen.

6. Haemul Pajeon (Savory Pancake)

Photo courtesy of James on flickr.com

More complicated to make than the rest, but it’s a definite must mention for me. Basically a savory pancake topped with seafood and vegetables but so, so good.

7. Gaji namul (Eggplant)

Photo by Jenny Georgieva

Like previous vegetable side dishes, this is a healthy dish with a small amount of flavoring. A very small amount of soy sauce and fish sauce, and mostly garlic and other herbs, spices. And, the eggplant is steamed. Seriously, how much healthier can we get?

Healthy Korean Ingredients that you must try at home with easy recipes. From Kimchi to Dried Pollock, I share how these recipes also benefit your health!

Healthy Korean Ingredients in Easy Recipes

Healthy Korean ingredients that are a must-have in your pantry so that you can enjoy the tastiness of Korean cooking at home as well as reap its health benefits. Food as medicine is such a big part of the Korean food culture that there’s even a name for it – Yakseon (약선 藥膳) Eumsik (음식 飮食). Yak means ‘medicine’ and this refers to cooking and eating foods as a way to heal the body from various illnesses or to simply promote one’s well being. Here’s an article that has more info on this subject.

Yakseon Eumsik is a combination of oriental medicine, nutrition, and food science. Sometimes oriental herbs like ginseng is added to soup or desserts and sometimes a HOT food is suggested to warm up a COLD body and bring it back into balance. And sometimes a nutritious food is suggested to help someone regain their strength. Yakseon has always been incorporated into Korean Royal Cuisine as it is only natural that the royal cooks would do everything in their power to cook the most healthy foods to help promote the health of their King. An example is a Royal Chicken Soup (Gungjung Baeksuk) dish where 16 different grains and 24 different berries/nuts/fruits were all cooked together with the chicken!

Yeong Gye Baeksuk (Korean Chicken Soup)

Samgyetang-Korean Ginger Chicken Soup

Check out my Korean chicken soup (Yeong Gye Baeksuk) recipe and Korean ginseng chicken soup (Samgyetang) recipe.

Also, certain healthy Korean ingredients are traditionally eaten during different times of the year and at different stages of a person’s life to support the body under various circumstances, such as extreme environmental temperatures and recovery from an illness.

These healthy Korean ingredients have been passed down for many generations. I learned it from the mother figures in my life, they learned it from their mothers, and I will pass it on to my children. And I’m so happy to share this food wisdom that I inherited from my ancestors with you. I’ve also listed easy recipes to help you include these healthy Korean ingredients in your diet. Let’s start with the most famous Korean ingredient of all… kimchi!


Easy Kimchi aka Mak Kimchi (막김치)

This is one healthy Korean ingredient that everyone should know about! Eating fermented foods can optimize gut health. Lucky for us Korean food lovers, kimchi is packed with beneficial gut bacteria that improves digestion, which then supports our overall physical and even mental health. The good news is kimchi is low in calories, high in fiber, and loaded with vitamins and minerals.

While the traditional napa cabbage kimchi is the most common, you can actually make kimchi with many different vegetables, such as radish, green cabbage, and cucumber. If you’re new to kimchi-making, try my recipe for Mak Kimchi, which is what Koreans like to call everyday kimchi because it’s much easier to make with simpler ingredients and less time. For something light and refreshing, you might want to try water kimchi, which has a drinkable liquid. This type of kimchi is so clean tasting that you’ll feel a belly-cleansing effect.

Kimchi Recipes:
Easy Kimchi aka Mak Kimchi (막김치)
Water Kimchi (Mul Kimchi물김치)


Soybean Sprout Soup (Kongnamul Guk 콩나물국)

Soybean sprouts are super nutritious and versatile in Korean cuisine. Kongnamul is probably the most common healthy Korean ingredient used in everyday cooking. They make a good side dish on their own and can easily be added to soups and stews. In fact, Koreans swear by soybean sprout soup to help alleviate the common cold and even hangover. It’s Korean version of chicken soup for the soul!

Another simple way to enjoy soybean sprouts is to mix them with rice, which was a popular dish in almost every Korean home when I was growing up. Nutritionally rich in vitamin C and Bs to boost one’s immunity, the head part of the soybean sprout contains a lot of protein while the root end provides fiber. Research has also shown that the amino acid asparagine contained in the root contributes to healthy brain development in children. And when you add red chili powder to make it spicy, it adds even more vitamin C to this amazing soup.

