Essential seasonings and spices in Korean

What makes food taste good? Beside quality and handling of the main ingredients, seasonings and spices are key to making food more flavorful. In general, they can increase the taste 👅, add new aromas 👃 and also change the visual appearance of the dish. 👀 If a food is not seasoned well, it is considered “bland” (싱겁다 or 밍밍하다). This can mean that either it is not salty enough or it lacks depth in other flavors, e.g. from sugar, chili peppers or fragrant herbs. Although regionally and individually, the use of seasonings and spices varies immensely, this one fact is universally valid: They are essential to making food delicious. [WHAT is tasty and WHICH seasonings are best, however, are subjective issues. Especially garlic and chili are well-disputed cases.]

Regardless of whether you love the smell of garlic or you cannot handle spicy food, knowing the Korean names for seasonings will help you: You can either hunt them down actively [there’s even a Korean restaurant chain called “Mad for Garlic”] or avoid them when ordering / shopping for groceries! 🌶🧄 So why not learn the words for the most common seasonings in Korea!

Below vocabulary list provides the names of seasonings and spices in Korean language. 🗒🌶🇰🇷🇰🇵 What are your favorite seasonings or spices? ❓ Are they included in the list? Do they even exist in Korea??? ❗️ Comment below or send me a message!

This is an assortment of ingredients that are easily available in Korea. While some spices are used globally, others are unique to Korean cuisine. Here, ingredients appear in order of general familiarity, beginning with internationally known seasonings and spices 🌎, followed by ingredients found typically in Korean cooking. 🇰🇷🇰🇵 Characteristic Korean seasonings of animal origin are listed separately.

Traditional vessels for storing seasonings and fermented foods. Private backyard, Seoul 2019.

Names of seasonings and spices in Korean

seasonings and spices 조미료 및 향신료 jomiryo mit hyangsinyo

🌎 Common seasonings 일반 조미료 🧂🍬

  • 🧂 salt – 소금 sogeum
    • sun-dried salt – 천일염 cheonilyeom (normally sea salt)
    • sea salt – 바다소금 bada sogeum / 해염 haeyeom
    • roasted salt – 구운 소금 gu-un sogeum
  • 🍬 sugar – 설탕 seoltang
    • white sugar – 백설탕 baek seoltang
    • brown sugar – 흑설탕 heuk seoltang
    • refined sugar – 정제당 精製糖 jeongje dang
    • unrefined sugar – 비정제당 非精製糖 bijeongje dang
  • 🍯 honey – 꿀 kkul
  • 🌽 corn syrup – 물엿 mulyeot (옥수수시럽 oksusu sireop)
  • 🍁 maple syrup – 메이플시럽 me-ipeul sireop
  • 🍋 lemon juice – 레몬즙 remon jeup
  • vinegar – 식초 sikjo
    • 🍎 apple cider vinegar – 사과식초 sagwa sikjo
    • 🍚 rice vinegar – 쌀식초 ssal sikjo

🌎 International spices 일반 향신료 🌶

  • 🌶 chili (pepper), cayenne pepper – 고추 gochu (old: 고초 苦椒 gocho)
    • 🌶 chili powder, chili flakes – 고춧가루 gochutgaru / 고추가루 gochugaru
  • pepper – 후추 huchu (old: 호초 胡椒 hocho)
    • black pepper – 흑후추 heuk-huchu / 검은 후추 geomeun huchu
    • white pepper – 백후추 baek-huchu / 흰 후추 hwinhuchu
    • pink pepper – 핑크페퍼 pinkeu pepeo
    • whole peppercorns – 통후추 tong-huchu
    • ground pepper – 후추가루 huchu-garu
  • Japanese horseradish, wasabi – 고추냉이 gochu-naengi / 와사비 wasabi
  • 🍫 cocoa powder – 코코아가루
  • vanilla – 바닐라 banila
  • 🍵 green tea powder, matcha – 말차 malcha / 마차 macha / 녹차가루 nokcha garu
  • cinnamon – 계피 gyepi
    • cinnamon powder – 계피가루 gyepi garu
  • nutmeg – 육두구 yukdugu / 너트맥 neoteumaek
  • cloves – 정향 jeonghyang
  • star anise – 팔각 palgak
  • anise – 아니스 aniseu
  • cardamom – 카다멈 kadameom
  • allspice, pimento – 올스파이스 olseupaiseu
  • curcuma – 강황 ganghwang / 심황 simhwang / 울금 ulgeum
  • coriander seeds – 고수씨 gosussi
  • mustard seeds – 겨자씨 gyeojassi
  • cumin – 쿠민 kumin
  • caraway – 캐러웨이 kaereowei
  • 🍛 curry powder – 카레가루 kare garu / 커리 keori
  • 🌿 herbs – 허브 heobeu
    • basil – 바질 bajil
    • bay leaf – 월계수(잎) wolgyesu(ip)
    • chives – 차이브 chaibeu
    • cilantro, coriander – 고수 gosu
    • lemongrass – 레몬그라스 remon geuraseu
    • mint – 민트 minteu
    • oregano – 오레가노 oregano
    • rosemary – 로즈메리 rojeumeri
    • thyme – 타임 taim

