10 Best Korean Side Dishes: Banchan You Can Make At Home

What are the best Korean side dishes that you must try when you eat a traditional meal in Korea? What are some delicious banchan you can make at home to impress your friends and family with your Korean cooking skills? Here are ten of the best Korean side dishes to try, details about how to prepare them, and dozens of insights into the world of Korean cuisine.

Whether you’re adding to your Korean food bucket list for a trip to Korea, or brushing up on your Korean culinary skills, this guide to Korea’s best banchan will inform, entertain, and improve your Korean food knowledge. You’ll be surprised at how deliciously deep Korea’s culinary culture is.

This article also includes a fascinating look at the history and methods of Korean cooking, especially for banchan. Do you know how many banchan on a table are unlucky? Do you know what goes well with jangjorim? Do you know what dosirak is and what you might put inside one? Find out here.

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What Are Banchan? About Korean Side Dishes

Selection of Korean side dishes banchan

Korean side dishes include a selection of hundreds of distinct small dishes that come with a traditional Korean meal. These are known as banchan (반찬) in Korean and these side dishes can range from a bowl of kimchi to a plate of fried deep fried zucchini, whole fish, soft marinated crabs, and more.

Which Korean side dishes you get differs for each meal, but will usually include some form of kimchi, the most common banchan in Korea and a staple in Korean cuisine. The amount of side dishes you get also depends on the meal and can range from just one (or even zero) to a whole table’s worth.

However many side dishes you receive with a traditional Korean meal, it should always be an odd number, because serving an even number of banchan will bring bad luck. Unless you’re royalty, where 12 side dishes are the stated amount to serve with traditional Korean royal meals.

If you want to know more about Korean traditions that might be confusing or interesting, check out my guide to Korean culture. There’s a whole section about Korean dining traditions, including how to place your chopsticks, what to do and not to do at dinner, and how to avoid causing offence.

Various side dishes with a Korean meal

Korean cuisine has a rich background and banchan embraces locally found vegetables, seeds, fish, animals, fruit, herbs, spices, and anything else that can be pulled out of the ground. Spicy chilli peppers, introduced to Korea in the 16th Century, are also an important ingredient in Korean meals.

The types of Korean side dishes available are probably countless, but usually fall into a few different categories. The most popular types of Korean side dishes are kimchi (over 200 types), jorim, jeon, muchim, jjim, bokkeum, namul, and jeolim. I’ll explain more about these different categories later.

The Korean side dishes introduced in this article are only the tip of the Korean culinary iceberg, and there’s a lot more to discover about the fascinating world of traditional Korean dishes. Take a deep breath and plunge into the depths of Korea’s wonderful range of textures, smells and flavours!

Korean side dishes with a meal of wrapped lettuce leaves

For while Korean cuisine may constantly be evolving, the cultural aspect of it is always the same – every banchan is made with soul and a tale. Every dish is bursting with meaning and comes from Korea’s flavourful history of ice-cold winters, royal banquets, and a life of countless struggles.

These Korean side dishes are mostly healthy (but not always), offer a range of delectable tastes, and can be paired with anything from a simple bowl of rice to a full-blown spread to be picked and stuffed into lettuce leaves, nibbled alone, or used to enhance the flavours of other foods.

Planning to visit Korea? These travel essentials will help you plan your trip, get the best deals, and save you time and money before and during your Korean adventure.

Visas & K-ETA: Some travellers to Korea need a Tourist Visa, but most can travel with a Korean Electronic Travel Authorisation (K-ETA). Currently 22 Countries don’t need either one.

How To Stay Connected: Pre-order a Korean Sim Card or a WiFi Router to collect on-arrival at Incheon Airport (desks open 24-hours). Alternatively, download a Korean eSIM for you travels.

Where To Stay: For Seoul, I recommend Myeongdong (convenient), Hongdae (cool culture) or Gangnam (shopping). For Busan, Haeundae (Beach) or Seomyeon (Downtown).

Incheon Airport To Seoul: Take the Airport Express (AREX) to Seoul Station or a Limo Bus across Seoul. Book an Incheon Airport Private Transfer and relax to or from the airport.

Korean Tour Operators: Tour companies that have a big presence in Korea include Klook, Trazy, Viator, and Get Your Guide. These sites offer discounted entry tickets for top attractions.

Seoul City Passes: Visit Seoul’s top attractions for free with a Discover Seoul Pass or Go City Seoul Pass. These passes are great for families and couples visiting Seoul – you can save lots.

How To Get Around: For public transport, grab a T-Money Card. Save money on Korea’s high speed trains with a Korea Rail Pass. To see more of Korea, there are many rental car options from Klook, EconomyBookings, and RentalCars.

Travel Money: Use money exchanges near Myeongdong and Hongdae subway stations for the best exchange rates. Order a Wise Card or WOWPASS to pay by card across Korea.

Flights To Korea: I use flight comparison sites such as Expedia and Skyscanner to find the best flights to Korea from any country. Air Asia is a good option for budget flights from Asia.

