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! [Btw, if you don’t know how to read Korean yet, here’s a free and easy guide to learning the alphabet!]

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.

Generally, spices are referred to as hyangsinnyo (향신료 香辛料) in Korean, while ingredients for seasoning are called jomiryo (조미료 調味料). In contemporary South Korea, you can also see the new word sijeuning (시즈닝) which is directly derived from the English word “seasoning” and is often used in context with modern or imported food products.

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 hyangsinnyo

🌎 Common seasonings 일반 조미료 🧂🍬

  • 🧂 salt – 소금 sogeum / 식염 食鹽 sigyeom
    • ☀️ sun-dried salt – 천일염 天日鹽 cheonilyeom (normally sea salt)
    • 🌊 sea salt – 바다소금 bada sogeum / 해염 海鹽 haeyeom
    • 🔥 roasted salt – 구운 소금 gu-un sogeum
    • 🎍 bamboo salt, salt baked inside bamboo – 죽염 竹鹽 jugyeom
    • 🏭 refined salt – 정제소금 jeongje sogeum
    • 🪨 rock salt, halite – 돌소금 dol-sogeum / 암염 岩塩 amyeom / 석염 石塩 seogyeom
      • 💖 Himalayan salt, pink rock salt – 히말라야 소금 himallaya sogeum / 핑크 솔트 pinkeu solteu
  • 🍬 sugar – 설탕 seoltang
    • ⬜️ white sugar – 백설탕 白雪糖 baek seoltang / 하얀 설탕 hayan seoltang
    • 🟫 brown sugar – 황설탕 黃雪糖 hwang seoltang / 갈색 설탕 galsaek seoltang
    • ⬛️ (dark) brown sugar – 흑설탕 黑雪糖 heuk seoltang
    • 🏭 refined sugar – 정제당 精製糖 jeongje dang
    • unrefined sugar – 비정제당 非精製糖 bijeongje dang
    • raw sugar – 원당 原糖 wondang
    • 🍌 fructose, fruit sugar – 과당 果糖 gwadang
    • 🍇 glucose, dextrose – 포도당 pododang / 덱스트로오스 dekseuteuroseu
    • 🌾 maltodextrin – 말토덱스트린 maltodekseuteurin
    • xylose – 자일로스 (설탕) ja-illoseu (seoltang)
    • 🎲 cube sugar – 각설탕 gak seoltang
    • 🍒 miscellaneous fructose – 기다과당 gita gwadang
    • 🌿 stevia – 스테비아 seutebia
  • (sugar) syrup – (당)시럽 (dang) sireop
    • 🌽 corn syrup – 물엿 mulyeot (옥수수시럽 oksusu sireop)
    • 🍁 maple syrup – 메이플시럽 me-ipeul sireop
    • oligosaccharide – 올리고당 olligodang
    • high fructose syrup, high fructose corn syrup – 액상과당 液狀果糖 aeksang gwadang / 고과당 高果糖 go gwadang
    • 🍎 fruit syrup – 과일청 gwa-il cheong
      • 🍓 strawberry syrup – 딸기청 ttalgi cheong
      • 🍏 Maesil syrup (non-fermented Prunus mume) – 매실청 maesil cheong
  • 🍯 honey – 꿀 kkul
  • 🍋 lemon juice – 레몬즙 remon jeup
    • citric acid – 구연산 枸櫞酸 guyeon san
  • vinegar – 식초 食醋 sikcho
    • 🍎 apple cider vinegar – 사과식초 sagwa sikcho
    • 🍚 rice vinegar – 쌀식초 ssal sikcho
    • 🍷 balsamic vinegar, aceto balsamico – 발사믹 (식초) balsamik (sikcho)
    • fermented vinegar – 발효식초 barhyo sikcho
    • brewed vinegar – 양조식초 yangjo sikcho

⚠️ For quick learning and easy remembering: Here’s a slideshow illustrating the vocabulary! 👇 More images will be added continuously!