Soybean Sprouts Recipes:
Soybean Sprout Soup (Kongnamul Guk 콩나물국)
Rice with Soybean Sprouts (Kongnamul Bap 콩나물밥)


Radish Salad (Moo Saeng Che 무생채)

Did you know that the shredded radish that decorates your food in Korean restaurants is edible and really good for your health? Korean radish has various digestive enzymes, namely diastase, amylase, and esterase, that help us digest carbs, fats, and proteins. That’s why they appear so often with Korean dishes and not just to look pretty! Radish salad is a nice side dish to have with heavy meat dishes to cool down your body, balance off the fattiness, and aid in digestion.

Koreans drink the juice of radish kimchi whenever they have indigestion. Researchers at Tokyo’s College of Pharmacy have discovered that daikon juice inhibits the formation of dangerous chemicals in the body. If kimchi juice is not your thing, try making radish soup to enjoy the benefits.

Radish Recipes:
Radish Salad (Moo Saeng Che 무생채)
Radish Kimchi (Seokbakji)
Radish Soup (Mu Doenjang Guk 무된장국)


Seaweed Soup (Miyeok Gook 미역국)

The health benefits of the nutrient-dense seaweed are well-documented, especially the fact that it’s an excellent source of iodine, iron, and vitamin C to aid iron absorption. No wonder Korean women are advised to consume seaweed soup after childbirth. It’s a food wisdom that has been passed down through many generations from mothers to daughters to help with recovery and to increase the production of breast milk.

Seaweed is also low in calories and high in soluble and insoluble fiber, which is good for digestive health, lowering cholesterol, and weight control.

Seaweed Recipes:
Seaweed Soup (Miyeok Gook 미역국)


Pan Seared Dried Pollock (Bugeo Gui북어구이)

Dried pollock is a type of dried fish traditionally used in Korea for its ability to help the body eliminate toxins. Hence, dried pollock soup is known as a hangover cure among Koreans. My mother-in-law also believes in eating dried pollock soup before and after a herbal medicine regimen to help clear away any toxins from the body. Research shows that pollock has a high amount of an amino acid called methionine that helps with normal liver function.

Dried pollock is a good healthy Korean ingredient to have in the pantry or even freezer because you can easily make side dishes and soups out of it any time. One can easily pan sear dried pollock and because it’s dried, you can freeze marinated pieces in advance and cook them almost instantly without needing to defrost.

Dried Pollock Recipes:
Pan Seared Dried Pollock (Bugeo Gui북어구이)
Dried Pollock Soup (Bugeo Guk)


Black Sesame Porridge (Heukimja Juk흑임자죽)

Typically used as a garnish, sesame seeds add a nutty flavor and crunchy texture to Korean dishes. Sesame oil too is commonly used to make dipping sauces and dressing, like sesame soy dressing for salads. Sesame is not only an important flavor agent in Korean cooking but also included in the diet for its many health benefits.

In the winter, Koreans turn to the soothing black sesame porridge to stay warm. It is also easy to digest and Koreans often eat it to regain strength after surgery and to ease constipation. Sesame seeds are known to be high in fiber and calcium as well as rich in vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and copper. Recent research also claims that it may have anti-cancer benefits!

Sesame Seed Recipes:
Black Sesame Porridge (Heukimja Juk흑임자죽)
Songpyeong (Korean Rice Cake with Sesame Filling)
Korean Tea Cookis (Dasik 다식)


Sauteed Burdock (Woowong Bokkeum우엉볶음)

Burdock root is a really popular root vegetable in Korea. This healthy Korean ingredient has reportedly been traditionally used as a medicinal herb in many cultures and consumed as a digestive aid and also acts as a natural diuretic. It is believed to be a blood purifier, has anti-inflammatory abilities, and can strengthen the lymphatic system.

A common way for Koreans to prepare burdock root is simply sauteed, which can then be added to kimbap, bibimbap, and even used to make japchae in place of glass noodles. You can usually find fresh burdock root at an Asian supermarket. It’s also sometimes sold pre-washed and pre-cut if you find it too troublesome to cut fresh burdock root. I encourage you to give it a try for the health benefits!

Burdock Recipe:
Sauteed Burdock (Woowong Bokkeum우엉볶음)
Gimbap (Korean Seaweed Roll) with woowong (burdock roots)


Korean Pumpkin Porridge (Hobakjuk 호박죽)

Korean women have long enjoyed the tradition of drinking pumpkin porridge or hobakjuk after giving birth because it helps eliminate fluid retention. Mature fairytale pumpkin (Neulkeun Hobak) is normally used but that’s been replaced with kabocha squash in recent years because it’s smaller, therefore easier to handle, and naturally sweeter. It also has the same nutritional benefits, such as being a rich source of dietary fiber, beta-carotene, vitamins Bs and C, and iron.