Travel Insurance: It is important to insure your trips to protect yourself against the unexpected. World Nomad is a specialized travel insurance provider with options for different coverage for travellers from around the world. You can also purchase cover when you are already travelling.

How To Learn Korean: The language course from 90 Day Korean or Korean Class 101 both have well-structured lessons and lots of useful resources to help you learn Korean.

The 10 Best Banchan Korean Side Dishes

Various Korean side dishes for dinner

Sit down at any Korean restaurant, and the first thing you notice are the petite dishes that are set out before you. Sit down at any Korean household, and again you notice how the family hurriedly lays out similar looking dishes to ease your hunger before the main meal arrives.

These are banchan, or ‘side dishes’; similar to having a salad to complete a bolognese, these are the essence of Korean meals. You probably know about kimchi, one of Korea’s most famous foods, but there’s a lot more to banchan and even more to kimchi than you might realise.

Here are 10 tasty Korean side dishes you can cook at home or enjoy at a Korean restaurant with a traditional Korean meal. Each of these banchan includes a recipe to help you prepare the side dish at home and tips for what meals to pair it with to get the best taste combinations.

1: Geotjeori 겉절이 – Fresh Kimchi

Geotjeori Kimchi the most popular banchan Korean side dish

When it comes to the best of all Korean side dishes, you can’t beat a bowl of ubiquitous kimchi. There are hundreds of types of kimchi, but the most delicious one in my opinion is geotjeori. Geotjeori is a kind of kimchi that’s made to be eaten fresh, unlike other types of kimchi which are usually fermented.

Kimchi can be made from various main ingredients and geotjeori is no exception. The best version of geotjeori is baechu geotjeori, made from Napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage). Napa cabbage (baechu – 배추) leaves are long, not too thick, and crunchy, giving them the perfect texture for this banchan.

This Korean side dish is quick and easy to make and goes with a range of traditional Korean dishes. It can be eaten with just a bowl of rice, as a side dish for a bowl of noodles or stew, or whatever you like. This side dish isn’t used as an ingredient in Korean meals and should be eaten within a few days.

Because geotjeori isn’t fermented, this kimchi isn’t as sweet as other types, where natural sweetness develops over time. If you want a sweeter taste, add a bit of sugar or corn syrup when you make it. The tastes found in geotjeori can be stronger and fresher than fermented kimchi and less sour.

This Korean side dish is best served with: kalguksu, Korean BBQ, bossam (pork shoulder slices, kimchi braised ribs (deung ggalbi kimchi-jjim) and many other traditional Korean dishes.

How To Make Baechu Geotjeori

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish geotjeori. You can follow this baechu geotjeori recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Bowl of fresh geotjeori kimchi Korean side dish
1 small head of Napa cabbage
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, sliced radishes, shredded carrots
How to make Fresh KIMCHI|Baechu geotjeori (겉절이)|The Restaurants Food
How to make Korean side dish baechu geotjeori

2: Jangjorim 장조림 – Soy Braised Beef

Braised beef in soy sauce Korean side dish jangjorim

One of Korea’s most loved side dishes, jangjorim contains beef, shisito peppers, garlic, and eggs in soy sauce. This banchan is made by boiling flaky slices of beef in an aromatic soy marinade. The beef soaks up all the herbs and garlicky flavours, and adds the perfect savoury bite to your steamed rice.

These days, it is common to find quail eggs in jangjorim – not only does it add extra minerals and protein, but it balances out the chewiness of the beef and mellows out the saltiness of the sauce. It is a favourite among Korean children too, and you’ll find mums making this weekly for their lunchbox.

Since the sauce is soy-based, it can seem quite salty, so be sure to balance a side dish of jangjorim with steamed rice and other veggie based dishes. Jorim, food made by simmering ingredients in a seasoned broth, is the Korean term for braising and a popular way to make side dishes in Korea.

This Korean side dish is best served with: jangjorim goes perfectly with a simple meal like rice and kimchi, meals where you wrap things in lettuce (e.g ssambap), bibimbap, and for lunch boxes.

How To Make Jangjorim

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish jangjorim. You can follow this jangjorim recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Korean side dish jangjorim braised beef in soy sauce
1 pound beef brisket or flank steak, sliced into thin strips
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, for garnish
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
10-12 Shishito peppers
4 green onions, chopped
4 hard boiled eggs (optional)
Braised beef in soy sauce (Jangjorim: 장조림)
How to make Korean side dish jangjorim

3: Ganjang Gejang 간장게장 – Soy Marinated Crabs

Ganjang Gejang Korean side dish of soy marinated crabs

Ganjang gejang is a fermented side dish made by marinating fresh raw crabs (ge) in a sauce – either soy sauce (ganjang) or a chilli pepper sauce. This salty side dish is popular among Koreans, but isn’t something made regularly as it is one of the more complicated Korean banchan to prepare.

This dish can only be made with the freshest crabs you can get your hands on – preferably live ones if possible – and marinating them in a tight jar with a soy brine. Infused with garlic, chilli, ginger, apple, onion and kelp, the brine itself is jam-packed with mouth-watering flavours!

