7 typical dessert flavors in Korea

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Traditional tea house for typical dessert flavors in Korea

South Korea is known for having unique traditional flavors, both sweet and savory. In recent years, newer, trendier foods have also emerged as popular flavors and have quickly gone viral throughout the country. This guide will introduce you to the typical dessert flavors in Korea you can find in cities and in the countryside, from convenience stores and high-end restaurants.

Traditional dessert flavors in Korea

Injeolmi | 인절미

Injeolmi is a variety of tteok (떡), a Korean rice cake, made by steaming and pounding glutinous rice flour. This tteok is then shaped into small pieces and is usually covered with powdered dried ingredients. Injeolmi is available in Korean food markets and can be found in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. It is one of the most common Korean rice cakes, made on special occasions like Chuseok (추석) and Seollal (설날). The outer coating of Injeolmi can be made with powdered dried soybeans, red beans, sesame seeds, or dried jujube. Additionally, Injeolmi is now often used in modern drinks and desserts flavors in Korea, such as Bing-su and Injeolmi croffles.

Although Injeolmi is popular in South Korea, there is also a similar dessert in Japan called ‘mochi‘, which is known globally for its unique texture. 

The Suyeonsanbang tea house in Seoul is known for having some of the best traditional injeolmi Korea has to offer, making it a great destination to check out.

Yakgwa Traditional Korean sweet - Dessert flavors in Korea

Yakgwa | 약과

Yakgwa is a traditional Korean deep fried cookie that is made of wheat flour and sesame oil. Traditionally, this snack is shaped into round or floral shapes before being coated in a honey based syrup. The name Yakgwa’ roughly translated is ‘medicinal confection’, supposedly because this dessert was once considered a health-promoting food.

It is believed that this ancient Korean dessert originated late in the Silla era, and was traditionally served at festivals in winter. In recent years, yakgwa has evolved and is now used in addition to other popular desserts, on cookies, doughnuts and cheesecakes, adding a modern twist to this traditional Korean dessert.

Korean shaved iced Bingsu - Dessert flavors in Korea

Red bean 

Red bean (팥) is a very traditional sweet flavor in Korea. This ingredient is usually used in the form of a thick paste and is a subtly sweet addition to desserts. Red bean is most famous for being used in the Korean shaved ice, patbingsu (팥빙수).

Red bean paste is also commonly used in seasonal desserts. In summer, red bean is used as a popular ice cream flavor, such as in BingBing bar (빙빙바) and fish bread ice cream (붕어싸만코). At Baskin-Robbins in Korea, you can find a range of red bean ice cream flavors.

In winter, red bean paste is also a typical filling for the famous street food bungeo-bbang (붕어빵). This dessert consists of a sweet batter and a filling typically made of custard cream or red bean paste, which is then cooked in a fish-shaped mold. If you visit Seoul during the winter time, you will find this street food at many of Seoul’s major subway stations. Furthermore, many traditional restaurants sell red bean porridge (팥죽), a creamy, nutty porridge with chewy rice cakes added for sweetness.

Popular dessert flavors in Korea

Matcha and red beans cake, typical dessert flavors in Korea

Matcha

Matcha is a strong, vibrant green tea powder which is used in all sorts of Asian foods. This is one of the most typical dessert flavors in Korea that can be added to almost any dessert, both traditional and modern. Waffles, ice creams, cookies, lattes & bubble teas can all contain this ingredient.

Sweet potato 

Sweet potato (고구마) is a trendy food item typically sold in winter as a cheap, stone-oven snack in grocery stores. It has since become a popular flavor for a variety of foods as it is very versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. Sweet potato lattes are very normal in Korea, and it is also a popular filling for pizza dough crusts.

Mint chocolate 

In recent years, the taste of mint chocolate has been trending throughout Korea while sparking debate among citizens. This polarizing flavor is hotly debated, as people either ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’. Unlike many other countries, the mint chocolate flavor is not only available in ice cream in South Korea.

Nowadays many cafes sell a range of mint chocolate flavored beverages as standard and, in recent years, the chicken restaurant ‘KFC’ introduced a controversial mint chocolate flavored sauce for its fried chicken. In response, the alcohol brand ‘Muhak’ launched a mint chocolate flavored soju and beer, which only fueled the debate. If you are travelling to Korea for the first time, do not be surprised to find this flavor in a wide range of foods and drinks, from ice creams to ddeokbokki (떡붂이).

Corn

Sweetcorn (옥수수) is an extremely popular flavor in South Korea. Corn is used in anything from ice cream, pizza, bread and tea. Corn has been an ingredient available in the country for hundreds of years but has become very trendy in recently. Bakery chains such as Paris Baguette and TOUS les JOURS heavily feature this ingredient in all of their most popular baked items.

If you enjoyed this article about dessert flavors in Korea, keep following the Go! Go! Hanguk blog and don’t hesitate to contact us about living and studying in Korea.

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