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Easy Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

18/09/2020 (Last Updated: 23/09/2020)

Learn how to cook this easy Korean-American hot pot recipe. Korean Army Stew transforms simple everyday ingredients like noodles, kimchi and veggies into a mouth-watering spicy stew. Budae Jjigae is perfect for sharing and entertaining too – if you have a table top cooker, why not cook it all together with friends!

Large hot pot full of ingredients for Korean Army Stew and smothered in cheese.

Why We Love This

This is such an easy recipe to make at home because it’s so flexible! Make use of the ingredients you have, or the ones you love the most, and make it your way! If there’s something you don’t like, or it’s not easy to source, you can leave it out. 

This addictive recipe is the perfect remedy on a cold winter’s night, when you just want a fiery, spicy dish to warm you up from the inside out! (That said, we’re so addicted we’ll eat it on a steamy summer’s afternoon. So I guess this one is just about perfect to enjoy all year round.)

All you need are a few tasty ingredients, a hotpot or deep frypan, and some hungry friends to eat it all up! 

Using chopsticks to pull cooked enoki mushrooms out of the stew.

What is Korean Army Stew?

This spicy Korean army base stew is made with of a range of tasty ingredients cooked in a spicy broth. The simmering blend of gochujang (spicy Korean chilli paste), gochugaru (spicy Korean chilli flakes / hot pepper powder), rice wine, sugar, garlic soy sauce and chicken stock will set your mouth watering before you even take a bite!

A blend of east-meets-west, this spicy Korean hot pot recipe infuses the flavour-packed intensity of Korean cuisine with American processed foods such as spam, sausages and cheese. 

This is probably one of our most cooked recipes in our Wandercook’s household. We always have most of the ingredients on hand to whip up a batch for lunch or dinner. Somehow we think the base has a spicy-peppery-tomato flavour, and with the addition of spam, sausages and cheese it tastes like a hotdog stew!

If you’ve eaten everything and just have the soup left, save it and pop in some two minute noodles or veggies the next day, it’s even more delicious.

If you’re looking for a non-spicy hot pot, we’d recommend Japanese Shabu Shabu Hot Pot.

What You’ll Need

For the base stew:

Grab the sugar, soy sauce and garlic then add the key ingredients:

  • Stock: You can use powdered, bottled or fresh stock. It’s up to you and how much time you have on your hands. We used chicken stock but we’ve also used dashi / anchovy stock for a more umami base. If you’re making a veggo version, just use vegetable stock or seaweed stock.
  • Gochujang: One of the key ingredients to the dish, this Korean hot pepper / chilli paste is where the flavour is at. It has more of a tomato / sweet taste than chilli heat, although you can buy an extra hot version. We’ve found these now at most supermarkets or online.
  • Chinese cooking wine: You’ll find this at Asian supermarkets or even online. It adds complexity to the dish, and a dash of sweetness. You can substitute with dry sherry, mirin or sake if you have those in the cupboard instead.
  • Korean red chilli flakes: Known as Gochugaru, you’ll be able to find it at Asian grocers and online. It may also be labelled as hot pepper powder. To substitute, halve the amount and use cayenne pepper or regular chilli powder.

For the main hot pot ingredients:

Here are a few signature inclusions, feel free to pick and choose!

  • Processed meat: Think spam, frankfurters, little smokies, sausages or ground meat
  • Cheese: You can use pre-sliced cheese, but we like spreading generous amounts of grated cheese aaaalllll across the top
  • Korean rice cakes (tteok): There are two main shapes often used in Korean dishes like this and Tteokkboki, the sliced disc version and cylinder rice cake. We prefer the cylinder version and usually buy these fresh or frozen from our local Asian supermarket. If you can’t find them, you can substitute with gnocchi in a pinch.
  • Instant ramen noodles – just plain ol’ regular instant ramen or udon noodles
  • Fresh kimchi – store bought or easily make your own at home.
  • Green onion – aka spring onion
  • Tofu – soft or firm, both work well. We usually prefer firm tofu which holds its shape better in the hot broth
  • Mushrooms – enoki, oyster or shiitake  (or all three if you’re a mushroom fiend like us!)
  • Boiled eggs – sliced in half
  • Baked Beans – Dollop in a couple of spoonfuls or a quarter of a cup – not too much as the sauce is quite sweet.
  • Vegetables – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, stock up on more vegetables by popping in carrot, eggplant, zucchini, or even broccoli. While it may not be traditional, it’s just as tasty!
Korean army stew ingredients simmering in an electric frypan.

