Jumeokbap with kimchi on a cutting board.

Handmade Korean Rice Balls Recipe (Jumeokbap)

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In South Korea, people make these easy handmade Korean rice balls, known as jumeokbap, as a side dish when making a packed lunch, out for a picnic, or eating spicy foods. Like triangle kimbap or kimbap rolls, jumeokbap is a quick, convenient, and delicious meal. As such, you will see them often in packed lunches all across the country.

For our recipe this week, we wanted to share a version often served in Korean restaurants. This version is meant to be a side dish to help cool you off as you eat an incredibly spicy meal. As such, the ingredients are simple! You will not need to go to any specialty stores to find these ingredients! We hope you enjoy this handmade Korean rice balls recipe!


What Is Jumeokbap?

When translated from Korean to English, Jumeokbap (주먹밥) literally means ‘fist rice.’ To make this dish, you shape your steamed rice and other ingredients into balls with your hands.

Korean rice balls, like dishes such as kimbap, do not have a list of necessary filling ingredients. Instead, to be considered jumeokbap, you must hand shape steamed rice into balls. If you use a mold or press, it is not technically jumeokbap. Also, any further ingredients and seasonings beyond the steamed rice are just an extra delicious bonus!

When Do You Serve Handmade Korean Rice Balls?

Nowadays, people eat these handmade Korean rice balls on a few different occasions. 

Most commonly, you can order jumeokbap with spicy food in restaurants. At these restaurants, the rice is typically served in a big metal bowl along with all the extra filling ingredients such as dried seaweed and sesame seeds. At this point, the restaurant also provides plastic gloves. As you eat the spicy food, you can wear the provided gloves and reach into the bowl to get a fist full of rice. Once shaped into a ball, you enjoy the rice to help your mouth cool down from the spicy meal. 

A side shot of Korean rice balls with kimchi.
These Korean Rice Balls Have Mild Flavor to Eat With Spicy Food!

Other times, families often use their leftover rice and other ingredients to form these rice balls. Often, they make jumeokbap when traveling, as part of a lunchbox, or to take on picnics. Honestly, it is a great way to use the leftover ingredients you have in the refrigerator. 

Jumeokbap Tips and Tricks:

Below, we list some tips and tricks for making these Korean rice balls. If you make these at home and have further tips, let us know in the comment section below! 

  • If you are making this Korean rice ball recipe from freshly steamed rice, cook ahead so that the rice can cool enough to handle. Just remember, if you serve the rice right away, it will be too hot to touch! 
  • If you are making this jumeokbap recipe using leftover rice, microwave it before use. This way, the hardened refrigerated rice will loosen up once again. Once microwaved, let it cool until you can handle it. 
  • Rice is incredibly sticky. In Korea, they provide plastic gloves in restaurants so the rice does not stick all over your hands. We recommend using gloves if you do not want to deal with handling the rice and cleaning your hands. Here is a link to plastic gloves. As an Amazon Associate, I am an affiliate!
  • If you do not want to use extra disposable plastic, we completely understand. Instead, keep a glass of warm water next to you while you make these Korean rice balls. That way, you can dip your hands in the warm water before handling the rice. Though it doesn’t keep the rice from 100% sticking, it helps! 
  • Finally, while this is a basic recipe, feel free to adapt and change it. Like we stated above, jumeokbap refers to molding rice by hand and not the other ingredients. You can add different proteins, vegetables, and seasonings depending on what you have in the house and your mood. Sometimes, I even add cheese on top! 
A side shot of jumeokbap with kimchi.
You Can Also Add Other Ingredients Like Tuna, Spam, Carrots, or More!

Korean Rice Balls Frequently Asked Questions:

Below, we listed some questions you may have about this Korean rice balls recipe. If we do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment or email us at carvingajourney@gmail.com!

What Type of Rice Should I Use?

In South Korea, people usually make jumeokbap with white rice, short-grained rice. In my family, we use the Calrose style of white rice. You can easily find this style of rice in most grocery stores and online. While not the exact type of rice used in South Korea, it is the most similar and readily available in the United States and Europe! 

Can You Make This Recipe Allergen-Free? (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Etc.)

Yes! You can make this recipe allergen-free. You can always change your Korean rice ball ingredients based on your dietary needs. If you cannot eat certain ingredients, simply omit those items or replace them with items you can eat. For example, for those with a soy allergy, simply omit the soy sauce or change it to coconut aminos. It will taste just as delicious! Like I said before, jumeokbap has no real set recipe. You can make it your own! 

The same rules apply for those with dietary restrictions such as vegetarian and vegan! While this recipe does not contain any animal protein, many recipes do contain ingredients such as spam and canned tuna. If you are vegetarian or vegan and want to add protein, I recommend crumbling some tofu into the rice! 

a photo of my hand holding a Korean rice ball with kimchi on top.
A Perfect Bite!

Gluten-Free Korean Cooking

Finally, if you are allergic to gluten or have Celiac Disease like me, check out our different posts for gluten-free Korean ingredients: 

Can You Make This Korean Rice Ball Recipe In Advance? 

I would not recommend making Korean rice balls far in advance. As they sit in the refrigerator, the rice hardens over time. Eventually, the hard rice makes it unenjoyable to eat. At most, I recommend making these rice balls a few hours in advance. 

What Should I Do With the Leftovers? 

If you have leftover Korean rice balls, I recommend making fried rice the next day! Often, fried rice is best when made with day-old rice. So, why not throw everything in a pot skillet or wok and add a few more ingredients to make delicious fried rice? 

We Hope You Enjoy This Korean Rice Balls Recipe! 

We hope you enjoy trying this popular Korean rice balls recipe! If so, let us know in the comment section below. Also, we would love to hear about your favorite Korean picnic foods and snacks, like jumeokbap, as well!

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Korean Carving A Journey recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by our blended Korean and Southern heritage. 

Carving A Journey Food and Drink Recipes:

If you have any questions or comments, you can also email us at carvingajourney@gmail.com.

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Handmade Korean Rice Balls Recipe (Jumeokbap)

Recipe by EmilyCourse: RecipesCuisine: KoreanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

5

minutes

This Korean rice ball recipe (jumeokbap) is the perfect basic side dish to go with extremely spicy food. Many people also eat jumeokbap as a main meal when picnicking. If you want this dish to be the main meal, we recommend adding sautéed vegetables (such as minced carrots) and some protein (such as crumbled tofu, spam, or canned tuna). We hope you enjoy this spicy meal side dish!

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups Steamed White Rice

  • 4 Sheets of Dried Seaweed (Nori)

  • 1 1/2 TBSP Soy Sauce

  • 1 1/2 TBSP Sesame Oil

  • 2 TBSP Sesame Seeds

Directions

  • Start by making your rice or reheating your leftover rice. Place it into a medium-sized bowl.
  • Then, cut your dried seaweed sheets into small strips. Another option is shredding it with your hands or a food processor.
  • Finally, mix the rice, dried seaweed, soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.
  • Once mixed, preparing your plastic glove if you are using one. Or, if you are not using gloves, prepare a warm bowl of water to dip your hand into to help keep the rice sticking.
  • When the rice has cooled off enough to handle but is still warm, reach into the bowl and grab a small handful of rice. Form it into a tight ball in your hand. This rice ball should be the size of one or two bites. Set aside.
  • Repeat the step until you finish making all the rice balls.

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