Being a Vegetarian in Korea: It's Not So Difficult

By Brianna Giles

If you find yourself traveling to South Korea as a vegetarian, you might find it hard to find something to eat in the predominantly meat-eating country. This guide will aid you in locating suitable restaurants, cafes, and street markets that offer vegetarian-friendly options.

Let’s get started!

Kimchi

The kimchi we all know of, made of fermented napa cabbage, isn’t the only type of kimchi that Korea has to offer. There are over 100 variations of kimchi that Korea has to offer to the world, including Korean radish, cucumber, and other vegetables!  It is seasoned with gochugaru and other spices, like salt.

Everyone knows that kimchi is good for your digestive health but were you aware that kimchi also helps in creating radiant skin, repairing hair, and making your nails stronger? Kimchi can also help those with diabetes and can be found in any Korean restaurant and store!

Gimbap

Gimbap is cooked rice that has carrots, yellow pickled radish, egg, and sometimes more delicious ingredients. It is then rolled into seaweed and sliced into bite-sized pieces to share or eat all for yourself.

Bibimbap

Bibimbap is a bowl of rice that is served with vegetables like carrots, cucumber, spinach and kimchi! The dish is then topped with egg , and gochujang. Sometimes beef might be served as a topping, but you can ask for no meat. This dish is filled with nutritional ingredients that will satisfy your hunger, even if you aren’t vegetarian!

Mung Bean Pancakes

Mung bean pancakes are made of mung beans, flour, water, scallions, minced garlic, and egg.  The beans are ground and mixed into the batter with the rest of the ingredients. Pork is often put in the batter as well, but there are non-meat options to choose from. These pancakes make a good protein supplement for those of us who find protein in other ways besides meat.

Japchae

Japchae is glass noodles made of sweet potato  that are essentially stir-fried with vegetables like carrots, spinach, mushrooms, and onions. This dish is very savory and sweet as it requires soy sauce and sugar to make, Restaurants will add beef to this dish so be sure to ask for none.

Dumplings

There are two kinds of dumplings vegetarians can eat in Korea:

Napjak-mandu dumplings are stuffed with starch noodles, carrot, cabbage, Korean leeks, and green onions. They are boiled and then fried. They also sport a different shape then classic dumplings,but taste just as good.

So-mandu dumplings are stuffed with vegetables such as napa cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and other delicious vegetables. Tofu is often added as well. These dumplings were initially only eaten in Buddhist temples.

Soups

Kongnamul guk is a soybean sprout soup. It consists of anchovy stock (or any other stock, even water), soybean sprouts, kelp, green onion, and other delicious ingredients. This dish is very rich in nutrients and easy to make at home!

Restaurants and Cafes

The best way to find vegetarian restaurants in Korea is to look for Buddhist temples. Many people who follow Buddhism are vegetarian, meaning that all locations and restaurants with Buddhist beliefs are meat-free.

Sanchon is a vegan restaurant located in Seoul’s Insadong district. It was opened by a Buddhist monk named Jungsan Kimyunsik, and has become one of the most famous vegan temple food restaurants in Seoul. The dishes found in this restaurant consist of natural ingredients varying from season to season.

Baru is located near the Jogyesa Temple. It is home to authentic Korean food that happens to be vegetarian. Needless to say, you can find delicious meals full of goodness and natural ingredients.

Another restaurant is Loving Hut Cafe. They have locations throughout the world, and many all around Korea. The menu differs between locations, but offers plenty of delectable choices for you to choose from.

Although ShinDongYan is a Chinese restaurant, they offer a full vegetarian and vegan menu. The menu is packed with Chinese ingredients. This restaurant gives you an opportunity to try other vegan/vegetarian foods besides Korean.

If you are in the mood for something sweet, head on over to SO Delicious, previously named Purely Decadent. They offer vegan and soy ice cream as well as other baked goods.

So what are you waiting for? For more plant-based Korean dining options, check out:

Let us know in the comments if there are any other Korean foods and restaurants that are vegan/vegetarian-friendly that you know of!

Written by Brianna Giles

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