The 15 Essential Korean Ingredients You Should Know

kochujang dipping sauce

The Spurce / Julia Hartbeck

Just as Creole cuisine is always prepared using the food items known as "the Trinity," making Korean cuisine typically involves the use of 15 common ingredients. If you want to start making Korean food, you need to stock your kitchen pantry with these spices, condiments and other ingredients.

Remember that the 15 ingredients on this list aren't a comprehensive roundup of those used in Korean cooking. To have a well-stocked Korean pantry, you'll need many more ingredients, but this is a good start. You can make a huge variety of Korean dishes using these ingredients, and having most or all of these things on hand in your kitchen will make cooking and meal planning easier.


A number of condiments are used in Korean cooking. You'll need soy sauce to make a variety of dishes. If you have high blood pressure or another condition that requires you to avoid sodium, make sure you purchase a low sodium brand of soy sauce. In addition to soy sauce, other popular condiments in Korean cuisine include kochujang, or Korean chili pepper paste, and daenjang, or Korean soybean paste. 


Korean food, like other Asian cuisines, can be spicy. This is why spices are a staple of Korean cuisine. You'll need ginger, garlic, and kochukaru, or Korean chili pepper powder, to give your meals the kick they need.

Vegetables and Grains

Many Korean meals would be incomplete without scallions, or green onions. Other plant-based foods, such as roasted sesame seeds, sesame seed oil (chamgeereum) and gim (dried seaweed sheets) also give Korean food their unique flavor. 

Grains, of course, play a huge role in all Asian cuisine. This is why rice wine (chungju, mirin), noodles (somyun and/or dangmyun) and rice are key when preparing Korean meals. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, consider using brown rice rather than white rice. It will prevent your blood sugar from spiking as dramatically as white rice will.


A number of items on this list don't fall into a neat category. Take dried anchovies (myulchi) and tofu, for example. They're unlike the other items on this list, but they both have huge roles in Korean cuisine.

Now that the list has been broken down into categories for you, check out the complete list below. If you're serious about mastering Korean cuisine, print the list out and head to your nearest grocery store in search of them. If that proves unfruitful, visit an online merchant to get the Korean spices, condiments, and other items you need. If there's no Asian grocery store in your community, shopping for food items online might be your best bet.

The Complete List of Korean Food Essentials

  • Soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Sesame seed oil (chamgeereum)
  • Rice
  • Kochujang (Korean chili pepper paste)
  • Kochukaru (Korean chili pepper powder)
  • Daenjang (Korean soybean paste)
  • Ginger
  • Scallions (green onions)
  • Rice wine (chungju, mirin)
  • Dried anchovies (myulchi)
  • Roasted sesame seeds
  • Gim (dried seaweed sheets)
  • Noodles (jajangmyun, somyun and/or dangmyun)
  • Tofu