Introduction to Korean ingredients

Korean cooking is pretty easy if you stock up on some essential Korean ingredients and learn how to use them.

This section of the Beginner’s Guide is going to tell you which ones to buy and what they can be used for. If you have any questions about or additions to this list, leave them in my forum. My readers will answer you nicely.

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It’s divided into 3 parts:

  • Essential ingredients are versatile, can be used in many dishes, and you should keep them in your house at all times
  • Good-to-have ingredients are pretty flexible and you can keep them stocked in your house, or just buy them when you run out of them
  • Specialized ingredients are mainly good for one or two dishes, so if you don’t like those dishes, you might not even need some of these at all

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A note about brands

Some people really want to know what brands of ingredients I use, so I’m including them. I’m giving brand names only to help you find what you need, not because I’ve used every brand and think these are the “best,” or because I’m paid to promote these brands in any way. The truth is that I’m kind of a stubborn cook, and I usually just buy the same products that I’ve been using for decades rather than try new ones. It’s possible that there are more delicious and better products out there. Tell me about them on the forum!

Where to buy these ingredients

Since I started my website in 2007, it’s become a lot easier to find Korean ingredients in stores and online. But, it’s still not really easy. I hope that it gets easier in the future.

For now you can check the list of Korean grocery stores to find a store near you. This list was compiled by readers like you, so if you have a store that you go to that’s not on the list, please add it. If there’s no store near you, some stores in your country may ship to where you live, so be sure to check the list closely. You can also look at these online-only stores.

It can be difficult to shop for Korean ingredients or brands if you don’t read Korean. Sometimes there’s no English translation on the package, or the translation is a little unusual, or the Romanization of the Korean words is not what you expect. You may need to bring a Korean friend with you, or ask a Korean in the store to help you out.

For now, most Korean companies design their packaging for other Koreans. This is one reason I include big photos in the ingredients section on my website and in my cookbooks: so you can bring them to the store and compare the photo with what’s on the shelf.

Good luck with your Korean cooking!

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27 Comments:

  1. Alexander Wallace USA joined 3/19 & has 4 comments

    Dear Maangchi ! I have a girlfriend – a pen friend and she lives in Ukraine. There are few Korean restaurants in this country, but there are absolutely no shops with ingredients and spices of Korean cuisine! What is the easiest way to cook the simplest kimchi from the minimum number of products in Ukraine (vegetables: white cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, bitter red pepper, beet, radishes, lettuce, onion. And from spices: Anise, Asafoetida, Badian, Basil, Barberry, Vanilla Pod, Carnation, Hibiscus, Mustard, Mushroom Mower, Ivan Tea, Ginger, Cabbage, Cardamom, Coriander, Cinnamon, Cumin, Sesame, Turmeric, Bay Leaf, Lyon, Lemon Grass, Onions, Majoram, Juniper berry, Carrot, Mint, Oregano, Nutmeg, Fenugreek, Paprika , Pasternak, Pepper, Pepper Exotic, Parsley, Rosemary, Beetroot, Celery, Sumy, Thyme, Cumin, Tomato, Dill, Ucho-suneli, Fennel, Horseradish, Savory, Garlic, Sage, Shambhala, Saffron, Tarragon (seeds) Goji Berries).

  2. Alexander Wallace USA joined 3/19 & has 4 comments

    Hi maangchi! I correspond with a beautiful girl from Ukraine. She writes that she cannot buy the right ingredients for making maangchi recipes in the capital Kiev. Do you think and when are you planning to expand your network of stores in Ukraine? There are a few Korean restaurants, but my pal tried Korean cuisine and wants to learn how to cook Korean dishes.

  3. yeonkkoch Alabama/Georgia joined 2/19 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,

    I am sooo happy I found your videos. I ordered your book and just got it in the mail. I am half Korean and was never taught to cook my family’s food before. Anytime we want to eat Korean food, we have to go to a Korean Restaurant. I can now cook those meals for my family. I plan to go to the Korean store tomorrow and pick up my essential ingredients. 나는 잘 먹을 것이다.

  4. CHYFAVOUR NIGERIA joined 1/19 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi,
    I am seeing your channel first time today. Korean food is really awaesome. I will like to get your e cookery book. But shipping things from amazon to Nigeria is always a problem. May be when Biafra is restored we will stand a better chance. I want to start trying korean food if i can lay my hand on the ingredients. I will try soyamilk first. Do you have videos on weight loss food. I will keep exploring you channel. Thank you. Favour. Nigeria – Biafra.

  5. misia Chicago, IL USA joined 8/18 & has 2 comments

    Hi Maangchi! Korean cooking newbie here! I don’t know why I just found your website and youtube channel! I wish I had found them sooner. ;D I love watching your shows. Thank you so much for showing how to cook octopus. It’s one of my favorite dishes. I’ve tasted Spanish, Mexican and Thai versions and now I can’t wait to try and make it myself Korean style! Super excited!

