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Is Budae Jjigae Healthy? (Korean Army Stew)

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Published on:

Budae Jjigae, also known as Korean army stew, is very popular worldwide. You probably think that budae jjigae only gets eaten in the army itself.

Well, this is not the case at all. Budae jjigae is served in a lot of Korean restaurants and has been one of the healthiest foods you can eat.

Therefore it’s so popular. And because you can fully customize this entire dish, it’s easy to make it healthier than normal.

So, let’s dive deeper into why budae jjigae is so healthy?

In short: budae jjigae is not the healthiest meal to eat during a diet. However, you can make budae jjigae healthier by adding less meat, noodles, and oil. Instead, you can add a ton of vegetables to make it better.

Nutritional Facts About Budae Jjigae

Let’s start with some nutritional facts about budae jjigae. Some people say it’s healthy, while others don’t agree with this. Even though it depends on the amount you eat and what kind of ingredients you add to it.

For some, they don’t add any type of meat, noodles, or eggs to the dish. And only eat the vegetables. Even though this isn’t budae jjigae, they still consider it to be. 

Others see it as Korean tofu soup, which is basically vegetarian and therefore also budae jjigae. On average, a serving of budae jjigae contains about 560 calories, but it varies on the bowl and foods you cook with.

Generally speaking, the ingredients of budae jjigae are:

  • Spam
  • Kimchi
  • Tofu
  • Enoki Mushrooms
  • Gochujang
  • Green Onion
  • Sugar
  • Cheese

Now, you can always customize these to your own liking. Some people like to add American cheese, while others don’t because they want to reach their dieting goals. 

There’s one recipe when cooking budae jjigae which makes it one of the best dishes in Korean cuisine. It’s not like tteokbokki, where it’s made from rice cake and only rice cake.

So, that also means that there’s a healthy range when you look at budae jjigae.

Origin of Korean Army Stew

Korean Army Stew originates from the people that were in the army back in the days. Koreans have this military service, and back in the day, they had to fight in America. 

And because there wasn’t much food, they put all of their ingredients together and added some gochujang, which eventually led to a soup.

That’s how Korean Army Stew got its name. It’s not the first thing you’d think about when eating this, because these days, Koreans that join the army don’t get to eat Budae Jjigae a lot.

It’s mostly pre-packed meals on a try and regular plain rice that they get.

Now, it still has many health benefits because of its ingredients. But health benefits don’t mean it’s healthy. In fact, it’s quite high in calories because of its meat, cheese, and noodles.

I know that adding ramyum noodles to the soup is great, and everyone loves this. However, you should know that it’ll likely make you gain some weight when doing this.

What To Serve With Budae Jjigae

1. Kimchi

Kimchi is one of the most popular dishes people eat with budae jjigea. Not only because kimchi is used as a side dish, but kimchi is used everywhere. It doesn’t matter when you’re eating breakfast, lunch or dinner.

In South Korea, there’s always kimchi on the table. So, that means that budae jjigae also has kimchi on the side. And eating this together creates a very tasty experience. Even though some people add kimchi to the soup, you can eat it separately, which is also great.

2. Fried Rice

Some people like to add fried rice to their soup. This makes it somewhat a porridge but it’s still delicious. You can then add shiitake mushrooms, American cheese or any type of meat you’d like to this.

And adding fried rice to your army stew ensures you are 100% full after the meal. Now, keep in mind that this will most likely add a lot of calories to your diet and isn’t the healthiest. But doing this once in a while can’t be that bad, right?

3. Ramyun

Ramyun is noodles that people 9 out of 10 times add to the sou when there’s not enough to eat. And who doesn’t love ramyum?

It’s extremely easy and only takes a few minutes. The soup already tastes amazing, so why not add some noodles to the dish. Every local does this. Plus, it’s very affordable. A pack of ramyum costs about $2 to $3, which is a lot compared to other foods.

4. Tteokbokki

Tteokbokki is something you should add as a side dish. It’s not something you should put into the soup itself. I mean, you can do that, but the majority of people prefer to eat tteokbokki on the side.

The rice cakes on the sides make it better, and everyone sees this as comfort food. Keep in mind that the total carbohydrates will increase when you do this, which leads to more calories eaten.

So, if you haven’t eaten tteokbokki on the side with Korean army stew, make sure you give it a go. You won’t regret it.

5. Samgyeopsal

Samgyeopsal is basically slices of pork. This is amazing to serve with budae jjigae because who doesn’t love meat? 

Almost everyone in Korea loves to add samgyeopsal to the soup because it’s delicious. Now, this isn’t the healthiest thing to do, but that doesn’t matter as long as you don’t eat it every day.

If you have a Korean barbecue in-house, it’s even better. Cooking it on the side with this soup and some plain rice will literally blow your mind. And maybe even some soju.

6. White Rice

Lastly, we can’t forget the white rice. Even though white rice isn’t the best food for weight loss, it’s still delicious. A lot of people in Korea add white rice to the soup itself.

And ever since I have lived alone, I only use microwaveable rice. It’s something that every Korean does, they don’t really cook rice in a rice cooker anymore. The majority of younger people use microwavable rice.

It’s kinda surprising to see, to be honest. Back in the day, no one seemed to do this.

Final Thoughts

After all, budae jjigae is not the healthiest dish to eat if you want to stay on a clean diet. However, as long as you don’t eat too much of it, it won’t be detrimental to your health. Eat it in moderation, and you don’t have to worry about the calories.

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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