Kimbap (Korean Sushi Rolls)

Kimbap (Korean sushi rolls) on a plate with chopsticks

The Spruce

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 8 mins
Total: 38 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Yields: 4 rolls
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
179 Calories
5g Fat
27g Carbs
7g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 179
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 93mg 31%
Sodium 1377mg 60%
Total Carbohydrate 27g 10%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 7g
Vitamin C 4mg 18%
Calcium 73mg 6%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 247mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Kimbap—also known as gimbap—are Korean rice rolls that might look a lot like sushi but, in truth, are nothing like it. Japanese sushi is made out of rice seasoned with vinegar and customarily features raw fish, seafood, and vegetables, whereas Korean rolls use sesame oil in the rice and a variety of fillings, including meats, imitation crab, ham, eggs, and cheese. While similar in some aspects, the rolls also aren't eaten with the same accompaniments; neither soy sauce nor wasabi appears on the kimbap plate. It's usually served with kimchi and pickled vegetables on the side.

Kimbap (from gim, a type of seaweed, and bap, the Korean term for "rice") is easy, portable, and adaptable to any palate, diet, or occasion. These rolls are usually eaten at picnics, and while delicious eaten right when prepared, they hold their shape and flavor well when eaten cold. Don't let them sit too long in the fridge before eating, though—the texture will change, the seaweed will get soggy, and the roll will lose its bite.

This easy recipe features the optional inclusion of bulgogi, a classic Korean dish of thinly sliced and flavorful beef that is a real treat. If you choose to skip the bulgogi, the rolls are vegetarian, or you can use imitation crabmeat instead or in addition to the bulgogi. Before you start assembling the rolls, be sure to have cooked white rice, prepared bulgogi, and pickled radishes all prepped and ready to make the assembly process as smooth as possible.

2:20

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Ingredients

For the Rice:

  • 2 cups cooked short-grain white rice

  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the Filling:

  • 1 medium carrot,  peeled and julienned

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

  • 4 sheets dried nori

  • Optional: 8 ounces cooked beef bulgogi

  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, cooked and squeezed dry

  • 1/2 cup pickled radishes, drained and julienned

  • Optional: 12 ounces imitation crab, cut into long strips

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Rice and Vegetables

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a mixing bowl, place the warm rice and add the sesame oil and salt. Mix well and reserve.

  3. In a very hot nonstick skillet, briefly stir-fry the carrot, add a dash of salt, and remove from the pan after 2 or 3 minutes. Set aside and reserve.

  4. Using the same hot skillet, stir-fry the cucumber, add a dash of salt, and remove from the pan after 2 or 3 minutes. Set aside and reserve.

  5. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Cook the eggs into a flat omelet in the nonstick skillet for 1 minute. Once cooked on one side, carefully flip and cook on the other for an extra minute. Remove the omelet from the pan and cut it into long strips. Set aside and reserve.

Roll the Kimbap

  1. Using a bamboo sushi roller or a piece of aluminum foil, lay one piece of the dried seaweed shiny side down.

  2. Spread about 1/2 cup of the cooked rice onto 2/3 of the seaweed, leaving the top 1/3 bare. Have a bowl of water nearby when rolling for moistening your hands, which will prevent the rice from sticking to them and help seal the rolls.

  3. Once the rice is flat, lay 2 ounces of the bulgogi down (if using), about a third of the way up from the bottom of the seaweed. Place the meat in a horizontal strip and keep in mind that if you add too much filling, the roll might become too difficult to roll and cut.

  4. Add 1/4 of each filling: carrot, spinach, cucumber, radishes, egg, and imitation crabmeat, if using.

  5. Roll tightly from the bottom, as if you were rolling a sleeping bag, firmly pressing down to make the fillings stay in place.

  6. As you continue to roll, pull the roll down toward the end of the bamboo mat. Spread a tiny dab of water along the top seam to hold the roll together, and close.

  7. Repeat the assembling process with the remaining dried seaweed sheets. Refrigerate the rolls until ready to serve.

  8. Cut each roll into 7 to 8 pieces and serve. Enjoy.

How to Store

  • Kimbap is always better when freshly made. Keep it in the fridge until ready to eat, but don't let it sit longer than 2 or 3 hours because the rice will dry out and the seaweed will get soggy.
  • Although it is safe to eat the day after, it won't be as delicious. But if you have leftovers, dip it in salted whisked eggs and pan-fry it whole or in slices in a nonstick skillet with a teaspoon of vegetable oil. This is the best way of heating up day-old kimbap; other methods will prove inadequate and you'll end up with a mushy mess in your hands.

Recipe Variations

With kimbap, anything goes. Here are some different tasty fillings that you can experiment with and put your own spin on it. Once you have the rice flattened down on the seaweed, place on top:

  • Kimchi and shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Bacon, cheddar, and strips of cooked egg
  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Flaked smoked trout, mayo, and veggies
  • Spam, mayo, and veggies
  • Baked tofu, vegetables, and avocado
  • Cooked ham and cheese
  • Tuna salad and baby kale

Is Kimbap Served Hot or Cold?

Kimbap should be served freshly made at room temperature. The fillings are often cooked and warm, including the rice, making the roll slightly warm.

What Is the Difference Between Kimbap and Bibimbap?

Kimbap and bibimbap are both Korean dishes featuring rice. Kimbap consists of sesame-flavored rice and fillings like meat, veggies, egg, and cheese wrapped up in nori. It has a similar appearance to a sushi roll. Bibimbap is a bowl dish of hot rice, toppings like bulgogi and vegetables, and egg. It is sometimes served in a hot stone bowl, cooking the egg and crisping the rice.