This list of the best Korean winter foods will not only help you survive the cold Korean winter, it will also give you some amazing culinary memories from your trip to South Korea. Koreans have long had to deal with temperatures below zero during the winter months, as well as lots of snow.
Thankfully, they’ve created some amazing dishes that really lift your spirits, give you strength, and taste wonderful. You’ll certainly get the most from your trip to South Korea if you sample some of these delightfully delicious dishes.
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Delicious Korean Winter Foods You Must Try
Here’s a round up of 17 of the most amazing Korean winter foods that you simply won’t want to miss. From street food treats to big bowls of steaming goodness for all the family, you’re sure to find the perfect Korean food for you!
I’ve broken this list down into two different types of Korean winter food. From #1 to #8 are Korean winter street foods that you’ll find in all of the incredible traditional markets in Seoul and throughout Korea. Then, #9 to #17 are traditional Korean meals that you can enjoy in a cosy restaurant.
If you want to know more about traditional Korean food, then make sure you check out my finger-licking good guide to the 20 best traditional Korean dishes.
Now, without further ado, here are the 17 irresistible Korean winter foods you simply can’t miss, starting with one of my all time favourites that warms me up all winter long.
1: Hotteok – 호떡 (Korean Sweet Pancakes)
This is my personal favourite Korean winter food to eat when I have a busy day on the go. These can be found in the city or out in the national parks. I often pick one up at the end of a long hike as a sweet, hot treat.
What makes this so amazing is that it tastes like a donut but is stuffed with hot, sweet syrup, cinnamon, and some crunchy nuts. This combo of fried, sweet, crunchy goodness, along with the warmth it gives you as you gingerly hold it, really gives you a boost.
2: Bungeo-Bbang – 붕어빵 (Goldfish Bread)
Arguably the most popular Korean winter food for amongst locals and tourists alike is this cute goldfish bread. Baked in a fish-shaped mould, this treat not only looks great, it also tastes great.
Stuffed with red-bean paste, something you’ll find in a lot of Korean baked goods, this fish will give you a warm, fulfilling boost of energy. Crispy on the outside, sweet and delicious on the inside.
Like most Korean snack foods, you can find these in small stalls on street corners and in Korean markets. Try it and you certainly won’t regret it.
3: Tteokbokki – 떡볶이 (Spicy Stir Fried Rice Cakes)
This is one of the best Korean winter foods that you shouldn’t pass up if you’re exploring traditional markets in Korea. Best eaten fresh from the market vendors, this spicy, salty mishmash of classic Korean ingredients is certainly perfect as a snack or meal.
Tteokbokki is a blend of steamed and sliced rice cakes (tteok 떡), fish cakes (odeng 오뎅), and scallions in a sweet and spicy sauce with plenty of chili paste. Therefore, it’s perfect as a Korean winter food.
Here are some of the best places to get tteokbokki in Seoul.
4: Odeng – 오뎅 (Fish Cake)
A trip to Korea wouldn’t be complete without sampling odeng and all its fishy goodness. These cheap, delicious fish cakes on a stick can be found across South Korea. For example, in markets, festivals, convenience stores, train stations, and even at the top of mountains.
The fish cake is cut thickly and skewered on a wooden stick. It’s best eaten with a paper cup full of the soup it’s boiled in. You can feel the warmth returning to your body as you enjoy them both.
Koreans love this and it’s very popular with tourists, too. Grab some and find out why it’s one of the best Korean winter foods.
5: Gun-Bam – 군밤 (Roasted Chestnuts)
Chestnuts are plentiful in South Korea and they’re therefore added to many wonderful Korean dishes. One of the best ways to try them is roasted over a fire or in a hot drum.
The heat cracks their shells and cooks the nut inside, allowing you to easily open up the chestnut and get to the warm, nutty goodness inside.
Huddle up around the fire and stay warm while you wait for your bag of freshly toasted wholesome nourishment.
6: Gun-Goguma – 군고구마 (Roasted Sweet Potatoes)
Along with roasted chestnuts, you’ll also find lots of people selling roasted sweet potatoes in winter time in Korea.
Wrapped in a simple piece of paper, feel the warmth flowing out from this healthy snack as you hold it and pick apart the skin to get to the hot, sweet potato flesh inside.
These are a messy but wonderful treat that you can eat as you explore South Korea’s many wonderful parks and public spaces.
7: Hodu-Gwaja – 호두과자 (Walnut Cookies)
Walk along a busy street and you’ll certainly find a little food stall with a load of these tasty little Korean snacks being freshly made.
Hodu Gwaja is a baked treat made from flour and crushed walnuts and filled with red-bean paste. Furthermore, they are baked in a walnut-shaped mould to give them this distinctive shape.
A Korean staple for a long time, these little bite-sized baked balls of goodness are certainly one of the best Korean winter snacks to share. Grab a dozen and munch them as you go, or share them with friends or family.
8: Gyeranppang – 계란빵 (Egg Bread)
A classic street food from the food stalls of Myeongdong Market and similar places. You should certainly grab one of these Korean winter street food snacks whilst out shopping for bargains.
This simply delectable dish is as basic as it sounds – an egg on top of a slice of toasted bread. Hot, gooey, a bit messy, and yet so warming and satisfying on a cold winter’s day.
Even better, they’re really cheap. That makes them perfect as a snack or a cheap breakfast on the go, so be sure to pick one up.
Sometimes you want to get out of the cold and into a cosy Korean restaurant. There are many traditional restaurants in South Korea that typically serve only a few dishes, consequently they’re usually experts in those dishes.
Read on to find some of the best Korean winter foods you can find in restaurants across Korea. Enjoy the mouth-watering, stomach-warming tastes when you try them. These meals are usually best enjoyed with friends or family as they come in large portions and are designed to be shared. The same is true of Korean food whatever the season.
