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Gluten Free Korean Food: How To Navigate The Flavorful World Of Korean Cuisine Safely!

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Korea is known for its pungent and tasty street food, stews, and a variety of other dishes. You can find gluten free Korean food relatively easily in this cuisine, as meat and rice are a staple in a Korean diet, along with fermented items such as Kimchi or pickled radish. You’ll be pleased to know that some Korean food is or can be made gluten free. There are many rice based dishes in Korea and you’ll be sure to find a dish to eat for those with gluten allergies. You should always double check as some of the dishes you may think would be naturally gluten free, like kimchi, can contain gluten. As with many of these dishes you will also need to be wary of any marinades and added sauces to see if they have gluten in them. If you want to know more about traditional Korean cooking pots, see my post about Korean Dolsot.


Kimchi is a popular side dish made with fermented cabbage and Korean red pepper flakes. You will find it everywhere in Korea. If you wish to try Kimchi, Asian grocery stores stock it, and the best brands are the ones that are made in Korea. Kimchi is one of my favourite sides. I love enjoying Kimchi over piping hot rice with a fried egg and some Japanese mayonnaise. It has a perfectly fermented and tangy taste and is crunchy and satisfying. Kimchi is sometimes thickened with wheat flour instead of rice flour, or it has added soy sauce in it, which is not traditional, so it’s always best to check the ingredients to confirm it’s safe. See how do you know if your kimchi is gluten free?

Making Kimchi? Make sure you have the best airtight container!

Ssambap (Korean Lettuce Wraps)

Ssambap is found at many Korean barbecues, where you choose your meat and cook it on a hot plate in front of you. These lettuce wraps contain cooked meat, rice, vegetables and any other sides such as kimchi, and pickled radish, that you often find on a Korean table. It can be an example of gluten free Korean food if you opt for no marinade on the meat, as it usually contains soy sauce. 

Recreating a Korean barbeque? Check out this griddle for all your KBBQ favourites!

Gamja Salad (Potato Salad)

This is a popular gluten free Korean food side dish found in Korean barbeques. It is a Korean potato salad and uses ingredients such as potatoes, eggs, cucumber, carrot, and apple for sweetness and mayonnaise. It is akin to a traditional potato salad found in America, however, I think the addition of the apple gives it a different flavour. The texture is more crunchy than the traditional potato salad we’re used to due to the addition of fresh cucumber. 

Kimchi Jiggae (Kimchi Stew)

Kimchi Jiggae is the traditional homestyle, most loved dish in Korea and the ingredients are gluten free, provided the Kimchi has no gluten. It is a hearty stew that consists of pork, tofu, and gochujang (Korean red pepper paste – you will also need to check that it is one without gluten). Anchovy stock is used in this stew which gives it the depth of flavour. It is traditionally served with rice, as most Korean stews are. 

Need a pot to cook the best Kimchi Jiggae? See this Korean Stone Pot perfect for Korean stews!

Japchae (Sweet potato noodle stir fry) 

Japchae is made from sweet potato noodles, which are found in Korea and are a gluten free Korean food staple. Sweet potato noodles are chewy and springy which makes for a satisfying bite. Japchae is stir fried sweet potato noodles with meat and vegetables with simple seasonings such as sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar. As japchae is usually seasoned with soy sauce, if you do order it or make it yourself, ensure to ask for no soy sauce or use a gluten free alternative. 

Looking for the best traditional Korean pot? See my review here!

Tteokbokki (Rice Cakes)

Tteokbokki are Korean rice cakes that are stir fried in a spicy and morish sauce. The rice cakes become chewy and delicious. It is a very popular street food in Korea and is easy to make at home. Most Asian grocers sell rice cakes which you can throw into a stew or stir fry yourselves and they will become soft as you cook them. If you order Tteokbokki in Korea, ensure that the sauce has no added gluten and that the rice cakes themselves have no wheat flour in them. 

Gochujang (Red pepper paste)

Gochujang is featured almost everywhere in Korean cuisine! It is a paste made from red pepper flakes, fermented soybeans and salt and is sweet, spicy and pungent. Be cautious though as some gochujang contain wheat flour so ensure to only purchase the ones that do not have any gluten containing ingredients. This is a staple when making Korean food, it is used in stews, marinades, sauces, and the list goes on. 

Gyeongdan (Sweet rice cake balls)

Gyeongdan is a Korean dessert that is an example of gluten free Korean food. It is a sweet rice based dessert, with rice flour dough wrapped around a sweet red bean filling and then boiled. After boiling, the balls are rolled in toppings such as ground black sesame. Likened to mochi, gyeongdan has a chewy consistency.

Conclusion: Gluten Free Korean Food

I hope this list of gluten free Korean food gave you some inspiration to enjoy Korean cuisine with a gluten allergy. Do be mindful that many of these dishes could include some sneaky gluten in the form of thickeners, marinades and soy sauce added. Due to Korea having many rice based dishes, there will always be something available for us gluten intolerant folk to enjoy as long as you ensure there is no gluten in marinades or the sides. 

Liked this post? Want to know what the best gluten free Japanese food is? See this post!

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