When thinking about Korean food, people may be most familiar with Korean barbeque (KBBQ), kimchi, and bibimbap, but there's a lot more to Korean food. A classic Korean meal consists of rice, banchan (side dishes), kimchi (pickles) and a soup. While some easy Korean recipes below stand alone as a meal, most are meant to be served with rice and other side dishes. 

Like other Asian cuisines, Korean recipes use seasonings like soy sauce, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Ingredients you'll find unique in Korean cuisine are gochujang (fermented chili paste), doenjang (soybean paste), gochugaru (chili pepper flakes), and dried anchovies. You can find these ingredients in an Asian supermarket like H-Mart. Make one thing or make it all—if you're feeding a crowd everyone will enjoy the food.

1. Kimchi 

shrimp, sauce
Shelby McLennan

Kimchi is one of the most well known Korean foods. Most people think of kimchi as fermented cabbage, but kimchi can be made from cucumbers, radishes, or even green onions. Kimchi is a classic side dish for Korean meals. When school gets busy, rice, kimchi, and a fried egg are easy to bring together. Making kimchi on your own takes a bit of hands on work (there's vegan kimchi, too), but one batch makes a large amount, and with it you can make most of the meals in this list. 

2. Kimchi fried rice (kimchi bokkeumbap)

vegetable, herb, rice, sauce, meat, parsley
Irene Kim

Now that you've made a ton of kimchi from the recipe above, you can make kimchi fried rice. Fried rice cooks up in minutes and is easy to double or triple, which is great when you have guests. Personally, I like mine with cubes of spam, a spoonful of gochujang for extra spiciness, and a fried egg on top.

3. Kimchi Pancakes (kimchijeon)

sauce, chicken
Haley Abram

These savory pancakes come together quickly as long as you have loads of kimchi on hand (good thing you made so much from the recipe above, right?). Plus, it's impressive when you dish up a pancake the size of a dinner plate. They're crispy, spicy, sour, and perfect for a snack or a meal. Check out this kimchijeon recipe here, and if you're gluten-free, here's a grain-free version. Make sure you make the dipping sauce for these, too, for extra flavor.

4. Thin Marinated Beef (Bulgogi)

Daisy Kim

Bulgogi, rice, and kimchi is a fast, easy meal. This recipe for sweet and salty bulgogi marinade is easily adaptable for vegetarians, just swap out the meat for tofu or shiitake mushrooms. Even better, if you're close to an Asian grocery store, you can probably buy pre-sliced beef which cuts out a step of the recipe. If this still isn't easy enough though, check out this cheat bulgogi recipe.

5. Soybean Sprout banchan (kongnamul-muchim)

While this isn't exactly a meal, this is an easy side dish that cooks up a whole pound of soybean sprouts in just 10 minutes. The ingredients are simple yet flavorful, and honestly, I would be happy just to snack on this all day. If you like soybean sprouts, be sure to check out #8 and #9 on this list, too.

6. Spinach banchan (sigeumchi-namul)

This is one of the easiest recipes on this list and is great in bibimbap. Just blanch spinach and season it with garlic and sesame oil. This recipe can also be modified for any leafy green vegetable you have on hand. Try this with kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, or cabbage, but keep in mind that tougher greens take longer to blanch.

7. Pan Fried Tofu (Dubu-buchim)

Like the other banchan recipes above, this is an easy side dish that uses pantry staples to make a flavorful dish out of one main ingredient. Tofu is healthy and delicious even if you aren't vegetarian, so there's no excuse to not try this. 

8. Soybean Sprout Rice Bowl (kongnamulbap)

In terms of complexity, this soybean sprout rice bowl falls between the soybean sprout banchan (#5) and bibimbap (#10). This recipe can also be made by throwing everything into a rice cooker, although you might want to saute the meat first in case it doesn't fully cook in the rice cooker. Soybean sprouts are great, and this is an easy meal to throw together at the end of the day.

9. Soybean Sprout Soup (kongnamulguk)

This is probably one of the fastest soups to make from scratch and half the time is for making a broth from the dried anchovies. This soup is easy to customize—I like adding sweet corn or napa cabbage to the soup as well. There's a kimchi version, too, if you prefer spicy food.

10. Bibimbap

han shi

If you've got bulgogi, banchan, and kimchi, you basically have a bowl of bibimbap. Bibimbap translates to "mixed rice," and it's satisfying to mix it all up and have a little bit of everything in each bite. Check out this easy bibimbap recipe.

