Explore the flavours of Korea with this tantalising collection of homemade banchan recipes! These nourishing Korean side dishes will add a burst of flavour to your table and are perfect for sharing.
Why We Love This
We love the huge variety of flavour, colour and texture (not to mention nutrition!) that homemade banchan add to home cooked meals.
What is Banchan?
Banchan are small bowls of various Korean side dishes, served alongside a main dish and rice during a communal meal.
They’re usually (but not always) made from vegetables, herbs, and fruits, which are either fermented or pickled, simmered, braised, or even stir-fried.
The formality of the occasion or the restaurant can influence the number of banchan you’ll find on the table during a meal. In a casual restaurant setting there might be around 3-5 different banchan, all the way up to 12+ for more formal meals.
In Korea you can find ready-made banchan for sale at local food markets or even the food court levels of department stores.
What are three popular types of banchan?
Kimchi (김치) – Fermented Vegetables
Napa cabbage kimchi would have to be one of the most well known types of banchan outside of Korea, however there are literally hundreds of types of kimchi and banchan in Korean cuisine. The vegetables are usually salted first to extract liquid and make them extra crunchy, then seasoned and left to ferment.
Jorim (조림) – Simmered or Braised Vegetables
This type of banchan is usually made from root vegetables or tofu which is braised (fried and then stewed) in Korean seasonings.
Spicy Korean Banchan
These are our favourite banchan when you want to fire up your tastebuds! Pair them with more savoury / less spicy mains for a delicious contrast.
Non-Spicy Korean Banchan
If you’re planning to serve a really spicy main dish, then these non-spicy banchan will work as the perfect palate cleanser between every mouthful.
Bonus Banchan Ideas
Use up leftovers from these epic Korean recipes as a tasty side dish to make them go even further!
Banchan are typically served in the middle of the table for everyone to share. An example of this would be when cooking your very own Korean BBQ at home (similar to Japanese yakiniku).
Set up the table with a tabletop electric hotplate to cook up a batch of beef bulgogi or chicken bulgogi, with your chosen banchan placed around the outside. Set up a small eating bowl and your favourite dipping sauces, a set of chopsticks, and a spoon for each person and get cooking!
Another way to enjoy them is served all together on top of a bowl of rice, known as bibimbap. This dish is often served with marinated chicken or beef, bibimbap sauce as well as a runny egg on top.
This will be different for each banchan, depending on the ingredients and method of preparation, so check the specific recipe for details. As a general guide, most banchan are best stored in an airtight container in the fridge to prevent spoiling.
Many classic banchan recipes are already vegan, but always check the ingredient list for things such as fish sauce or dashi stock etc. In some cases you can use mushroom-based ‘fish’ sauce as a substitute to make sure they’re completely vegan while still retaining the umami flavour that makes them so special.
Our top three vegan banchan recipes are seasoned spinach (sigeumchi namul), seasoned beansprout salad (sukju namul) and spicy braised tofu (dubu jorim).