Cabbage and soy bean paste soup

Baechu-doenjangguk 배추 된장국

Hi, everybody,
I’m so excited to introduce this simple and healthy soup to you!
Korean meals are usually served with rice, soup, and other side dishes. Just in case you don’t know what doenjang is, I’m telling you that doenjang is Korean fermented soy bean paste.

You could make so many different kinds of doenjangguk using different vegetables such as spinach, potato, radish leaves, fresh mugwort (ssuk)… Of all the vegetables, baechu (napa cabbage) doenjangguk is the most basic soup and every Korean loves it. (Let me know if you find any Korean who doesn’t like this soup) : )

I will give you a short quiz now. : ) What would you call doenjang guk made with spinach? … pause … yes, it’s called shigeumchi-doenjangguk. Shigeumchi is spinach in Korean. Heh, it’s easy, right?

When my grandmother made this soup, she always used milky rice water instead of water. Every day she made a huge amount of rice to feed her family. When she washed, rubbed, and rinsed her rice grains, she got the milky water. When she made doenjangguk, she used that milky rice water in her pot.

When I was in middle school, the lady next door ran a restaurant. She sold baechu-doenjangguk. She and my mother were friends, so we were like family. Most of her soup customers were male workers who needed a cheap and simple breakfast before starting work early in the morning. What time in the morning? Before dawn! To be ready to serve this soup, she probably should make it at 2-3 am? Her soup was very popular so that her restaurant was always crowded especially in the morning.

I saw her serving her soup to her customers. When her customer was sitting at the table, she ladled the soup into a large bowl from her huge pot and added a little barley rice (about 2 tbs?), and put it on his table. Only one side dish was there, kkaktugi (radish kimchi). That’s all! The worker’s stomach will get warm with the hot soup and a little bit of rice!

I used to wake up with the irresistible aroma from the soup she made. Sometimes the smell made me go crazy! : )

Her doenjangguk was not spicy and a little brown and milky. It was super tasty!
I saw she used flour instead of rice water. She made this doenjangguk exactly this way I’m showing in this video recipe. Only thing I skipped is MSG. : ) Instead of MSG, I use more dried anchovies.

I miss her now. We lost connection long time ago when my family moved to another place.


700 grams of Napa cabbage (half of a medium size napa cabbage), ⅓ cup soybean paste, 10 dried anchovies, 6 cups of water, 1 green chili pepper, 5-6 cloves of garlic, 2 tbs flour.



  1. Put about 700 grams of Napa cabbage directly into boiling water and stir it with a large spoon for 20 seconds. Boil it for a minute with the lid open.
  2. Rinse it in cold water a couple of times to clean any remaining dirt from the cabbage leaves. Gently squeeze the leaves to get rid of any remaining water.
  3. Chop the cabbage into small pieces and put them into a large pot.chopcabbage
  4. Add ⅓ cup soy bean paste, 5-6 cloves minced garlic, 1 chopped green chili pepper, 10 large dried anchovies (after removing heads and guts), and 2 tbs flour to the pot.flourmix
  5. Mix it by hand or a wooden spoon.
  6. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil for 20 minutes over medium high heat.
  7. Lower the heat and simmer another 10 minutes.
  8. Serve hot with rice and other side dishes.ladle

*tip: Do you like spicy soup? Then add some hot pepper paste right before simmering (step 7).

tofu Tofu side dish


Other delicious stuff on maangchi.com:


  1. Joe.C Seattle WA My profile page joined 11/14
    Posted November 20th, 2015 at 9:19 pm | # |

    My wife picked this one for me to cook tomorrow.

  2. pp_123 Hong Kong My profile page joined 12/14
    Posted September 19th, 2015 at 12:48 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi!
    This soup is one of my long-time favourite because it is so easy to make! I am now reviewing this recipe again as I just bought some perilla seed powder home today. Can I know how I can apply the powder to this soup? Many thanks!

  3. rocknchick Rockford, IL My profile page joined 12/14
    Posted August 10th, 2015 at 3:18 pm | # |

    I’ve made many of Maangchi’s recipes and this one was the first that I didn’t like. It was really fishy. It’s not Maangchi’s fault- I’ve discovered that I really don’t care for anchovies. I’ll eat all kinds of fish, but don’t like the broth made from the anchovies. I did eat a bowl of the soup, though, adding lots more soybean paste, soy sauce, sauce from the Fire Chicken recipe, and putting the tofu side dish on top and mixing it all up. It was good that way. :) The tofu side dish was AMAZING! I’ll try making the soup again with beef, chicken, or veggie broth and see if I like that better.
    One thing I’m not sure of- are the guts removed from the anchovies BEFORE they’re dried? I didn’t use the heads, but assumed the guts were removed already. If not, won’t they be hard to spot to remove?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted August 13th, 2015 at 7:27 am | # |

      “I’ll try making the soup again with beef, chicken, or veggie broth and see if I like that better.
      Good idea! Some Koreans who are not a big fan of anchovy stock, they use beef or chicken stock.

  4. Lynnjamin New York My profile page I'm a fan! joined 11/14
    Posted June 26th, 2015 at 11:34 pm | # |

    Stop what you are doing and make this soup. For my guests tonight, I thought I needed a sort of boring, non-spicy soup that would do the job of being the soup but not steal the show like those bossy showoffs in bubbling clay pots with 87 ingredients. (You know who I’m talking about, soondubu jjigae). I had hoped that the spicy stir-fried pork was going to be the star tonight, but this humble, simple, utterly inexpensive soup completely captivated everyone.

    Polish girl: “Hey! This is cabbage soup. Wait. Whoa! No it’s not!”.
    Mexican guy: “There is something SPICY in here!”.
    Korean girl: “Who taught you how to make this? It’s just like mine, except that it tastes good”.
    American guy: Slurping noises, but no comments.

    Thank you Maangchi for another winner!

  5. HaeWon My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 8th, 2015 at 3:55 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I’m new to your website :) Thanks for sharing all your recipes.

    I made this soup today thanks to you. This is the first real Korean dish I ever cooked (ok, I can make congee too)!
    Instead of dried anchovy I used anchovy stock powder. The taste was good but I want to be sure it’s ok to use that for other of your recipe too ?

    Also, I want to cook Korean dishes for my son of 18months. Except for congee/juk, what kind of dishes can I serve him ? Is this soup ok for a toddler ?

    Many thanks.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted June 9th, 2015 at 12:32 pm | # |

      Yes, you could use anchovy stock powder instead of real dried anchovies. It will be tasty but it can’t be compared to the taste used real dried anchovies. This soup is perfect choice for a baby who can chew. But I recommend you not use green chili peppers. : )

      • HaeWon My profile page joined 6/15
        Posted June 14th, 2015 at 5:56 pm | # |

        Thank you for your answer :) I made it again along with your tofu side dish recipe. Your site is a goldmine ^^

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