Korean Language Blog

Japchae Recipe Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Culture, Uncategorized

My roommate asked me for a vegan gluten free Korean recipe. I said to her quite enthusiastically, “That’s easy! Traditional Korean food doesn’t  include dairy or gluten. You can easily avoid meat and eggs too.” She was excited!

. . .

And then we hosted a Korean cooking party with a medley of friends, in our small apartment. Note: my next article will be titled, “Korean Cooking Party”. I’ll walk you through everything you need for a successful Korean cooking party, and we’ll discuss some useful vocabulary too!

But for now, here is my mom’s recipe for japchae (잡채), which is one of the easiest Korean dishes to make. It is traditionally made with clear sweet potato noodles (gluten-free), vegetables, and beef. The recipe below is the vegan version (sans beef), which is no less tasty. This recipe substitutes beef with pungent dried shitake mushrooms.

Many of you are familiar with this classic Korean dish; one of our readers mentioned that 잡채 was eaten in the K-Drama, Full House. Have you ever eaten 잡채? Have you ever made 잡채? I am very curious to hear about your country’s availability of Korean food.


잡채 RECIPE (Note: this recipe is for 8 large servings.)


  • 1 large bag of Korean vermicelli sweet potato noodles— 1 kg. (2.2 lbs.)
  • Vegetables:
    • 5 large carrots (or more according to your preference)
    • Green, red, and yellow peppers (1 of each)
    • 2 bags of pre-washed spinach (1 lb./16 oz.)
    • 1 pack of dried shitake mushrooms (1 oz.)
    • Button mushrooms (1 lb./16 oz.)
    • 1 large yellow or white onion
    • 1 bunch of green onions
  • Spices:
    • Sea salt
    • Black pepper
    • White sugar
    • Soy sauce (there are gluten-free versions)
    • Vegetable oil
    • Sesame seed oil
    • Toasted/Roasted sesame seeds (black or white)


STEP 1           Prepare the dried mushrooms.

  • An hour before you start cooking, prepare the dried mushrooms. You will need to soak them in lukewarm water for an hour.
  • Set aside; they will be “ready” once they double in size.
  • Once they double in size, squeeze all the water out of the mushrooms. (Using your hands and a paper towel, gently squeeze a few mushrooms at a time.)
  • Then, set to dry on a paper towel. (Pat them with a paper towel too, to ensure they are not soggy.)

STEP 2           Cook the vermicelli noodles.

  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the vermicelli noodles. Ensure that all the noodles are submerged in the water.
  • Boil for 9 minutes. Then, pour the noodles into a large strainer over the sink.
  • Run HOT water over the noodles (rinse only once). Shake the strainer, toss the noodles, and let the noodles sit and drain/dry.
  • Note: leave the noodles in the strainer over a pot; set aside until STEP 6.

STEP 3           Prepare the spinach.

  • When the noodles are done, use the same pot and bring more water to a boil—to blanch the spinach. You will cook the spinach for 1 minute in boiling water.
  • Remove from heat immediately, and pour into a strainer over the sink.
  • Let the spinach cool off.
  • Using your hands, squeeze the water out of the spinach (do this is small bunches). Do this gently, and spread the spinach out on a paper towel (on a plate). Be gentle with the spinach, and let it air out.

STEP 4           Prepare/cut the other vegetables.

  • Julienne all the vegetables except the green onions.
  • You will chop the green onions into small 1 cm. slices.

STEP 5           Stir-fry the vegetables.
(Do not overcook the vegetables; they are supposed to be crunchy.)

  • In a large pan or wok, add 1 TBS. of vegetable oil.
  • Once the pan is hot, turn the heat down to medium heat.
  • First, add/cook the carrots.
  • Once the carrots are half-cooked (about 2-3 minutes), add the peppers. Stir occasionally for only 1 minute.
  • Add the fresh and dried mushrooms; cook for another minute.
  • Then, add the onions. Cook for another couple of minutes until the onions are cooked.
  • Add the green onions.
  • Then, sprinkle salt and pepper (to taste); mix well.
  • Drain the liquid from the pan.

STEP 6           Mix the noodles and vegetables.

  • Pour the noodles into a large serving bowl, and mix in 1 TBS. of sesame seed oil.
  • With gloves, using your hands, mix the oil and noodles. This is easier with 2 people; one person “massaging” the noodles; one person pouring the oil (gradually).
  • Then, add the soy sauce. Pour the soy sauce gradually, while still “massaging” the noodles with your gloved hands. (Note: the noodles may still be hot.) When the noodles turn a medium brown color, that is enough soy sauce.
  • Add 1-2 tsp. of sugar; mix.
  • Then, pour in the stir-fried vegetables.
  • Mix gently with your hands.
  • Then, add the spinach. You will see that the spinach naturally separates and blends in with the rest of the elements.
  • Add more soy sauce, salt, and pepper (to suit your taste buds).
  • The last step is sprinkling 1-2 TBS. of toasted/roasted sesame seeds on top!


