Today, I’m going to introduce you to a traditional Korean sweet called Yakgwa. It’s a deep-fried layered cookie made with honey, sesame oil, ginger, and soju, and covered in a sweet, sticky syrup. When you chew one bite, syrup bursts out of the cookie and it’s juicy and crumbly in your mouth. Sesame oil, honey, ginger, and cinnamon together have a really distinct flavor and make this cookie unique and irresistible.

Koreans have been making these cookies for more than a thousand years. It’s a kind of yumil-gwa, which are deep-fried han-gwa (Korean confection). The “yak” in yakgwa means “medicine” and “gwa” means “confection,” so it’s called “medicinal confection” because traditionally Koreans believed that honey has the power to heal and restore. Honey was a precious ingredient in any dish and it was always expensive, so these yakgwa were a rare treat, and very special.

Traditionally Koreans had them only on special occasions: weddings, birthdays, festival days, and also death anniversaries. I remember going to my grandmother’s house on festival days. She was waiting for us with yakgwa piled up like a mountain on a large tray. She made so many that she didn’t have time to press them into nice shapes, she just cut them into diamond-shaped cookies. The sticky syrup overflowed to the bottom of the tray and she used very thinly cut threadlike ginger matchsticks as a garnish. The ginger thread was really pretty!  I did it the same way in this recipe, just like my grandmother.

Good yakgwa has layers. You can see them in the cookies and they soak up all the syrup. A tip for making these layers is that you shouldn’t knead the dough like you would when making knife-cut noodles. Kneading creates gluten and makes the dough chewy, so we knead as little as possible. Instead we are grabbing, forming, shaping, and then folding the dough over itself to create those layers. I use my small rolling pin to press, stretch, and shape the dough to get it the way I want it.

Korean grocery stores sell yakgwa, so you can find these cookies very easily. But the difference in taste between homemade yakgwa and commercially sold yakgwa is huge. You can judge for yourself, if you want. Enjoy the recipe and let me know how you and your family enjoy your own homemade yakgwa!


Makes about 20-24 cookies

For the flour and oil blend

  • 2 cups all-purpose wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil (grape seed oil, vegetable oil, or corn oil)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder

For the flavored honey mix

  • 2 teaspoons grated and squeezed ginger juice
  • ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • a pinch of ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup soju

For the cookie coating syrup

  • 1 teaspoon grated and squeezed ginger juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup rice syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder



Coat the flour in oil:

  1. Sift the flour through a coarse mesh strainer into a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle the sesame oil and the cooking oil over the flour, circularly. Add the cinnamon powder.Korean honey cookies coated in sesame oil
  3. Using a rice scoop (or a wooden spoon), mix the oil in with the flour until well blended. To get rid of the larger lumps, gently rub the flour between your both hands, a little bit at at time, breaking up the lumps. Keep doing it until the big lumps are gone and the flour is well blended with the oil.
  4. Sift the seasoned flour into a bowl or an airtight container.sifting-flour
  5. Cover and set aside. You can refrigerate it for later if you’re not going to make the cookies right away.

Mix the flavored honey:

  1. Combine the ginger juice, salt, honey, soju, and black pepper in a small bowl.
  2. Mix well with a wooden spoon until the honey is dissolved. Set aside.

Make the coating syrup:

  1. Combine the ginger juice, rice syrup, water, and sugar in a large sauce pan. The cookies will eventually be added to this pan, so choose one large and wide enough to fit all of them.
  2. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes until small bubbles pop up and cover about ½ of the surface. The consistency of the syrup should still be runny. Remove from the heat.Korean honey cookies syrup

You’re ready to make cookies now!

