From the deliciously sour kimchi to spicy rice cakes, stir-fry noodles and soft tofu stew, the flavors, aromas and colors of Korean food make it a cooking style that both satisfies and surprises. Characterized by rice, meat and vegetables, it is also the sheer variety of dishes that’s rapidly making Korean cuisine the new must-have on the (kitchen) block. And with a glut of rather excellent cookbooks now making it to the bookshop shelves, Korean food is also a quick and easy way to serve up authentic and super-tasty dishes at home – much to the delight of your family and friends.
So, if you fancy trying your hand at making some delicious Korean street food or are up for cooking a full-on banquet-style meal, then check out our review of what we think are some of the tastiest and best Korean cookbooks currently out there. Enjoy!
The Best Korean Cookbook
Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking
Internet and vlogging star Maangchi leads the way when it comes to accessible and delicious Korean cuisine. Adapting her easy-going screen persona to her writing, Real Korean Cooking is an essential guide to authentic Korean dishes that’s a joy to use. It has been designed as a complete course in the essentials of Korean cuisine and as such is easy to follow and use. Maangchi takes you from simple dishes with minimal ingredients through to main meals and delicious side dishes to create a Korean banquet to stun your guests.
There’s enough in this book to entice the absolute beginner, with her choice of easy to cook dishes taking in the Korean classics such as spicy beef and vegetable stew as well as a whole chapter on the king of Korean food, fermented Kimchi. Each of the Korean recipes are beautifully – and effectively – illustrated and we particularly like the way Maangchi suggests substitutions for some of the harder to obtain ingredients. Although there are a few of the recipe classics missing, this Maangchi Korean cookbook is the ideal introduction that isn’t afraid to step it up a notch.
Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes
If you’re looking for a cookbook that shakes up the traditional format, then check out this fun Korean cookbook that looks just like a graphic novel. Featuring 64 authentic Korean food recipes, you also get a light-hearted comic style that for some may be much more accessible – and entertaining – than a straightforward cookbook.
Each recipe is set over one to three pages, and the cartoon graphics are pretty impressive, and you also get personal anecdotes and cultural insights from the writer, Robin Ha herself. But don’t dismiss this book as a cartoon take on Korean dishes, as the recipes are easy to do and delicious. From a starter guide to kimchi, quick and easy main meals and delicious sides, such as the awesome seaweed rice rolls, this is a straightforward guide to the best of Korean cooking. And the cartoon/graphic novel format and the author’s personal touches make it all rather charming. As a no-sweat, no-frills way to get into Korean cooking with a touch of humor, this would also make an unusual gift for the wannabe foodie in your life!
Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes
Looking to boost your lean muscle, lose weight or cut back on gluten or carbs but don’t want to miss out on delicious, spicy meals? Then with this well-researched and written book, you can still max out on all those Korean flavors! Korean Paleo works on the principles of the popular paleo diet, and cleverly adapts traditional Korean recipes so you can still cook healthily at home.
The author is a nutritional therapist and has applied her expert knowledge to popular dishes to make this the best Korean recipe book for making your love of takeaway-style food just a little bit healthier. And the beauty is, although you may be cutting out gluten and grains, you are certainly not cutting out the flavor or the satisfaction that comes from eating authentic Korean cuisine. All the recipes offer gluten, dairy and grain-free alternatives to many Korean dishes and are pretty quick and straightforward to make at home. You may need to shop a bit more for the ingredients, but we think the effort is worth it for the chance to eat Korean without the worry that you are breaking your paleo pledge.
Momofuku: A Cookbook
A New York Times bestseller, this stunning book from the chef behind the Momofuku restaurant brand brings a modern twist to traditional Korean cooking. As our premium pick, Momofuku is a beautiful book to look at, with gorgeous color photos bringing the Korean recipes to life and simply inspiring you to get cooking. Bold Asian flavors, quality ingredients and unique tastes abound in this surprisingly easy to use cookbook that brings the restaurant straight into your own kitchen.
While the book does focus significantly on the noodle – with a host of ramen, broth and stir fry dishes taking center stage – there are also some exquisite ‘fine-dining’ recipes, including roasted Jersey dived scallops and the mouth-watering chicken wings cooked with bacon. The result is a Korean cookbook that takes you to the more intricate end of the cuisine but is still accessible and inspiring. Yes, you will need to do some focused shopping but as a lesson in the finest Korean and fusion food, Momofuku is worth the investment.
Korean Home Cooking: Classic and Modern Recipes
As an excellent introduction to cooking delicious Korean dishes at home, this is top book to add to your recipe book collection. With more than 100 delicious recipes, you get the chance to master authentic Korean cuisine all your family will love. From simple but so very tasty Korean rice dishes to more complex traditional recipes, including mung bean pancakes and soondae (or blood sausage), this is a journey to the homely heart of Korean food.
