Is Hotteok Healthy? (Nutritional Value & Traditional Recipe)

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There is no shortage of snacks in South Korea, most of which are popular street foods. 

They’re so very yummy, filling and you could spend an entire day eating Korean snacks and still not try them all. 

Hotteok is one such delicious morsel that people flock to in the wintertime. It’s essentially a sweet pancake filled with nuts and spices.

However, there’s an important question for the health-conscious: is hotteok healthy? While they are quite delicious, they are rather unhealthy. You could compare them to American or British versions of pancakes or a French crepe with all the trimmings. 

But, these are much heavier, and why do most people eat them in winter?

Let’s get started

Hotteok & Its Ingredients

There are two parts to a hotteok: the dough and the filling. 

The dough comprises wheat flour, sweet rice flour, yeast, milk, sugar, and water. The dough is then allowed to set, which lets it stiffen and rise.

Then, with a ball about the size of a handful, it fills with things like honey, peanuts, cinnamon, brown sugar, sesame seeds, or any other similar ingredient. 

t finally cooks on a greased griddle, which presses flat into a perfect circle with a 2½-inch diameter.

The traditional version utilizes only cinnamon, peanut, or sesame seeds. However, more modern versions will have things like red beans, green tea, pizza fillings, or japchae with veggies. 

This dish is so popular in South Korea that you can buy premade dough with filling from the grocery store to cook at home.

Nutritional Value of Hotteok

Hotteok is high in sugar, and one of these little babies can have as much as 230 calories, depending on the filling. 

While 230 calories don’t seem too disconcerting, it is only 2½ inches around and ⅛ inch thick. It’s not very big.

In one typical hotteok, expect about 10 grams of fat, five grams of protein, 30 grams of carbohydrates, and 215 milligrams of sodium. 

As you can see, they are not healthy. However, if you have one or two, it shouldn’t interfere with your diet too much.

Traditional Korean Hotteok Recipe

Making hotteok at home is easy, albeit somewhat tricky in terms of the filling. You can adjust the ingredients to suit food allergies (like peanuts or gluten).

Items You’ll Need

  • Measuring Cups & Spoons
  • Flour Sifter
  • Small Bowl or Cup
  • 2 Large Mixing Bowls
  • Large Spoon
  • Plastic Wrap/Parchment Paper
  • Large, Flat Spatula
  • Frying Pan

Ingredients

  • Dough
  • 2¼ tsp Instant Yeast (or 1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast)
  • ¼ Cup Warm Water (not required for instant)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sugar (tsp for yeast mix – not required for instant)
  • 2 Cups of Regular Flour
  • ½ Cup Sweet Rice Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1¼ Cups Warm Milk (Dairy, Almond, or Coconut)
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Water

Filling

  • ¼ Cup Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Brown Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 10 Tbsp of Your Choice (sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin seeds; almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, and etc)
  • Vegetable Oil (as much as is necessary for frying)

Directions

  1. The first thing is preparing yeast, unless using instant yeast – then don’t do this step. Warm your small cup or bowl by rinsing it with warm, not hot, water. 
  2. Then add ¼ cup of warm water. It should be somewhere in the range of 100°F to 110°F.
  3. Stir in the yeast, then the sugar, and let this sit for 10 to 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s good to go when there’s a foamy buildup in the cup/bowl.
  4. For the dough, sift the flour, rice flour, salt, and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Then incorporate the yeast mixture (or instant yeast) along with warmed milk and a bit of oil. 
  6. The amount of milk and/or oil you add will largely depend on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. Therefore, begin in small increments until you achieve a thick, stiff doughy texture.
  7. Once it begins to get stiff, use your hands to knead the dough the rest of the way. Make sure everything blends well. There should be stickiness to the dough, but it shouldn’t stick to your hands (unless using gluten free flour).
  8. Loosely cover the dough ball with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Let this sit in a warm area so it rises until it reaches double the size it is now. Usually, this is about an hour, but if it’s cold it can take longer, and if it’s warm, it will be less than that.
  9. While you wait for the dough to rise, prepare the filling. Chop any large nuts into smaller pieces and mix them all together. Set this off to the side. You can put it in the fridge, which will help later on but this is optional.
  10. Go back to the dough ball once it gets bigger and reshape it. Allow this to rest for another 30 minutes, letting it double up again.
  11. Grab the filling and pour a dab of vegetable oil onto your hands. Tear off a 2½-inch ball from the main dough ball, roll it into a sphere, dip your thumb in the center to flatten it and create a well.
  12. Then spoon 1½ Tbsp of the filling into this well, pressing it into the dough with a spoon. Gather the edges of the dough and pinch them together to create a seal. Place sealed end onto a plate and continue this until all individual cakes are ready.
  13. Heat some vegetable oil in a frying pan, griddle or skillet. Put one or two prepared hotteoks onto the hot pan, pressing down to flatten the pancake. Flip after one minute and cook each side like this until golden brown.

Conclusion

Hotteok is a wonderful winter food people enjoy in South Korea. However, if you’re looking to maintain a healthy diet, then only eat one of them at a time. This will be difficult, though, since they’re incredibly delicious and addicting.

About The Author

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Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul over 4 years and during that time, he has experienced a lot of the city's quirks and charms. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others who are interested in learning more about South Korea.

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