How to make Budae Jjigae:

To prepare the rice cakes:

  1. If you’re using Korean rice cakes (tteok), place in a bowl and cover with hot water to soften them first while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

To prepare the hot pot:

  1. Add all the stock ingredients into a large electric fry pan, wok or shallow pot, mix together over low heat. 
  2. Layer your main ingredients in the pan (in artful sections, or mixed in all together – it’s totally up to you!)
  3. Turn up the heat and layer everything with generous amounts of cheese. Cook on high heat until ingredients such as noodles and frankfurts are cooked through. Serve your Korean Army Stew just how you like it – either hotpot style in the middle of the table and allow everyone to help themselves, or dish out into individual bowls.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • If you have a shallow pot, fondue pot, or an electric fry pan like us, this dish is fun and easy to cook on the table, which makes it perfect for friends to enjoy delicious food and fun conversation! But you can also just as easily cook it on the stove and dish out into small individual bowls. 
  • We keep the rice cakes and frankfurts in the freezer so we’re never too far away from our next army stew fix!
  • In the below recipe we’ve included quantities for stock ingredients, but not for the main ingredients. This is because it really depends on how much you want to cook (and/or how hungry your friends are). You can easily prepare as much or as little as you like, and add more ingredients to cook as you go if your friends are still hungry or completely, totally, hopelessly addicted.

FAQs

Can I prepare Budae Jjigae ahead of time?

Yes! You can make the stock base and store in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks, until you’re ready to cook it. I’d just leave out the stock and water, then add that in with the main ingredients. As a bonus, once all the main ingredients are eaten, we often reserve any remaining stew base and reheat it along with adding fresh ingredients again to enjoy as leftovers the next day. 

Where does Korean Army Stew originate from?

This fusion-style recipe became popular after the end of the Korean War, when food was scarce and American army surplus supplies were easier to come by.

How do I make Korean Army Stew less spicy?

Leave out the Korean hot pepper flakes / gochugaru as these pack the most heat. The gochujang chilli paste is less spicy so you could try halving the amount first before completely omitting as it does give the hot pot that classic budae jjigae flavour.

Variations & Substitutes

  • If you can’t source gochujang, you can make a paste out of regular red chilli flakes mixed with sugar and a dash of soy. (Use 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes for every tablespoon of gochujang required). 
  • You can swap the chicken stock for dashi powder (1 tsp for every cup).
A close up of Korean army stew ingredients including tofu, rice cakes (tteok) and sliced green onions.

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★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

Top view of budae jjigae heated up and ready to eat.

Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

Learn how to cook this easy Korean-American hot pot recipe. Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae) transforms simple everyday ingredients like spam, noodles, mushroom and veggies into a mouth-watering spicy stew. Budae Jjigae is perfect for sharing and entertaining too – if you have a table top cooker, why not cook it all together with friends!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Korean
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 315kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5-10

Ingredients

For the Stock:

For the Main Ingredients

Instructions

  • If you’re using Korean rice cakes (tteok), place in a bowl and cover with hot water to soften them first while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

For the stock:

  • Add all the stock ingredients into a large electric fry pan, wok or shallow pot, mix together over low heat. 

To assemble:

  • Layer your main ingredients in the pan (in artful sections, or mixed in all together – it’s totally up to you!)
  • Turn up the heat and layer everything with generous amounts of cheese. Cook on high heat until ingredients such as noodles and frankfurts are cooked through. 
  • Serve your Korean Army Stew just how you like it – either hot pot style in the middle of the table and allow everyone to help themselves, or dish out into individual bowls.

Video

Recipe Notes

Tips
  • If you have a hot pot, fondue pot, or an electric fry pan like us, this dish is fun and easy to cook on the table, which makes it perfect for friends to enjoy delicious food and fun conversation! But you can also just as easily cook it on the stove and dish out into small individual bowls. 
  • In the below recipe we’ve included quantities for stock ingredients, but not for the main ingredients. This is because it really depends on how much you want to cook (and/or how hungry your friends are). You can easily prepare as much or as little as you like, and add more ingredients to cook as you go if your friends are still hungry or completely, totally, hopelessly addicted.
  • Can I prepare Korean Army Stew ahead of time? It’s possible to prepare the stock separately and heat it up when you’re ready to eat. But we think this stew is best when prepared fresh and cooked immediately. That said, once all the main ingredients are eaten, we often reserve any remaining stock and reheat it along with extra noodles and other fresh ingredients to enjoy as leftovers the next day. 
  • If you can’t source gochujang, you can make a paste out of regular red chilli flakes mixed with sugar and a dash of soy. (Use 1 tablespoon of chilli flakes for every tablespoon of gochujang required).
Note: This recipe was inspired by My Korean Kitchen.