11. Stuffed Tofu pouches (Yubuchobap)

Like Japanese inari, these stuffed tofu pouches make a meal out of just a little more than rice. These are great as finger food at a party or in a lunchbox. These stuffed tofu pouches use broccoli, tuna, and egg to change up the filling, but you can make it plain or add fillings of your choice. How about some yubuchobap stuffed with fried rice?

12. Spicy Cold Kimchi Noodles (Kimchi bibim-guksu)

Here's another recipe to make use of your copious amounts of kimchi. Excluding the sauce ingredients, you only need noodles, kimchi, cucumber, and an egg. This cold noodle recipe will be refreshing during the summer, especially if you wash it down with some Yakult or chilled barley tea after.

13. Spicy Mixed Cold Noodles (Bibim-naengmyun)

watermelon, melon, vegetable, sweet
Lena Lee

Don't be intimidated by the long list of ingredients in this chilled noodle recipe. The only thing that needs to be cooked is the noodles, and if you already cook lots of Asian food, the rest of the ingredients are likely to be in your pantry. This comes together in 20 minutes, and you'll wow your guests if you serve them noodles in a watermelon bowl.

14. Beef and daikon soup (Sogogi muguk)

This easy beef soup has only 7 ingredients including water and comes together in under an hour. Besides chopping the ingredients, most of the recipe is pretty hands off while everything boils away. Whether you make a big batch for yourself or to share, this comforting soup is sure to be a great addition to any meal.

15. Dumpling soup (Mandu-guk)

My family prefers boiled dumplings over steamed or fried ones, and drinking the leftover broth after boiling dumplings was a treat my parents enjoyed. Mandu-guk makes dumplings even better by adding egg and more meat to the broth. It's an exciting mash-up between dumplings and egg drop soup that's easy to make as long as you have frozen dumplings on hand.

16. Kimchi stew (Kimchi-jjigae)

Here's another classic Korean soup that great for using up old kimchi. After prepping all the ingredients, most of the cooking is hands-off as everything boils away in a pot. While this recipe says only two servings, you can easily increase the amount of ingredients for a larger group. Plus there's an Instant Pot version you can try if you have the hardware.

17. Seaweed soup (Miyeokguk)

Seaweed soup is a personal favorite of mine because it's so nutritious. Plus, I'm a fan of the chewy texture. This can be made vegetarian by swapping out the beef for tofu or mushrooms and adding a little fermented bean paste (doenjang) for extra flavor. If you don't have miyeok (seaweed) on hand, then just use Japanese wakame — they're actually the same thing. 

18. Stir Fried Glass Noodles (Japchae)

salad, pasta
Makaiyla Dell

This recipe is one of the harder ones on this list and has a lengthier ingredients list. Traditionally made for special occasions, this "Lazy Girl's Take on Japchae" simplifies it for everyday cooking by stir frying all the veggies together. The sweet and salty taste with the chewy noodles is irresistible and will be sure to be a party favorite.

19. Korean pizza

pizza, cheese, crust, sauce, mozzarella, dough, pie
Emma Danbury

It's blasphemy to an Italian, but this pizza is still crazy delicious. Underneath this benign mozzarella surface is ranch dressing, bulgogi, and sweet potato — not a single tomato or pepperoni in sight. There are only 5 ingredients, but trust me when I say that adding corn will make it even better. If you want to learn more about Korean pizza, check out this article.

20. Korean Beef Kimchi Buns

lettuce, tomato, meat, sandwich, bread, beef, salad, vegetable, kebab, gyro, chicken
Hui Lin

This isn't authentically Korean, but a fusion of Taiwanese aesthetics and Korean tastes, bringing two great things together. Instead of making the bun dough from scratch, this recipe uses Pillsbury biscuit dough to make things easy. This comes together in under an hour and even faster if you already have bulgogi on hand.

21. Nongshim Shin Ramyun

ramen, vegetable, pasta
Ashly Kim

No list of easy Korean recipes would be complete without Shin Ramyun. As one of the best selling brands of instant noodles, you can't go wrong with serving this to your friends. If you're worried about the noodles getting too soft when cooking multiple packs together (an "abomination to Koreans" my Korean friend tells me), then get a bunch of individual cup or bowl servings and have a ramen party.

Take note that this list is nowhere near comprehensive. There are endless variations on banchan, soups, noodles, and Korean fusion dishes. Let this list of easy Korean recipes be your field guide for when you want to learn how to cook Korean food, and I'm sure you'll be the favorite friend in your group.