🌎 International spices 일반 향신료 🌶

  • 🌶 chili (pepper), cayenne pepper – 고추 gochu (old: 고초 苦椒 gocho)
    • spicy green Korean chili – 청양고추 cheong-yang gochu
    • 🌶 dried chili – 건고추 geon gochu / 말린고추 mallin gochu
    • 🌶 chili powder, chili flakes – 고춧가루 gochukkaru / 고추가루 gochugaru
    • 🌶 chili seeds – 고추씨 gochu ssi
  • ⚫️ pepper, peppercorns – 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
    • 🟢 green pepper, green unripe peppercorns – 푸른후추 pureun huchu / 그린페퍼 geurin pepeo
    • whole peppercorns – 통후추 tong-huchu
    • ground pepper – 후추가루 huchu-garu
  • 🧄 garlic – 마늘 maneul
  • 🧅 onion – 양파 yangpa
  • 🧅 scallion (various kinds!) – 파 pa / 대파 daepa / 실파 silpa / 쪽파 jjokpa
  • 🧄 garlic chives – 부추 buchu
  • ginger – 생강 生薑 saeng-gang
  • turmeric, curcuma (Curcuma longa) – 강황 薑黃 ganghwang / 심황 simhwang / 울금 ulgeum
    • fresh turmeric – 생강황 生薑黃 saeng ganghwang
    • turmeric powder – 강황가루 ganghwang-garu
  • Japanese horseradish, wasabi – 고추냉이 gochu-naengi / 와사비 wasabi
  • 🫑 paprika (powder) – 파프리카가루 papeurika garu
  • 🍫 cocoa powder – 코코아가루
  • vanilla – 바닐라 banilla
  • 🍵 green tea powder, matcha – 말차 malcha / 마차 macha / 녹차가루 nokcha garu
  • cinnamon – 계피 桂皮 gyepi
    • cassia, Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) – 계피 gyepi
    • Ceylon cinnamon, true cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) – 실론계피 sillon gyepi / 시나몬 sinamon
    • cinnamon powder – 계피가루 gyepi garu
  • nutmeg (Myristica) – 육두구 yukdugu / 너트맥 neoteumaek
  • cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) – 정향 jeonghyang
  • star anise, star aniseed (Illicium verum) – 팔각 palgak
  • anise (Pimpinella anisum) – 아니스 aniseu
  • 🟤 allspice, myrtle pepper, pimento (Pimenta dioica) – 올스파이스 olseupa-iseu
  • licorice, liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – 감초 甘草 gamcho
  • fennel seeds (Foeniculum vulgare) – 회향씨(앗) hoehyang ssi(at)
  • fenugreek seeds (Trigonella foenum-graecum) – 호로파(씨) 葫蘆巴 horopa (ssi)
  • 🟡 mustard seeds – 겨자씨 gyeojassi
    • 🟡 white / yellow mustard seeds (Brassica alba / Sinapis alba) – 백겨자 baek gyeoja
    • ⚫️ black mustard seeds (Brassica nigra) – 흑겨자씨 heuk gyeoja
    • 🏺 mustard oil, mustard seed oil – 겨자기름 gyeoja gireum / 개자유 芥子油 gaejayu
  • cardamom, cardamon, cardamum – 카다멈 kadameom
    • 🟢 green cardamom, true cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) – 소두구 小荳蔲 so-dugu
    • 🟤 black cardamom, brown cardamom, big cardamom (Amomum subulatum) – 향두구 香荳蔲 hyang-dugu
  • caraway, Persian cumin, meridian fennel (Carum carvi) – 캐러웨이 kaereowei
  • cumin (Cuminum cyminum) – 쿠민 kumin / 큐민 kyumin
  • black cumin, black caraway, nigella (Nigella sativa) – 흑쿠민 heuk kumin
  • coriander seeds – 고수씨 gosussi
  • 🍛 curry powder – 카레가루 kare garu / 커리가루 keori garu
  • 🌿 herbs – 허브 heobeu
    • 🌿 basil – 바질 bajil
    • 🍃 bay leaf – 월계수(잎) wolgyesu(ip)
    • chives – 차이브 chaibeu
    • 🌿 cilantro, coriander leaves – 고수 gosu
      • coriander seeds – 고수씨 gosussi
    • 🌳 eucalyptus – 유칼립투스 yukalliptuseu
    • dill (Anethum graveolens) – 딜 dil
    • fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – 회향 hoehyang / 펜넬 pennel / 페넬 penel
      • fennel greens – 회향잎 hoehyangnip
      • fennel seeds – 회향씨(앗) hoehyang ssi(at)
    • lavender – 라벤더 rabendeo
    • lemon balm – 레몬밤 remon bam
    • lemon grass – 레몬그라스 remon geuraseu
    • lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) – 레몬버베나 remon beobena
    • mint (Mentha) – 민트 minteu / 박하 薄荷 bakha
    • 🌿 oregano – 오레가노 oregano
    • 🌿 parsley – 파슬리 paseulli
    • rosemary – 로즈메리 rojeumeri
    • sage – 세이지 se-iji
    • 🌿 stevia – 스테비아 seutebia
    • 🌿 thyme – 타임 ta-im

