The 11 Best Korean Cookbooks of 2023

We found resources that cover everything from traditional recipes to Korea-American cuisine

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Best Korean Cookbooks

The Spruce Eats / Lecia Landis

Korean cuisine is filled with diverse flavors and rich history. If you're interested in cooking up your favorite Korean dish or want to explore a new culture's food, you'll need a good cookbook. Fortunately there are many amazing Korean cookbooks out there, and we've rounded up our favorites for you to check out, from the traditional (and very popular) kimchi to modern barbecue favorites.

Best Overall

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home

Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home
Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home.


You know someone is popular when they can be called by just one name. Maangchi, born and raised in Korea, learned how to cook traditional foods straight from her family and has since made a name for herself as an authority on the cuisine. You may even recognize her from her popular eponymous Youtube channel, where she cooks, eats, and talks about the country's dishes, ingredients, and more.

In her cookbook, "Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking," Maangchi covers a wide range of recipe styles and difficulties, so beginners will find plenty of introductory recipes while experienced cooks can create more complex dishes. This book has step-by-step photos that help make 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 more help.

Price at time of publish: $18

Number of Recipes: 125 | Pages: 320 | Published: 2015 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best for Beginners

Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes

Cook Korean A Comic Book with Recipes


Cooking a new cuisine can be intimidating, but this book eases the tension by using a graphic novel format that makes the experience fun and lighthearted. 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 64 recipes.

There are plenty of simple recipes as well as more challenging ones that you can attempt after your confidence has grown. There are also personal anecdotes and cultural notes from the author that make this book even more appealing to anyone interested in Korean food and culture.

Price at time of publish: $15

Number of Recipes: 65 | Pages: 176 | Published: 2016 | Formats: Paperback, spiral-bound, e-book

Best for Korean Barbecue

Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces

Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces


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 the low and slow American version. 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.

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 in addition to suggested substitutions for items that might not be readily available in the U.S. Since these dishes 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.

Price at time of publish: $15

Number of Recipes: 80 | Pages: 240 | Published: 2018 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best Modern

My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes

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 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.

Price at time of publish: $23

Number of Recipes: 90 | Pages: 352 | Published: 2020 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best Korean-American

Koreatown: A Cookbook

Koreatown: A Cookbook


No mere recipe book, this New York Times bestseller by chef Deuki Hong and food writer Matt Rodbard takes you on a journey through the spicy, bold flavors of dishes found in Koreatowns and Korean-American communities across the United States. 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.

Price at time of publish: $20

Number of Recipes: 100+ | Pages: 272 | Published: 2016 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best for Easy Recipes

Korean Food Made Simple

Korean Food Made Simple


Judy Joo may look familiar, and that's because she’s the host of the show "Korean Food Made Simple," in which she concisely demonstrates Korean recipes. This book by the same name 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 creative riffs on Korean food. 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.

Price at time of publish: $30

Number of Recipes: 130 | Pages: 288 | Published: 2016 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best for Traditional Recipes

Growing up in a Korean Kitchen: A Cookbook

Growing up in a Korean Kitchen: A Cookbook


Korean cooking has deep roots, which this book explores in tandem with 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, too, 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. 

Price at time of publish: $39

Number of Recipes: 250 | Pages: 272 | Published: 2001 | Format: Hardcover

Best for Kimchi

The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat 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, and this book proves it. Kimchi is seasonal, using produce as it is available from local farms, and 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 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.

Price at time of publish: $12

Number of Recipes: 60 | Pages: 160 | Published: 2012 | Formats: Hardcover, e-book

Best for Korean Food Culture

Seoul Food Korean Cookbook

Seoul Food Korean Cookbook


This 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 and has 135 recipes from familiar Korean foods like bulgogi and kimchi to Korean bar food and Korean-American fusion.

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.

Price at time of publish: $19

Number of Recipes: 135 | Pages: 232 | Published: 2015 | Formats: Paperback, hardback, e-book

Best for Paleo

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

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. The book features beautiful photography, and the recipes are quick and easy to follow.

Price at time of publish: $22

Number of Recipes: 80 | Pages: 192 | Published: 2018 | Formats: Paperback, e-book

Best Plant-Based

The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen

The Korean Vegan Cookbook: Reflections and Recipes from Omma's Kitchen


Korean cuisine is synonymous with fish sauces, marinated meats, and barbecue, so how can it be made vegan? Lawyer, author, TikTok creator, and blogger Joanne Lee Molinaro successfully created a wide range of vegan-friendly Korean dishes. “The Korean Vegan Cookbook” is both a New York Times bestseller and James Beard Award recipient. The book is a celebration of Molinaro’s Korean-American heritage and memories of family meals.

This coffee table-worthy cookbook is filled with absolutely stunning photography and truly delectable recipes, with chapters dedicated to bbang (breads), banchan (side dishes), kimchi and salads, soups and stews, noodles and pastas, bar and street foods, main dishes, and sweets. Some tasty highlights include Korean pear slaw, cucumber kimchi, and japcahe (glass noodles with stir fry vegetables). 

Price at time of publish: $35

Pages: 336 | Published: 2021 | Formats: Hardcover, spiral-bound, e-book, audio-book

Final Verdict

"Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking" is a winner for its easy-to-follow recipes that don't skimp on flavor or traditional background. It also includes detailed photos to guide you through every step of the cooking process. We also highly recommend "Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes" for a fun comic book/cookbook fusion that will keep you entertained and educated in Korean cuisine.

