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 so 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.
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 what kimchi is Korea’s national dish.
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 BBQ meal consisting of lots of pork, kimchi, and beer. There is also a tradition of Korean snacks and street food that we just love.
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. 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, 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 and convenience stores. Many of the flavors found in Korean street food is made a lot more convenient by being placed in snack form in packaging.
Want to learn more about South Korea? Check out these posts:
Where To Buy Korean Snacks 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 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 snacks. 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 snacks at local Asian markets.
Or, you can also purchase Korean snacks on Amazon, including all of the options we include on our list.
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
First appearing in South Korea in 1983, Pepero, the Korea answer to Japan’s Pocky, is so popular it even has its own day. It has to be one of the most famous Korean snacks.
Consisting of thin, long cookies dipped in chocolate, Pepero is made by Lotte Confectionery. On November 11th, Korean’s celebrate Pepero Day. Similar to Valentine’s Day, sweets, usually Pepero, are exchanged with friends and loved ones.
Haitai Sindangdong Tteokbokki
Easily one of the most popular street foods in Korea, tteokbokki are elongated rice cakes in a sweet and spicy sauce. It’s one of the most classic spicy Korean snacks and popular at food markets around Seoul. It’s a bit of an acquired taste thanks to the glutinous texture of the rice cake.
This 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 easier to transport than the classic street food snack. Try them with an ice-cold beer.
Lotte Kancho Choco Biscuit
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 line up of Lotte Korean snacks. These biscuits are one of the most popular Korean sweet snacks.
Sweet but not sugary sweet, the biscuits are a tasty snack for traveling. They can easily be found in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Korea. Just look for the bright box with the giant red heart.
Lotte Sunflower Seed Choco Ball
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 chocolate. One of the best snack inventions ever.
Orion Snack Pies (Choco Pie)
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 snacks!
Nongshim Shrimp Cracker
Not my personal favorite Korean snack, but still worth trying. I prefer my shrimp barbecued not in cracker form. But in Korea, shrimp crackers are very popular.
First introduced in the early 1970s, these crunchy, salty snacks are to Koreans what potato chips are to Americans. Shaped like crinkle 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.
Haitai Ace Cracker
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. Koreans have been enjoying them with their coffee and ice cream since the mid-1970s. Haitai also makes a sandwich version filled with yogurt.
Daechun (Choi’s1) Seaweed Snacks
Eating seaweed is supposed to be very good for you, making this one of the healthy Korean snacks. It’s packed with tons of vitamins and minerals. In a country with water on three sides, it’s no surprise that seaweed snacks are 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.
Hot-Bar Daelimsun Korean Convenience Store Popular
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. Although Americans eat 7-11 hot dogs and corn dogs, 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.
Honey Butter Chips
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.
Orion Gosomi Crackers
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 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.
Kkokkalcorn Korean Lotte Popping Corn Chips
Say hello to the Korean version of Bugles. Much like their American counterpart, these salty corn chip snacks are highly addictive.
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.
Samlip Mini Yakgwa
Dating back to the late 14th century, yakgwa cakes we initially reserved as medicinal 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 getting 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.
Orion My Gummy Jelly Peach
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 and are a popular Korean candy.
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.