Home Korean Ingredient Glossary Honey in Korean Cooking (Kkul)

Honey in Korean Cooking (Kkul)

by Emily
Honey in a blue and white bowl on a wicker mat. Honey is being poured from a wooden spoon into the bowl.

 This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for details at the bottom of this page. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases on this article about honey, otherwise known as kkul. I hope you enjoy learning about this ingredient!

What Is Honey (Kkul)?

Honey is a viscous substance made by honey bees to nourish the bee colony. Bees produce this sweet food source by gathering and refining the sugary secretions of plants, such as floral nectar, or the secretions of other insects. 

Once refined, honey bees stockpile the honey in the beehive. Within the hive, they build a structure made from wax called the honeycomb. The honeycomb pattern is made of hundreds or thousands of hexagonal cells. It is in these cells that the bees regurgitate the refined honey for storage. From these cells, we can extract the honey or eat the honeycomb whole. 

Honey produced by honey bees is the most familiar to humans, as we have commercially produced and sold it globally. Other types of less-known honey made from other types of bees, ants, and wasps are also available on the market, though not on the same scale as honey made from honey bees. 

Like in other countries, people in South Korea use honey as a main flavoring ingredient as well as a sweetening ingredient when cooking. They refer to this ingredient as ‘kkul’ (꿀). 

Beyond cooking, people use honey medicinally as well as in skincare products! 

Cultural Information: You can read all about Korea’s love for this ingredient via this Saveur Magazine article

Honey in Korean Cuisine:

Once again, people in Korea refer to honey as ‘kkul’ (꿀). Let’s learn some common ways people use this ingredient in Korean cuisine. 

Some Examples of Honey Used in Dishes Include:

  • Yakgwa (약과): In English, we can refer to this as ‘Korean honey cookies,’ though the literal translation of this dish is ‘medicinal confection.’ People called these cookies medicinal because they believed honey to have the power to heal and restore the body. This traditional cookie snack is made using wheat flour and cinnamon. Then, it is coated in a syrup made of honey.  
  • Yuja-Cha (유자차): In English, we can translate this drink to ‘yuzu tea.’ To make this tea, people make marmalade using yuzu fruit, honey, and sugar. Once it ferments and breaks down, people combine hot water with the marmalade to make this healthy tea. Once again, people consume this to enjoy as well as for its healing benefits. 

Beyond this, people in Korea use honey as a sweetener (replacing sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, and more) in both savory and sweet dishes. 

Kkul in a blue and white bowl on a wicker mat. Kkul is being poured from a wooden spoon into the bowl.

Honey (Kkul) Frequently Asked Questions:

Now that we learned about honey in Korean cooking, I want to answer some questions you may have about this ingredient as well! If I do not answer your question, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or email me at [email protected]

What Does Honey (Kkul) Taste Like?

The first word that comes to mind when describing honey is ‘sweet.’ After that, the flavor profile can change dramatically depending on the plants available to the bees when making the honey. 

Depending on its nectar source, honey can be nutty, fruity, smoky, woody, spicy, floral, or even earthy. Even within these categories, you can have a range of flavor profiles. 

When using honey as a sweetener in a savory dish, I tend to tell people to use a more ‘neutral’ or ‘non-descript’ flavored honey. Then, I use the more strongly flavored honey when baking, making cocktails, etc., when I want more complex flavor notes. 

Where Can I Buy This Ingredient?

You can buy honey at any well-stocked grocery store in the United States and around the world. You can also search for local honey at stores, farmers markets, farms, and more!  

Where to Buy Korean Ingredients Online? 

Nowadays, there are many online options to choose from to order Korean food online. These websites are not limited to but include:

  • Amazon
  • H-mart
  • Hanpoom
  • Wooltari 

How Do I Properly Store This Ingredient?

To store honey, keep it in a cool location away from direct sunlight in a sealed airtight container. It is always recommended that you keep the honey in the original container, though you can transfer it to a sterilized glass jar if you wish. 

Always avoid storing honey in a metal container as it can oxidize.  

What Is a Good Honey Substitute?

When using honey as a sweetener in Korean cooking, you can use other products such as sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, and brown rice syrup. 

If you are using honey for its natural flavor, such as when making yakgwa, there isn’t a good substitute. You can use other syrups such as corn or rice, but it will not have the same flavor. 

I Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Honey in Korean Cooking!

In the end, I hope you enjoyed learning about the uses of honey in Korean cuisine. If so, let me know in the comment section! 

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find recipes as well as further Korean ingredient articles on my blog. I listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by my family’s blended Korean and Southern heritage.

Further Carving A Journey Recipes:

If you have any questions or comments, you can also email me at [email protected]. And, finally, I would love to hear from you through our social media as well! You can follow me at @carvingajourney on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. I also started a vlog YouTube channel with my husband! Or, if you would like more articles like these, you can subscribe to the blog by joining the mailing list. Let me know if you try cooking with honey (kkul)! Thank you so much for stopping by!

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