Like Kimchi, savoury brine was used as a way to preserve certain seafoods so that they don’t perish so quickly. It can get a bit messy eating this dish since you need your fingers, but once you taste the wholesome sauce and the tenderness of the crab meat, you’ll definitely be in for seconds!

Suck the juicy meat out of the claws, gulp down the now-marinated rice, and like a true local, be sure to finish off by mixing the crab roe in the shell with your last spoonful of rice. There is also a spicy version of this dish, which is equally as delightful, for people who love a good kick!

Ganjang gejang is a type of banchan referred to as 밥도둑 (bap-do-dook). This term literally means ‘rice thief’, indicating you want to steal some rice to go with ganjang gejang. When you eat this side dish, you want more rice because it’s salty and delicious and needs rice to wash it down.

This Korean side dish is best served with: this banchan accompanies seafood dishes perfectly, but can also be used as a side dish for a wide range of other traditional Korean dishes or even just rice.

How To Make Ganjang Gejang

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish ganjang gejang. You can follow this ganjang gejang recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

soy marinated Korean side dish with rice and kimchi
4-6 live blue crabs (or any other variety suitable for raw consumption)
1 cup soy sauce (ganjang)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Optional: Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) for extra spice
Soy Sauce Marinated Raw Crab(Ganjang-gejang) | 간장게장 | 간장게장 황금레시피 |
How to make Korean side dish ganjang gejang

4: Pa Kimchi 파김치 – Spring Onion Kimchi

Korean side dish pa kimchi green onions

The second kimchi side dish on this list of banchan is pa kimchi, which translates to spring onion or scallion (pa) kimchi. This type of kimchi looks very different from the aforementioned geotjeori and is fermented, not fresh. It still packs the same great spicy taste that you’ll find in other kimchi.

Crispy, strong, and aromatic – pa kimchi is one of the easiest types of kimchi to make, yet its flavours will surprise you! Pa kimchi is made by blending together ginger, garlic, plum syrup and Korean chilli flakes, before massaging the marinade all over whole strands of spring onion (don’t slice them).

This spicy and pungent kimchi is the perfect accompaniment to grilled pork belly. Take a thin slice of meat, grab a whole strand of pa kimchi, and coil it all the way around the pork belly until you’re left with, what looks like, a mini parcel. Pop it in and let the aromatic flavours surround your mouth.

The pungency comes mainly from the fish sauce, but don’t let the smell fool you – the fishiness is key to making this kimchi work. The sourness perfectly balances out the juicy pieces of meat. Add a stew and you have a meal that’s hearty enough to wash away any Monday blues!

This Korean side dish is best served with: pa kimchi goes well with Korean BBQ, as well as hameul pajeon (seafood pancake), japchae (stir fried glass noodles), and bibimbap.

How To Make Pa Kimchi

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish pa kimchi. You can follow this pa kimchi recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Korean banchan pa kimchi spring onions
2 bunches of spring onions (scallions) – approximately 20
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Traditional Green Onion Kimchi (Pa Kimchi) Recipe
How to make Korean side dish pa kimchi

5: Dubu Jorim 두부조림 – Braised Tofu

Dubu Jorim braised tofu Korean banchan

Dubu jorim is an easy to make side dish of braised tofu that is kid-friendly, vegan-friendly, and can be prepared in under 20 minutes. Similar to the Chinese dish mapo tofu, this simple banchan requires a few thick slices of firm tofu to simmer in a blend of soy sauce, water, black pepper and garlic.

If you prefer to eat spicy Korean side dishes, add a splash of sesame oil and a drizzle of Korean chilli flakes (gochugaru). Want to go further? Add in a mix of sliced onions and spring onions to the dubu jorim, and serve with stir fried kimchi (fresh doesn’t cut it here) and grilled pork belly (samgyeopsal).

Tofu with kimchi is one of the most popular food combinations in Korea. People serve it at home for dinner, as a midnight munchie and almost every single bar has it on their menu, because nothing else pairs better with a glass of chilled soju and friends after work on a Friday night.

This Korean side dish is best served with: simple rice and kimchi or just kimchi alone. Dubu jorim is the perfect banchan for a dosirak (packed lunch) to take to work or school.

How To Make Dubu Jorim

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish dubu jorim. You can follow this dubu jorim recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Spicy braised tofu called Dubu Jorim in Korean
2 blocks (about 1 pound) firm tofu
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 green onion, chopped (for garnish)
Optional toppings: toasted sesame seeds, sliced green chilli peppers (gochugaru)
Korean braised tofu (Dubu jorim, 두부조림) - simple and flavorful!
How to make Korean side dish dubu jorim

6: Gosari Namul 고사리 나물 – Marinated Fernbrake

Korean side dish Gosari Namul

Gosari namul is a Korean side dish made from wild fernbrake or bracken and seasoned with minced garlic, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Unlike some bracken, which can be poisonous, this version is edible and makes for a healthy addition to a selection of banchan for a traditional Korean meal.

