Korean cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world due to its emphasis on vegetables, rice, and meats cooked simply with minimal oil. It also has a distinct earthy and tangy flavor, created by using ingredients like soybeans, and chili peppers.
Mostly though, a Korean meal is known for its many healthy side dishes. One is popularly known as kimchi and is a pickled vegetable dish that acts as a probiotic and can have many variations. Some versions use napa cabbage and gochujang, while others use gochugaru, garlic and sesame oil.
If you’re looking to learn how to cook Korean, getting a good Korean cookbook is the most convenient way to do it. Because of the popularity of the cuisine, there are now a variety of cookbooks that will answer your every need.
There are cookbooks that function well as textbook guides for Korean style cooking. There also ones that feature authentic home cooking recipes. Others are coffee table art books. There’s even one that’s a graphic novel turned cookbook.
The best of these cookbooks offer accessible recipes that are easy to do and come with great color photos. But because this is an ethnic cuisine, the recipes will generally use some Korean ingredients that may be hard to source. A good Korean cookbook will overcome that challenge by giving you substitutions that won’t take anything away from the dish’s authentic flavor.
In this list, I’ve picked the best ones that cover both everyday dishes and special occasion meals. These cookbooks will show you how to make popular K-food staples and even adjust them to suit your dietary preferences.
Best Korean Cookbooks
- Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine Hardcover
- Korean Home Cooking: Classic and Modern Recipes Hardcover
- Korean Cookbook: 100+ Authentic Korean Dishes to Cook at Home Paperback
- My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes Hardcover – Illustrated
- Korean Homestyle Cooking: 89 Classic Recipes – From Barbecue and Bibimbap to Kimchi and Japchae Paperback
- Korean Vegetarian Cooking: Authentic Flavors in Simple Steps Paperback
- Seoul Food Korean Cookbook: Korean Cooking from Kimchi and Bibimbap to Fried Chicken and Bingsoo
- Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes [A Cookbook] Paperback
- Koreatown: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Paperback
1. Maangchi's Big Book of Korean Cooking: From Everyday Meals to Celebration Cuisine Hardcover
This cookbook offers a comprehensive selection of Korean recipes that the author grew up with in South Korea. There are 150 recipes here, ranging from classic recipes like bibimbaps and kimchi to Korean street food and Buddhist temple vegan dishes.
There are also useful chapters on Korean cooking techniques which come with step-by-step photo guides and an illustrated guide to obtaining Korean ingredients and equipment. Other thematic sections include a chapter on making lunch box meals.
Recipes are easy to follow and are written for the American home kitchen. Each one is accompanied by a full color photo of the finished dish. Some will require specialized Korean ingredients but none are too obscure that you can’t find them in your friendly Korean neighborhood store.
Readers love the accessibility of the recipes. One compared the book’s tone to a friendly aunt encouraging you to get into the kitchen and cook. Readers recommend it for anyone looking for a quick Korean meal or something more fancy.
2. Korean Home Cooking: Classic and Modern Recipes Hardcover
This cookbook features the recipes from the author’s Brooklyn restaurant and the dishes from her family. There are 100 recipes here that will develop your sense of sohnmat, which is Korean for knowing how to easily make a dish flavorful by hand.
The recipes are very detailed but are easy to follow. There are lots of color photographs of the final dish and essential Korean ingredients. Some cooking techniques are also illustrated by how-to photos.
Readers liked this book because it’s user-friendly. One found this a useful guide not only for cooking Korean foods in a home kitchen but also for successful ordering in Korean restos. Others enthusiastically recommended its chapter on banchan recipes. Another liked that the recipes are adjustable for any dietary taste.
3. Korean Cookbook: 100+ Authentic Korean Dishes to Cook at Home Paperback
This is a no-frills collection of traditional Korean recipes for the beginner cook. It introduces the reader to the philosophy of Korean-style cooking and provides guidelines for making popular dishes. There’s a section on Korean pantry staples as well as a guide to essential kitchen equipment.
Recipes are categorized into meal types, including a chapter on traditional desserts and drinks. The instructions are easy to follow and include black and white photos of the dishes.
Most of the reviews say that the recipes are reliable and are easy to do. If you’re looking for an authentic sampling of delicious Korean foods, this book is a good resource to have.
4. My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes Hardcover – Illustrated
Written by a Michelin-starred Korean chef, this cookbook highlights the three important condiments in Korean cuisine: Doenjang, Ganjang, and Gochujang (fermented soybean paste, soy sauce, and fermented red chili paste). This culinary trio is what gives this book’s 90 recipes authentic flavor and savory depth.
Many of the recipes in the collection are the chef’s personal takes on classic Korean cuisine. Samples of these include Dolsot Bibimbap (Sizzling-Hot Stone Bowl Bibimbap), Haemul Sundubu Jjigae (Spicy Soft Tofu Stew with Seafood), and Mul Naengmyeon (Buckwheat Noodles in Chilled Broth). They’re written clearly with the ingredients explained well for the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with the cuisine.
There are 100 color photographs in this book, along with useful sections on cooking techniques and ingredient sourcing. Readers found this book informative and a useful resource for beginners.
