WHAT IS KOREAN FOOD?
Korean food gets its reputation as being packed with flavor because of the herbs and spices alongside a wide variety of fermented dishes. Some ingredients that are thought of as common Asian ingredients won’t be found in abundance here – for example, Korea does not cultivate coconut trees or pineapple bushes. The variety of Korean spices and flavors originate from the changes of the season as the well as the country’s varied terrain, namely its large mountainous region and exposure to the sea on three sides. In the history of Hansik (Korean food), one of the well-known traditions is fermenting many vegetables, cabbages and radishes to be consumed year-round through the long winters.
IS KOREAN FOOD SPICY?
Korean spiced cuisine is often thought of as spicy, and there is a culturally shared pride in being able to “handle one’s spice”. Hansik features multiple kinds of spice that ranges from soothing to overwhelming. The hottest Korean dishes are meant to reduce stress, anger and anxiety by overwhelming your senses and thoughts with spice, which will shift the focus off of your frustration, and ultimately release endorphins.
However, there are many Korean foods that are not spicy (although some people not accustomed to spice may find Kimchi, a popular ingredient, to taste spicy).
Korean Flavor Stories
- Clean Eating Bibimbap Bowls
- 5 Types of Hot Sauce to Spice Up Your Diet
- How to Make Korean Fried Chicken Wings at Home
- The Beginners Guide to Korean Cuisine
- Shrimp & Kimchi Korean Pancakes - Made Mini (and Easy!)
- How to Make Bibimbap Without a Recipe
- Learn More About Fermented Foods
KOREAN SPICES AND FLAVOR
Try these herbs and spices the next time you want to add a little Korean flavor to your dishes.
- Red Pepper
- Sesame Seeds
- Black Pepper
Red pepper, ginger and garlic help to bring out the vibrant flavor of the cuisine, and Koreans are typically very liberal with the amount of spice they use while cooking. If you want to add a little savory crunch, sesame seeds are great for noodle and chicken dishes.
Crushed red pepper helps to amp up the heat of Korean cooking acting as a great complement to Gochugaru. Try McCormick Crushed Red Pepper. What is red pepper? Learn more about how we source and make red pepper, as well as our recommended flavor pairings.
An indispensable ingredient in Korean cooking, ginger brings bright, fresh, vibrant and spicy notes that are a great complement to the savory fermented ingredients commonly used. Try McCormick Ground Ginger. Learn more about our ginger flavor and taste.
Sesame seeds are a favorite in Asian kitchens and are especially popular in Korean marinades for beef or the popular Korean BBQ wings. Toast them first for a rich, nutty flavor in your dishes. Try McCormick Sesame Seeds.
Garlic is a very important ingredient in Korean foods. It is included as the base flavor for many dishes, most notably Korean BBQ. Try McCormick Garlic Powder. Is garlic an herb or spice? You might be surprised! What about how much garlic powder is in a clove? Learn more about the flavor or garlic and its uses.
Black Pepper features an intense woody-piney flavor that is hot and biting to the taste, adding bold flavor to Korean creations. Try McCormick Ground Black Pepper. Discover more black pepper uses and recipes.
Chives offer a refreshing green punch to highly seasoned Korean food. Try McCormick Freeze-Dried Chives. You see them often as a garnish, but what are other chives uses? See what flavors pair best.
Onion is a popular ingredient in many Korean recipes. Its sharp flavor and aroma help build the strong flavors that are typical to Korean cuisine. Try McCormick Onion Powder. Do chopping onions make you cry? Learn more about and try dehydrated onions, which have a toasty flavor and, bonus, you get to skip the chopping.
Gochugaru helps give Korean cuisine its characteristic warmth without being overpowering. Red pepper gives a little lift to all of the other flavors commonly found in Korean cooking. Try McCormick Gourmet All Natural Korean Style Red Pepper.
Try these Korean-inspired recipes to incorporate more Korean food flavor into your next meal.
- Shrimp & Kimchi Korean Pancake
- Korean Pork Dumplings with Gochugaru Dipping Sauce
- Kimchi Broth Bowl with Crispy Rice & Fried Egg
- Grilled Korean Wings
- Easy Kimchi Slaw
IF YOU LIKE SPICY KOREAN FOOD, TRY THESE CUISINES NEXT:
Switch up some of the herbs and spices for a different take on your favorite dish. If you like Korean for its spicy food, find cuisine-based spices lists for these top-spicy cuisines:
- Use more Curry and the savory side of Cinnamon in Chinese cuisine.
- Blend hot and cool flavors of Thai cuisine.
- Discover the diverse, region-based spices of Indian cuisine.
- Mexican cuisine will fill your recipes with more aromatic flavors.
- Peruvian will give you a reason to get that smoked paprika.
- Discover more Japanese Meals in our Beginner's Guide to Japanese Cuisine.
Look through more of our cuisine-focused flavor guides to find more recommended spices, herbs, cooking techniques and recipes inspired by each cuisine.
Want to create a meal plan for your Caribbean recipes? Need help planning your weekly meals and want to try new recipes? Save your favorite food, dessert, drink recipes and organize your ingredients with McCormick Meal Planner.