Every spring, Korea’s older generation still go out to forage for fresh gosari – the young stem of the bracken plant and a traditional ingredient that has been eaten in Korea for centuries. However, the version you’ll see in the supermarkets is brown, dry and thin – and this is the base of this banchan.

A bowl of gosari namul will bring you several health benefits as gosari contains lots of vitamins, antioxidants, fibre, and protein. Koreans call it ‘the beef of the mountains‘ due to its high protein content. This secret superfood side dish is best described as nutty in taste and chewy in texture.

This Korean side dish is best served with: This mellow and nutty vegetable dish goes perfectly with anything and everything, and most commonly seen as a main ingredient in bibimbap.

How To Make Gosari Namul

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish gosari namul. You can follow this gosari namul recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Bowl of Gosari Namul bracken fernbrake
1 cup dried gosari (fernbrake)
4 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vinegar (optional)
Salt, to taste
Recipe for Korean Gosari or Kosari Namul Sidedish 고사리
How to make Korean side dish gosari namul

7: Kongnamul Muchim 콩나물 무침 – Marinated Beansprouts

Bowl of Korean marinated beansprouts kongnamul muchim

Kongnamul muchim is a refreshing side dish made of marinated beansprouts that’s best served in summer or as an accompaniment to hot winter stews and soups. With its crisp bite and neutral taste, kongnamul muchim is a tasty banchan that can be prepared in 10 minutes and goes with any meal.

As this dish contains soybean sprouts, which are an excellent source of antioxidants and calcium, dishes like kongnamul muchim are eaten regularly across Korea. You can find soybean sprouts in a wide range of Korean banchan and main meals as they’re cheap, healthy, and versatile.

Kongnamul muchim is simple to make – boil and drain the beansprouts and blanket generously with minced garlic, sesame oil, salt, pepper, spring onions and chilli flakes. Place them in the fridge to marinate for a while and then serve. This creates an aromatic and healthy side dish for all to enjoy!

The delicate taste of the beansprouts mean that it goes better with stronger-tasting foods, such as braised chicken or yukhaejang (육해장) – a spicy stew bursting with beef, chillies and greens! You’ll find you can’t stop eating these nutty, crunchy beansprouts and will want more and more.

This Korean side dish is best served with: Like gosari namul, kongnamul muchim is one of the key ingredients for bibimbap. This banchan is also great for Korean stews and soups, such as gukbap.

How To Make Kongnamul Muchim

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish kongnamul muchim. You can follow this kongnamul muchim recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

soybean sprouts served as kongnamul muchim in Korea
2 cups soybean sprouts (kongnamul)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Optional: 1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)

Kongnamul Muchim 2 WAYS - Korean Soybean Sprout Side Dish 콩나물무침 (EASY)
How to make Korean side dish kongnamul muchim

8: Baek Kimchi 백김치 – White Kimchi

Korean white kimchi called baek kimchi

Baek kimchi, also known as white kimchi, is a version of kimchi that has a clean, refreshing taste and is made without the spicy chilli pepper powder that gives regular kimchi its famous kick. Thanks to the lack of spice, this is a popular Korean side dish for children and those who prefer simpler tastes.

As with other fermented kimchi, baek kimchi is made with healthy ingredients all packed with nutrients. However, instead of marinating the cabbage with a red chilli pepper marinade, it is salted, sliced, and left to soak in a brine that is made from blending pears, apples, garlic, ginger, and onion.

The delicious flavours of these ingredients are extracted using a sieve or cheesecloth into a bowl of salted water and freshly sliced radish, chillies, and apples. All of that combined creates a beautiful brine infused with rich flavours that will ferment the cabbage, creating a crunchy, healthy side dish.

After fermentation, baek kimchi will taste flavoursome and sour, and will contain fibre and plenty of good lactic acid for the gut. It’s similar to sauerkraut. Like pickled ginger served with sushi, or sips of lemon water offered during a wine tasting, baek kimchi is also perfect for cleansing your palette.

This is a refreshing side dish with a light taste that is paired best with the heaviness of grilled beef, or the oiliness of battered chicken (which is why fried chicken is always served with pickles in Korea). If you’re feeling sick, try some Korean juk (porridge) served with non-spicy baek kimchi. It’ll help a lot.

This Korean side dish is best served with: oily or fried foods such as soegogi gui (Korean fried beef), fried chicken, or bulgogi. Also pairs with Korean porridge and similar non-spicy dishes.

How To Make Baek Kimchi

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish baek kimchi. You can follow this baek kimchi recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch this video below.

Baek kimchi Korean banchan
1 large Napa cabbage
1 cup daikon radish, julienned
1 cup carrot, julienned
1 cup Korean pear, julienned
2 green onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
Non-Spicy Kimchi (White kimchi: Baek-Kimchi: 백김치)
How to make Korean side dish baek kimchi

9: Gyeran Jjim 계란찜 – Steamed Eggs

Korean banchan gyeran jjim steamed eggs

Gyeran jjim is a soft, fluffy Korean side dish of steamed eggs that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as quick snack. The key ingredient in this side dish is gyeran (egg) – sometimes called dalgyal (달걀) – and the method of cooking it is known as jjim (steaming), hence the name gyeran jjim.

