The 10 Best Korean Cookbooks of 2021

Learn how to make your favorite Korean dishes

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking at Amazon

"Covers a wide range of styles and cooking levels."

Best for Beginners: Cook Korean! at Amazon

"Uses a graphic novel format that makes cooking a bit more lighthearted."

Best for Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces at Amazon

"There are a total of 80 different Korean-American recipes."

Best Modern: My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes

"From banchan to soft tofu stew, a Michelin Star chef offers a modern spin on Korean classics."

Best for Easy Recipes: Korean Food Made Simple By Judy Joo at Amazon

"Has fun, easy recipes that can be made at home."

Best Korean-American: Koreatown: A Cookbook

"Explore the vibrant cuisine of Koreatowns across the United States."

Best for Traditional Recipes: Growing up in a Korean Kitchen at Amazon

"This book explores both Korean roots and the author’s history."

Best for Kimchi: The Kimchi Cookbook at Amazon

"Kimchi isn’t just one recipe, as this book proves."

Best for Korean Food Culture: Seoul Food Cookbook at Amazon

"Includes recipes for Korean bar food as well as Korean-American fusion foods."

Best for Paleo: Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes

"Simple recipes that put a creative, paleo-friendly spin on Korean classics."

Best Overall: Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook By Maangchi

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook By Maangchi
 Courtesy of Amazon

You know someone is popular when they can be called by just one name, like Maangchi. Known for her popular YouTube videos, she’s carved out a niche for herself as an authority on Korean cooking. Born and raised in Korea, she learned how to cook traditional foods from her family.

Not only does this book cover a wide range of recipe styles, but it also covers a range of difficulties, so beginners will find plenty of introductory recipes, while more experienced cooks can create more complicated dishes. This book has step-by-step photos that help make the techniques simple, along with tips inspired by questions her followers have asked her over the years. And of course, if you still have questions, you can check her videos for even more help.

Best for Beginners: Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes By Robin Ha

Cooking a new cuisine can be intimidating, but this book eases the tension by using a graphic novel format that makes cooking a bit more lighthearted. But it’s not all fun and games—there are 64 recipes, along with detailed information about the ingredients used.

The colorful illustrations add a whimsical touch to this cookbook, but they also serve to educate you about the ingredients as well as the steps required to make the recipes. There are plenty of simple recipes, as well as more challenging ones that you can attempt after your confidence has grown. In addition to recipes, there are some personal and cultural notes from the author that make this book even more appealing for anyone interested in Korean food and culture.

Best for Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces By Bill Kim

Korean barbecue isn’t the same as American barbecue, and it’s not just because of the sauces. Korean barbecue usually uses thin slices of meat (Chadol baegi) that are cooked quickly, unlike low-and-slow American barbecue.

Author Bill Kim was born in Korea and raised in the Midwest, so he knows what it takes to cook Korean in a typical American home, making this book more Korean-American than traditional Korean.

This book relies on seven different sauces and three spice rubs, often used in combination, to create a wide variety of different flavors. There are a total of 80 different recipes, and there are suggested substitutions for items that might not be readily available for American cooks. Since these recipes rely on the sauces and rubs, you can make those in advance so there’s a bit less work to do when it’s time to cook. Just make sure you have enough of each before you start!

Best Modern: My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes

In this cookbook that is part autobiography and part culinary lesson, Michelin Star chef Hooni Kim outlines the basics of Korean cuisine and then informs those techniques with his knowledge of French and Japanese cuisine to create innovative, modern recipes with a focus on quality ingredients.

Kim introduces home cooks to the culinary trinity of Korean cooking: doenjang, ganjang, and gochujang (fermented soybean paste, soy sauce, and fermented red chili paste). These components lay the foundation for the 90 recipes in the book, which include modern takes on dishes like dolsot bibimbap and mul naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles in chilled broth). The book is also filled with 100 vibrant photographs taken from all across Korea.

Best Korean-American: Koreatown: A Cookbook

No mere recipe book, this New York Times bestseller by chef Deuki Hong and food writer Matt Rodbard also takes you on a journey through the spicy, bold flavors of dishes found in Koreatowns and Korean-American communities across the United States. Yes, the book achieves this with plenty of accessible recipes—100 of them—but the writers also include anecdote-filled short essays and interviews, not to mention colorful photos and historical background on each of the recipes.

