Sweet and spicy, saucy, chewy tteokbokki is one of my all time favorite carbs.
Tteokbokki is probably THE most famous street food from Korea. They’re chewy rice cakes simmered in a glorious mix of sweet, savory, spicy sauce that is completely addictive. The best thing about tteokbokki is that it’s so easy to make. It’s deliciously simple and completely customizable. What are you waiting for, tteokbokki is in your future!
What is tteokbokki?
They’re spicy Korean rice cakes. Tteokbokki literally means stir fried rice cakes: tteok is the word for rice cake and bokki means fried. It’s an extremely popular dish, both as street food and comfort food at home. Tteokbokki are made with cylindrical rice cakes simmered in a thick and spicy sauce.
What does tteokbokki taste like?
It tastes like heaven! If you love carbs, you’ll love tteokbokki. It’s chewy and filling, sweet and spicy and savory. If you haven’t had it before, think of it like a savory mochi or maybe like a gnocchi in a spicy sauce. Korean rice cakes are chewy and bouncy. The rice cakes themselves are very mild but when you cook them in sauce, they soak up flavor like a sponge and become incredibly delicious. Many tteokbokki also have fish cakes and boiled eggs added in for extra flavor and protein.
Is tteokbokki spicy?
Depending on your spice level tteokbokki is on the spicier side. If you want to make mild tteokbokki, I have an adaptation below.
How to make tteokbokki
- Soak the rice cakes. Soak the rice cakes in a bit of warm tap water to loosen and soften them up.
- Make the sauce. While the rice cakes are soaking, mix together the tteokbokki sauce in a small bowl: gochujang, gochugaru, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic.
- Simmer. Stir the sauce into some anchovy stock and bring to a simmer. Add the rice cakes and cook until the sauce reduces and the rice cakes are chewy, soft, and heated through.
- Enjoy! Finish with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced scallions and enjoy warm.
- Garae-tteok/tteokbokki rice cakes. You can find Korean rice cakes freshly made, packaged in the refrigerated section, or frozen in the freezer aisles at a Korean grocery store. Most Korean grocery stores make their own, which would be the best choice because they’re soft and chewy, but the packaged and frozen rice cakes work great too.
- Anchovy stock. Anchovy stock, much like dashi in Japanese cooking, is a backbone of Korean food. You can make your own by using small dried anchovies and dried kelp, or you can use these handy anchovy stock packets that work like a little teabag that you steep in hot water. The anchovy stock adds a deep umami and flavor that you don’t get if you’re just using water. If you have dashi at home, you can use that too.
- Tteokbokki sauce. Tteokbokki sauce is made up of gochjang, gochugaru, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. It’s garlicky, a tiny bit sweet, and spicy. It’s definitely super savory and keeps you wanting to come back for more and more.
- Korean fish cakes. I didn’t include fish cakes in my tteokbokki but I love Korean fish cakes. They’re chewy and savory and have the best texture. They come in ball form, tube form, and sheets. Most tteokbokki uses sheets, cut into triangles, squares, or strips.
- Toasted sesame oil. A drizzle of toasted sesame oil right before you serve adds a golden sheen and fragrant finish.
- Scallions. Thinly sliced scallions add freshness and bite.
- Toasted sesame seeds. A couple of toasty, nutty sesame seeds a bit of textural contrast.
Gochujang vs gochugaru
If you’re not familiar with Korean food, you might not know what gochujang or gochugaru is.
- Gochujang is a spicy Korean sauce. It’s savory, sweet, spicy thick fermented paste made from chili powder and sticky rice. It adds sweet and heat and a ton of flavor. Traditionally it comes in tubs, but these days you can find it in convenient squeeze bottles in the Asian aisle of literally any grocery store and online, of course.
- Gochugaru, on the other hand, are Korean chili flakes. Korean chili flakes are fruity, sweet, smoky, sun dried bright red flakes. They’re not too spicy and their heat is gentle and delicious. I always buy coarse gochugaru which looks like flaky sea salt. They usually come labeled with mild, medium, or hot, so you can buy them according to your spice preference.
Where to buy tteokbokki rice cakes
You can find tteokbokki rice cakes at Korean markets. They’ll usually come freshly made by the store, commercially made fresh and packaged, or frozen. If you can get ones that are made fresh, they are the top choice, but packaged and frozen are good too. You can even get them online, although we’ve never tried these, they seem to be well reviewed.
Do I need to soak tteokbokki rice cakes?
If you have fresh rice cakes you don’t need to soak them. If you are using ones that are packaged or frozen, give them a soak in warm water to loosen them up and rehydrate them a bit.
Anchovy stock substitute
You can buy anchovy stock packets online or at a Korean grocery store but if you’re looking for a substitute, you can use Japanese dashi or even chicken stock or water. If you use chicken stock or water, the tteokbokki won’t have the same depth of flavor but it will still be good.
Where to buy fish cakes
All Korean stores will sell fresh fish cakes in their deli section and frozen ones in the freezer aisles. You can also find fish cakes at regular Asian grocery stores. If you can’t find Korean fish cakes, Japanese fish cakes or Chinese fish cakes can sub in.
For non-spicy tteokbokki, make this sauce instead of the sauce listed in the recipe:
- 2 tbsp mild gochujang
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
How to store tteokbokki
Tteokbokki will keep tightly covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
How to reheat tteokbokki
To reheat, add the tteokbokki to a pot with 1/4 cup water or dashi and simmer over low heat until heated through. You can also warm it in the microwave with a bit of water added to the sauce.
What to serve with tteokbokki
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do I need to use anchovy stock?
You don’t need too, especially if you’re vegetarian, but the anchovy stock adds a lot of extra flavor and depth that is the secret to a good tteokbokki.
- What can I use instead of fish cakes?
If you’re vegetarian but still want some protein in this dish you can use tofu! Tofu puffs taste amazing in this sauce.
- Why do my tteokbokki split apart and crack?
If your tteokbokki keep splitting and cracking, it’s because your rice cakes are too dry and freezer burnt. They may have been frozen and defrosted more than once. If you have problems with them splitting, try soaking them in cold water and letting them defrost slowly overnight in the fridge.
Trader Joe’s tteokbokki
Recently Trader Joe’s has come out with tteokbokki! It’s in the freezer section and it comes with everything you need in one convenient pack. To be honest you can also get packs of tteokbokki with the sauce and everything you need at a Korean store in the freezer section as well but if you’re nowhere near a Korean grocery store this is a good alternative. We haven’t tried them yet but they have pretty positive reviews so next time we spot them we’ll give them a go. I think they’re a style that is not as spicy or saucy and more of a sweet and sticky style.
Tteokbokki is probably THE most famous street food from Korea: chewy rice cakes simmered in an addictive mix of sweet, savory, spicy sauce.
- 1 lb tteokbokki tteok
- 3 tbsp gochujang
- 1 tbsp gochugaru
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 3 cups anchovy stock sub dashi or other stock if needed
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp green onions thinly sliced
- 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 36
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.3g2%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.