This is best described as a bowl of steaming savoury egg custard that you eat with a spoon while it’s steaming hot, blowing on it before slurping it down. The eggs bubble up like lava from a volcano and this is one of the most impressive looking side dishes you’ll find on a Korean dinner table.

You will most often find gyeran jjim served in a stone hot pot with Korean BBQ and it’s the perfect snack to prepare your taste buds while the slices of meat are slowly cooking in front of you. This side dish usually comes to the table last, but is the first to be finished as everyone wants a piece of it.

If you’re tired of regular scrambled eggs or omelette, then gyeran jjim is a great alternative for a breakfast meal that’s simple and quick to make. Add some green onions / scallions to the eggs to fill it out, or some carrots and onions for a bigger dish. This can be a tasty snack between meals, too.

This Korean side dish is best served with: Korean BBQ (samgyeopsal) and other fried dishes that come with a lot of side dishes. Can be eaten alone as a snack or with rice and kimchi.

How To Make Gyeran Jjim

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish gyeran jjim. You can follow this gyeran jjim recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Korean side dish of steamed eggs
3 large eggs
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 green onion, finely chopped (optional)
Optional toppings: sesame seeds, chopped green onion
Silky & Delightful Korean Steamed Egg, Gyeran Jjim Recipe
How to make Korean side dish gyeran jjim

10: Hobak Jeon 호박전 – Zucchini Fritters

Plate of hobak jeon Korean side dish of fried zucchini

Hobak jeon is a popular Korean side dish that can be prepared quickly to accompany any home cooked meal. Hobak is the name given to the group of vegetables that includes pumpkin, squash, and zucchini (courgette), while jeon is a type of Korean pancake dish that comes in many varieties.

Zucchini isn’t everyone’s favourite vegetable, but if you try it Korean-style in hobak jeon, you’ll probably love it. Sliced thinly, dipped lightly in flour, then coated in egg, hobak jeon are little round disks that turn an unloved vegetable into a delicate-tasting fritter that pairs beautifully with any dish!

If you’re a fan of Japanese tempura, then you might recognise hobak jeon as there’s a similar version in Japanese cuisine. The delicate sweetness of the zucchini, the slight crunch of the batter – this banchan is crispy on the outside and soft in the inside. Dip it in some soy sauce for more flavour!

This Korean side dish is best served with: this banchan is great alone as a snack, but also pairs well with grilled meats, offering a savoury contrast to the rich meats. Dip in the sauce of a bowl of tteokbokki for a guilty treat that will leave a smile on your face.

How To Make Hobak Jeon

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make the Korean side dish hobak jeon. You can follow this hobak jeon recipe to see the steps to make this banchan or watch the video below.

Hobak jeon Korean banchan
2 small zucchini (courgettes)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 cup cold water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Soy sauce or dipping sauce, for serving (optional)
[ENG SUB] Hobak Jeon (호박전): Pan-fried Zucchini Pancakes | Korean Side Dish | Korean Banchan recipe
How to make Korean side dish hobak jeon

My Favourite Korean Side Dishes

Korean side dishes with a Korean BBQ meal

This was just a modest introduction to some of Korea’s most-loved banchan. As you can see, they can range from simple and modest, to complicated and intense! Koreans take great pride in their history and food, and so they should – for this is how the roots of their traditional dishes were formed.

I don’t think I can choose a favourite Korean side dish as there are so many great tastes to be found in banchan and each matches a certain meal. If I’m eating chobab (Korean sushi), then a bite of sinkimchi (aged kimchi) goes with it perfectly, the same with Korean BBQ as it contrasts so well.

Then again, if I’m sitting down for a meal of something meaty and fried, I love the taste of beansprouts – either fried on the grill or cool and refreshing as a complement to the meaty, smoky tastes. As mentioned, gyeran jjim is often first gone when it’s served with a BBQ meal and I’m guilty of that.

Instead of choosing a specific banchan to list as my favourite, I will say that the side dishes served with a Korean BBQ meal (such as samgyeopsal), or the healthy side dishes that comes with a meal like dolsot bibimbap or ssambap are definitely worth trying. There’s going to be something you’ll love.

Korean dipping sauces and fillings

Korean side dishes wouldn’t be complete without Korean dipping sauces and additional ingredients like those pictured above. Garlic, chilli peppers, and spicy vegetables are common additions to banchan and can be used to add to lettuce-wrapped meals like Korean BBQ and ssambap.

Where To Try Korean Side Dishes In Seoul

Korean meal at a restaurant in Seoul

The best Korean side dishes are served with traditional Korean meals and the longer the restaurant has been around, the more and better side dishes you’ll get. I’ve found the best selection of banchan are found in old Korean restaurants in traditional hanok houses tucked away in small alleys.

I wholeheartedly recommend splashing out at least once for a proper Korean spread when you visit Seoul, especially if you’re travelling as a large group or family. However, you don’t need to break the bank to have an incredible Korean meal and even cheap eats will come with amazing banchan.

