15 Essential Korean Ingredients You Need in Your Pantry

Grocery store checklist of essential Korean ingredients included.

Korean food is the best!! And with just a handful of Korean ingredients, you can make dozens of wonderful meals. Don’t take my word for it, ask Morgan Stanley who stated in a recent report that Korean food exports have increased 10% every year for the past decade and expects the revenue for Korean food to double in the next few years.

More people than ever are discovering delicious Korean food and also finding out the health benefits of Korean ingredients including many fermented foods that are chock full of probiotics to help you maintain good gut health.

With a ton of Korean cookbooks to choose from and no shortage of food bloggers and YouTubers to show you how to cook Korean, it’s a great time to try making some Korean dishes at home.

Here are the essential Korean ingredients you will need to get started!

Essential Korean Ingredients


A must have in your pantry for giving foods that Korean kick. Sprinkle it on everything from soups, side dishes, and sauces.


A non-spicy soybean paste that creates the base for many Korean soups and jjigaes.

Korean Ingredients

Ganjang – Soy Sauce

This might seem like a large jug but you will use a lot of soy sauce in Korean cooking, especially in marinades and sauces. If you’re just getting started, try a smaller size.

Guk Ganjang – Soup Soy Sauce

You may be tempted to substitute regular soy sauce for soup soy sauce. Don’t do it! Guk ganjang will soon become one of your absolute favorite ingredients that adds wonderful depth to so many Korean dishes.

It’s the main seasoning for janchi guksu recipe and miyeok guk.


A spicy pepper paste that is essential for bibimbap and for flavoring many of your spicier soups and side dishes. This has become one of my absolute favorite among Korean ingredients.


A Korean favorite that is not only an ingredient but also a food that can be eaten straight out of the container! It’s hard to find good kimchi online and Choi’s Kimchi is a reliable purchase that is unfortunately often sold out. They restock fairly regularly so check back again in a few days if it’s not currently available.

One reviewer raves: “One of the most authentic and high quality kimchi I’ve tried on the market. Tastes like the kimchi I had in South Korea. I was worried ordering online but arrived perfectly fresh. It was delivered overnight and was fermented just right. Put most of it in the fridge but keeping some out on the counter to ferment even longer to use for kimchi jigae. Recommend it highly!!

Roasted Sesame Oil

Sesame Oil is an essential ingredient that is sensitive to light and air so a 3 pack is better than the jumbo sized tins.

Dried Seaweed

Miyeok (seaweed) soup is a must eat on Korean birthdays and a wonderful hearty meal any day of the week. Also great for making quick side dishes.

Anchovy Soup Stock Maker

This wonderful mix of dried anchovy and dashima makes the base broth for many Korean soups and jjigaes.

Glass Noodles

This 2 pack is a much better value than the single pack and will be enough to add to soups, bulgogi, as well as a couple huge bowls of japchae.

Proper White Rice

The price fluctuates quite a bit on good rice these days but sacrifices will have to be made for this all important staple in every Korean pantry.

Crushed Sesame Seeds

Sprinkle this liberally on all your Korean dishes as a final step to add some flair and great nutty flavor.

Ssam Jang

This wonderful ready to eat ‘dip’ is fantastic with any kind of crudite you have on hand, especially cucumbers, carrots, peppers, and red leaf lettuce. Also add to your lettuce wraps with galbi or bulkoki.

Bonus: Korean Clay Pots

These wonderful traditional pots are wonderful if not essential tools to make Korean soups. They go from stove to table and keep food piping hot for a long time. Available in a variety of sizes.

Here’s a checklist to screenshot and take with you to the Korean grocery store:

korean ingredients

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2 thoughts on “15 Essential Korean Ingredients You Need in Your Pantry

  • April 23, 2020 at 9:02 pm

    great list! can’t think of a better time to experiment with korean home cooking.

  • April 23, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    Congratulations on the debut of this fun and informative site! I’ll definitely be a frequent visitor and will share with all of my family & friends. Bravo & keep up the fantastic work!

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