Korean-style kabocha porridge is a healing food that’s easy on the digestion, especially for cold weather or someone in recovery after an illness. Another family favorite is the sweet and simple kabocha squash salad that really celebrates the flavor and texture of the low-calorie and health-promoting squash. Kids will love it!

Kabocha Squash Recipes:
Korean Pumpkin Porridge (Hobakjuk 호박죽)
Kabocha Squash Salad (Danhobak 단호박 사라다)

I really hope you will include these healthy Korean ingredients in your diet! These easy Korean recipes should help you get started. Share your healthy cooking with your family and loved ones. They will appreciate the deliciousness and also the goodness for their health. Happy cooking and eat well!



Here’s all you need to know about the Korean weight loss diet

With the obesity rate as low as 10 percent in Korea, there is no denying of the fact that Koreans have always managed to withdraw themselves from the influence of western culture and their eating habits such as fast food and other highly processed meals.
The Korean cuisine is not that rich and do not require those sophisticated cooking methods as other cuisines such as French and Chinese. Maybe that very well explains the simplicity of the Korean meals and why the obesity rate is this low. This implies that if one wants to lose weight in a healthy way one can cut down the portion of meals but the food, which best tailored according to your taste and preferences, Korean weight loss diet is the way to go.

The focus lies on not just toning down the weight and losing off inches, but at the same time the health factor also plays a vital role here. Also known as K-pop diet or K-diet, the Korean weight loss diet is especially designed for losing weight, getting that radiant and clear skin and optimizing the overall health of the body. Starving or simply cutting off the size of meal won’t do any good, eating the right kind of food and appropriate quantity of the meal along with regular exercise is the key.
The Korean cuisine promotes the least processed food and cutting off the intake of highly processed ones, while also keeping refined sugar, wheat consumption and food with excess fats at bay. The K-diet believes in the indulging of only those foods which have fewer calories while also having a daily workout routine as necessity. Koreans love binging on healthy food.
This diet includes a good bowl full of fruits and vegetables along with cooked rice, meat, seafood and kimchi salad (fermented spicy cabbage), they are a staple in Korea and it is something that Koreans are obsessed with. Kimchi should be consumed in moderation, due to a high salt content which might not be good for some heart patients.
The Korean cuisine includes loads of vegetables, which are rich in fibers. These vegetables help greatly in weight loss and giving a feeling of a full and satiated tummy, hence no chances of cravings and hunger exist. Another thing to keep in mind is that substitution is the key. Drink water for whenever you crave soda, avoiding snacking foods rich in fats and substituting them with fresh fruits. Therefore, if one wants to lose weight, without thinking anything, just gobble up loads of veggies, fruits and cooked rice and after after some time of dedication and hard work, you will definitely see the results.

By Nancy Snyder, MS, RD

Q: What are the Best Choices at Korean Restaurants?

A: Korean cuisine can be a smart choice when dining out because many restaurants have maintained the tradition of preparing dishes with minimal fat while delivering taste through fresh ingredients and herbs.
Typical Korean dishes are comprised of a protein—seafood, beef, chicken or soy—that has been marinated and grilled, barbecued, or stir-fried lightly with sesame oil. Accompanying this is often rice or noodles, steamed or pickled vegetables (known as kimchi), and seasonings of garlic, ginger, or fresh herbs and spices.

While this may sound like all the components for a healthy dish, the calories and fat can add up fast depending on preparation method, portion size, and amount of sauce. Use the following recommendations as a guide for a guilt-free dish:

