Korean rice liquor

Makgeolli 막걸리

Today I’m going to show you how to make makgeolli, a traditional Korean alcoholic beverage made by combining rice, yeast, and water with a starter culture called nuruk. It’s milky-white, fizzy and refreshing. It’s also called “nongju” which means “farmer liquor” because it’s made with a lot of rice, it’s full of carbohydrates and was traditionally served to farmers as part of a midmorning snack or with lunch, giving them the strength and energy to work the rest of the day.

Korea has a long history of homebrewing, and every family used to make their own booze at home, it was much more common than buying it. These days you can buy makgeolli easily at a Korean grocery store or liquor store but when it comes to taste, it can’t be compared to homemade makgeolli. Homemade makgeolli is thicker, less sweet, and more filling than store sold makgeolli.

This recipe is also in my cookbook, Real Korean Cooking, and while developing the recipe I sent a sample of the finished product to the EMSL Analytical food lab for a full nutritional and toxic analysis to see what is really inside it. They let me know that it is totally safe to drink, 7.4% alcohol by volume, cholesterol-free, fat-free, and contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6. It’s high in calories and has a lactobacillus count of 375,500 CFU/mL. Lactobacillus is a kind of lactic acid bacteria that’s good for your stomach and digestion and can boost your immune system. It’s also found in yogurt, but in much higher quantities.

So it’s great for giving you energy and is good for your stomach, but the real reason to drink it is it’s so refreshing and delicious! It’s also a great thing to have at a party, and especially when you make it yourself, your family and friends will love to drink it and have a great time doing it. Making good makgeolli is not very difficult, it just takes a little time and there are a few pitfalls to avoid.

I’ve been making makgeolli for special family occasions and my reader meetups for years. Some of you who came to my meetups and tasted my makgeolli have been waiting years for this recipe. Thanks for your patience!neil

Make some makgeolli and enjoy life! Let me know how it turns out!

Ingredients (Make 4 quarts)

Korean rice (short grain rice)5 cups Korean short grain rice

Special items that I use to make makgeolli


  1. Drain the rice and put it into a heavy pot. Add 4 cups of water. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 15 minutes. Stir and turn the rice over with a wooden spoon. Cover and simmer it for another 15 minutes over low heat.
  2. Remove from the heat. Transfer the rice to a basket of your electric dehydrator. Spread the rice evenly, and fill as many baskets as you need. Cover, set the temperature to 160° F, and dry for 3 hours, until the outside of each grain is hard, but the inside is still moist. If you don’t have an electric dehydrator, you can dry your rice for several hours in a shallow basket set in breezy, sunny place.
    makgeolli makingmakgeolli making (막걸리)
  3. Put the rice into the earthenware crock. Add nuruk, yeast, and 8 cups of water and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Place a cotton cloth under the lid when you close it, to let some air circulate in and out.
  5. Let sit for several hours, then uncover and mix well with a wooden spoon. At this point, the rice will have absorbed a lot of the water to create a thick paste. Cover and let sit overnight.
    makgeolli making (막걸리)Makgeolli making
  6. Open the crock and you’ll see a lot of bubbles popping to the surface, and the mixture will be a lot thinner than yesterday. Stir it well with a wooden spoon and cover again. Stir it a few times a day for the next few days.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  7. On day 4 or 5, it will be bubbling a lot less and will have separated to a clear liquid on top and a milky mixture on the bottom. Mix well, and keep mixing a few times a day for a few more days.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  8. On day 8 or 9, there will hardly be any bubbles at all. The liquid on the top will be clearer and more amber. It’s now perfectly fermented and ready to drink.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  9. Strain the makgeolli into a large bowl, pressing on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze as much liquid as possible out of it. Discard the solids. Add 8 cups of water to dilute. Add the optional sugar and mix well.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)Makgeolli (Korean rice liquor:막걸리)
  10. Strain the makgeolli one more time and put it into glass jars or BPA free plastic beer bottles.
    Makgeolli making (Korean rice liquor)
  11. Serve cold, and stir or mix well before drinking. Serve with kimchi or some side dishes. It can keep in the fridge up to 2 to 3 weeks.


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  1. EvilGrin My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted August 24th, 2015 at 10:23 am | # |

    Have you ever used rice syrup to sweeten instead of sugar?

  2. laramis TX My profile page joined 3/09
    Posted August 18th, 2015 at 3:24 pm | # |

    Maangchi- I have the makgeolli drinking cups but I really want that large tin bowl. I’ve looked at all the Korean stores and no one has them that large. Is there a place online I can try to buy one? Cant wait to make this! Thank you!

  3. na_eun_ki My profile page joined 8/15
    Posted August 8th, 2015 at 12:58 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I made this and the result looks really good, but I am a little nervous about drinking a full “glass” as I’m unsure about the methanol level. In the video you said the fermentation process makes the alcohol about 15%. For home brewed/ fermented alcohol as long as it stays under 10% during the fermentation process, the methanol level should be safe for consumption.
    But as it is higher than 10%, is there a way I can test for methanol or do you know the methanol level (before and after dilution)?
    Also what is the effect of nuruk on the production of methanol?
    And do you know how much methanol is produced in commercially produced makgeolli vs. home brewed?

    Sorry for so many questions, but I am having a party this weekend and (as Methanol poisoning is a very serious matter, especially when it comes to home-brew/fermentation f alcohol) I want to make sure this is safe for my guests and myself to drink.

    Na Eun

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted August 8th, 2015 at 5:35 pm | # |

      Hello Na Eun,
      As part of my research in developing this recipe, I had a sample of my makgeolli tested at EMSL Analytical to make sure it was safe. They gave me a full report and said it was completely safe to drink (in moderation) so if you follow my instructions you should be fine.

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