⚠️ For quick learning and easy remembering: Here’s a slideshow illustrating the vocabulary! 👇 More images will be added continuously!

🌎 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)
  • 🔥 barbecue sauce, BBQ sauce – 바베큐소스 babekyu soseu
  • hummus – 후무스 humuseu

🇰🇷🇰🇵 Typical Korean seasonings 한국식 조미료 🌶

  • 🌿 kelp, Jap. kombu – 다시마 dasima
  • 🍄 shiitake mushroom – 표고버섯 pyogo beoseot
    • dried shiitake mushroom – 건표고버섯 geon pyogo beoseot
    • shiitake mushroom powder – 표고버섯가루 pyogo beoseot 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, Korean perilla, beefsteak plant (Perilla frutescens) – 들깨 deulkkae
    • ♣️ ground perilla seeds – 들깨가루 deulkkae garu (e.g. for Sujebi 수제비)
    • 🏺 perilla seed oil – 들기름 deulgireum
    • 🍃 perilla leaves – 들깻잎 deulkkaennip / 깻잎 kkaennip
    • Japanese [purple] perilla, Jap. shiso, Chin. zǐsū 紫蘇 (Perilla frutescens var. crispa) – 자소 紫蘇 jaso / (자)소엽 紫蘇葉 (ja) soyeop / 차조기 chajogi / 일본깻잎 ilbon kkaennip / 시소 siso
  • 🍃 Korean mint (Agastache rugosa) – 배초향 排草香 baechohyang / 방아(잎) banga (nip) / 방아풀 banga pul
  • 🌿 water celery, water dropwort, Chinese celery, Indian pennywort, Japanese parsley, Oenanthe javanica – 미나리 minari
  • 🌿 mugwort, Artemisia princeps – 쑥 ssuk
  • Korean wild chives (Allium monanthum) – 달래 dallae
  • 🌲 pine needles – 솔잎 sollip (e.g. for Songpyeon 송편 and beverages)
  • Szechuan pepper, Sichuan pepper, Chinese pepper (various kinds of Zanthoxylum) – 초피 chopi / 산초 川椒 sancho
    • mastic-leaf prickly ash, Zanthoxylum schinifolium – 산초 山椒 sancho
    • Japanese prickly ash, Korean pepper, Zanthoxylum piperitum – 초피 椒皮 chopi (local names: 젠피 jenpi / 제피 jepi)
  • 🟡 seed pods of Gardenia jasminoides – 치자 梔子 chija
  • 🍏 Maesil syrup (made from fermented Prunus mume)- 매실액 maesil aek / 매실엑기스 maesil aekkiseu
  • 🍚 traditional (rice/grain) syrup – 조청 造淸 jocheong
  • 🍶 cooking wine – 맛술 matsul

⚠️ For quick learning and easy remembering: Here’s a slideshow illustrating the vocabulary! 👇 More images will be added continuously!