What to Look for in a Korean Cookbook

Recipe Content

A cookbook is only useful if you like the recipes inside. Before buying a cookbook, try to take a sneak peek at what’s inside. Many cookbooks with special focuses will usually advertise that. Other more general cookbooks might cover a variety of foods and flavors, so it’s worth checking out the table of contents. After all, a vegetarian might not want a Korean cookbook that focuses heavily on meat entrees.


A clean, easy-to-read layout is vital when it comes to cookbooks. When you’ve got pans on the stove, you’ll want to read important information at a glance. Many cookbooks have ingredients, preparation info like oven temperature, and numbered instructions in distinct sections. Messy layouts or unclear instructions are frustrating. Flip through a few pages of a cookbook before you purchase to assess the layout. Or, if you’re buying a cookbook online, check out previews or read customer feedback.

Experience Level

Not all cookbooks are meant for all skill levels. Some are advertised as beginner’s cookbooks and cover basic, easy recipes. They’re great for building cooking skills and know-how, but more experienced cooks may find it too simple. It’s important to find a cookbook within your skill level—if it’s too complicated, you could become discouraged, and if it’s too easy, it’s not as fun or satisfying. Keep in mind that different recipes within the same cookbook might vary in difficulty. 

Additionally, if you’re interested in exploring a new culture’s cuisine, a beginner level cookbook could be helpful. Someone familiar with making Italian dishes may find Korean recipes very different in terms of ingredients and preparation. Fortunately, many cookbooks have introductions to ingredients, flavor profiles, food history, and culture.

All that said, don't be scared off from cooking Korean cuisine for yourself. "I think people should try Korean cooking for themselves because it is a cuisine that is very diverse in terms of flavors and ingredients," says JinJoo Lee, food blogger and recipe developer at Kimchimari. "There is a whole spectrum of very pungent, spicy, garlicky, funky flavors to very mild, simply seasoned dishes that allow ingredients to shine on their own. Home-cooked Korean food is so much tastier than many commercially made foods. If you ever get a Korean barbecue going, you will see how fun eating can be."

Kimchimari's slogan is: "authentic Korean recipes that anyone can cook," and the site even has a Korean cooking guide for newcomers.


All cookbooks contain recipes, but what elevates a book from good to great are the extras. Common extras include cooking tips, cuisine culture and history, resources, interviews, food maps, and photographs. Not only can these extras be helpful in your cooking, but they can also be culturally enriching.


What ingredients are common in Korean cooking?

Korean cuisine is packed with flavor, but there are a number of staples you’ll find in many of the dishes. Rice or noodles form the backbone of lots of dishes. Seafood and meat are also incredibly popular, typically cut up into bite-sized pieces for easy access with chopsticks. 

Other common Korean ingredients include the following:

  • Sesame oil
  • Chili pepper paste (gochujang)
  • Chili pepper flakes (gochukaru)
  • Soybean paste (daenjang)
  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Rice wine (chungju, mirin)
  • Dried anchovies (myulchi)
  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Dried seaweed sheets (gim)
  • Noodles (jajangmyun, somyun, dangmyun)
  • Tofu

What cooking methods are popular in Korea?

Korean food is incredibly diverse. A typical meal uses a myriad of spices and sauces, features both hot and cold dishes, and has an emphasis on meats and vegetables. It should come as no surprise that Koreans utilize a variety of cooking methods, as well.

"I think one of the most popular cooking methods in Korean cooking is pickling, and in particular, pickling with Korean sea salt (jeol-im)," says Lee. "Pickling or salting vegetables is a very common and favorite way Koreans add different textures and flavor to their dishes. For example, I like to salt my zucchini first, squeeze out excess liquid, and then make it into a zucchini pancake."

As Lee said, pickling is a staple in Korean cuisine, which is showcased in the popular dish of kimchi. Soups and stews are also featured at mealtime, including breakfast—some examples are rice cake soup (duk guk) and bulgogi stew (bulgogi jungol). Grilling is a popular method of preparing marinated meat or seafood for various Korean dishes. Lastly, pan-frying is used for anything from fried fish to savory pancakes (jun).

What is kimchi?

One of Korea’s most famous culinary items is kimchi. It’s a traditional dish that has a variety of uses and flavors, depending on how it’s made. Though the recipe can vary, kimchi is typically made with fermented vegetables, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce. Kimchi is often served as a side dish or can be eaten on its own and is even used as an ingredient in larger entrees—such as kimchi stew

Kimchi covers a wide range of flavors, too, including sweet, sour, spicy, and umami. It’s a versatile and adaptable dish that may take some practice to master but is well worth the effort.

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.

Allison Wignall, who updated this article, is a writer who focuses on food and travel. She’s always in the kitchen trying to recreate recipes from around the world. In terms of Korean cuisine, she absolutely loves bulgogi chicken and bibimbap with marinated beef. Her work has been featured in publications such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living. 


JinJoo Lee is a food blogger, food photographer, food stylist, and recipe developer at Kimchimari.

Additional reporting by
Allison Wignall
Allison Wignall The Spruce Eats

Allison Wignall is a staff writer for The Spruce Eats who focuses on product reviews. She has also contributed to publications such as Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, and Southern Living.

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