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11 Healthy Korean Foods You Get Anywhere in The World

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

Want to eat healthier?

Or lose weight fast?

After trying more than 35+ different Korean dishes and spending months in Seoul, I created a list of the 11 healthiest Korean foods.

These foods you can get anywhere in the world, it doesn’t matter whether you’re from the US, Europe or Asia.

After following a very strict diet, while only eating these 11 foods in a cycle, I lost more than 25 pounds in 3 months.

That’s what you call progress! And you can do it too.

Let’s get started and try these Korean foods yourself!

Healthy Korean Foods are:

1. Kimchi (김치)

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that can be found anywhere. Yes… literally, anywhere in the world you can buy kimchi.

It’s very delicious and makes your mouth water. The taste of kimchi is a bit sweet, sour and spicy. Mixing these three flavors goes very well with ramen noodles or plain rice.

Koreans always eat kimchi, it doesn’t matter whether it’s morning, lunch or dinner. There’s always kimchi on the table as a side dish.

And the best part?

Kimchi is extremely healthy. It’s by far one of the healthiest foods in South Korea and is eaten by 90% of the population.

It can be bought at grocery stores or regular Korean restaurants. What the majority of people do is eat it while going on a barbecue.

That’s where the phrase Korean BBQ comes from. It’s extremely popular and has gained worldwide attention. These days you see these stores pop up almost everywhere. Even in Europe, there are more stores than a few years ago.

It might be the Korean wave that conquers the world. Now, why should you eat kimchi?

Based on multiple sources that are scientifically-backed by, studies show that kimchi is full of nutrition. [1]

It’s made from fermented products that will strengthen your immune system.

The study above showed that it helps with certain cancer diseases, which are more common than you think it is. So what are you waiting for?

Eat kimchi today, and start losing weight. It’s not only low in calories and extremely healthy, but it’s also very affordable.

For the price, you can’t compare this to any other dish. Even though it’s a side dish, it’s still by far one of the healthiest Korean foods out there.

According to Healthline, a small bowl of 150 grams of kimchi only has 23 calories. [2]

Yes! 23 calories for just a small bowl of kimchi, which is perfect while eating rice or noodles. Give it a go and get it from your closest grocery store.

2. Soft Tofu Stew (순두부 찌개)

Have you ever tried soft tofu stew? It’s also called “Army Stew” mainly because people eat it when they’re serving the army.

This dish can be made with different ingredients. However, the main ones are bean sprouts, tofu, spicy bean paste, onions, and some fresh onions.

Of course, you can add meat to the stew. 

What the majority of Koreans do is eat it with rice. Eating this tofu stew with rice will greatly benefit your overall health. And even if you can’t tolerate spice, this is great.

It’s very mild, even though it looks red. Now, the only problem with this tofu stew is that you can’t buy it pre-made in “most” stores.

You must cook it yourself, while it’s not a problem for most people. For some that don’t have time, energy or are just lazy… I understand that this won’t be an option for you.

Keep in mind that cooking this won’t take longer than 15 minutes, which is very fast. Add some plain rice to the soup and there you go. You have a full meal in under 15 minutes, all for a great price of $8.

When it’s compared to other dishes, this one is by far the cheapest one. Well… if you take out the kimchi of course. [3]

Make sure to give this a go, you won’t regret it, especially if you are short on time. It’s great.

3. ​​Jjajangmyeon (짜장면)

​​Jjajangmyeon is black bean noodles, which are very popular in South Korea. In terms of health, it could do better.

However, because it’s made out of black bean sauce, it’s known to have quite some health benefits. These health benefits are: [4]

  • Weight Loss
  • Maintaining Healthy Bones
  • Lower Blood Pressure 

Other ingredients that ​​Jjajangmyeon is made from are soybeans, flower, caramel, and onions. Most people add pork or other types of meat to the noodles.

The taste is sweet and delicious. If you haven’t tried this already, you really should. Out of all these healthy Korean dishes, this one is by far the most delicious one.

And it’s extremely easy to make yourself. You only need the noodles and the sauce, that’s it. Yes… it’s really that easy.

The majority of people do order it, it won’t cost you more than $10 for a pretty big bowl of ​​​​Jjajangmyeon so give it a try, and you won’t regret it.

What I really like about ​​Jjajangmyeon is that it’s very easy when you’re on a diet. It fits very easily into a Korean diet that many Kpop idols follow. 

As long as you don’t overeat and put too many pieces of meat in, it can’t really go wrong.