  • Watch your portions. Korean food is traditionally served family style and accompanied by banchan, or side dishes (such as soup and various other items). Check with your server to see what is included with your entrée; if one dish contains multiple servings, avoid overeating by sharing with a friend or saving half for leftovers.
  • Start with soup. Broth-based soups are a great, low-calorie appetizer to help fill you up and decrease calories eaten later in the meal. Choose broth-based soups and stews over mandu, or dumplings. Be aware that these soups can be high in sodium, so if this is a concern, share with your dining companion or limit yourself to just one cup.
  • Preparation is key. When skimming the menu, look for entrées that are steamed, roasted or broiled. Stir-fried dishes are also ideal, as a minimal amount of oil is used in cooking. Avoid tempura dishes and anything else that has been battered or deep-fried. Not sure how the dish is prepared? Just ask your server, and you’ll be sure to slash off any hidden and unwanted fat and calories.
  • Go light on the starch. Many Asian dishes are accompanied by noodles (guksu) or rice (bap). When possible, opt for steamed, brown rice. This is a delicious way to get a serving of whole grains complete with fiber, protein and vital nutrients. If this option isn’t available, be sure to watch your portions, enjoying smaller servings of white rice or noodles.
  • Fill up on vegetables, instead. Your dish doesn’t contain them? Ask for them! Vegetables used most often in Korean dishes—broccoli, carrots, mushroom, snap peas, and bok choy—deliver flavor, texture, and a wide variety of nutrients to the cuisine.
  • Ask for sauce on the side. This simple request gives you control over how much or how little of the often higher calorie, high sugar sauces (including BBQ) you might add. This is also a good strategy for those watching their sodium intake.

With the Hallyu wave and a dictatorship ruled by a lunatic on its doorstep, a spotlight has been given to South Korea over the past several years. The government has used this advantage to robustly promote the nation’s language, its customs and etiquette, and of course, its food.

If one scrolls through Google after typing “Korean cuisine,” dozens of articles and blogs will pop up. And in every post, there is one description that stands out like a sore thumb, and it’s the word “healthy.”

Foreigners gush over the fact that Korean food is filled with lots of vegetables, high-quality meat, and soup; a less high-calorie meal than Western food and a hearty one at that. Many would probably refer to “bibimbap” as a healthy meal with its colorful, assorted vegetables delicately laid upon white rice.

Kimchi is also a staple in Korean cuisine — a side dish made from salted and fermented vegetables. Besides providing phytonutrients and fiber, kimchi also supplies lactobacillus and other “good” bacteria that some experts believe can help boost immune defenses. Kimchi is also lavishly seasoned with chili pepper, which provides capsaicin, a compound shown to protect blood vessels and increase metabolism.

Korean food can be deceiving, however. Although vegetables may sound refreshing and beneficial for foreigners that compare to their usual intake on burgers and pasta, the “Korean” way of eating is usually smothered in three flavors: soy, spicy, and fermented. The same sauces and spices are used in nearly every dish, which includes “gochujang” (red chili paste), and “doenjang” (fermented bean paste), all high in sodium and nitrates due to copious amounts of salt used with reckless abandon.

Because of this – and slurping down spicy soup over its boiling point – Korea has one of the highest stomach cancer rates in the world, according to World Cancer Research Fund International.

Walk through the streets of Seoul, and you will see hundreds of university students and business workers crammed into small Korean barbecue restaurants, all salivating at samgyeopsal — a favorite slab of meat.

Although cooking meat on a cast iron hot plate looks slightly healthier, samgyeopsal consists of thick, fatty slices of pork belly. Similar to thick bacon rashers, the slices usually gushes with oil that slithers down into a grease cup that the restaurant generously offers.

Not to mention that by getting rid of the oily aftertaste, Koreans slam down shots of soju that has 527 calories in one bottle.

Korea’s obsession with fried chicken also has no limits, due to the fierce competition of who can make the craziest sauces for their menu. “Sweet garlic soy glaze,” “yangnyeom,” “scallion chicken,” “honey,” “onion cream sauce,” and “sprinkled cheese dust” are the basics at a typical fried chicken store; just one in 50,000 fried chicken restaurant throughout the country.

Sticking to the often-quoted Spider-man theme of “with great power comes great responsibility,” 99 percent of chicken stores have adopted delivery services to satisfy the cravings from starving customers until the wee hours of the morning. With just a push of a button, chicken is served promptly at your door.

One extreme case of fried chicken obsession was shown in a TV program called “Same Bed, Different Dreams,” where teens and their parents come and openly share their issues with the show’s panel, trying to resolve their problems with each other.

An 18-year-old girl called Han Boh-na is a fried chicken enthusiast, who orders two boxes of chicken alone for dinner nearly every night. Within two years she gained 40 pounds and her mother frets about it consistently. In a live-demonstration, Boh-na wowed the audience by knowing which chicken was which from different brands while being blindfolded.

But in all, Korean cuisine has some of the most delicious, savory dishes that no other country can top off. Complex? Yes. Exotic? Yes. Amazing? Definitely! Healthy? Hm, let’s get back to that.

Healthy korean food recipes

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