  1. Add the flavored honey and soju mixture to the oiled flour a little by little as you mix it in. Use a wooden spoon (or a rice scoop) in a chopping motion to mix it up, as opposed to kneading it in like bread or noodles. Eventually it will look like crumbled dough but it will form roughly into one lump.dough for yakgwa
  2. Put the dough on your large cutting board or workspace. Press and gently grab the dough with both hands to shape it up a bit, without kneading.Making Korean honey cookie dough
  3. Use your roller to shape and beat it into a rectangle about 6 x 12 inches and ⅓ inch thick. Fold or cut it in half and then roll it out into a rectangle again. Do this a couple of times to give the cookies some nice layers.Korean honey cookies doughKorean honey cookies doughKorean honey cookie dough
  4. Cut the dough into about 1 inch squares or use a cookie cutter to create some fun shapes. I used a 2½ inch flower shaped pie plunger and a heart shaped cookie cutter, but some people just cut it into squares.  You should get about 20 to 24 cookies.shaping Korean honey cookiesshaping yakgwa
  5. Poke some holes in the middle of the cookies with a chopstick so the dough cooks evenly in the oil.make a hole in Korean honey cookies

Fry the cookies:

Yakgwa is fried 2 times. The first fry is done longer at a low temperature, about 250°F (120°C), and the second fry is shorter at high temperature, about 330°F (165°C). The first fry cooks the cookies evenly and slowly so the layers gradually expand. If we use high temperatures the cookies won’t cook on the inside and expand, and the outside will burn. The second fry is at a high temperature to make a nice brown color on the outside and to make the cookie a bit crunchy.

1st fry:

  1. Heat 2 inches of cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. I used 4 cups grape seed oil in my 12 inch skillet.
  2. When the temperature reaches around 250°F (120°C), add the raw cookies one by one. They will sink to the bottom of the skillet at first but soon small bubbles will come up and about 5 minutes later they will float to the surface one by one.
  3. Turn them over with long wooden cooking chopsticks or tongs. Keep moving and turning them in the oil so they cook evenly, until both sides turn light brown, which should take about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the cookies and put them into a stainless-steel strainer over a bowl. Drain the excess oil and set aside.

honey cookies-fry at low temperature

2nd fry:

  1. Increase the heat to medium-high for a couple of minutes until the oil heats up to about 330°F (165°C).
  2. Fry the cookies and turn them over for 2 to 3 minutes until both sides of each cookie turn a nice brown.
  3. Remove them from the oil and put them into a stainless-steel strainer over a bowl.

honey cookies-fry at high temperature

Coat the cookies in syrup:

  1. Drain the excess oil for a minute, then add all the cookies to the coating syrup in the pan.
  2. Mix them with a wooden spoon and let them sit in the pan at least 3 to 4 hours up to overnight, turning them over a couple of times now and then to soak them evenly.Soak honey cookies in syrup


  1. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cookies from the pan and place some on a plate.
  2. Garnish with pumpkin seeds and/or pine nuts, and/or threads of ginger.
  3. Serve with your favorite tea of coffee. I usually eat them with green tea. You can freeze these cookies for months.

Korean honey cookiesKorean honey cookies Korean honey cookies

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  1. Konstantina Europe joined 4/23 & has 1 comment

    I made these cookies yesterday! Easy to make and yummy! The only problem i had is that they didn’t absorb a lot of syrup. Even though i let them stay overnight at the syrup it wasn’t absorbed and it stayed mostly on the outside. What did i do wrong? Can you give me any advice, please? Thanks in advance! And please keep giving us such nice recipes♥

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 579 comments

      Congratulations! I’m glad your cookies turned out delicious!
      To ensure that the cookies soak up the syrup, you can heat up the syrup before adding the cookies. This will help the syrup to penetrate the cookies more easily.

  2. rainbowserpent W Australia joined 8/21 & has 6 comments

    Hi, can I use honey instead of rice syrup for the coating syrup? I keep bees, so honey is free for me! All your recipes are awesome, so tasty and never fail! thankyou from all my family and friends

  3. KokoNat Europe joined 2/23 & has 1 comment

    Great recipe, clear and detailed as always and fun to make. Thank you!

    See full size image

  4. amberh Colorado USA joined 7/22 & has 9 comments

    These are the most enchanting cookies I’ve ever seen!
    I can’t fry in my apartment, is it possible to bake them or use an air fryer machine instead? I know it won’t be the same, but I just must try these!
    Thank you dear Maangchi for sharing with us :)

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