95 Korean Vocabulary Words About Food and Cuisine

Did you know kimchi is considered one of the world’s healthiest foods?

But get ready for a mouthful, because kimchi is just one of the many foods Koreans love.

That’s right. In this post, we’re diving deep into Korean for food—음식 (eumsik)—with this vocabulary-expanding food tour.

By the end, you will have learned over 95 Korean food vocabulary words you need for ordering food, describing taste, cooking and more.

Contents

How Do You Say “Food” in Korean?

In Korean, the word for food is 음식  (eumshik).

But when talking about eating or referring to a meal, you can use the informal word  (bap), which specifically means cooked rice. But it’s often used colloquially to refer to a meal in general.

So, if you want to say you’re hungry or suggest grabbing a meal, you might say “밥 먹자” (bap meokja), which means “Let’s eat!”

The Korean language often revolves around shared meals and the significance of food in social interactions, making these expressions essential for everyday conversation.

Common Korean Food Words

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
음식 EumsikFood
요리하다 YolihadaTo cook
저어주다 JeoeojudaTo stir
맛보다 MatbodaTo taste
먹다 MeokdaTo eat
마시다 MasidaTo drink
접시 JeobsiPlate
그릇 Geureut
Bowl
포크 PokeuFork
숟가락 SutgarakSpoon
KalKnife
젓가락 JeotgarakChopsticks
식당 / 레스토랑 Sikdang / reseutorangRestaurant
SaengRaw
패스트푸드 PaeseuteupudeuFast food

Now that you know a few basic food words in Korean, I suggest learning some useful restaurant phrases.

You can learn 20 with this video:

Vegetables in Korean

Korean meals typically contain at least five different colors (green, red, yellow, white and black).

This wallop results in a wide variety of tastes and textures that thrill the palate.

Koreans don’t just eat to quiet a grumbling stomach. They think of food as medicine.

Each meal contains a healthy assortment of veggies that provide nourishment, keep organs in fighting form and boost immunity.

Here’s a listing of common vegetables found on Korean tables and their English translations.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
생강 SaenggangGinger
인삼 InsamGinseng
양파 YangpaOnion
당근 DanggeunCarrot
후추 HuchuPepper
고추 GochuRed pepper
마늘 ManeulGarlic
MuRadish
상추 SangchuLettuce
브로콜리 BeurokkoliBroccoli
가지 GajiEggplant
감자 GamjaPotato
버섯 BeoseotMushroom

If you want to learn more vegetables in Korean, I recommend checking out this post:

Fruits in Korean

Fruits make up an easy vocabulary group to commit to memory.

Often, the Korean names of fruits sound very similar to the English names. So you just need to “Koreanize” them.

Here are the most common fruits in Korean:

KoreanRomantizationEnglish
오렌지 OrenjiOrange
망고 MangoMango
바나나 BananaBanana
레몬 LemonLemon
멜론 MellonMelon
체리 CheriCherry
올리브 OlibeuOlive
파인애플 PainaepeulPineapple
파파야 PapayaPapaya
토마토 TomatoTomato
포도 PodoGrape
사과 SagwaApple
복숭아 BoksungaPeach

For a deeper dive into fruits in Korean, check out this post:

Meats in Korean

Koreans have excellent meat dishes, like 불고기 (bulgogi)—grilled marinated beef slices—and 삼겹살 (samgyeopsal)—grilled pork belly.

I’m sure you’ve heard of “Korean barbecue.”

It’s when you go to a restaurant and spend your hard-earned cash to cook your own food, your own way and love it.

The grill or stove is often built into the table, and you fire up any piece of meat you have on hand. And even grill veggies if you like.

Koreans also love to pair their beer with fried chicken.

치맥 (chimaek) comes from a mashup of 치 (chi) from 치킨 (chikin), which is Korean slang for “fried chicken.” And 맥 (maek) from 맥주 (maekju), which is the Korean word for “beer.”

South Korea is dotted with thousands of 치맥 restaurants that offer different arrays of batter, frying oils and dips.

You don’t even have to dress up to enjoy your chicken. Many restaurants deliver straight to your doorstep.

That said, here’s a list of common Korean meats and their English translations.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
닭고기 DakgogiChicken
오리고기 OrigogiDuck
소고기 SogogiBeef
생선 SaengseonFish
돼지고기 DwaejigogiPork
스테이크 SeuteikeuSteak
베이컨 BeikonBacon
HaemHam

Food Adjectives in Korean

Now let’s learn a few words to describe food in Korean:

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
맛있는 MasinneunDelicious
매운 MaeunSpicy
신선한 SinseonhanFresh
달콤한 DalkomhanSweet
짭짤한 JjapjjalhanSavory
SseunBitter
시원한 SiwonhanRefreshing
부드러운 BudeureounTender, soft
고소한 GosohanNutty
푸짐한 PujimhanHearty, generous
건강한 GeonganghanHealthy
느끼한 NeukkihanGreasy, fatty
매콤한 MaekomhanSpicy (Hot)
유명한 YumyeonghanFamous
기름진 GireumjinOily, greasy

Drinks in Korean

Koreans also have a wide range of common beverages, from banana milk, to teas, to alcoholic drinks that not only reflect history but also make drinking games really fun.

Koreans have many teas, like citron, omija, corn, barley, chrysanthemum and green plum.

These are known for their exquisite taste and positive effects on the body.

Koreans observe drinking etiquette. When receiving a drink, receive it with both hands—the right hand holds the glass, and the left hand supports the bottom.