Here are some Korean restaurants in Seoul to try Korean banchan and enjoy an authentic traditional Korean meal with it. There are many, many more restaurants to try. I recommend exploring the streets near Seoul’s royal palaces and in Bukchon Hanok Village to find more dining options.

Kwak Kyung Chan’s Sigol Bapsang: a renowned restaurant in Seoul known for its traditional Korean cuisine. Led by chef Kwak Kyung Chan, the restaurant specialises in “sigol bap” or “four-seasons rice,” which refers to a seasonal and diverse assortment of side dishes served with rice.

Bukchon Samgyetang: a Korean restaurant that produces samgyetang, a nourishing and comforting chicken soup that’s hot and healthy. At Bukchon Samgyetang, you can savour this traditional Korean dish in its purest form, relishing the tender chicken, fragrant rice, and invigorating broth.

Bowl of traditional Korean samgyetang

Jinmi Sikdang: a popular and vibrant restaurant located in Mapo. This restaurant is famous for its innovative take on Korean cuisine. With a contemporary and stylish interior, Jinmi Sikdang’s skilled chefs combine high-quality ingredients with artistic flair, presenting beautiful, delicious creations.

Imun Seolleongtang: renowned for its delectable seolleongtang, a traditional Korean beef bone soup. With a history spanning over a century, Imun Seolleongtang has established itself as a go-to destination for locals and visitors seeking a comforting and flavourful dining experience.

If you want to try delicious side dishes when you travel out of Seoul, then head to the Korean countryside. The best banchan I’ve had in Korea have always been in the countryside or in Korea’s national parks. These restaurants will be popular with locals and will often be packed on the weekend.

A great restaurant to try traditional Korean dishes close to Seoul is the ‘San’ Restaurant at the end of the Baegundae Peak course in Bukhansan National Park. You can find details (incl. address) of this place and other traditional Korean restaurants in my guide to hiking in Bukhansan National Park.

Where To Make Korean Food In Seoul

Cooking course in Seoul

Want to try making Korean side dishes or even whole Korean meals while you visit Seoul? A Korean cooking class is a great way to sample a slice of Korean culture and cuisine while learning a new skill you can bring back to show your friends and family. Here are a couple of options in Seoul.

Secret of Banchan Cooking Class: Discover the secret of making the perfect banchan with this seasonal cooking class in Seoul that not only introduces you to Korean cuisine, but will entertain and educate you, too. Learn to make a range of banchan and sample them immediately afterwards.

Korean Cooking Class In Local Home: Learn how to make delicious local dishes from expert chefs and enjoy hanjeongsik – a Korean-style meal that comes with more than 10 dishes. This class includes a trip to Mangwon Market to purchase fresh ingredients for the meals and Korean street food, too.

Korean Rice Cake Making Class: Learn how to make Korean bean paste rice cakes, a traditional Korean dessert that’s shared and eaten during Korean holidays. Wrap your dessert in a traditional Korean cloth and then enjoy tea and refreshments. A perfect souvenir for your family and friends.

Visiting Busan and want to try cooking some traditional Korean dishes? Check out this Busan Local Food Cooking Class with a local chef, which includes a tour of a traditional market, too.

Tips For Making Korean Side Dishes At Home

Selection of home made kimchi

If this article has whetted your appetite for Korean banchan, and you want to try making some at home, use the recipes provided, follow a Korean cookbook, or check out a Korean cooking YouTube channel. The recipes provided are a good start. I hope they help you make your first banchan.

Just like any other recipe, Korean side dishes can be made in a variety ways and you’ll find different methods for each one, as well as different ingredients and seasonings. Use the recipes in this article or the resources below to help you prepare delicious Korean banchan at home.

Here are some Korean cookbooks you can use to make Korean side dishes and other meals:

Korean Side Dishes Cookbook

Korean Side Dishes: K. Jewel

Korean cuisine is healthy, wholesome and so much than just the spicy ramyeon you may have tried! Learn the simple basics of making popular Korean side dishes and impress your family and friends with an authentic, savoury, and yummy Seoul taste.

Korean Cooking Favorites Cookbook

Korean Cooking Favorites: Hyegyoung Ford

Step into the kitchen of Hyegyoung K. Ford, founder of Beyond Kimchee, and discover the delicious, fail-safe meals she ate growing up in South Korea and now cooks for her own busy family. Perfected through generations, classics like Korean Sweet & Sour Pork are quick and comforting, and popular dishes like Spicy Korean Fried Chicken are surprisingly easy to make at home.

Maangchi's Big Book Of Korean Cooking

Maangchi’s Big Book Of Korean Cooking

The book contains the favourite dishes by famous Korean chef and YouTuber, Maangchi. She has perfected many Korean meals over the years, from Korean barbecue and fried chicken to bulgogi and bibimbap. Discover Maangchi’s professional approach to Korean cooking today.