9: Kimchi Jjigae – 김치 찌개 (Kimchi Stew)
This is one of the best Korean winter foods in my opinion. It’s great for lunch or dinner and really fills you up. Any jjigae (stew) is going to be perfect to recover from the cold, but I think kimchi jjigae is the best.
A delightful mix of cabbage kimchi, tofu, cellophane noodles, pork or tuna, and vegetables, served with a portion of rice.
When the kimchi is sautéed, it becomes softer and releases all its flavour into the stew, creating a hearty broth. The best way to eat it is to put a bit of rice on your spoon, dip it in the broth, then top it with the other ingredients.
This list will guide you to some of the best kimchi jjigae places in Seoul.
10: Dolsot Bibimbap– 돌솥 비빔밥 (Stone Bowl Mixed Rice)
This is the winter version of one of Korea’s most popular and famous foods – bibimbap. Whereas regular bibimbap is served cold, this hot stone bowl version really mixes things up.
Instead of a fried egg, a raw egg is dropped on top and mixed together with the rice, vegetables, sauces, etc. This creates a kind of egg fried rice that is both delicious and healthy.
Not only that, the rice sticks to the edge of the bowl and at the end you can peel it off for a delicious snack. Alternatively, you can add water to the empty bowl to make a healthy rice drink.
You can find bibimbap restaurants in Seoul and all over South Korea.
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11: Dakgalbi – 닭갈비 (Spicy Stir Fried Chicken)
Dakgalbi is an amazing Korean winter food. This dish combines marinated chicken with a bunch of vegetables, rice cake (tteok 떡 ), chili paste sauce, and other spices. You can also add in noodles and cheese.
These ingredients are chucked in a large pan and stir-fried at your table. A waiter will come over every few minutes and mix it all up for you. This makes it a great food to experience, not just eat. Be careful, though, this is also a very messy dish and you’ll want to wear an apron.
Dakgalbi started in Chuncheon and this is the best place to try it. Therefore head to Chuncheon and visit Chuncheon Myeongdong Dakgalbi Street to sample the finest examples of this traditional Korean dish.
12: Kalguksu – 칼국수 (Noodle Soup)
There are many kinds of noodle soups in Korea, but kalguksu is definitely one of the best. A perfect Korean winter food, this hot, steaming broth can refresh any weary traveller.
Literally meaning knife-cut noodles, kalguksu has chunky noodles because they are cut by hand and not spun. This gives the noodles a rich taste and make them the star of the dish. Extra ingredients might include shellfish, ground beef, chicken, some vegetables, or cilantro.
The best kalguksu restaurants will be busy in winter, and that’s a good sign that they serve a great dish.
13: Budae Jjigae – 부대찌개 (Army Stew)
This unique fusion of American and Korean foods created one of the best dishes in Korea to eat on a cold winter’s day.
This dish is spicy, delicious, warming and stuffed with things that aren’t very healthy, which makes it a great Korean winter food. Packed full of meat, noodles, rice cakes, and lots of other rather unhealthy foods, it’ll leave you feeling satisfied and full.
You can find budae jjigae in many places, but here are some of the best budae jjigae restaurants in Korea.
14: Juk – 죽 (Korean Porridge)
If you’re feeling unwell or suffering from the coldness of winter, then this is definitely the best Korean winter food for you! I eat this porridge when I’m feeling sick and it’s great at picking me up and restoring my health. Furthermore, it tastes great!
Korean rice porridge is full of delicious ingredients and comes in lots of different varieties. For instance, you can get plain old rice porridge, chicken porridge, red bean porridge, shrimp porridge, and even abalone porridge.
If you’re feeling down or want a delicious winter treat, be sure to head to one of the many juk restaurants throughout Korea and you’ll certainly feel better.
15: Samgyeopsal – 삼겹살 (Korean BBQ)
I’ll admit, this is not only one of the best Korean winter foods, it’s also one of the best Korean foods ever. I’m a self-confessed lover of Korean BBQ and there are certainly many reasons you should try this famous Korean dish.
Firstly, it’s such a different eating experience from what you’ll find in many countries. For instance, everything is wrapped up in a lettuce leaf and shoved in your mouth in one unseemly, mouth-filling go. You’d probably be told off for doing that in most places.
Secondly, you can fry up a wide range of different types of meat and other ingredients and experiment with what you like the most. Furthermore, you can order all-you-can-eat options, if you’re feeling really brave or hungry.
You won’t have a problem finding Korean BBQ restaurants throughout Korea. Here is a list of some of the best BBQ places to visit in Seoul.
16: Dakbal – 닭발 (Super Spicy Chicken Feet)
This Korean winter food might give some people a bit of culture shock. It’s probably the spiciest of all the Korean winter foods on this list, too, so be careful if you order it! Literally meaning ‘chicken foot’ this is exactly what you’d imagine it is.
Dakbal is a very popular dish with Koreans who want to go out and party, drink lots of beer and enjoy super spicy food. Dakbal restaurants are generally quite lively and filled with Koreans having a good time.
If you feel brave enough, certainly try it and see what the big deal is about.
17: Mandu-guk – 만두국 (Dumpling Soup)
A good mandu-guk will be packed full of scrummy dumplings filled with kimchi, meat, or seafood. Also squeezed in with the dumplings, you might find tteok 떡 (rice cakes), sliced vegetables, ground meat, or even an egg.
This is definitely one of the best Korean winter foods and is even eaten on a special day in Korea. Koreans start the New Year with a bowl of mandu-guk. If you’re in South Korea at the time, be sure to try it.
You can find many great mandu restaurants across Korea. These places will mostly serve mandu-guk, as well as regular mandu.
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