What’s the most popular Korean dish worldwide? No doubt. It’s kimchi. (*)
Because of this, people from all over the globe see Korean cuisine through kimchi, a spicy, salty, and sour fermented side dish.
As a result, most people shy away from Korean dishes thinking they would be spicy, but is Korean food spicy?
Short answer: It depends on the type of dish. Korean cuisine is generally spicy, but there are also other non-spicy food options that you can choose from.
With that said, which Korean dishes are spicy and which are not? We’ll share the answers in this article, so keep on reading!
Here is also some of the information you’ll discover:
- Is Korean food spicy? (and how spicy can it get)
- Which Korean dishes are best for spicy lovers?
- Which Korean dishes are best for non-spicy lovers?
- …and frequently asked questions about it!
- Is Korean Food Spicy?
- Which Korean Dishes are Best for Spicy Lovers?
- Which Korean Dishes are Best for Non-Spicy Lovers?
- FAQs About Korean Cuisine
- The Bottom Line
Is Korean Food Spicy?
The truth is that Korean food is not as spicy as most people think. Most spicy Korean dishes are often based on two forms of Korean chili peppers—either gochujang (Korean chili pepper paste) or gochugaru (Korean chili pepper flakes) or both.
Interestingly, both of these chili pepper forms have a mild rating of below 2500 Scoville units.
Did You Know?
The Scoville units of Cayenne pepper are around 30,000, so it’s a lot spicier compared to Korean chili peppers.
If you’re a non-spicy lover, we have good news for you! Not all Korean dishes are based on these chili peppers, so you can still find a Korean meal that will suit your taste buds.
Which Korean Dishes are Best for Spicy Lovers?
If you love all things spicy, you’ll enjoy eating the spiciest Korean dishes. Here they are:
1. Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes)
Tteokbokki is a popular Korean street food that features chewy and fluffy rice cakes that are stir-fried in a thick and spicy gochujang sauce. It’s often topped with chopped scallions and hard-boiled egg, but we love it with shredded cheese too!
Two things make this snack addictive: its spice level and chewiness.
Pro Tip: If you want to make it spicier, ask for more gochujang sauce!
2. Buldak (Fire Chicken)
Simply put, Buldak is a heavily spiced barbecue chicken dish. It features braised chicken cooked in a marinade of gochugaru and gochujang and is topped off with a cheesy layer of mozzarella.
3. Buddae Jiggae (Army Stew)
This is a spicy stew topped with spam, sliced ham, sausage, kimchi, and gochujang.
Did You Know?
This is called army stew because it’s made of foods smuggled from American military bases (like Spam). It originated after the Korean war when many Koreans were starving because the food was still scarce.
4. Jjambong (Korean Seafood Noodle Soup)
What can we say? Koreans love their spicy soups! This one features a spicy pork broth packed with all types of seafood—shrimp, squid, mussels, and many more.
Which Korean Dishes are Best for Non-Spicy Lovers?
If you’re a non-spicy lover, don’t fret! We’ve got the perfect non-spicy Korean dishes for you too! Here are some of them:
To put it simply, this is grilled marinated beef. It’s grilled. It’s marinated and beef, so you certainly can’t go wrong with it.
Even though it isn’t spicy, it has a full flavor profile like most Korean dishes. It tastes sweet, salty, and savory and is a perfect pairing for plain white rice.
Pro Tip: You can go for either chicken bulgogi or pork bulgogi for those who won’t eat beef.
If you adore rice rolls, you’ll undoubtedly love Kimbap. These are sushi-like rolls with different fillings—kimchi, fish cake, veggie, or tuna fish. It also contains egg, spinach, carrots, pickled radish, cucumber, and many more.
3. Seollongtang (Ox Bone Stew)
Good news: Korean also have a stew that isn’t spicy! An even better news is it’s equally rich, flavorful, and comforting!
Seollongtang is left to simmer for 14 hours, making its broth extra tasty and truly rich. Of course, you can season this stew any way you want, but since it’s already extra savory, salt and pepper will already go a long way!
4. JJangmyeon (Black Bean Noodles)
For those who love Chinese dishes and Korean cuisine, here’s the ultimate fusion you never thought you needed.
Like all the other Korean dishes, these noodles taste savory, sweet, salty, and funky. The good news is its spice level is zero to minimal, so it’s perfect for non-spicy lovers.
The noodles are often topped with sliced vegetables and diced pork to make it an extra filling meal.
5. Korean Fried Chicken
Aaahh. Fried chicken. The ultimate comfort food. Aside from its delicious spicy-sweet sauce, Korean fried chicken is unique because it’s twice-fried, making it lighter and crispier than most types of fried chicken.
FAQs About Korean Cuisine
1. If I’m not satisfied with the spiciness of a Korean dish, how do I increase its heat level?
Well, there are a lot of ways how to do that. Here are some of them:
- Add more gochujang or gochugaru.
- Look for gochujang or gochugaru that’s made with Chung-yang pepper. (*)
- Use Thai peppers.
Warning: This type has Scoville heat units of 50,000 to 250,000. (*)
2. If I find a Korean dish too spicy, how do I make it less spicy?
Good news: you can easily reduce the dish’s heat levels by following these simple tips:
- Add more non-spicy ingredients- – broth, tomatoes, rice, canned beans, corns, potatoes, and many more.
- Neutralize it with dairy products like cheese, cream, milk, sour cream, and yogurt.
- Add sweet ingredients like ketchup, sugar, and honey.
- Brighten it up with lemon or lime juice.
3. Which is spicier—Korean food or Indian food?
Did You Know?
The Indian ghost pepper was awarded Guinness World Record for spice in 2007.
The Bottom Line
Is Korean food spicy? Yes and no. Same with other types of cuisines, Korean cuisine is made up of both spicy and non-spicy dishes. Whether you are a spicy or non-spicy lover, there’s a Korean dish that can suit your taste.
What are you waiting for? It’s time that you step out of your comfort zone and give any of these Korean dishes a try!