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Easy Korean Army Stew – Budae Jjigae

20/09/2022

Spice things up with this quick and easy Korean Army Stew, on the table in less than 30 minutes! Filled with noodles, kimchi and veggies, this mouthwatering budae jjigae recipe is perfect for sharing and cooking with friends.

Top down view of Korean army stew ingredients cooking in a frying pan.

Why We Love This

Korean Army Stew is hands-down THE most cooked recipe in the Wandercook’s household! The chewy Korean rice cakes, noodles and melty cheese make this easy hotpot so delicious and satisfying every single time. 

It’s so quick to cook for lunch or dinner, and is super adaptable too. Use the recipe below as a guide, but feel free to use up leftover vegetables from your fridge too. 

Leftovers taste amazing too, so why not make up a big batch so you’ll have some for lunch the next day? You can always add in some extra instant noodles or veggies to make it go even further.

Related: Tteokbokki Rice Cake Stir Fry / Shabu Shabu Hot Pot

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

What is Korean Army Stew? 

Korean Army Stew (budae jjigae / 부대찌개) is a fusion Korean-American recipe. It became popular around the end of the Korean War, when food was scarce and American army surplus supplies were fairly easy to come by. 

This spicy Korean hotpot is made with a range of ingredients like spam or sausages, noodles, kimchi and cheese cooked in a rich red gochujang (fermented chilli paste) and gochugaru (chilli flakes) infused broth.

What You’ll Need

For the stew base:

  • Stock – You can use stock powder, liquid stock or fresh homemade stock depending on how much time you have. Use chicken stock for a mild flavour or dashi stock / anchovy stock for more umami flavour if you prefer. Or for a vegetarian stock base, use vegetable stock or kombu dashi.
  • Gochujang / Korean Hot Pepper Paste – One of the key ingredients in budae jjigae! While it is spicy, it has more of a well-rounded, sweet tomato flavour rather than just pure chilli heat. (Note: You can buy an extra hot version if you want!). It’s available at Asian groceries, well stocked supermarkets in the international aisle, or online. If you can’t source it, 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). 
  • Gochugaru / Korean Red Chilli Flakes – It may also be labelled as Korean hot pepper powder. Most brands have clear packaging so you can see the product inside (which is important). Ideally you should buy the flakes, NOT the powdered version. Look for it at Asian supermarkets or online. Sub with half the listed amount of cayenne pepper or regular chilli powder.
  • Cooking Wine – You can use Korean rice wine (cheongju), Japanese rice wine (sake) or Chinese style cooking wine (shao xing) depending on what you have on hand. Find them at Asian supermarkets or even online. Sub with dry sherry, mirin or a splash of dry white wine if you have those on hand instead.
  • Other Seasonings – You’ll also need soy sauce, garlic and sugar. 

For the main hotpot ingredients: 

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

  • Garaetteok (가래떡 / Korean Rice Cakes) – These are the chewy cylindrical rice cakes you’ll find in other Korean dishes like tteokbokki. We usually buy them frozen from our local Asian supermarket. If you can’t find them, you could sub with gnocchi in a pinch for a similar chewy texture.
  • Processed Meat – This dish is traditionally made with ham, hotdogs or canned meats like spam, but we usually make it with frankfurts sliced into bite sized pieces. Sub with little smokies, sausages or ground meat if you prefer.
  • Cheese – You can use sliced cheese or grated / shredded cheese.
  • Instant Ramen Noodles – Any brand of instant ramen noodles, or sub with fresh udon noodles. We’ve also used dangmyeon (sweet potato noodles) which have a delicious chewy texture. 
  • Tofu – Soft or firm tofu both work well, however firm tofu holds its shape better and is easier to lift out of the broth with chopsticks.
  • Mushrooms – Traditional options include enoki, oyster or shiitake mushrooms. Pick your favourite or use all three.
  • Kimchi – Use store bought or homemade kimchi, or sub with chopped wombok cabbage.
  • Boiled Eggs – Sliced in half. A great way to include extra protein. 
  • Green Onion – Aka spring onion.
Large hot pot full of ingredients for Korean Army Stew and smothered in cheese.

How to make Budae Jjigae:

  1. Add the stock ingredients (chicken stock, gochujang, garlic, soy sauce, cooking wine, hot pepper flakes and sugar) into a large electric fry pan, wok or saucepan. Stir together over low heat.
  2. Layer your main ingredients (instant noodles, frankfurts, garaetteok rice cakes, kimchi, cabbage, enoki and tofu) artfully in the pan or mixed in together – it’s up to you!
  3. Turn up the heat and sprinkle with generous amounts of cheese. Cook on high until ingredients such as noodles and frankfurts are fully cooked through. 
  4. Serve hotpot style in the middle of the table and allow everyone to help themselves, or portion out into individual soup bowls.

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Ingredient Quantities – The below recipe includes quantities for stock ingredients, but not for the main ingredients. This is because it really depends on how much you want to cook (or how hungry you are). You can easily prepare as much or as little as you like, and add more ingredients to cook as you go if you’re still hungry.
  • Cook Together – If you have a portable induction cooker and an induction suitable hot pot, shallow pot or saucepan, this dish is fun and easy to cook right on the table with friends and family. It’s so entertaining and a great way to enjoy delicious food and fun conversation together. But you can also just as easily cook it on the stove and portion out into individual soup bowls. 
  • Storage – Leftover army base stew is amazing the next day. If your pan has a lid and fits in the fridge, you can store it overnight once it’s fully cooked down. Otherwise transfer to an airtight container first. Reheat on the stove the next day until it just comes to the boil. You can add more fresh ingredients to make it go even further too. Note: Leftover noodles tend to soak up a lot of the liquid, so they are best enjoyed fresh.