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About the Author: Linda

@ twitter.com/lindasauce


  1. Gabriel Wyner:

    Hi Linda! I recently saw your blog on the Korean Language. I just finished a Korean resources section of my language learning website, and thought your readers might be interested in the learning methods I talk about.

    If you like them, I’d love to spread them to a wider audience (on other blogs, etc)!

    Korean resources: http://www.towerofbabelfish.com/Tower_of_Babelfish/Learn_Korean.html
    Language learning methods: http://www.towerofbabelfish.com/Tower_of_Babelfish/The_Method.html

    Best regards,
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  2. andra:

    Hello there! I have had japchae many times; I am fortunate to live in Northern Virginia where we have many authentic Korean restaurants and grocery stores. I am hoping to learn how to make it and your recipe and steps help tremendously 🙂

    I am not Korean but am interested in learning the language. I have enjoyed your blog and it gives me hope that it is possible for a non-Korean person to learn the language LOL.

    Thanks again and I look forward to future posts.


    • Linda:

      @andra Hi Andra! Thanks for your response. 🙂 Where in Northern Virginia do you shop? If you have any questions about cooking, let me know! I’d love to help you. The first time I made japchae, it was too soupy/watery. I’ve learned that the most important step is to let the noodles air out. 🙂

  3. stuffed portobello mushroom recipe:

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  4. Stacey:

    Just a quick note to say that soy sauce is NOT gluten-free. You have to buy specialized GF Soy Sauce made by San-J. It is Gluten-Free Tamari Sauce. Tastes great. I made homemade Bulgogi and Jap Chae tonight for my Korean father-in-law and he loved it!!

    • Linda:

      @Stacey Hi Stacey, sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been on hiatus. 🙂 Thanks for pointing that out!

  5. andra:

    Hi there! It is me again 🙂 Thank you for your reply.

    I am very lucky to have many options here in Northern Virginia; I live on the border of Loudoun County and Fairfax County so I am not that close to Annandale, which has a large Korean community. However, I am in Oak Hill/Herndon which is near Centerville, which also has a large Korean community. I typically shop at H mart in Fairfax–it is HUGE, very clean and has great produce and ingredients. I also shop at Lotte market which is not far from me. It is not as big as H mart but it has a lovely large restaurant in the market with really good Korean food 🙂

    I have not started my Korean lessons yet. I am motivated, though. I really love your blog. Thank you for writing back!

  6. Mary-Jane:

    I loved the ChopChae I ate at Cho Sun Restaurant in Bethel, Maine. I came home and searched for recipes and just made a passable but not great recipe. I began searching again and found you. I am even more excited to learn that Korean cooking is naturally dairy and gluten free; something I need. I live on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. We do not have a Korean restaurant. I have asked Cho Sun owners to come here or bring cooking classes. It takes a little more than an hour to find groceries in Boston. I liok forward to your cooking class Thank you!

  7. Mary-Jane:

    PS H Mart is 1.5 hours away

  8. Juls Anne:

    This is one good meal for vegan people. It’s perfectly nutritious and easily made.

  9. Angie:

    Hi! I am happy to find a recipe as I just discovered a tiny little Korean Market in my area and will be able to get the sweet potato noodles…

    I am unable to have red meat or mushrooms… is there another veggie you would suggest to substitute? I can have chicken as long as it is boneless, skinless… would this work?

    • Linda:

      @Angie Hi Angie, thanks for your comment on our blog. Chicken would definitely work! I would think shredded chicken would work quite nicely. If you make it, please let me know! I’d love to know how it came out. 🙂

  10. terry sacka:

    Keep up the excellent piece of work, I read few posts on this internet site and I believe that your blog is very interesting and has got lots of superb info .

  11. Wendy:

    Out of curiosity, how much meat would you use in this recipe if you we’re making a non-vegan version? Would you leave the mushrooms in or out?

    This version sounds great to me, but my husband hates mushrooms and loves his meats, and I’d like to have more Korean food at home!

    (I’m ethnically Korean, but grew up adopted by a Caucasian family, so I’m only now working on learning traditional/common recipes)


    • Linda:

      @Wendy Hi Wendy, you definitely don’t have to include the mushrooms. I’d just add a little more meat or more spinach. If you make it, I’d LOVE to know how it turned out. Happy cooking!

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  13. Caitlin S:

    A friend of mine from South Korean sent me the link to your recipe. I tried it tonight and it was super easy and tasted great! I’m a terrible cook, so this is a good recipe for beginners like myself. 🙂

    I also just want to say that I found out after I started eating my japchae that I had apparently accidentally used soba soup base instead of soy sauce (haha), but it still tasted delicious. Sooo…if anyone has that lying around but no soy sauce, it’s a good alternative haha.

    • Linda:

      @Caitlin S Hi Caitlin! Wow, I’m so HAPPY that you made japchae. Do you have a picture? Hahahaha, I love your alternative to soy sauce! THANK YOU for your comment. 🙂

  14. Caitlin S:

    Hi Linda! I do have a picture, actually! It’s not as good looking as yours and I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but I’d be more than happy to share it! How should I go about getting it to you?