Korean Tofu Soup

Korean Tofu Soup, known as ‘Sundubu-jjigae’, originates from Korean cuisine and features soft tofu as its main ingredient. Chefs commonly prepare it with a spicy broth that includes seafood or meat. The soup is famous for its comforting warmth and rich flavors. Diners typically enjoy this dish in a stone bowl that keeps the soup hot throughout the meal. The versatility of Sundubu-jjigae allows for various ingredient combinations, catering to different dietary preferences.

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Korean Tofu Soup

  • Author: recipstep
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Korean Tofu Soup, also known as Sundubu-jjigae, is a hearty and spicy stew that features silky soft tofu, vibrant vegetables, and often includes seafood or meat. It’s a beloved comfort food in Korean cuisine, known for its rich, deep flavors and health benefits.



1 tablespoon sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
1 tablespoon Korean fermented soybean paste (doenjang)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 package silken tofu, cut into cubes
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1/2 cup kimchi, chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
2 green onions, chopped
1 egg (optional)


In a large pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, and sauté until they start to soften.
Stir in the Korean red pepper flakes and soybean paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
Lower the heat and add the silken tofu, mushrooms, zucchini, and kimchi to the pot. Gently simmer for about 10 minutes.
Season the stew with sugar and salt. Adjust according to taste.
If using, crack an egg into the center of the stew just before serving and let it poach gently in the hot broth.
Garnish with green onions before serving.


  • Adjust the spice level by varying the amount of chili powder.
  • Vegetarian version: Skip seafood or meat and add more vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini.
  • Always serve boiling hot for the best experience.
  • Can be adapted for vegetarian, gluten-free.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Simmering
  • Cuisine: Korean


  • Calories: 250
  • Sugar: 5g
  • Sodium: 900mg
  • Fat: 8g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 15g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Protein: 25g
  • Cholesterol: 75mg

Frequently Asked Questions about Sundubu-jjigae

  1. What is Sundubu-jjigae? Sundubu-jjigae is a popular Korean stew known for its spicy and comforting broth made with soft, uncurdled tofu. The dish often includes a variety of ingredients like seafood, meats, vegetables, and mushrooms.
  2. Is Sundubu-jjigae spicy? Yes, traditionally, Sundubu-jjigae is quite spicy due to the use of chili powder and sometimes fresh chili peppers. However, the spice level can be adjusted to suit individual tastes.
  3. Can I make Sundubu-jjigae vegetarian? Absolutely! You can easily adapt Sundubu-jjigae to be vegetarian by omitting meat and seafood and increasing the amount of mushrooms and vegetables.
  4. What is the best way to serve Sundubu-jjigae? Sundubu-jjigae is best served hot in a stone bowl to keep the soup warm. It’s typically enjoyed with a side of steamed rice and various Korean side dishes known as banchan.
  5. How long does it take to make Sundubu-jjigae? The cooking time for Sundubu-jjigae is relatively short, usually taking about 30 minutes from start to finish. This makes it a convenient option for a quick yet hearty meal.

Ingredients and Variations

The primary ingredient in Sundubu-jjigae is uncurdled tofu, which offers a soft, silky texture. Cooks often add ingredients such as kimchi, vegetables, mushrooms, onion, seafood (like shrimp or clams), or meats such as beef or pork. To create the soup’s base, they use chili powder, garlic, and sesame oil, providing a distinctive spicy and savory taste. Variations might include the addition of different types of mushrooms or seafood, adjusting the spice level to suit personal tastes.

Preparation Process

The preparation of Sundubu-jjigae starts with heating sesame oil in a large pot. Cooks then sauté onions, garlic, and chili powder to develop a flavorful base. They add meat or seafood to the pot, cooking it until it’s nearly done. Next, water or anchovy stock is poured in, followed by the addition of tofu and any remaining vegetables. The soup simmers until all ingredients are thoroughly cooked and the flavors meld together. This cooking process is crucial for achieving the deep, robust taste characteristic of the soup.

Serving and Eating Sundubu-jjigae

Sundubu-jjigae is traditionally served boiling hot in a stone pot. It is common to crack an egg into the soup at the table just before eating, allowing the heat from the soup to poach the egg gently. Diners stir the egg into the soup, which thickens it slightly and adds richness. Accompaniments often include steamed rice and a selection of Korean side dishes known as banchan. The act of sharing Sundubu-jjigae from a communal pot enhances the dining experience, emphasizing Korean culinary traditions.

Cultural Significance

In Korean culture, Sundubu-jjigae is more than just a meal; it is a comfort food that embodies the warmth and hospitality of Korean cooking. It is popular in both home kitchens and restaurants, especially during the colder months, as it is believed to help warm the body and soul. The soup’s spicy nature is also thought to relieve hangover symptoms, making it a popular choice after a night of indulgence. Sundubu-jjigae’s presence on the dining table brings people together, symbolizing unity and shared comfort.

Korean Tofu Soup

Health Benefits

Sundubu-jjigae offers numerous health benefits due to its rich and nutritious ingredients. The soft tofu in the soup provides a good source of protein and calcium, which are essential for bone health and muscle function. The various vegetables and mushrooms contribute vitamins and antioxidants, supporting overall health and immune system. Furthermore, the spicy elements like chili powder may boost metabolism and improve heart health. Eating this soup also helps in digestion due to the inclusion of fermented ingredients like kimchi. Lastly, the minimal use of oil makes it a lower-calorie option, beneficial for those monitoring their calorie intake.