You'll find recipes for both well-known, traditional favorites—such as kimchi, bibimbap, and bulgogi—as well as lesser-known dishes like jjampong, a spicy noodle soup full of seafood and anchovy stock, and modern bar snacks like braised pig feet and Korean fried chicken.

Best for Easy Recipes: Korean Food Made Simple By Judy Joo

Judy Joo may look familiar, and that's because she’s the host of a show on the Cooking Channel in which she concisely demonstrates Korean recipes. This book follows suit, with fun, easy recipes that can be made at home. There’s also information on what to stock in your pantry to be ready to make Korean food any time you want it.

This book has 130 recipes, including popular Korean dishes as well as more creative riffs on Korean food. While those creative recipes may not be traditional at all, they’re a great way to introduce Korean flavors into dishes that are comfortable for an American audience. Recipes for desserts, drinks, and sauces round out the collection, making it a comprehensive book for anyone who wants to try cooking Korean at home.

Best for Traditional Recipes: Growing up in a Korean Kitchen: A Cookbook By Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall

Korean cooking has deep roots, and this book explores both those roots and the author’s history. Many of these recipes are part of the unwritten food culture, passed down in families throughout generations. There are recipes for special occasions as well as everyday meals. High-end cuisine and countryside cooking are both represented, giving a broad look at the food eaten just about everywhere in the country.

While these are traditional recipes, they’re simple to follow, but may require a few Korean ingredients that might not be easy to find. However, a list of resources for both the ingredients and Korean cooking tools are included. This book has a whopping 250 recipes plus some variations, along with the author’s family and travel photos, and plenty of reminiscences that make this a good read as well as a book to cook from. 

Best for Kimchi: The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi

Perhaps you’ve bought a jar of kimchi or you’ve eaten some in a restaurant, but kimchi isn’t just one recipe, as this book proves. Kimchi is seasonal, using produce as it is available from local farms. Kimchi can be ready to eat in just a few minutes, or it can require a long fermenting time. It can be fresh or funky. It can be deeply flavored or light and bright. This book has 60 different recipes for making kimchi and for using it in recipes that are both traditional and modern, and even some that are truly unique.

To make kimchi easier, the ingredients section details the ingredients required, so you’ll have an idea of what the flavors are like before you invest time and energy into the recipes. For vegetarians, there are suggested substitutions that can add the required umami flavor, so there’s something for everyone.

Best for Korean Food Culture: Seoul Food Korean Cookbook: Korean Cooking from Kimchi and Bibimbap to Fried Chicken and Bingsoo By Naomi Imatome-Yun

The author grew up in the suburbs of America but learned how to make favorite Korean foods from her Korean grandmother. Her book grew from those cooking sessions. The book has 135 recipes for familiar Korean foods like bulgogi and kimchi, but also includes recipes for Korean bar food as well as the inevitable Korean-American fusion foods that arise when traditional foods meet new ingredients.

Besides recipes, this book also has information about food customs, table manners, and tips for eating in Korean restaurants without looking too much like an outsider. Resources for buying specialty ingredients are also included, as are suggestions for substitutions if you don’t have easy access to all of the ingredients.

Best for Paleo: Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes

This book by Jean Choi, a certified nutritional therapist, puts creative, paleo-friendly spins on her family's classic Korean dishes.

Recipes include gluten-, grain-, and dairy-free versions of favorites like spicy tuna kimchi, pickled radishes, bibimbap, bulgogi, and more. Plus, the book features beautiful photography and the recipes are quick and easy to y to follow.

Final Verdict

There's something for beginners and more experienced cooks alike in our top pick, Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking. Maangchi guides you through traditional family recipes, complete with step-by-step photos. If you're looking for a fun and unique intro to Korean Cooking, look no further than the part comic book, part cookbook, Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes. It lays out ingredients, recipe steps, and personal anecdotes in a humorous and colorful way.

Why Trust The Spruce Eats?

Donna Currie is a product reviewer and roundup writer for The Spruce Eats. She's also a cookbook author herself (Make Ahead Bread)—and proud owner of a cookbook collection numbering in the hundreds. A couple of standouts she's reviewed for us: Dinner in an Instant and the Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook.

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  1. University of Nebraska–Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resource. Dairy-free and non-dairy: milk-allergic consumers?.

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