Korean Kongjaban: Sweet Black Beans

Korean Sweet Black Beans (Kongjaban)

The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 35 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
218 Calories
7g Fat
30g Carbs
10g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 218
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 10%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1754mg 76%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 26g
Protein 10g
Vitamin C 1mg 4%
Calcium 56mg 4%
Iron 3mg 15%
Potassium 361mg 8%
*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.)

Kongjaban is a traditional Korean banchan, or side dish, made out of simple and wholesome ingredients. Sugar and soy sauce make a basic, yet tasty sauce that coats the tender beans. The sweet-and-savory sauce combined with the nutty profile of the beans makes this dish a perfect addition to bento boxes or to traditional sit-down Korean meals. For this recipe, you need just 35 minutes and a few healthy ingredients. Usually made with black soybeans, kongjaban can also be made with yellow soybeans. If this is your first time trying out this dish, enjoy kongjaban alongside steamed rice, on eggs, or with bread, and then go from there until you've found which main dishes go well.

Considered by many households to be more than a banchan, but a mit-banchan or basic side dish, these beans are usually cooked in big batches that are meant to last a few days and contribute to lunches, dinners, and lunch boxes for kids and adults. Other recipes that are also meant to be side dishes are also cooked in batches and kept at hand to make busy weekdays easier. Many Korean families make meals out of small dishes, which makes meal times entertaining and interesting, as there is no one main dish or just one flavor. The magic happens with the combination of these small sides, and each home cook knows which banchan complement best the "main" dish, which could be a braised meat, steamed fish, kimchi stews with pork or seafood, or similar protein-heavy preparations.

The trick to tasty kongjaban is to appropriately soak the beans before you start the recipe. This will allow the beans to be cooked in just 30 minutes to a tender but firm texture. Too hard and the dish won't be pleasing, too soft and it will be an unappetizing mush. Allow the beans to soak for 6 hours to overnight, rinse well, and then proceed with the recipe. This step also helps with the digestion of the beans because when soaking, many of the indigestible sugars are released, making the digestion of legumes a lot easier. Be mindful that black soybeans and black beans are two different legumes; many Asian grocers carry dry black soybeans, but you can also find them online. Though you can find canned black soybeans, do not substitute, as the cooking process will simply destroy them, turning your Kongjaban into a mushy puree.


  • 1 cup black soybeans, washed

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Korean Sweet Black Beans (Kongjaban) ingredients

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  2. In a small pot, bring water and beans to a boil and cook for 15 minutes.

    water and beans in a pot

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  3. Turn down heat to medium-low and add soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil.

    add soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil to the bean mixture in a pot

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  4. Stir to combine and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes.

    bean mixture cooking in a pot

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu

  5. If adding seeds, take​ the pot off of heat and stir in sesame seeds.

    Korean Sweet Black Beans (Kongjaban) in a pot

    The Spruce / Ana Maria Stanciu