🌎 Other condiments 🥗🥫

  • 🍅 ketchup, tomato ketchup – (토마토) 케첩 (tomato) ketcheop
  • mustard – 머스터드(소스) meoseuteodeu (soseu)
  • mayonnaise – 마요네즈 mayonejeu
  • 🌶 hot sauce – 핫소스 hat soseu
    • 🌶 tabasco – 타바스코 (소스) tabaseuko (soseu)

🇰🇷🇰🇵 Typical Korean seasonings 한국식 조미료 🌶

  • 🧄 garlic – 마늘 maneul
  • 🧅 onion – 양파 yangpa
  • 🧅 scallion (various kinds!) – 파 pa / 대파 daepa / 실파 silpa / 쪽파 jjokpa
  • 🧄 garlic chives – 부추 buchu
  • ginger – 생강 saeng-gang
  • 🌿 kelp, Jap. kombu – 다시마 dasima
  • 🍄 shiitake mushroom powder – 표고버섯가루 pyogobeoseot garu
  • roasted sesame seeds – 볶은(참)깨 bokkeun (cham)kkae
    • roasted sesame seeds with salt – 깨소금 kkae sogeum
    • roasted sesame oil – 참기름 cham gireum
  • perilla – 들깨 deulkkae
    • ground perilla seeds – 들깨가루 deulkkae garu (e.g. for sujebi 수제비)
    • perilla seed oil – 들기름 deulgireum
    • perilla leaves – 들깻잎 deulkkaenip / 깻잎 kkaenip
  • Korean mint – 배초향 baechohyang / 방아 banga
  • 🌿 water celery, water dropwort, Chinese celery, Indian pennywort, Japanese parsley, Oenanthe javanica – 미나리 minari
  • Szechuan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper (various kinds of Zanthoxylum) – 초피 chopi / 산초 川椒 sancho / 젠피 jenpi / 제피 jepi
    • mastic-leaf prickly ash, Zanthoxylum schinifolium – 산초 山椒 sancho
  • 🍏 syrup made from Prunus mume – 매실액 maesil aek / 매실엑기스 maesil aekkiseu
  • 🌾 traditional (rice/grain) syrup – 조청 jocheong
  • 🍶 cooking wine – 맛술 matsul

🇰🇷🇰🇵 Korean sauces and pastes 🌶

  • soy sauce – 간장 ganjang
    • type of Korean soy sauce (gluten free) – 국간장 guk-ganjang / 조선간장 joseon-ganjang
    • type of Korean soy sauce – 진간장 jin-ganjang
    • type of Korean soy sauce – 양조간장 yangjo-ganjang
  • 🌶 Korean chili paste – 고추장 gochujang
  • type of Korean soy bean paste – 된장 doenjang
  • type of Korean soy bean paste – 청국장 cheonggukjang
  • seasoning paste based on doenjang and gochujang – 쌈장 ssamjang
  • seasoning sauce based on soy sauce – 양념간장 yangnyeom ganjang
  • fermented black bean paste – 춘장 chunjang (e.g. in jjajangmyeon 짜장면)
  • doubanjiang, Chinese fermented chili bean paste – 두반장 豆瓣酱 dubanjang

🇰🇷🇰🇵 Animal-based seasonings in Korean cuisine 동물성 조미료 🐟

  • 🐟 anchovy – 멸치 myeolchi (e.g. in soup stocks)
  • 🐟 fermented fish sauce – 젓 jeot / 젓갈 jeotgal / 액젓 aekjeot (e.g. in kimchi)
  • 🦐 fermented shrimp sauce – 새우젓 sae-u jeot (e.g. in kimchi)
  • 🦪 oyster sauce – 굴소스 gul soseu

👽 Other additives 기타 첨가물 🧪👾

  • seasonings in general – 조미료 jomiryo
  • artificial flavor – 화학조미료 化學調味料 hwahak jomiryo / 인공조미료 in-gong jomiryo
  • natural seasonings – 천연조미료 cheonyeon jomiryo
  • monosodium glutamate, aka MSG – 글루타민산나트륨 / 엠에스지 emeseuji

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✍️ Work is still in progress! This list will be expanded gradually! ✍️

📝 Any questions, comments, vocabulary suggestions and language feedback are welcome! 🤗

Spelling of Korean pronunciation follows the system of Revised Romanization.

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