After living in Asia and visiting South Korea numerous times, we’ve fallen in love with discovering popular Korean snacks. It’s like a pastime for us when visiting. In this post, we share our recommendations for the best Korean snacks to try.
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Learning About Korean Food
Our first experience with Korean food didn’t go well. Way back in the 1990s when we were in college, a Korean restaurant opened up off-campus. We thought since we liked Chinese food, we’ll go and give it a try.
Within five minutes of sitting down, we learned that Korean food was very much not Chinese food. Confused by the “strange” small dishes (banchan) placed in front of us, we quickly ate what we dared and left the restaurant never to return.
Thank goodness we got over this. Over the years, we’ve traveled to South Korea numerous times, each time learning more and more about this food that was once so strange to us. Today, both Eric and I can’t get enough of Korean BBQ and all things Korean food.
Check out our post on the best Korean fruits to try when traveling in Korea.
What Is Korean Food Like
It’s fun sharing our first experience considering we now crave Korean food. I have no doubt that many people mistakenly lump all Asian food into one group. Especially if you’ve never been exposed to Asian food beyond Panda Express.
While each Asian cuisine is unique unto itself, there’s nothing that compares to Korean food and its unique flavors. At the heart of Korean food is fermentation. The number of dishes that include one or more fermented ingredients is staggering.
Given the harsh climate and rugged terrain of the Korean Peninsula, preserving food via fermentation is a must. This is why kimchi is Korea’s national dish and you’ll find it everywhere, especially with Korean BBQ.
For us, Korean food ticks off many of the boxes on what makes a great culinary destination. There are dumplings, both fried and boiled, filled with beef, pork, or vegetables. Lots of noodle dishes and who doesn’t love noodles?
And best of all, pork. Koreans love their pork. No trip to Korea is complete without enjoying a traditional Korean barbecue meal consisting of lots of pork, kimchi, and beer. There is also a tradition of Korean snacks and street food that we love.
Insiders Tip: Gansig (간식) means snack in Korean.
Korean Snacks And Street Food
South Korea is a food-crazed culture. There’s food everywhere. The capital, Seoul, is covered with day and night food markets selling a wide variety of Korean street snacks and Korean sweets.
Wandering the city, you’ll easily find some of the most popular Korean snacks including kimbap, Korean “sushi” and pajeon, a rice flour pancake.
The variety of delicious Korean snacks is endless. During any given trip to South Korea, it’s possible to enjoy traditional Korean snacks like yakgwa, and Korean honey cookies, as well as a Korean snack box featuring a wide assortment of unique, modern snacks.
Travelers to South Korea will quickly discover that many of the most famous Korean snacks are not found at night food markets but rather inside supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores. Many of the flavors found in Korean street food are made a lot more convenient by being placed in snack form in the packaging.
Want to learn more about South Korea? Check out these posts:
Where To Buy Snacks From Korea Online
Most of the must-try Korean snacks we’ve eaten over the years we tried in Korea. We’ve bought a lot of these snacks at 7-Eleven and Korean department stores and grocery stores like Lotte. I know many food lovers don’t have that kind of luxury.
If you are able to travel to Seoul or elsewhere in South Korea, check out convenience stores for snacks. To purchase souvenirs most of the airports offer a great selection of must-buy Korean snack. To save money, try to find a local grocery store to stock up.
One of the greatest things about our global economy is that we now have access to so many wonderful foods from around the world.
If you live in a large city in the US or a city like London, you might be able to purchase some of the most popular Korean snack at local Asian markets.
Or, you can also purchase snacks from Korea on Amazon, including all of the options we include on our list. After discovering a couple of snacks during our travels, we’ve regularly been buying our favorite Korean snack online.
Like unique snacks? Check out our roundup of the Best Japanese Snacks.
The Best Korean Snacks To Buy
So many of the tasty treats we eat when traveling in Korea are available to buy online. Some of these South Korean snacks also are portable versions of classic street foods you can find all over Seoul
This is one of our all-time favorite snacks in Korea. First appearing in South Korea in 1983, Pepero, the Korean answer to Japan’s Pocky, is so popular it even has its own day. It has to be one of the most famous Korean snack.
Consisting of thin, long cookies dipped in chocolate, Pepero is made by Lotte Confectionery. On November 11th, Koreans celebrate Pepero Day. Similar to Valentine’s Day, sweets, usually Pepero, are exchanged with friends and loved ones.
Easily one of the most popular street foods in Korea, tteokbokki are elongated Korean rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. It’s one of the most classic spicy Korean snack and is popular at food markets around Seoul. It’s a bit of an acquired taste thanks to the glutinous texture of the rice cake.
This Korean rice cake snack version is the perfect treat when you are on the go. They capture all the elements of tteokbokki but with a nice crunch and are easier to transport than the classic street food snack. Try them with an ice-cold beer.
If you have a sweet tooth and enjoy bite-sized chocolate-filled cookies, then look no further than Lotte Kancho Choco Biscuits, just one in the lineup of Lotte Korean snack. These biscuits are one of the most popular Korean sweet snacks.
Sweet but not sugary sweet, the biscuits are a tasty snack for traveling. One of the best Asian snacks, they can easily be found in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Korea. Just look for the bright box with the giant red heart.
At first glance, this Korean snack food seems a little strange, but it’s almost a marriage made in heaven. As a lover of sunflower seeds, where have these been my whole life?
Lotte Sunflower Seed Choco Ball is exactly that. Dried sunflower seeds dipped in sweet dark chocolate. One of the best snack inventions ever.
If you are like us and find yourself on an overnight bus in Asia, this is the snack you want to have with you. Invented in the United States in the early 1900s, Choco Pies are often referred to as “moon pies.” They’ve now become one of the most popular Korean chocolate snacks.