FAQs

Can I make this in advance?

Yes, you can make the hotpot seasoning base (without the stock) and store it in the fridge for up to a couple of weeks until you’re ready to cook. Add the stock and bring to the boil before adding the main ingredients. However, since it’s so quick to prepare, it isn’t really necessary. 

Can I make it less spicy?

The easiest way to make a less spicy version of Korean army stew is to leave out the gochugaru / Korean red pepper flakes as these bring the most heat to the dish. The gochujang chilli paste is less spicy on its own, so you could try using half the amount and see if that works for you. We don’t recommend leaving out the gochujang completely as it really does give this hotpot that classic budae jjigae flavour.

What should I serve with it?

Korean army stew can be enjoyed as a main meal all on its own. If you prefer, you could leave out the noodles and serve it with a small bowl of rice per person instead, with some pickled daikon, garlic or onion to round it out. 

For entree, why not try some Korean seafood pancakes (haemul pajeon), crispy potato pancakes (gamja jeon) or soy braised potatoes (gamja jorim).

Then finish things off with some light and refreshing desserts like matcha ice cream or coffee jelly.

Variations

  • Baked Beans – A great way to add extra flavour and nutrition and help thicken up the stew. Start with a few spoonfuls or around ¼ cup – not too much as they can be quite sweet.
  • Extra Veggies – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, add thinly sliced carrot, eggplant or zucchini, or some chopped bok choy, gai lan or broccoli. 
  • Other Additions – Add a few wontons or dumplings per person (you can cook them directly in the broth from frozen, just add them first to make sure they cook all the way through).
Stew ingredients simmering in the spicy Korean stew broth.

More flavour-packed Korean recipes to try next:

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

Close up shot of Korean army stew showing the various ingredients cooking in the broth.

Easy Korean Army Stew – Budae Jjigae

Spice things up with this quick and easy Korean Army Stew, on the table in less than 30 minutes! Filled with noodles, kimchi and veggies, this mouthwatering budae jjigae recipe is perfect for sharing and cooking 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

  • instant noodles 1 – 2 packets
  • spam or frankfurts sliced into 2-3cm pieces
  • Korean rice cakes (tteok) sliced or cylinder version
  • kimchi
  • cabbage roughly chopped
  • enoki mushrooms base removed, separated into small bunches
  • tofu sliced into small cubes
  • cheese sliced or shredded

Instructions

For the stock:

  • Add all the stock ingredients (chicken stock, gochujang, garlic, soy sauce, cooking wine, hot pepper flakes and sugar) into a large electric fry pan, wok or shallow pot. Stir together over low heat.
    4 cups chicken stock, 2 tbsp Korean hot pepper paste / gochujang, 1 tbsp garlic, 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp cooking wine, 2 tsp Korean hot pepper flakes / gochugaru, 2 tsp sugar

To assemble:

  • Layer your main ingredients (instant noodles, frankfurts, tteok rice cakes, kimchi, cabbage, enoki and tofu) artfully in the pan or mixed in together – it's up to you!
    instant noodles, spam or frankfurts, Korean rice cakes (tteok), kimchi, cabbage, enoki mushrooms, tofu
  • Turn up the heat and sprinkle with generous amounts of cheese. Cook on high until ingredients such as noodles and frankfurts are fully cooked through.
    cheese
  • Serve hot pot style in the middle of the table and allow everyone to help themselves, or portion out into individual soup bowls.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Ingredient Quantities – The below recipe includes quantities for stock ingredients, but not for the main ingredients. This is because it really depends on how much you want to cook (or how hungry you are). You can easily prepare as much or as little as you like, and add more ingredients to cook as you go if you’re still hungry.
  • Cook Together – If you have a portable induction cooker and an induction suitable hot pot, shallow pot or saucepan, this dish is fun and easy to cook right on the table with friends and family. It’s so entertaining and a great way to enjoy delicious food and fun conversation together. But you can also just as easily cook it on the stove and portion out into individual soup bowls. 
  • Storage – Leftover army base stew is amazing the next day. If your pan has a lid and fits in the fridge, you can store it overnight once it’s fully cooked down. Otherwise transfer to an airtight container first. Reheat on the stove the next day until it just comes to the boil. You can add more fresh ingredients to make it go even further too. Note: Leftover noodles tend to soak up a lot of the liquid, so they are best enjoyed fresh. 
  • Other Additions:
    • Baked Beans – A great way to add extra flavour and nutrition and help thicken up the stew. Start with a few spoonfuls or around ¼ cup – not too much as they can be quite sweet.
    • Extra Veggies – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, add thinly sliced carrot, eggplant or zucchini, or some chopped bok choy, gai lan or broccoli.
    • Dumplings – Add a few wontons or dumplings per person (you can cook them directly in the broth, just add them first to make sure they cook all the way through).

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Korean Army Stew – Budae Jjigae
Amount per Serving
Calories
315
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
17
g
26
%
Saturated Fat
 
8
g
50
%
Cholesterol
 
42
mg
14
%
Sodium
 
827
mg
36
%
Potassium
 
447
mg
13
%
Carbohydrates
 
19
g
6
%
Fiber
 
2
g
8
%
Sugar
 
8
g
9
%
Protein
 
21
g
42
%
Vitamin A
 
613
IU
12
%
Vitamin C
 
9
mg
11
%
Calcium
 
302
mg
30
%
Iron
 
2
mg
11
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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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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