Korean cuisine has evolved throughout the centuries thanks to the complex and interesting development of both cultural trends and the natural environment.
Desserts are just one of the forms of Korean cuisine that have developed over time, though there are certain elements that have remained unchanged.
No matter whether they are traditional or more modern in style, Korean desserts are super tasty and relatively easy to make!
With this in mind, we are going to be looking at twenty-five particularly delicious traditional Korean desserts that are not only tasty, but also easy to try and make for yourself. Let’s get started.
Also known by the name gwajul, yakgwa is a Korean sweet that is either in the form of a pastry or cookie.
Yakgwa is made with honey as well as ginger, sesame oil, and rice wine (cheongju).
The dessert has a rich history in Korean culture, initially being created during the later Silla period to be eaten as part of Buddhist rites.
It continued to be popular in history and beyond, lasting throughout the Goryeo Dynasty and the Joseon Period.
This Korean shaved ice dessert is often used for sorbets and snow cones, and is considered a particularly refreshing dessert to enjoy in the hot weather.
One particularly popular form of Bingsu is Patbingsu, which is red bean-flavored shaved ice.
There are various versions of Bingsu available as well as Patbingsu, such as Kwail Bingsu (made with fruit) or Nokcha Bingsu (made with green tea powder).
This sweet rice punch is a Korean drink that is incredibly popular around various holidays, despite being non-alcoholic!
The drink is made with cooked rice and barley malt, creating a malty and refreshing beverage.
These traditional no-bake tea cookies date back to the 17th century in Korea, when they were prepared for the Lunar New Year.
The cookies are made from grains, pollen, and sesame seeds and would be traditionally served with tea and served to royalty and nobility.
The great thing about these cookies is they are not only gluten-free, but they are also vegan-friendly!
Another traditional dessert that is particularly popular around the Lunar New Year, as well as during the Korean autumn harvest festival known as Chuseok, Songpyeon is a half-moon-shaped rice cake that usually contains semi-sweet fillings such as chestnuts, dates, cowpeas, soybeans, red beans, honey or sesame seeds.
The earliest record of Songpyeon dates all the way back to the Goryeo period in Korea.
This traditional Korean fruit punch has a unique nature as it is not only a refreshing drink, but it also tends to be used as a remedy to the common cold!
The punch is made up of Korean pears- called bae-, ginger, black peppercorns, honey or water, and sugar.
The pears can be steamed or poached, depending on the method you would prefer.
Bukkumi is a dessert of sweet, pan-fried rice cake dumplings that is made with either glutinous sorghum flour or sweet rice flour.
Some of the most popular fillings of Bukkumi include sweet ming beans, sweet red beans, or chestnuts.
Another dessert drink, Sujeonggwa is a popular drink in the winter thanks to the combination of ginger and cinnamon.
Much like Baesuk, Sejeonggwa is also used as a remedy for the common cold thanks to its anti-microbial properties.
Yasik is another dessert with a rice base, made up of sweet, glutinous rice that is often used as a snack as well as a dessert.
Yasik is often made with dried fruit and nuts such as jujubes, chestnuts, and pine nuts.
The dish even has an origin that is speculated in a legend surrounding King Soji of the Silla kingdom around 1500 years ago!
Hotteok is a popular street food in Korea that is basically a sweet pancake made from pan-fried yeast dough.
The dough is stuffed with a filling made up of nuts and brown sugar, though there are various variations on the classic snack, with both sweet and savory versions.
Mochi is a dessert snack that was created in Japan, and chapssal-tteok is the Korean take on the sweet treat.
Mochis are simply rice cakes with a wide range of varieties and cooking methods, though one of the most popular fillings for Korean mochi is sweet red bean paste.
This next traditional Korean dessert was recently made popular by its appearance in the Netflix show Squid Game, being used as a key part of one of the games.
Dalgona is another street food dessert candy that is made simply with baking soda and melted sugar.
The result is a melt-in-the-mouth, crunchy treat that was highly popular in Korea in the 1960s and 1970s due to how easy it was for anyone to make.
Hwajeon are standard rice cakes that have been pan-fried, though they do have an element to them that makes them unique.
Hwajeon are different from other similar desserts in that they are topped off with edible flowers, usually either wild chrysanthemums, pear blossoms, Korean azaleas, or rose petals.
The origins of the hwajeon are thought to have begun during the Koryo Dynasty, where they were the centerpiece during traditional picnics known as the Hwajeon Nori.
This Korean candy bar is made up of various different kinds of healthy ingredients- such as beans, nuts, toasted seeds, or puffed grains-, that are mixed up with mullyeot, otherwise known as rice syrup.
This creates a delicious, nutty candy bar that is thick, crunchy and delicious.
Hwachae refers to traditional Korean punch, and subak hwachae- or watermelon punch- is a particularly favorite sweet treat in the summertime thanks to its refreshing nature and the tendency for Korea to become very hot during this time.
