Yakgwa: Korean Honey Cookies

Yakgwa, Korean Honey Cookies

The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

Prep: 40 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Rest and Soak: 3 hrs 30 mins
Total: 4 hrs 35 mins
Servings: 20 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
490 Calories
37g Fat
38g Carbs
3g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 20
Amount per serving
Calories 490
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 37g 47%
Saturated Fat 3g 15%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 4mg 0%
Total Carbohydrate 38g 14%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 23g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 14mg 1%
Iron 1mg 7%
Potassium 71mg 2%
*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.)

One of the most beloved and traditional Korean confections, yakgwa is a fried cookie dipped in honey-ginger syrup that is found everywhere, from grocery stores to traditional tea houses. Shaped like flowers, or cut into squares or diamond-shaped bits, these treats are very sweet and often served as a dessert rather than being eaten as an everyday snack. Although our recipe does require time and patience, and some skill when frying and soaking the cookies, the effort will greatly be compensated when you sit down and take a bite of these wonderfully chewy cookies.

Because it traditionally is served at ceremonies and on special occasions, like weddings and 60th birthdays, one would assume that yakgwa would translate to something related to celebrations. However, it literally means "medicinal confection"—"yak" means medicine and "awa" stands for confection or sweet. Because honey, an important part of traditional Korean medicine, is one of the main ingredients, the resulting honey cookie earned its name.

Yakgwa comes in large, medium, and small sizes—it's up to the cook to decide how big they should be. We found that small or medium sized-cookies are easier to handle and fry.

"These cookies are worth the wait. With just the right amount of sweetness from the honey, the real star of the show here is the sesame. The sticky-sweet cookie makes a beautiful centerpiece or even a weekend baking project. I have no doubt this cookie will become your new favorite." —Lauryn Bodden

Yakgwa Korean Honey Cookies Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the Cookie Dough:

For the Syrup:

  • 1/2 cup rice malt syrup

  • 1 cup honey

  • 1 small piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

For Frying:

  • 3 cups vegetable oil, or as needed for frying

For Serving:

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this recipe is broken down into workable categories to help you plan for preparation and cooking.

Make the Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    cookie dough ingredients

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  2. Place the flour in a large bowl.

    Place the flour in a large bowl

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  3. Add sesame oil and mix by hand, rubbing the flour between your hands and fingers to combine.

    add sesame oil to the flour mixture

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  4. In a separate bowl, whisk the honey, sake, and water together.

    whisk the honey, sake, and water together

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  5. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and knead gently with your hands to form a dough.

    Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture, dough in a bowl

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  6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes.

    Wrap the dough in plastic wrap

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  7. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thick.

    On a floured surface, roll out the dough

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  8. Cut the dough into 1-inch strips to make diamond or rectangle shapes. Or cut into a flower shape if you have at hand a yakgwa-pan exclusively made to shape these cookies.

    cut the dough into pieces

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  9. With the help of a fork or toothpick, pierce a small hole in the center of each cookie. Set aside.

    Put a small hole in the center of each cookie

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Make the Syrup

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    syrup ingredients

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  2. Place the rice malt syrup, honey, and ginger in a saucepan over medium heat.

    put rice malt syrup, honey, and ginger in a saucepan

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  3. Bring to a simmer and then remove immediately from heat.

    syrup cooking in a saucepan

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  4. Carefully pour into a rectangular dish or glass baking pan large enough to hold the cookies in a single layer.

    pour syrup into a baking dish

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Fry the Yakgwa

  1. Place a sturdy, flat-bottomed fryer or saucepan onto the stove. Add enough oil for frying, at least 2 to 3 inches.

    oil in a saucepan

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  2. Heat over medium heat until the oil temperature is 212 F.

    oil in a saucepan, thermometer

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  3. In small batches, drop pastries in oil and fry, gently turning them until they puff and float, about 4 to 5 minutes.

    cookies frying in a saucepan with oil

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  4. Raise the heat of the oil to about 300 F and continue frying until the yakgwa turns golden brown.

    cookies frying in oil

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  5. With the help of a slotted spoon, remove the yakgwa from the oil and place them into the ginger syrup. Repeat the frying process with the remaining cookies, being careful to allow all cookies to go through the two oil temperature stages—when you're done frying one batch you need to allow the oil to come back down to 212 F.

    fried cookies in a dish with syrup

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  6. When all of the yakwa have been placed in the syrup, turn each one over once so they are coated.

    cookies soaking in syrup

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  7. Soak in the syrup for 2 to 3 hours. Remove with a slotted spoon onto another dish lined with parchment paper.

    Yakgwa, Korean Honey Cookies on a plate

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  8. Sprinkle with pine nuts and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

    Yakgwa, Korean Honey Cookies

    The Spruce / Bahareh Niati

How to Store

Keep leftovers at room temperature for one week, in the fridge for up to two weeks, or freeze and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before eating.

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