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 827mg | Potassium: 447mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 613IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 302mg | Iron: 2mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Easy Korean Army Stew (Budae Jjigae)

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Chelsey
    12/11/2019 at 3:33 pm

    5 stars
    Wow I love love all of the wonderful flavors you have going on in this Korean stew! Definitely a perfect soup on a chilly winter night!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:06 pm

      SO good when it’s cold. 😀

  • Reply
    Anita
    12/11/2019 at 3:15 pm

    5 stars
    I love making a hot pot when having friends over. No need to cook and everyone always has such a wonderful time cooking and joking around. 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:06 pm

      Exactly! We’re similar. It’s also great when you share it, as it’s usually a good topic of conversation with those trying new flavours or ingredients for the first time.

  • Reply
    Beth
    12/11/2019 at 3:13 pm

    5 stars
    I am all about the spicy foods right now and am always looking for new recipes to try! This looks incredibly good! Trying this ASAP!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:05 pm

      That’s awesome Beth – for a spicier version, just up the chilli flakes and gochujang paste in the base sauce. 🙂

  • Reply
    Candice
    12/11/2019 at 3:03 pm

    5 stars
    I love a dish that can feed an army… and this one has so much incredible flavor! I had never heard of it before, but it was so easy to make, and we all loved it. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:05 pm

      This is great Candice, so glad you enjoyed it. I love that you can mix and match with the veg or meat in it too. Let us know if you try any variations!

  • Reply
    Elaine
    12/11/2019 at 2:42 pm

    5 stars
    I really like those ingredient shots – they look sooo goood! And I guess it’s time for me to explore a bit more of the Korean cuisine – this stew looks unbelievable!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      19/11/2019 at 2:04 pm

      Cheers Elaine! This one is a great dish into the entry of Korean flavours – I tried it out with my family, and they loved it! The sauce base tastes like a slightly spicy tomato sauce, and with the cheese on top, my brother thought it tasted like hot dogs when eating the sausages haha!

  • Reply
    Lucya
    04/05/2019 at 7:56 pm

    5 stars
    I have some friends coming over this week, and I think I will make this! Delicious!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/05/2019 at 11:35 am

      Oh fun! You’ll have to let us know how it goes. Love sharing this with friends. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Molly
    10/04/2019 at 3:24 pm

    5 stars
    I made this tonight for the family and it was seriously delicious! Everyone loved it.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/05/2019 at 11:37 am

      Amazing! Thanks for the feedback. It’s a cracker to have with a group, and there’s always plenty for everyone to eat. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jane
    06/02/2019 at 11:13 pm

    5 stars
    Oh boy, that looks SO good! And the photos are just perfect, I want to dip my chopsticks right in!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/03/2019 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks Jane! That cheeeeese am I right? ????????????

  • Reply
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    06/02/2019 at 10:29 pm

    5 stars
    This looks so delicious and so flavourful! I definitely need to give this recipe a try.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/03/2019 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks Bintu, hope you enjoy!

  • Reply
    Danielle Wolter
    06/02/2019 at 10:22 pm

    5 stars
    this is just one of my favorite things ever. I absolutely love making this at home – it’s so comforting and perfect for winter and it has tons of flavor!! Spam is my favorite meat to use 🙂

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/03/2019 at 4:02 pm

      I know right, so warming and spicy, it’s like the ultimate comfort food – especially with all those chewy rice cakes (my faaaaaaav).

  • Reply
    Jacqueline Debono
    06/02/2019 at 10:19 pm

    5 stars
    This is such an interesting and unique recipe! Love the idea of cooking it at the table. Have to try that!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/03/2019 at 4:02 pm

      Hope you do Jacqueline! It’s surprisingly easy to pull together and especially fun to cook on the table with everyone.

  • Reply
    Cliona Keane
    06/02/2019 at 9:19 pm

    5 stars
    I’m always looking for new and exciting Asian recipes to try and this looks right up my street! I love how many flavours and ingredients you’ve included, whilst keeping it simple and delicious!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      15/03/2019 at 4:03 pm

      Thanks Cliona, this one ticks all the boxes for us too!

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