The Korean Vegan Joanne Lee Molinaro

The Korean Vegan: Joanne Lee Molinaro

Joanne Lee Molinaro has captivated millions of fans with her powerfully moving personal tales of love, family, and food. In her debut cookbook, she shares a collection of her favorite Korean dishes, some traditional and some reimagined, as well as poignant narrative snapshots that have shaped her family history.

Wookwan's Korean Temple Food

Wookwan’s Korean Temple Food

As the first volume of temple cuisine published in English, Wookwan herself has written an elegant volume that introduces the reader to Korean temple food, including what it means to care for the ingredients at each step of preparation, following the three key principles of cooking temple food, interspersed with her own accounts and tips among the recipes.

Here are some useful Korean cooking channels on YouTube which include side dishes and a wide range of other delicious Korean dishes. These videos can be really helpful when cooking at home.

Let’s make traditional Korean kimchi! #shorts
Maanggchi Korean Cooking YouTube Channel
How to Make Healthy Korean Dolsot bibimbap & Bibimbap | 돌솥비빔밥
Chung’s K Food Korean Cooking YouTube Channel
모두를 위한 간단요리 4가지 [양배추샤브샤브, 스팸덮밥, 배추두부롤, 간장비빔국수]
W Table Korean Cooking YouTube Channel
Welcome to Asian at Home, I'm Seonkyoung Longest!
Seonkyoung Longest Korean Cooking YouTube Channel

Don’t forget, you’ll also need some equipment to make Korean dishes, such as a large stone bowl for making Korean stews, as well as serving dishes. Fortunately, these can be found online.

Korean Stone Bowl Cooking Pot

Korean Stone Bowl Cooking Pot

An essential part of many Korean traditional dishes is the stone bowl (dolsot) cooking pot. This can be used to make dishes such as dolsot bibimbap, kimchi jjigae, and many other hot soups and stews. It’s also ideal for gyeran jjim.

Serving dishes for Korean side dishes

Korean Side Dish Serving Bowls

Set your side dishes out in these beautiful ceramic serving bowls, each perfectly sized for a small portion of banchan. They’re also great for Korean dipping sauces, such as soy sauce, gochujang, and ssamjang.

Learn About Traditional Korean Cuisine

Kimchi the most popular banchan Korean side dish

Want to know more about Korean cuisine and the different types of side dishes you can find in Korea? This section will introduce you to some of the most common forms of side dishes, as well as a couple of uniquely Korean concepts related to Korean cuisine – gimjang and dosirak.

Kimchi: Unknown to many, kimchi simply means ‘fermented vegetables’. There are hundreds of kimchi in Korea made with vegetables such as collard greens, spring onions, or even garlic bulbs. The most commonly known kimchi is the spicy, red kimchi made with Napa (Chinese) cabbages.

Jorim: Korean side dishes with the word jorim means that they have been slow-cooked or braised by simmering the ingredients in a seasoned broth until the broth has been absorbed.

Jeon: These are Korean pancakes and come in a wide variety, from hobak jeon banchan to full meals such as hameul pajeon. Jeon are popular in Korea, and while they can be made any time of the year, they’re most commonly served on national holidays, such as Seollal and Chuseok.

Muchim: A muchim dish includes ingredients that are marinated (mixed with seasonings). Examples include oi muchim (seasoned cucumbers) and kongnamul muchim (marinated beansprouts).

Jjim: Korean dishes with jjim in the name, such as gyeran jjim, are steamed, boiled, or marinated in a sauce or soup. Galbi jjim is a popular Korean dish that is made by steaming marinated galbi (beef short ribs) with potato and carrots in ganjang (soy sauce).

Bokkeum: To cook foods bokkeum-style means to cook with a small amount of liquid by stir-frying over heat. These stir-fried dishes are usually cooked with a sauce, such as soy sauce or fish sauce.

Namul: These dishes are made with grass, leaves, herbs, or vegetables that are marinated, blanched or steamed. Gosari namul is marinated bracken and an example of how these Korean side dishes are usually served – seasoned with sesame, garlic, salt, soy sauce, gochugaru, and other seasonings.

About kimjang – Korean Kimchi Making Day

Korean stone pots for kimjang

In late autumn or early winter, the Korean family gets together to spend the day chatting, laughing and making fresh Kimchi – a kimchi-making day known as gimjang or kimjang. It’s a tradition deeply rooted in Korean history when ancestors would salt vegetables together to make them last over the chilly winters.

The vegetables are stored in onggi (stone jars) and buried underground, to let the lactic acid grow and develop that deep, savoury flavour of fermented kimchi. You can see onggi stone jars outside traditional Korean restaurants and old hanok houses across Korea, especially in the countryside.

After a hard day of kimchi making, Koreans enjoy a traditional meal, such as a plate of steaming hot bossam (보쌈) – thinly sliced pork shoulder that has been tenderly broiled with various spices. Wrap some bossam and geotjori in lettuce for the perfect combo of crunchy and soft, salty and fragrant.

I tried gimjang with my girlfriend’s family this winter and it was a lot of fun. It was a tough day preparing dozens of kimchi for the year ahead, but also very interesting and eye opening. You can read about my kimchi making day and see how to make kimchi and what it’s all about.