Fun Fact: In South Korea, there’s a day called “Black Day” where almost all people eat ​​Jjajangmyeon.

4. Tteokbokki (떡볶이)

Tteokbokki are Korean rice cakes. These types of foods are often seen as very healthy, mainly because rice in general, is healthy.

Tteokbokki can be found at Korean street markets but also in your general grocery store. It doesn’t matter where in the world you live. Tteokbokki is available everywhere and for people that don’t have time.

This is perfect. It’s an instant meal you can microwave and within a few minutes, you’re ready to go. Now, eating this every single day isn’t recommended.

But for most people, it’s very handy to fit into their diet. Tteokbokki has many health benefits:

  • It provides a source of carbs
  • Has lots of protein
  • Is extremely affordable

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s not considered the most healthy food out there. What I normally do and many others eat is Tteokbokki for a snack.

It’s fast, easy, and delicious.

Moving on to Korean dieting and craving Tteokbokki.

This is one of the struggles I went through back in the days. You crave food, but you’re on a very strict diet and don’t know what to eat. So naturally, I went to get some Tteokbokki unknowingly.

That’s when I looked into the nutritional facts and it only had about 300 calories per serving. This is very little compared to foods like fried rice or noodles in general.

So if you really want to eat Tteokbokki during your diet, just do it, but eat it in moderation.

Some important takeaways when eating Tteokbokki:

  • Don’t eat it every single day
  • Focus on the protein within the rice cake (not the sauce)
  • Add some vegetables to the Tteokbokki

5. Hangover Stew (해장국)

Hangover stew is also known as Haejang-guk. This soup is made out of a necessity for people that drink a lot.

Well… not really. But it’s called the “Hangover stew” because it cures your hangover within hours. You can start the day fresh and don’t have to be tired all day.

It goes the same with curry soup in the morning. The soup is extremely strong and will certainly cure your hangover.

It’s made out of vegetables, tofu, and meat.

Eating it with rice is the most common. And you can add other ingredients to your liking, it doesn’t really matter as long as you don’t add weird flavors to the soup. 

Korean stew is something Koreans eat every week. It’s a tradition that you eat rice and some soup on the side. 

Why do they do this?

It started in the ancient times in South Korea. Back then, they didn’t drink beverages with rice… which would be very weird.

So naturally, they drank soup with their meals. And gradually, it shifted to the Hangover stew these days. There are many more stews out there, which are also very delicious but in terms of healthy Korean foods, this is the best one.

6. Bibimbap (비빔밥)

Bibimbap is also known as one of the most well-known foods in South Korea. It’s beloved by thousands, and even people overseas love it.

It’s easy to make and incredibly healthy. You only need some rice, vegetables and meat. That’s it. Yes… it’s really that simple.

Considering the amount of time you have to put into other Korean dishes, this is a piece of cake.

Now Bibimbap stands for “mixed rice” with vegetables. These vegetables can be anything but the most common ones are bean sprouts, spinach, mushrooms and some carrots.

Additionally, people add some meat or pork to Bibimbap but it’s not necessary at all. Which makes it even better if you’re vegetarian.

Now let’s talk about why this Korean dish is so healthy.

It’s made from all vegetables, and there’s almost no fat in this dish. This is only if you skip the meat and don’t add it into the dish.

While it’s easy and fast, it’s important to note that it should be eaten in moderation. Eating this every single day may contain a lot of calories. Especially if you eat more than one bowl a day.

Most Korean restaurants also sell this dish but with a touch of their own secret. Make sure to give this Korean dish a try, you won’t regret it.

7. Jjambbong (짬뽕)

Jjambbong, also known as spicy Korean noodle soup, is very popular among the younger generation. It’s spicy, sweet and customizable.

That’s where all the young people come in. These days it’s extremely popular to customize your own dish. Whereas Jjambbong has become a very easy to make the dish, it’s also healthy and delicious.

Unlike many other noodle soups out there, this one is actually quite spicy. It’s made with some very spicy peppers.

The dish is originally served in Korean/Chinese restaurants.

Every time you have the opportunity to visit Korea, this is a must-try dish. It’ll blow your mind how delicious it is. And the best part?

It’s very low in calories.

A big bowl of Jjambbong only has about 500 calories. Considering this to be a full meal that will definitely fill you up, it’s very affordable. Unlike many other dishes that are quite expensive.

Now, it must be said that this dish is not the fanciest.

However, fancy food shouldn’t even be considered, mainly because you’re probably on a diet. So eating fancy food doesn’t matter, as long as you get all the calories you need for the day, you’re good to go.

