Earthenware crock

Onggi 옹기

Korean Traditional Earthenware Jars and Crocks

These traditional Korean earthenware crocks can be used for making and preserving many things: soybean paste, soy sauce, hot pepper paste, fermented salty fish, makgeolli, and of course kimchi. They’re made from clay, and when fired leave microscopic holes that allow them to breathe, which makes them great for fermentation.

These crocks are called “onggi” which means “Korean earthenware” and technically includes the entire range of Korean pottery, tableware, and tools made by firing clay this way. But jars are the most common kind of onggi and most of the time, the word onggi means “earthenware crock.”

Many Koreans also refer to onggi by their size: danji (단지) is a small jar, hangari (항아리) a medium sized jar, and dok (독) is a large one. These jars can be made of anything, not just earthenware.

Traditionally, Korean pastes, sauces, and vegetables including kimchi were fermented in earthenware dok, which are a few feet high and kept outside in a corner of the yard set aside for this purpose, called the called a jangdokdae. Jang, or sauces, were kept in jangdok and kimchi in kimchidok. Kimchi crocks were often buried underground in winter, so the kimchi inside didn’t freeze.

earthenware jar

Cleaning an onggi

Don’t use any soap or detergent to clean an earthenware crock because soap will get into the microscopic holes and eventually get into your food. So wash with only cold, warm or hot water, and scrub it well. Rinse a couple of times and dry it well with a kitchen towel and then set it out to air dry.

Some smells will remain even after washing, so if this bothers you give it a deeper cleaning by filling it with hot water and letting it sit for 24 hours. Then pour out the water and fill it up again and let it sit another 24 hours. You can do this until you’re satisfied that it’s clean and doesn’t smell at all.

I keep an onggi exclusively reserved for making rice beer (makgeolli), which otherwise sits empty. I can use the same onggi to make soy sauce or doenjang or fish sauce because all of them are fermented and pungent, and once a crock has been used to make those things the smell never totally goes away from it. For this reason I keep one onggi reserved for makgeolli and never use it for anything else, because I don’t want that flavor in my drink.




  1. Stacym37 Salem Oregon joined 10/22 & has 1 comment

    Hello! I’m new here but i’ve been cooking Korean food for a long time! I love it all! I purchased a few earthenware pots and I found that they all leak. Is anyone else having issues like this? Is this happening because the material is porous?

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