11 Traditional and Classic Korean Dishes

A typical Korean meal consists of a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup or stew, and some side dishes as accompaniments. But within that basic structure, there is a deliciously wide variation of dishes for every season and palate.

Koreans use a huge range of vegetables from wild greens to the leaves of flowers, everything from the sea including seaweed and jellyfish, and all types of meat and poultry in diverse preparations. Koreans may have hundreds of ways to pickle vegetables and wild greens for long storage, but they also prize raw fish and raw meat dishes.

These are some of the classic plates you will find in Korean kitchens all over the world. Some represent humble fare and others will be seen most often at family gatherings and events, but all are beloved by Koreans everywhere.

  • 01 of 11

    Classic Korean Bibimbap

    Korean bibimbap
    The Spruce

    Korean bibimbap looks gorgeous on the plate. It is also one easily tweaked for more or less spice for different palates. This recipe uses six vegetables, but you can use whatever you have in your refrigerator or garden. Koreans usually eat this rice dish with beef, but can also top bibimbap with just an egg fried sunny-side-up.

  • 02 of 11

    Bulgogi (Korean Beef Barbecue)

    Ingredients for bulgogi

    Multi-bits / Photodisc / Getty Images

    Bulgogi is probably the most popular Korean dish, with thinly sliced meat that has a smoky sweet flavor. You can enjoy it broiled, grilled, or stir-fried. The beef is usually accompanied with lettuce wraps and gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) for wrapping and spicing up the meat.

  • 03 of 11

    Mandoo (Korean Dumplings)

    Korean dumpling mandoo recipe

    The Spruce Eats/Ulyana Verbytska

    Mandoo (or mandu) is a symbol of good luck when prepared as part of Korean Lunar New Year festivities. These Korean dumplings can be added to a beef broth or anchovy broth for a dish called mandu-guk and served with tteok manu guk, a traditional cylindrical rice cake.

    This Korean dumpling recipe is made with ground beef or pork, but you will see them made with chicken or only vegetables. You can prepare them in advance and freeze them for future use.

  • 04 of 11

    Jap Chae (Stir-Fried Korean Noodles)

    Chapchae

     

    Irina_Timokhina / Getty Images 

    Chap chae (also spelled jap chae) is one of the most popular noodle dishes in Korea. The glass noodles are made from mung bean or sweet potatoes, and they become translucent when cooked. You can enjoy this dish cold or hot and as an appetizer or main dish.

    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Bossam (Korean Pork Belly)

    korean pork belly lettuce wraps with pickled radish and sweet rice and savory sauce

    Pete Scherer 

    Bossam are deeply savory Korean pork belly lettuce wraps that walk a fine line between a light meal and an indulgent feast. Serve them family-style so diners can assemble their own wraps according to their tastes.

  • 06 of 11

    Sam Gae Tang (Korean Stuffed Chicken Soup With Ginseng)

    Chicken soup

     Nobuo Kawaguchi / Sebun Photo / Getty Images

    Korean stuffed chicken soup is easy to make and is universal in its appeal insofar as it is often used as a restorative when you are sick. But it is especially used to fight heat with heat in the summer, as the ginseng and ginger will make you sweat.

  • 07 of 11

    Kimchi Jjigae (Spicy Kimchi Stew)

    Spicy kimchi stew

    ​The Spruce Eats / Nita West

    This spicy kimchi stew recipe (also sometimes spelled kimchichigae) is a great use for leftover or older kimchi. In fact, the older the kimchi, the better it is in this stew, as it adds rich flavor. It's one of the most popular stews in Korea, and you'll find it in many traditional restaurants. It is served hot and you're guaranteed to break a sweat when eating it. Keep plain rice handy as an antidote.

  • 08 of 11

    Seollangtang (Korean Ox Bone Soup)

    Oxtail soup ingredients

    Debbi Smirnoff / Getty Images 

    Ox bone soup is an easy recipe, but it's one that you will simmer all day. Simmering the leg bones for several hours results in a milky-white, rich and meaty soup with garlic, ginger, and noodles.

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Galbi Tang (Short Rib Soup)

    Galbi tang (short rib soup)

     

    GEOLEE / Getty Images 

    This rich but delicate short rib soup most likely originated more than 800 years ago, during the waning days of the Goryeo Dynasty. It is commonly served at traditional Korean wedding receptions, as beef was a luxury item reserved for special occasions.

  • 10 of 11

    Baechu Kimchi (Spicy Pickled Cabbage)

    Korean spicy pickled cabbage

    The Spruce

    Kimchi is one of the most distinctive parts of Korean cuisine, and the pickled and fermented vegetables are eaten at almost every meal. This pickled and fermented napa cabbage is the most popular and recognizable form of kimchi. There are hundreds of different kinds of kimchi that are both spicy and mild and different regions in Korea have their own kimchi specialties.

  • 11 of 11

    Dongchimi (Korean White Radish)

    Korean white radish kimchi (dongchimi)

    Naomi Imatome Yun / The Spruce

    This is a white water summer kimchi that is vinegary rather than spicy. It's simple to make with a few days of brining, and it will keep for a long time in the refrigerator. You'll enjoy it as a side dish or a cold soup.