8. Gamjatang (감자탕)

Gamjatang is another popular Korean stew.

This one isn’t very popular in South Korea, but it’s still very easy to get. There are many instant Korean stews available worldwide, so you can get this pretty much anywhere.

A few weeks ago I was in Seoul trying out new restaurants. Not many restaurants serve Gamjatang.

It’s very tasty and easy to mix with rice. While I don’t the main reason why this isn’t as popular as I’d like it to be, it’s still worth trying.

Out of the 30+ Korean dishes that I tried, this one definitely belongs to the top 10. Gamjatang is made with onions, radish greens, and perilla leaves.

But you can add any other ingredient to your liking. There are many recipes out there on the internet that you can find. 

Make sure to try this out with sticky rice. And it has a different texture from normal rice, which tastes even better.

9. Japchae (잡채)

Japchae is a healthy Korean dish that’s made from glass noodles.

The noodles are very thin and easy to “slurp”. While these noodles are often cooked with a lot of oil, it’s better to cook them in soup.

It’s healthier, tastier, and also cheaper.

Japchae is very low in calories. A small serving only has about 40 calories. And because it’s made from noodles, it’ll fill you up really fast.

Adding some fermented vegetables makes it even better. What I recommend is eating it with some kimchi on the side.

This gives the Japchae an extra boost in flavor and adds that spiciness from the kimchi. Keep in mind that this is not a food people eat in the mornings.

Generally speaking, people eat this at dinner and sometimes during lunch. If you want to make it yourself and don’t know how to make those glass noodles. 

The noodles can be bought at almost any Asian grocery store. The only thing you have to do is cook them in water and stir fry the noodles with some vegetables.

Or as I mentioned before, you can cook them in a soup.

10. Naengmyeon (냉면)

Naengmyeon is cold Korean noodles.

Most people tend to make this themselves because it’s really easy and fast. The only ingredients you need are noodles, some vegetables and an egg.

Yes… it’s really that simple.

It might sound or look very complicated, but it’s by far one of the easiest dishes out there. Generally speaking, people eat this during very hot weather.

It cools the body very well and drinking the soup is the best part.

Another name for these noodles are “wheat noodles”. So if you are looking for some healthy Korean foods, make sure to try this one.

A bowl of Naengmyeon has about 500 calories, which is a bit on the higher side. However, if you stay below your average calories for the day it should be fine.

Now, this shouldn’t be eaten every single day, mainly because it just not healthy. Once every few weeks is totally fine.

Especially if you’ve never tried this dish. Make sure to give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

11. Bingsu (빙수)

Lastly, there’s Bingsu.

Bingsu is Korean shaved ice cream. And to be honest, it actually shouldn’t even be on this list. But what’s a list of Korean foods without Bingsu?!

That’s why this is a must-try.

Eating a small bowl of Bingsu has about 500 calories, which is quite a lot for ice cream. That’s why this should be eaten in very small portions.

Only then, it’s somewhat healthy. But eating this dish will make your mouth melt, so make sure to grab this one at your next stop at the grocery store.

You won’t believe how delicious this is.

And the best part? You can add different toppings to this ice cream, which makes it customizable for everyone. 

However, if you’re on a very strict diet, it’s not recommended to eat this dish, mainly because of the high-calorie amount.

The Pros and Cons of Korean Food

There are many pros and cons to eating Korean food. From my own experience, it’s quite hard to find Korean restaurants that serve halal food, vegan food or sugar-free food.

Almost all dishes have one of the three things listed above. Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find any restaurants that do serve those types of foods.

Here are the pros:

  • Very little oil is used in foods
  • Easily customizable 
  • Are in general lower in calories compared to American foods

Here are the cons:

  • It can be more expensive
  • It’s hard to find foods that don’t have sugar, salt, or serve halal meat.

How Often Should You Eat Korean Food?

If you are somewhat Asian, then it’s only normal to eat Korean food every day. It’s not unhealthy or very high in calories.

So, generally speaking, Korean food can be eaten every single day. Now, if you want to switch your diet up a bit, it’s recommended to try out some Italian dishes.

These days’ pasta and spaghetti are extremely popular in Seoul. Almost everyone in the “younger” generation likes these types of food.

If you’re in Seoul, make sure to try these types of foods. And don’t forget to try some traditional restaurants too, those will blow your mind.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, all these Korean foods can be made in your own kitchen. You don’t need any fancy tools, or expensive ingredients, and it’s very easy to make. It’s not time intensive at all, so make sure to give it a go.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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