About Dosirak – Korean Traditional Lunch Boxes

Korean dosirak

Until the late 1990s, it was mandatory for Korean students to bring their own lunch to school, which they call ‘dosirak’. This was traditionally a small metal container filled with rice and various sides, such as shown in the picture above. Dosirak is also used for train journeys and can be found at stations.

If your parents were well off, you would open your school dosirak to find stir-fried kimchi, slices of gyeran mari, some marinated veggies, and maybe even grilled meat! However, a lot of children were used to more modest lunch boxes, consisting of some rice, a scoop of kimchi, and one fried egg.

For this reason, gyeran mari holds strong nostalgia for many Koreans, especially the older generation. Gyeran means egg, and mari means roll, because that is exactly how it is cooked. It even draws comparisons to the Japanese tamagoyaki, except the korean version doesn’t add sugar.

You can buy dosirak at Korean train stations for long journeys between Seoul and Busan. It’s also a popular extra for Korean BBQ meals, where you’ll often find a metal lunch box with kimchi-fried rice, slices of spam, and a fried egg on top. If you see this unhealthy dosirak on a menu, give it a go!

Korean Side Dishes FAQs

Finally, here are a few FAQs about how to Korean side dishes (banchan), in case the above information didn’t cover enough for you. If you have any other questions you’d like to ask, feel free to leave a comment.

What are some common Korean side dishes?

Some popular Korean side dishes include kimchi, which is a staple with many Korean meals, dubu jorim (braised tofu), gosari namul (marinated fernbrake), gyeran jjim (steamed eggs), and kongnamul muchim (marinated beansprouts). Some meals come with several types of kimchi, including radish kimchi and cabbage kimchi. The banchan available usually depends on the meal.

What different types of banchan are there?

There are many different types of banchan in Korea, including kimchi (fermented vegeatables), jorim (braised foods), jeon (fried pancakes), jeolim (pickled foods), bokkeum (stir-fried), and namul (marinated or steamed plants). A Korean meal may have one or more of these different banchan, depending on the food being served.

Do all Korean meals come with banchan?

Not all Korean meals come with banchan, but most Korean dishes will come with at least a serving of kimchi, which is a type of banchan. People eating at home may skip banchan if they don’t have the correct available ingredients or time to prepare extra dishes. However, Korean restaurants will almost always give you at least a portion of pickles or kimchi with your meal.

How many Korean side dishes do you get per meal?

There is no set number of side dishes that you can expect with each Korean meal. However, there is a Korean superstition that the number of Korean side dishes should always be an odd number (3,5,7, etc.), otherwise you will have bad luck. Modern Korean restaurants generally give fewer banchan than older, more traditional restaurants, which can have up to 20 or more side dishes.

Are Korean side dishes spicy?

Some Korean side dishes are very spicy and are made with gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes). The easiest way to discern if a side dish is spicy is to look at its colour. Red side dishes are usually spicy as they have red chilli peppers in them. Slices of thin green chilli peppers may also be present. Many Korean side dishes are pickled or steamed and not that spicy. There are versions of kimchi, such as baek kimchi (white kimchi), that aren’t spicy at all.

Are Korean side dishes vegetarian friendly?

Many Korean side dishes will be vegetarian friendly, such as gyeran jjim (steamed eggs), kongnamul muchim (marinated beansprouts), and hobak jeon (courgette fritters), and you should be able to tell which ones contain meat or fish. However, some side dishes, including kimchi, may contain fish or seafood sauces, such as sauejeot (small fermented shrimp sauce) or myeolchi aekjeot (anchovy paste).

Are Korean side dishes vegan friendly?

Korean side dishes can be vegan friendly, but may be cooked in fish-based sauces such as myeolchi aekjeot (anchovy paste). Kimchi can be vegan-friendly, but the most common type found in Korean restaurants is likely to contain oyster sauce or another fish-based sauce. Jeon (fried pancakes) are usually covered in eggs, making them not vegan-friendly, too. Dubu jorim is a vegan-friendly Korean side dish that doesn’t contain any animal products.

Do Korean banchan side dishes contain meat?

Some Korean banchan contain meat, such as jangjorim (soy braised beef) and wanja jeon (fried meat pancakes). There are many more side dishes that contain fish and seafood products than meat.

What is the most popular banchan in Korea?

The most popular banchan in Korea has to be kimchi, especially baechu kimchi, which is made with Napa cabbage (Chinese cabbage). Kimchi is served with most meals in Korea and may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It can be eaten with just a bowl of rice, or added to large sharing meals such as Korean BBQ.

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About the author

Hi! My name is Joel, I'm the author of In My Korea and writer of this article. I've lived, worked and travelled in Korea since 2015 and want to share my insights, stories and tips to help you have the best experience during your trip to Korea.

I love learning more about Korean culture, hiking the many mountains, and visiting all the coolest places in Korea, both modern and traditional. If you want to know more about my story, check out the 'about me' section to learn why I love living in Korea.

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