Choco Pies consist of two small, chocolate-coated cakes with a marshmallow cream center. In the 1970s, a team from Tongyang Confectionery introduced the Choco Pie to Korea. They were an instant hit becoming one of the most popular snacks in Korea, spanning generations.
We’ve spent many a long train ride in Asia snacking on Choco Pies. Although I never know these were traditional Korean snack! Choco Pie come in a variety of flavors including white chocolate, milk chocolate, and my favorite coconut. Make sure to pick up a box for your next trip.
Not my personal favorite Korean snack, but still worth trying. I prefer my shrimp barbecued not in cracker form. But Nongshim is an extremely popular snack from Korea.
First introduced in the early 1970s, these crunchy, salty snacks are to Koreans what potato chips are to Americans. Shaped like crinkled French fries, they are baked not fried. The Nongshim crackers are available in a variety of flavors including spicy and sweet and sour chicken. They are a popular version of Korean snack chips.
I’m not about you but I like some sort of biscuit or cracker with my coffee or tea. Thankfully, Haitai Ace Crackers work nicely with both. Light yet crisp, they are sweet without overdoing it.
Making them one of our favorite snacks. Koreans have been enjoying them with their coffee and ice cream since the mid-1970s. Haitai also makes a sandwich version filled with yogurt.
Eating seaweed is supposed to have lots and lots of health benefits, making this one of the healthy Korean snacks. Daechun seaweed snack is packed with tons of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. If you follow a gluten free diet, these are the perfect go to snacks for you.
In a country with water on three sides, it’s no surprise that this seaweed snack is incredibly popular. In Korea, you’ll find countless seaweed snacks in a wide variety of shapes and flavors. I’ve tried a few but can’t say I’m a fan.
If you enjoy hot dogs, SlimJims, or any type of processed meat on a stick you’re going to love these. For many, this might fall into the category of weird Korean snacks.
Lots of Americans, including us, eat hot dogs and corn dogs from a convenience store like 7-11 so how can we judge?
Found in every convenience store in Korea, these meat snacks are a quick and easy source of protein. But, you can also buy versions of these online. Popped into the microwave, Hot-Bar comes in a variety of flavors including Hot Spicy and chicken.
This is a Korean snack that speaks to me. While there are tons of flavored potato chips out there, the combination of sweet honey paired with salty butter makes me happy.
In a region like Asia where you can find potato chips flavored with shrimp, sushi, or hot and sour fish soup (yes, that’s an actual flavor from Lays) these popular Korean chips are a nice alternative.
Introduced in 2014, these Honey Butter Chips were so popular in Korea that oftentimes the chips were sold out in supermarkets and convenience stores.
If you’ve ever been to Korea in winter it can be downright cold. Trust me. Warming up with a hot cup of tea is a must. And what goes well with a nice hot cup of Korean tea? Gosomi Crackers.
Sprinkled with sesame seeds, the biscuits are light and crisp with a sweet yet saltiness to them. And best of all, have a hint of coconut.
Say hello to the Korean version of Bugles. Much like their American counterpart, these salty Korean corn chip snacks are highly addictive. Eric and I are big fans of corn chips and kkokkalcorn are some of our favorites. Whenever we are in Seoul we make sure to enjoy a bag or two of these super tasty corn chips with an ice-cold Korean beer.
Popular folklore says the proper way to eat kkokkalcorn is by placing one on each finger to form a corn chip “claw.” Regardless of how you eat them, kkokkalcorn is a must-try Korean snack. They are available in a variety of flavors including roasted, spicy, and grilled corn.
Dating back to the late 14th century, yakgwa cakes we initially reserved as medicinal Korean dessert cakes for the royal family. This makes it one of the most traditional Korean snacks.
Over the centuries, these traditional Korean cookies (mini cakes) were eaten at special events like weddings and other ceremonies.
Today, you don’t have to be royalty or get married to enjoy Samlip Mini Yakgwa. The cakes themselves are made using flour, cinnamon, honey, rice wine, and ginger juice. The result is a sweet pastry that’s very popular with Koreans.
We’ve eaten dried squid in several countries around Asia and it’s just not our cup of tea. It’s an incredibly salty seafood version of beef jerky.
Dried squid can have a potent smell which will put off first-time tasters. But, for many in Asia including Korea, it’s an enjoyable and popular snack. As we like to say, you have to try things twice, including dried squid.
We are not huge candy people, but if you need a break from all the salty or cakey Korean snacks, keep an eye out for these tasty gummies. We have a weakness for gummy candies which are popular Korean candies.
With a nice sugar-to-gummy ratio, Orion’s My Gummy are some of the better gummies we’ve come across. It’s also nice to come across a flavor like peach which often gets overshadowed by more traditional flavors like cherry, orange, and grape.
FAQs – Best Korean Snacks To Try
South Korea is a land where no flavor is off-limits. From kimchi or prawn-flavored potato chips to matcha-flavored KitKats the combinations are endless. So it should come as no surprise that one of the most popular flavors of ice cream in Korea is corn. Before you judge, I’d highly recommend tasting corn-flavored ice cream. It will surprise you. Other unique flavors of ice cream in Korea include sweet potato, green tea, and melon.
The sweet potato has a special place not only in Korean cuisine but Korean history. During the Korean War, the sweet potato helped millions of Korean avoid starving to death. This hardy root vegetable is ideally suited for growing in the harsh, rugged terrain that is the Korean Peninsula. The sweet potato is rich in nutrients and is easily cooked in a variety of ways. This is why Korean eat lots of sweet potato.