The alcoholic beverage that is soju is sometimes added to the drink for a bit of a kick.
You’ve probably noticed that sweet red beans are a common ingredient in traditional Korean desserts, and the same can be said for danpatjuk, a delicious red bean oatmeal.
This oatmeal can be made either as a sweet or savory dish, with the sweet version featuring a smooth texture and not including the rice grains found in the savory iteration.
Persimmons and nuts are also popular ingredients in Korean desserts, and gotgamssam brings these two ingredients together to create a simple yet tasty sweet treat.
All you need are some walnuts and some dried persimmons to make this dessert. Simply slice open the persimmons and add in some halved walnuts.
Roll up the persimmons with the walnuts inside, freeze them, and voilà! You have a healthy and delicious sweet snack.
This dessert is another Japanese dish that has its own Korean iteration, known here as bungeoppang.
This sweet treat is popular in the wintertime and is made up of a fish-shaped pastry with a wide range of fillings.
Again, sweetened red bean paste is a particularly prominent one, but there are other popular fillings too, such as custard.
Another dessert that is often consumed as Korean street food, kkwabaegi is a traditional pastry in the form of a twisted doughnut.
These treats are known for their spongy and fluffy interior combined with a crispy exterior, which gives the dessert a gorgeous texture on top of a delightfully sweet taste.
A simple yet delicious take on the aforementioned dalgona, this drink is made up of four different ingredients: hot water, sugar, milk, and – of course- instant coffee!
This dessert is named after dalgona as it is made in a similar way and has a similar taste to the candy.
Not only that, but it is also incredibly easy to make! If you’re a coffee lover, this is a treat that you are sure to enjoy immensely.
This is another popular sweet dessert drink that is incredibly popular during the hot Korean summers.
Omija literally translates to “five flavor berries” and it is named as such as the berries that offer five different flavors, these flavors being sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and pungentness.
This does mean that the taste of omija is not for everyone, due to the strength of the complex tastes.
Omija is often used in other drinks such as alcoholic beverages and fruit punches, as well as tea.
Tteok is an incredibly popular food item in Korea that can be eaten as a savory meal or as a dessert, depending on what kind of tteok you opt for.
Tteok is made up of steamed flour that has been created from various kinds of grains. The mixture is then pounded, shaped, and pan-fried to create the tteok.
Some popular ingredients to add to a dessert tteok include dried fruits, sesame seeds, pumpkin, red beans, and honey.
Tteok also has a rich history in Korea, dating back to the primitive agricultural societies of at least the 7th or 8th centuries.
This is technically a version of tteok which is made by steaming and then pounding glutinous rice flour before it is shaped into small pieces.
These pieces are then used to create a candy of sorts as they are covered with powdered, steamed, and dried beans as well as a range of other ingredients, such as sesame seeds.
Rice is definitely a common theme that runs throughout Korean desserts, and gyeongdan carries on this theme!
Gyeongdan is a sweet, Korean rice ball cake that is a form of tteok, made from glutinous rice or other kinds of glutinous cereal flour.
The mixture is kneaded into balls before they are boiled in water and then coated with your chosen ingredients, such as mashed red beans, toasted sesame seeds, or honey.
We are finishing off this list with this delicious Korean cake that is made of freshly milled, sweet rice flour (in comparison to regular dry flour).
This gives the cake a different texture from your standard cake, taking on more of a cornbread-like consistency with a soft and chewy interior and a crunchy, crusty exterior.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are The Most Popular Korean Desserts?
The most popular desserts include some of those that we have listed above.
A fair amount of these desserts have been around for centuries in Korea and have become staples of the culture as a whole as well as the cuisine.
Some of the most noteworthy popular desserts that you will find in Korea include chapssaltteok, dasik,yawkgwa, hwajeon, hottoek and various kinds of tteok.
What Is The National Dish of Korea?
Whilst many of these sweet desserts that we have talked about here have their place in the hierarchy when it comes to traditional Korean cuisine, it is the savory dishes that tend to be more in line with the idea of a “national dish”.
One particularly prominent Korean dish is bulgogi with kimchi, which is marinated beef with fermented vegetables.
Some other iconic Korean dishes include bibimpap- rice with sautéed vegetables, beef (or other kinds of meat) and chili paste-, and naengmyeon, a cold noodle soup that is made with somewhat chewy and thin noodles that are topped off with vegetables, an egg, meat, and vinegar infused broth (which is ice-cold).
What Candy Is Popular In Korea?
As well as some of the candies we have discussed above- such as dalgona-, there are other candies that are more modern that are widely popular in Korea.
These include pepero- a small biscuit stick with chocolate on the outside-, the choco pie- a small snack cake that has two rounded chocolate layers with a similar taste and texture to marshmallows-, and butter waffles, which are a breakfast biscuit with a flaky exterior and a honey like taste.