5. Korean Homestyle Cooking: 89 Classic Recipes – From Barbecue and Bibimbap to Kimchi and Japchae Paperback
This is a beginner’s cookbook that features familiar Korean recipes that are easy to follow and only require around 30 minutes to assemble. The selection includes classic Korean appetizers, side dishes, soups and stews, main courses, and rice and noodle dishes. There are also recipes for desserts and drinks like Crunchy Sweet Potato Sticks, Yuja Citrus Tea, and Makgeolli Sparkling Rice Wine Sherbet.
Recipes are written clearly and use ingredients that are familiar enough for the Western home cook. They can also be easily adapted for use with American ingredients. Plus, there are enough color photos of the dishes in this book to appeal to the visual cook.
Readers liked that the recipes were beginner-friendly. One said that it was a “breakthrough” book for global cooking.
6. Korean Vegetarian Cooking: Authentic Flavors in Simple Steps Paperback
This cookbook features Korean recipes that use natural, plant-based ingredients and traditional Korean vegetables that are easily available in the US. There are over 80 vegetarian recipes here, 75 of which can be made vegan. Samples of the dishes include Kimchi Dumplings, Mushroom Hot Pot, and Sweet and Sour Cauliflower.
Recipes are laid-out with detailed steps and are marked with gluten-free, nut-free, spicy, and vegan labels. There are also substitute options for each dish as well as tips. Each one is also accompanied with a color photo of the dish.
One reader found it useful that the book lists the Korean recipe name next to its English name. It made shopping for ingredients easy. Another recommended this book as an essential must-have for Korean vegetarian cooking.
7. Seoul Food Korean Cookbook: Korean Cooking from Kimchi and Bibimbap to Fried Chicken and Bingsoo
This cookbook highlights a collection of authentic Korean dishes ranging from classic favorites to modern Seoul-style fusion cuisine. There are 135 recipes here that include familiar dishes like Sliced Barbecued Beef (bulgogi) and Spicy Stir-Fried Rice Cakes (tteokbokki).
The opening chapters include an overview of Korean cooking techniques and fun tidbits on food customs, table manners, and restaurant dining tips. There’s also a section on kitchen essentials, pantry staples, and Korean cooking ingredients, with photos and shopping resources.
Recipes have step-by-step directions and range from easy to complicated. Each one lists its prep and cooking times for easy reference.
One liked this book for featuring recipes from different regions in Korea. Another found its section on Korean culinary traditions informative. This is another good introductory book to authentic Korean cooking.
8. Cook Korean!: A Comic Book with Recipes [A Cookbook] Paperback
Part cookbook, part graphic novel, this book features 64 recipes and Korean ingredient profiles for the beginner home cook. A sample of the recipes include kimchi (mak kimchi) and soy garlic beef over rice (bulgogi dupbap) to seaweed rice rolls (gimbap).
Each recipe comes with 1-3 pages of color comic illustrations to show how the dish’s ingredients and how it is prepared. They are easy to follow and use ingredients that are easily found in stores. They are also easily adaptable for tofu use or other meatless options.
For lovers of the comic book, this is a must-read cookbook. Get this for the novelty of the format and stay for its easy recipes.
9. Koreatown: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook showcases the cuisine found in Korea-towns and Korean-influenced restaurants in the US. There are over 100 recipes here that are riffs on classic Korean food and offer meat and vegetarian options.
Along with the recipes, there are also essays, photos and interviews that explore the people and the cuisine in these places. Overall, this is a book that explores the different flavor combinations of Korean food rather than making them from scratch.
Readers like the accessibility and authencity of the recipes. One liked the memoir-style vignettes and profiles in Korean-American food. Most recommended this book for anyone already comfortable with cooking and eating Korean cuisine.
10. Korean Paleo: 80 Bold-Flavored, Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Paperback
This cookbook features versions of classic Korean dishes that are paleo-friendly. These include dairy- and grain-free takes on familiar Korean dishes like Bibimbap, Bulgogi, and Quick Kimchi.
Recipes are straightforward and are accompanied with color photos of the finished dish. Most use ingredients that are easy to find while the unfamiliar ones are throughly explained for easy reference. Some recipes have low-carb substitutions.
Readers liked the variety of the Korean dishes presented. One mentioned its paleo tofu recipe as her favorite. This is a useful book for paleo eaters craving for authentic Korean flavors.
MAANGCHI'S BIG BOOK OF KOREAN COOKING: FROM EVERYDAY MEALS TO CELEBRATION CUISINE by Maangchi and Martha Rose Shulman
Written by an author who’s often called the Julia Child of Korean cuisine, this book hits all the right spots. The selection of recipes is diverse and is a reflection of the author's experience with South Korean home cooking. For example, there are at least seven kind of kimchi recipes here and four types of bibimbap.
Recipes are very detailed, covering all aspects of the dish. Her Korean fried chicken, for instance, includes precise instructions for testing oil temperature without a thermometer.
There’s also enough context included in the recipes to reflect how personal these dishes are for her. The anecdotes for every heirloom recipe add authenticity to the cookbook. If you’re looking for an essential and comprehensive guide to doing easy Korean dishes, this is the book for you.