Writer Kim has made a real effort to make this book easy to follow and manages the ingredient list to make it accessible to use. The result is a book, that while at the top end of our best Korean cookbook review, is worth the price-tag and will become a well-thumbed favorite come mealtime. It’s clear and unfussy, which allows the recipes – and the flavors, aromas and tastes – to speak for themselves. A good place to start if you want to try your hand at Korean home cooking.
Korean Cookbook: 150 Authentic Meals to Cook at Home
For a simple guide to cooking the Korean way, this value recipe book is worth a look, especially if you’ve never cooked Korean food before and want to know where to start. It may not have the sophistication of some of the other cookbooks in our review, but as a book to dip in and out of, we think it’s a winner.
Writer Johns is well-traveled and knows how to pick the dishes to whet the appetite of a newcomer to Korean cuisine. And most of the ingredients are easy to source, meaning you can use this cookbook for most occasions, from a quick supper to a dinner party. We also like the practical way the book is set out, with Korean recipes selected to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner, with additional recipes for side dishes, desserts and snacks. And most of the dishes can be switched up or down, depending on your preference for ingredients, spice or seasoning. A great value Korean cookbook to pop onto your bookshelf where you can easily reach it!
Korean Food Made Simple
Taking her TV recipe for success to her cookbook, Korean Food Made Simple host Judy Joo has created a delicious-looking book that opens up the traditional food to a new audience. With 125 ‘simple’ recipes, alongside photos to make your mouth water, Korean Food Made Simple really does what it says on the tin. You also get a measure of Joo’s personality as well as a bite-sized insight into Korean culture.
Overall the dishes are healthy and nutritious as well as flavor-packed, although some recipes are a bit high fat and salt, but if you are watching your diet or health, these can be dialed down to suit your own taste-buds. Joo has also adjusted some recipes, especially the desserts, to suit the American pallet, resulting in a cookbook that is not always totally traditional. But all-in-all, you get a lot for your money with Korean Food Made Simple and the book lives up to its title’s promise.
Koreatown: A Cookbook
A classic when it comes to the best Korean cookbooks, this good-looking tome is also a culinary journey across the US and its own ‘Koreatowns’. In a collection of 100 delicious recipes, you get to explore the food of Korean Americans and how their cuisine has been embraced by the States. This is the cookbook to go to if you want to discover your next Korean BBQ recipe favorite, or to root out a little-known dish to bring to your table. And there is no denying this Korean cookbook is also delicious to look at. The photos are earthy and real, showing colorful images of vibrant Koreatown communities and the food they love to cook. All the traditional Korean favorites are there, from Kimchi to kalbi as well as some dishes and stews which could well be new to your kitchen and palate. The personal narrative from the writers can be a little salty, but the recipes speak for themselves and there’s a lot to learn and enjoy.
Korean Cookbook: 100+ Authentic Korean Dishes to Cook at Home
Wanting to eat healthily but not prepared to sacrifice flavor or taste? Then check out this brilliant little book and discover how Korean cooking could well be the answer! With over 100 delicious and healthy recipes, The Korean Cookbook knows how to sell its dishes, and you won’t feel short-changed when it comes to taste. Focusing on balancing the five main elements of Korean cooking – salt, sweet, sour, spicy and bitter – all the dishes are based on authentic recipes and are a great way to learn how to cook the Korean way.
You get a good introduction to a typical Korean pantry and the ingredients to look out for and use, as well as how to create the basic dishes and sauces. The result is a good grounding in the Korean food essentials and an understanding of the healthy ingredients to use and how to achieve those stunning Korean flavors in every dish. Some ingredients may be a little difficult to source and you’ll need to carefully follow the methods for each recipe for the best results but as a good value, starter Korean cookbook that also has an eye on your waistline, this is a good choice.
Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces
Take your Asian cooking skills outside with this practical guide to creating delicious food on a Korean BBQ grill. Written in a laid-back style that mirrors long hot days and outside cooking, this is a great way to introduce Korean cooking to your culinary repertoire. This book is not traditional Korean but a delicious US-Korean BBQ recipe hybrid, focusing on getting the best out of your grill. Chef Kim was born in Korea but grew up in the Midwest so is well-placed to bring two cooking styles together for a delicious taste fusion.
Focusing on the seven main Korean sauces, along with three spice rubs, this down-to-earth Korean cookbook gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration to spice up your barbecue. The writer is also kind enough to suggest substitutions for some of the more difficult to source ingredients. Kimichi potato salad, Seoul to Buffalo shrimp and spiced chicken thighs are just a few of the irresistible grill recipes that will quickly become a family barbecuing favorite. Delicious.
Our Top Pick
The go-to when it comes to learning the essentials for Korean cuisine, Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking: Authentic Dishes for the Home Cook is the perfect recipe for our review’s Top Pick. As an accessible and informative beginner’s guide, you get all in the insider know-how to create mouth-watering Korean recipes, and it has enough range to keep you progressing and wanting more. Not all the classics are there but this book from the ever-popular Maangchi is more than enough to whet your appetite for this delicious, authentic food.