  6. kmbkj Philippines joined 9/17 & has 1 comment

    Hello maangchi! A avid k-drama fan and really love the culture as well the foods korean make (17 years old last sept 12 hohoho). Due to our long weekends, I’m finding well rated recipes in youtube then suddenly I found yours. And today, I’m currently fond of watching your korean cooking videos last wednesday. And yes after watching almost 20 of your videos, I decided to cook kwabaeggi since it look so easy but I struggled twisting the dough perfectly like yours hahaha. Well, thank you! I’d made my family happy. Next time, I’ll make garaeddeok, ggongal ppang, bibimbap, heotteok, dakgangjeong, bokkeumbap, gyeran ppang, kkampunji, gimbap, eomuk and gamjajeon.. Hihi. Thank you maangchi!


    See full size image

  7. Priyakannan India joined 11/14 & has 1 comment

    Hello maangchi,
    i’m new to korean cooking. i want to make kimchi, but i don’t think i can get fish sauce in india easily so what can i do? Is there any ingredient that can replace the fish sauce?

    Your cooking is so good and i’m very happy to find your blog!!
    cheers from India!!

  8. Marcus Germany joined 11/14 & has 1 comment

    안녕하세요 Maangchi!
    You use always “CUP” as unit…. I wonder how many “ml” or “cl” one cup is!
    Please let me know because it is hard to follow your recipes without having such nice cups!
    Cheers from Germany,
    Marcus

  9. Minetski Philippines joined 8/14 & has 2 comments

    Annyeonghaseyo Maangchi ssi :) I’m your new avid fan. Just started watching your cooking videos this month August(can’t remembered what exact date, hehehe!). I’m curious about what’s the taste of Korean dishes that i see on Korean dramas. So this afternoon, I bought Hot Red Pepper Paste in a grocery store inside of a mall. It’s my first precious Korean ingredient that i found. But can’t find Hot Chili Pepper Flakes, they have only Chili Powder. Day after tomorrow, I’ll look for a Korean Grocery store so that i can start your delicious recipes to cook and I’ll post the photos here on your site. Planning to buy Korean Grill also. Thank you very much Maangchi :)

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      I found out that the packaging of some hot pepper flakes (gochugaru) have it translated as “hot pepper powder. Check out the inside, please. Usually you can see through the package.

      The only difference between hot pepper flakes and powder is coarseness. If they are coarse flakes, they are hot pepper flakes. If they are really like powder, that’s hot pepper powder. I use hot pepper flakes in almost all of my Korean cooking. I use hot pepper powder only when I make gochujang (hot pepper paste).

      Hot pepper flakes
      Hot pepper powder

      • Minetski Philippines joined 8/14 & has 2 comments

        Thank you Maangchi for giving us the info about the difference between Pepper flakes and Pepper Powder. I don’t want to use other ingredient. I’m strict on cooking because i want to feel and the real taste as yours :)
        I am waiting on your next recipe tomorrow August 29. See you soon! LOL!
        Gamsahabnida Maangchi :)

  10. ChefetteRama Missouri, America joined 7/14 & has 2 comments

    Dear Maangchi.
    For my slumber party i want it korean themed. any tips or ideas. Im thinking of making jajanmyeon or baechu gook but i cant decide. Also could i use the same ingredients and spices for american beef than korean beef.

  11. mykitchenmore Golden, CO joined 5/13 & has 1 comment

    Drove by a ‘specialty grocier’, to me anyways, and then spent an hour and ahalf in awe! So happy, love food, but know very little of Korean cooking.
    Would appreciate some help for a beginner and I have caucasian taste buds and want to explore!
    Have cooked many ethnic things over the years but have not gotten to the Asian ‘daily meals’. Only things offered in restaurants. Not many around me.
    Hope I don’t sound like a fool, because I REALLY want to go get those beautiful ingredients and cook away! Thx, Mary

    • Maangchi joined 7/08 & has 11,710 comments

      Hi Mary, I’m very happy to hear that this section helps you. It sounds like you love cooking and delicious and healthy food. Good luck with your Korean cooking! : )

  12. KyungMiHelloBaby Flint, MI joined 3/13 & has 2 comments

    I have a Korean food shop near my school where I buy my ingredients. They come shipped all the way from South Korea.

    P.S. I loove this website! It’s so reliable and informative. I’m going to the Dakjuk. It looks delicious. ^_^

  13. snigdha singapore joined 1/13 & has 1 comment

    Dear maangchi,

    Can we roast white sesame seeds at home and store it and keep it in fridge? Or roasting has to be done immediately before preparing food?if yes,how long will roasted sesame seeds will last in fridge?

    thanks
    snigdha

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,710 comments

      I posted how to roast sesame seeds here. https://www.maangchi.com/ingredients/sesame-seeds

      1.Wash 1 cup of sesame seeds in a colander with running water. Drain.
      2.Heat a pan or wok over medium to low heat and pour the washed sesame seeds into it.
      3.Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly golden and crispy. It will pop when it’s cooked. It may take about 10 minutes.

      You can keep it in the fridge up to about 2 months.
      I usually put about 1/2 cup of roasted sesame seeds in a jar or container and keep them in my spice drawer, and I keep the leftover sesame seeds in the freezer. When my sesame seeds container is empty, I fill it with the sesame seeds from the freezer.

  14. DubDiva United States joined 11/11 & has 7 comments

    Hello Maangchi!

    Thank you so much for these handy little guides. Now I’ll know exactly what I need to buy.

    Your recipes are a real blessing for those of us who can’t eat wheat gluten. So many of your recipes are gluten free, yet they have so much wonderful flavor. :D

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