🇰🇷🇰🇵 Korean sauces and pastes 🌶

  • soy sauce – 간장 ganjang
    • type of Korean soy sauce, light soy sauce, Jap. tamari (normally gluten free soy sauce) – 국간장 guk-ganjang / 조선간장 joseon-ganjang
      • home-made soy sauce – 집간장 jip-gangjang
    • type of Korean soy sauce, dark soy sauce – 진간장 jin-ganjang
    • type of soy sauce produced in Japanese style – 양조간장 yangjo-ganjang
  • 🌶 Korean chili paste – 고추장 gochujang
  • Doenjang, type of fermented Korean soy bean paste – 된장 doenjang
  • type of Korean soy bean paste – 청국장 cheonggukjang
  • fermented black bean paste, Chin. tiánmiànjiàng 甜麵醬/甜面酱 (tiánjiàng 甜醬/甜酱) – 춘장 chunjang (e.g. in Jjajangmyeon 짜장면)
  • doubanjiang, Chinese fermented chili bean paste, Chin. dòubànjiàng – 두반장 豆瓣酱 dubanjang
  • seasoning sauce / paste in general – 양념장 yangnyeomjang
    • seasoning paste based on doenjang and gochujang – 쌈장 ssamjang
    • seasoning sauce based on soy sauce – 양념간장 yangnyeom ganjang
  • fermented and dried soy beans (used for making Korean seasoning pastes) – 메주 meju
  • Korean fermentation starter (used for making alcoholic beverages) – 누룩 nuruk
  • malt, germinated cereal (often barley) – 엿기름 yeotgireum

⚠️ For quick learning and easy remembering: Here’s a slideshow illustrating the vocabulary! 👇 More images will be added continuously!

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

  • 🐟 dried anchovy – (건)멸치 (geon) myeolchi (e.g. in soup stocks)
  • 🐟 dried Japanese sardine (Sardinella zunasi) – 건밴댕이 geon baendaengi
  • 🦐 dried shrimp – 건새우 geon sae-u
  • 🐟 fermented seafood sauce – 젓 jeot / 젓갈 jeotgal / 액젓 aekjeot (e.g. in kimchi)
    • 🐟 anchovy-based fish sauce – 멸치액젓 myeolchi aekjeot
    • 🐟 fish sauce based on sand lance (Ammodytes personatus) – 까나리액젓 kkanari aekjeot
    • 🦐 fermented shrimp sauce – 새우젓 sae-u jeot (e.g. in kimchi)
  • 🦪 oyster sauce – 굴소스 gul soseu