Here’s a list of some of the most common drinks in Korean.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
MulWater
주스 JuseuJuice
우유 UyuMilk
ChaTea
맥주 MaekjuBeer
소주 SojuDistilled spirits
막걸리 MakgeolliRice wine
커피 KeopiCoffee

Find even more here:

Cooking Ingredients in Korean

Korean food is known for being spicy.

One slurp of 육개장 (yukgaejang)—a beef and vegetable soup—and you know what it would be like to lose your tongue and lips in an inferno.

But Korean cuisine isn’t just about the heat.

It’s about the whole range of flavor profiles—from savory, to sweet, to sour, to bitter and salty.

Here’s a list of some seasonings and ingredients that give flexibility and flair to Korean dishes.

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
소금 SogeumSalt
식초 SigchoVinegar
간장 GanjangSoy sauce
설탕 SultangSugar
기름 GileumOil
밀가루 MilgaruFlour
계란 GyeranEgg
버터 BeoteoButter
치즈 ChijeuCheese

Famous Korean Dishes

So, we’ve done individual food items.

My advice is to memorize and practice this vocab so you can properly pronounce each item.

Create a dedicated flashcard deck on Anki and check out some Korean food videos on FluentU.

But are you wondering what happens when you cook and mix all those meats, vegetables and flavors?

Here are some of the most famous Korean dishes that deserve a permanent place in your vocabulary. And a temporary home in your mouth.

You can find even more in this video from sweetandtastyTV.

Rice Dishes

(bap) is “rice” in Korean.

Every time you see 밥 on a menu, expect a bed of rice somewhere on the plate.

Famous examples of rice dishes include:

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
흰밥 HuinbapWhite rice
볶음밥 BokkeumbapFried rice
김밥 KimbapSeaweed rice roll
비빔밥 BibimbapMixed rice with vegetables

김밥 looks very similar to sushi because they’re both wrapped in dark seaweed sheets.

김밥 tends to be a bit sweeter and often doesn’t include raw fish.

Instead, you get meat fillings like beef, ham, crab meat and pork cutlets, surrounded by veggies like radish, cucumber, kimchi and perilla leaves.

비빔밥 is sauteed veggies, meat and chili pepper paste placed on a bed of rice.

Your job is to mix all the ingredients before taking a mouthful. Sometimes, a raw or fried egg is added.

Stews

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
김치찌개 Gimchi-jjigaeKimchi stew
된장찌개 Doenjang-jjigae Fermented soybean paste stew
부대찌개 Budae-jjigae"Army stew"

An assortment of available meats, seafood and veggies is thrown into 된장찌개. (Add a little bit of chili paste to show your date how brave you are.)

부대찌개 contains Spam, sausages, cheese, ham, baked beans—in short, all the different ingredients available on a U.S. Army base.

They’re thrown together in a pot and reinforced with stuff like kimchi, chili paste, ramyeon noodles and a platoon of available veggies.

Soups

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
삼계탕 SamgyetangChicken ginseng soup
갈비탕 GalbitangShort ribs soup
미역국 MiyeokgukSeaweed soup

Koreans often eat 삼계탕 during the summer months. Imagine slurping warm soup flavored by a whole chicken that’s stuffed with ginseng, garlic, pine nuts, jujubes and of course, sticky rice.

갈비탕 is made by simmering beef short ribs for several hours and throwing in onions, radish, green onions, garlic, black pepper and even noodles.

The hearty dish is often served during weddings, although you can get one any day of the week from a good Korean restaurant.

Because 미역국 is rich in calcium and iodine, seaweed soup is often served to mothers after giving birth.

And because of this, as homage to one’s mother, 미역국 is also traditionally eaten for breakfast on birthdays.

Noodles

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
라면 RamyunInstant noodles
짜장면 JjajangmyunBlack bean noodles
냉면 NaengmyunCold noodles

라면 is Korea’s answer to Japan’s ramen.

짜장면 is noodles served with black bean paste, some soy/oyster sauce and topped with a little meat/seafood. Along with some aromatics and veggies.

The dish looks like a squid squirted ink on your noodles. And yes, it really is tasty!

Side Dishes

The Korean side dishes that dot your table are called 반찬  (banchan).

Unlike Western meals, where your food comes in courses—soup, appetizer, salad, main course and dessert—Korean dishes are served all at once.

The basic table setting is called 반상  (bansang).

In front of you, you’ll have a rice bowl and a soup bowl that will sit side by side.

In front of them—farther from you—will be the condiments like chili and soy sauce.

Hot foods—like stews—will be placed on your right. Cold dishes will be on your left. Side dishes will be placed in front of the condiments, in the third row.

(Here’s an article that explains Korean table setting in more detail.)

When you look at everything together, you’ll see all the different colors of the 반찬.

You’ll have your sweet, sour, salty and savory side dishes, and there’s no proper order to eating them. You can have them at any time during the meal.

To give you an idea of the great number of Korean side dishes, here’s an infographic of what’s possible.

Some examples of 반찬 are:

KoreanRomanizationEnglish
김치 GimchiSpicy pickled cabbage
잡채 JapchaeStir-fried glass noodles mixed with vegetables
계란말이 Gyeran-mariRolled omelette
가지나물 Gaji-namulSeasoned eggplants
멸치볶음 Myeolchi-bokkeumStir-fried dried anchovies

 

So there you go—the biggest buffet of words in Korean for food lovers!

You now have a full buffet of Korean food vocabulary. You know individual food items in Korean, as well as Korean dishes that are worth a try.

When you have a chance, go visit a Korean restaurant and have a taste of what you’re talking about!

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