Cooking Tips for Perfect Sundubu-jjigae

Achieving the authentic taste of Sundubu-jjigae requires attention to detail. First, use fresh ingredients, especially the tofu and seafood, to ensure the best flavor and texture. Second, properly heat the stone pot before adding the ingredients to enhance the soup’s ability to stay warm. It is also crucial to balance the spices according to personal taste preferences while maintaining the characteristic spiciness of the dish. Additionally, gently adding the tofu and not stirring too vigorously helps maintain the delicate texture of the tofu. Lastly, simmering the soup on low heat allows the flavors to blend well without overcooking the ingredients.

Adapting Sundubu-jjigae for Various Diets

Sundubu-jjigae is highly adaptable to various dietary restrictions. For vegetarians, omitting the seafood and meat and substituting with extra mushrooms and vegetables can still yield a delicious and hearty soup. For those avoiding gluten, ensure that the soy sauce and any added processed ingredients are gluten-free. Low-carb dieters can enjoy this dish by simply skipping the rice and focusing on the high-protein content of the tofu and other protein-rich additions. To reduce sodium, use low-sodium broth and adjust the seasoning with natural spices instead of commercial sauces.

Popular Variations Across Korea

Across different regions in Korea, Sundubu-jjigae sees various interpretations that reflect local flavors and ingredients. In coastal areas, the addition of fresh local seafood is common, enhancing the soup with oceanic flavors. Inland regions might favor the use of more ground meats and fresh water ingredients like snails or freshwater fish. Some areas might incorporate local greens and roots, diversifying the nutrient content and flavor profile of the soup. Additionally, the level of heat can vary significantly, from mild in some northern areas to very spicy in the southern parts of Korea.

Incorporating Sundubu-jjigae into Daily Meals

Incorporating Sundubu-jjigae into daily meals can provide a comforting and nutritious option throughout the week. It pairs well with various Korean dishes but can also stand alone as a light dinner. To keep the meal interesting, rotate the type of proteins and vegetables used each time. Preparing a large batch of the base broth in advance can save time, making it a quick and easy meal to put together. For families, serving Sundubu-jjigae allows each member to customize their bowl, adding ingredients like extra spices, greens, or proteins according to personal preferences, which makes mealtime both fun and satisfying.

Enhancing Flavor with Condiments and Garnishes

Enhancing Sundubu-jjigae with condiments and garnishes can elevate the dish to new heights. A dollop of gochujang (Korean chili paste) or a sprinkle of fresh chopped scallions can add a burst of flavor and color just before serving. Some cooks like to add a splash of sesame oil for a nutty aroma that complements the soup’s spicy base. For added texture, a handful of crispy seaweed or bean sprouts can be included on top. Moreover, adding a squeeze of lemon or lime juice just before eating can enhance the flavors with a refreshing acidity, balancing the soup’s richness.

Korean Tofu Soup

Pairing Sundubu-jjigae with Other Dishes

Sundubu-jjigae pairs wonderfully with a variety of other Korean dishes for a complete meal. It traditionally goes well with steamed white rice, which helps to soothe the palate between spicy bites. Korean BBQ meats, such as bulgogi or galbi, provide a savory contrast to the soup’s spicy broth. For a lighter option, a side of kimchi pancakes or vegetable fritters can add a delightful crunch. Additionally, various banchan (small side dishes) like pickled radishes or fermented vegetables complement the soup’s flavors and add diversity to the meal’s textures.

Seasonal Variations of Sundubu-jjigae

Sundubu-jjigae adapts well to seasonal variations, making it a versatile dish throughout the year. In spring, fresh young vegetables such as asparagus or green onions make a vibrant addition. During the summer months, lighter versions with seafood and less spice are preferred to keep the dish refreshing. In autumn, the inclusion of earthy mushrooms and squash can provide a hearty feel. Winter versions often feature heavier ingredients like pork belly or extra chili, offering warmth and richness to fend off the cold weather.

Traditional vs. Modern Interpretations

The traditional approach to Sundubu-jjigae focuses on simplicity and the depth of flavor derived from its few key ingredients. However, modern interpretations of the dish often experiment with new ingredients and techniques. Some contemporary versions might include unconventional spices, fusion elements like cheese, or even vegan alternatives like coconut milk. These modern twists aim to appeal to a broader audience, including those with dietary restrictions or preferences that differ from traditional Korean diets.

Teaching Sundubu-jjigae in Culinary Arts

In culinary schools, teaching Sundubu-jjigae can offer students insight into Korean cuisine’s foundational techniques and flavor profiles. Students learn the importance of balancing the dish’s spicy, savory, and umami elements. They also practice skills like managing ingredient textures and timings in soup-making. Culinary instructors emphasize the cultural significance of the dish, helping students appreciate its role in Korean culinary history. Furthermore, preparing Sundubu-jjigae allows students to experiment with adaptations, encouraging creativity and innovation in the kitchen.

Korean Tofu Soup


Sundubu-jjigae stands out as a quintessential Korean dish, beloved for its depth of flavor and versatility. Its spicy, warm broth makes it an ideal comfort food, especially during colder months. By incorporating various proteins and vegetables, Sundubu-jjigae can cater to a wide array of dietary preferences, making it a staple in both traditional and modern Korean cuisine. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a culinary novice, Sundubu-jjigae offers a delightful and satisfying experience that brings a taste of Korea to any table.

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