👽 Other food additives 기타 식품 첨가물 🧪👾

  • food additives in general – 식품 첨가물 食品 添加物 sikpum cheom-gamul
    • no additives – 무첨가 無添加 mu cheom-ga
  • 👅 seasoning in general – 조미료 調味料 jomiryo
    • flavor enhancer – 향미증진제 香味增進劑 hyangmi jeungjingje
    • 🧪 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 em-eseuji
    • yeast extract – 효모추출물 酵母抽出物 hyomo chuchulmul
  • 👃 aroma – 향료 hyangnyo
    • 🧪 synthetic aroma, artificial aroma – 합성향료 hapseong hyangnyo
    • natural aroma – 천연향료 cheonyeon hyangnyo
  • 🍬 sweetener – 감미료 gammiryo
    • 🧪 artificial sweetener, sugar substitute – 인공감미료 in-gong gammiro
      • acesulfame potassium, acesulfame K (E 950) – 아세설팜칼륨 aseseolpam kallyum
      • sucralose (E 955) – 수크랄로스 sukeuralloseu
      • polydextrose (E1200) – 폴리덱스트로스 pollidekseuteuroseu
  • ☁️ leavening agents – 팽창제 膨脹劑
    • baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, sodium hydrogen carbonate, NaHCO₃ – 베이킹소다 be-iking soda / 중탄산나트륨 jungtansan nateuryum / 탄산수소나트륨 tansansuso nateuryum
    • baking powder – 베이킹 파우더 be-iking pa-uda
    • yeast – 이스트 iseuteu / 효모(균) hyomo(gyun)
      • dry yeast – 드라이 이스트 deura-i iseuteu / 건조 효모 乾燥酵母 geonjo hyomo
  • emulsifier, emulsifying agent – 유화제 乳化劑 yuhwaje
    • lecithin (E 322) – 레시틴 resitin
      • 🥜 soy lecithin – 대두레시틴 daedu resitin
      • 🥚 egg lecithin – 난황레시틴 nanhwang resitin
  • coagulant – 응고제 凝固劑 eung-goje
  • 🥣 thickening agent, thickener – 증점제 jeungjeomje
    • starch – 녹말(가루) 綠末 nongmal (garu) / 전분 jeonbun
    • tamarind gum – 타마린드검 tamarindeu geom
    • guar gum (E 412) – 구아검 gu-a geom
    • xanthan gum (E 415) – 크산탄검 keusantan geom / 잔탄검 jantan geom
    • collagen – 콜라겐 kollagen
    • 🥕 arrowroot powder, kudzu powder – 칡가루 chik-garu / 갈분 葛粉 galbun
    • 🥕 tapioca – 타피오카 tapi-oka
  • 🍮 gelling agent, gellant – 겔화제 gelhwaje
    • 🐖 gelatin (E 441) – 젤라틴 jellatin
    • 🍊 pectin (E 440) – 펙틴 pektin
    • 🌿 algin, alginic acid (E 400, E 401, E 402, E 403, E 404) – 알긴산 alginsan
    • 🌿 agar (E 406) – 한천 hancheon / 우무 umu / 아가 aga
    • 🌿 carrageenan (E 407) – 카라기난 karaginan
    • 🥜 locust bean gum, carob bean gum (E 410) – 로커스트콩검 rokeoseuteu geom
    • 🌱 konjac (E 425) – 곤약 gonyak
  • preservatives – 방부제 防腐劑 bang-buje
    • antioxidants in general – 산화방지제 酸化防止劑 sanhwa bangjije
    • lactic acid (E 270) – 젖산 jeotsan / 유산 yusan / 락트산 rakteusan
    • ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) – 아스코르브산 aseukoreubeu san (비타민 C)
    • 🍎 malic acid – 사과산 沙/砂果酸 sagwa san
    • 🥃 ethanol – 주정 jujeong
    • sulfur dioxide / sulphur dioxide – 이산화황 二酸化黃 isanhwa hwang
  • acidity regulator – 산도조절제 sando jojeolje
  • 🌈 food color, food colorant / food colour, food colourant – 식용 색소 sigyong saekso
    • natural colors – 천연 색소 cheonyeon saekso
    • 🧪 chemical / artificial colors – 화학 색소 hwahak saekso / 인공 색소 in-gong saekso
    • β-carotene, β-carotin – β-카로틴 beta karotin
  • 🌴 palm oil – 팜유 pamyu / 팜오일 pam o-il
    • palm olein – 팜올레인유 pam olleinyu
  • 💧 water in general – 물 mul
    • 🏭 purified water – 정제수 精製水 jeongjesu
    • 🚰 drinking water – 식수 食水 siksu
  • 🍇 (fruit) concentrate – [fruit name] 농축액 nongchuk aek
  • 🩸 (fruit / vegetable / etc.) extract – [fruit / vegetable / etc.] 추출물 抽出物 chuchulmul / 추출액 chuchulaek
  • 💦 glycerin – 글리세린 geulliserin
    • 글리세린지방산에스테르
  • mixed compounds of food additives혼합제제 honhap jeje
  • silica, sodium (di)oxide, SiO2 (E 551) – (이)산화규소 (i)sanhwa gyuso
  • silicone resin – 규소수지 硅素樹脂 gyuso suji
  • ammonium phosphate – 인산 암모늄 insan ammonyum
    • monobasic ammonium phosphate, NH4H2PO4 – 제일인산암모늄 je-il insan ammonyum
  • phosphate – 인산염 insanyeom
    • monosodium phosphate, monobasic sodium phosphate, NaH2PO4 – 모노나트륨 인산염 mononateuryum insanyeom / 제일인산나트륨 je-il insan nateuryum
  • carbon dioxide, CO2 – 이산화탄소 isanhwa tanso
  • calcium carbonate, CaCO3 – 탄산칼슘 tansan kalsyum
  • calcium lactate, C6H10CaO6 (E 327) – 젖산칼슘 jeotsan kalsyum
  • disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate – 산성피로인산나트륨
  • 💪 vitamin – 비타민 bitamin
    • vitamin A – 비타민 A (에이) bitamin e-i
    • vitamin B – 비타민 B (비) bitamin bi
    • vitamin B1 – 비타민 B1 (비원) bitamin biwon
    • vitamin B2 – 비타민 B2 (비투) bitamin bitu
    • vitamin C – 비타민 C (씨) bitamin ssi
    • vitamin D – 비타민 D (디) bitamin di

.

✍️ 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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