Home Korean Ingredient Glossary Korean Fermented Salted Shrimp (Saeujeot)

Korean Fermented Salted Shrimp (Saeujeot)

by Emily
Korean fermented salted shrimp on a blue and white plate. I am holding the plate with my hand.

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Published 04/12/2022 Updated 05/16/2024

Previously, I wrote an article about aekjeot, otherwise known as Korean fish sauce. There, I discussed the variety of different types of fermented fish in Korean cuisine. Here, I wanted to discuss another variety of fermented seafood known as saeujeot! Let’s get started! 

What Is Saeujeot?

Fermented salted shrimp is a traditional condiment used to make some of South Korea’s most famous dishes, such as kimchi. In the Korean language, the word for these shrimp is ‘saeujeot’ or ‘saeu-jeot’ (새우젓). The term is a combination of two words: The first being ‘saeu’ (새우), meaning ‘shrimp,’ and the second being ‘jeot’ (젓), meaning ‘salted seafood.’

Like Korean fish sauce (aekjeot), saeujeot is a type of jeotgal. The term ‘jeotgal’ (젓갈) refers to a variety of different salted and preserved seafood used as ingredients in Korean cuisine. Examples of preserved seafood include shrimp, oysters, clams, roe, and fish. Traditionally, you can have a range of jeotgal which include seafood prepared in large pieces, tiny bites, or pure liquid. 

Saeujeot falls into the category of smaller jeotgal because of the size of the shrimp. Compared to ordinary shrimp, this variety is incredibly small with thin shells. In South Korea, people refer to this variety of shrimp as jeot-saeu (젓새우).

How Is Fermented Salted Shrimp Made?

Traditionally, people make saeujeot by preserving these tiny fish in a large barrel. First, they prepare the shrimp by tossing them in salt. Often, this is done in the boats by the fisherman for preliminary preservation during the warmer months.

Then, on land, people place the shrimp at the bottom of a barrel before covering them with another layer of salt. The barrel is then sealed in the shade for an extended period at low temperatures so the shrimp doesn’t rot. 

As the shrimp ferments, the naturally occurring lactic acid breaks down the proteins in the shrimp. Not only does this allow the shrimp to soften, but it also brings out the strong umami flavor that this ingredient is famous for. 

A side shot of Korean fermented salted shrimp on a blue and white small plate.

Types of Saeujeot:

Traditionally, the type of saeujeot depends on the season when the shrimps are harvested: 

  • First, Putjeot (풋젓) is traditionally made with shrimp harvested from the end of January in the lunar calendar through April. Other terms used to describe this style of saeujeot include deddeugi jeot (데뜨기젓) or dotddegi jeot (돗떼기젓). 
  • Then, during May, saeujeot is referred to as Ojeot (오젓).
  • Once the weather heats up, people refer to saeujeot as Yukjeot (육젓), aka ‘sixth-month jeot’ when the shrimp are harvested in June. This is regarded as the highest quality of fermented salted shrimp. Typically, these shrimps have the best flavor and are the preferred ingredient when making kimchi. 
  • Then, Chajeot (차젓) refers to shrimp harvested in July.
  • As the weather cools, people start harvesting Gonjaeng-ijeot (곤쟁이젓) or jahajeot (자하젓). These tiny shrimp are the smallest harvested throughout the year. You harvest these in the area where freshwater mixes with the seawater of the western coast of Korea in the Yellow Sea. 
  • Chujeot (추젓) refers to another small shrimp harvested throughout the autumn. These are typically smaller and have a cleaner taste.
  • Finally, people harvest and make Dongjeot (동젓) during November. 

This is just an overview of saeujeot. There are more varieties not included here on this list. 

Saeujeot In Korean Cooking:

As I stated above, people in South Korea refer to fermented salted shrimp as ‘saeujeot’ (새우젓). 

Most commonly, people use saeujeot to make kimchi. Beyond kimchi, people use this ingredient to make various dipping sauces and stews to add umami and sodium. 

Saeujeot Frequently Asked Questions:

Now that we learned about Korean fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot), I want to answer some questions you may have about this ingredient! 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 Fermented Salted Shrimp Taste Like?

By itself, saeujeot strongly smells of the sea with an overpowering salty taste. As such, people do not eat it alone. Rather, you only use it as a flavor-enhancing ingredient in dishes.

Once combined with other ingredients, saeujeot provides depth and umami complexity to the dish without overpowering the other flavors.  

Saeujeot in a blue and white plate. The plate sits on a wicker place mat.

Is This Gluten-Free?

As always, it depends. While saeujeot is naturally gluten-free, this condiment may contain gluten depending on the production facility. When buying salted shrimp, you should always check the label to make sure it was not produced on machinery that also uses gluten-containing ingredients. Never assume it is gluten-free! 

How Should I Store the Fermented Salted Shrimp?

You should always store this ingredient sealed in the original jar. Before and after opening, place these salted shrimp in the refrigerator. 

Where Can I Buy Korean Fermented Salted Shrimp?

Unfortunately, you cannot find this ingredient in well-stocked Western grocery stores. Instead, you need to shop for this at your local family-run Korean grocery or large Asian grocery chain (such as H-Mart). 

If you do not live near an Asian grocery, you can order this ingredient online! 

When shopping for this ingredient, look for shrimps that are fully intact and not falling apart. You want to buy shrimps that still have a vibrant color without cloudy eyes. 

How Long Does This Ingredient Last?

If the saeujeot is fresh, these tiny salted shrimps can last in the refrigerator for 6 months to a year. Always check the expiration date set by the manufacturer. 

Also, always do a visual check as well as a smell check before use. If the liquid has become cloudy and the shrimp smell bad, you know that the jar of saeujeot has gone rancid. At this point, I recommend throwing them away immediately. 

What Is a Saeujeot Substitute?

If you cannot find these mini salted shrimps, you can substitute them for Korean fish sauce. Of the three varieties mentioned in our article about Korean fish sauce, I recommend Korean anchovy sauce. 

Note: If you have any allergies, always check the ingredients to make sure you can consume any fish sauces you buy. 

Is There a Vegan Substitute?

These days, you can find vegan fish sauce on the market! Often, this vegan sauce is made using seaweed, soybean, or a mixture of vegan-based seasonings. That being said, I have yet to attempt to make kimchi or other Korean recipes using a vegan substitute. Once I do, I will update the information here!

I Hope You Enjoyed Learning About Korean Fermented Salted Shrimp (Saeujeot)!

In the end, I hope you enjoyed learning about Korean fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot)! 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.

Korean Ingredient Articles: 

Further Carving A Journey Korean 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 make anything with Korean fermented salted shrimp (saeujeot). Thank you so much for stopping by!

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