Korean Recipes for Thanksgiving! I think there are some Korean foods that go great with the traditional American Thanksgiving food and then there are some Korean food that will just totally overpower everything else. Here are some of my best Korean recipes for your Thanksgiving menu!
Korean Food for Thanksgiving!?
YES! Why NOT?? Above is a picture of our Thanksgiving feast with friends and their families from few years ago. For the last 10 years, we have been lucky and blessed to have been included as part of a “family”: a group of friends and their children who have been celebrating Thanksgiving together almost every year for their 25+ year friendship.
Being a first-generation immigrant and not having family close by, Thanksgiving usually was a quiet small family (of 3) event unless we traveled to my sisters’ families (which was always wonderful). So, having these local “family” to celebrate the holidays together has been such a blessing and we are always so grateful to them for adopting us. 😍
Anyway, in the picture, you can see that we had Kimchi Tofu and Japchae mixed with the usual Turkey, stuffing, Caesar salad and my Kimchi Brussel sprouts!
For many Korean Americans and anyone who loves Korean food, I know Thanksgiving food can mean bland + bland. I remember many years ago, actually the first year we were married, we visited my brother’s home for Thanksgiving. The table was full of the usual fabulous Thanksgiving dishes prepared as a group effort by my sister-in-law and sisters. But after few bites into the dinner — someone commented,
“Hmm.. we need something….. hmm… OH! KIMCHI!!!”
“Nooo!!, Let’s not ruin such an elegantly prepared American Thanksgiving dinner with smelly Kimchi!” said I..
“YESSSss…that Kimchi totally hit the spot! We needed something spicy and fresh!!” said most everyone after. I think I kind of thought the same but didn’t want to admit it. HAHA…
We Koreans just can’t help it…we are addicted to Kimchi and we just have to eat it with everything.
Now unlike many Koreans, I actually LOVE a properly cooked turkey and the usual trimmings. Much like how Korean New Year’s or Chuseok has special memories for me, Thanksgiving brings up the most wonderful and warm emotions. And even after I became an adult, I was lucky to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving at my older sister’s and brother’s home whether it was in the US or in Korea.
For a few years, it was all 7 of us but after that, it was with whoever was at home at the time. Because even from about 5th grade, my older sisters and brother (couple years later) were away a lot from home attending colleges somewhere. Back then traveling was not something you did often.
But no matter where we were living, in India, in Korea – my parents made sure we had a special family dinner, even though American Thanksgiving had no special meaning in our Korean culture. However, Korean churches (which was founded by American missionary back in 1884) always reminded us to Thank God for another year full of his blessings and grace which was very true.
Let me now share my 16 Korean recipes for Thanksgiving. Hope you have a wonderful time cooking them!
GF = Gluten-Free, VG = Vegan
4 Best Korean/Korean Fusion Appetizers for Thanksgiving
Wanja Jeon or Kkaetnip Jeon is a classic Korean dish that you can make as appetizer or even as a side dish. But I say it will be best as an app. Can be served at room temp so you can make ahead and serve with some soy dipping sauce. Make gluten-free by using GF flour for coating.
Korean cocktail meatballs with Sweet Soy Glaze is a Korean Fusion dish that will be something different than your usual appetizer meatballs. Addition of tofu and kimchi makes this very flavorful while the sweet soy glaze makes it all work together.
- Hobak Jeon (Pan-fried Zucchini) is one of our favorite everyday side dish but it will also be a great appetizer for any party whether it’s at your home or at someone else’s. It can be served as a vegetable side dish that can be made ahead.
Sweet Gochujang Meatballs have absolutely become the most requested dish for me in our neighborhood holiday parties. I also love making it because it’s so easy to make during busy holiday times. I use frozen pre-made meatballs which makes it even easier to make. Includes both Instant Pot and Stovetop recipe.
2 Best Kimchi to Make for Thanksgiving
Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi) GF, VG is quite easy to make vegan kimchi (no fish sauce!) that will add a wonderful fresh crunchy Kimchi flavor with the perfect level of spicy punch to your Thanksgiving meal. Make ahead 4-5 days ahead for a perfect Kimchi.
Cabbage Kimchi (Yangbaechoo Kimchi) GF is another mild tasting Kimchi that will not try to take your Thanksgiving meal to another world.
4 Korean Salads for Thanksgiving
- Easy Bok Choy Salad GF will be definitely milder and refreshing than kimchi but has a little more zing and spice than your common salad. Make the dressing ahead of time and toss close to dinner time.
- Green Onion Salad GF, VG is a very traditional salad that’s supposed to be eaten with Korean BBQ but this will go surprisingly well with your Turkey and Cranberry sauce. It’s also quite easy and simple to make.
- Korean style Potato Salad GF is fresher and crunchier than your ordinary salad because we add cucumbers and apples. So refreshing and yummy.
- My famous Cucumber Salad GF, VG is a great option if you don’t want to fuss with a lot of different salad ingredients. The soy vinegar dressing with a hint of chili powder will add an interesting touch to your dinner. It can also be tossed ahead of time and be served when ready.
3 Korean Fusion Side Dishes
- Easy Brussel Sprouts with Kimchi and Pancetta GF could be your perfect side dish. Kimchi and bacon (or pancetta) is such a match made in heaven and pancetta and Brussel sprouts go together so well also. So when you combine all 3 together, it is just really good. Please try this for a change this year!
One Pan Vegetarian Japchae GF, VG– how can you not like Japchae with anything? This mild-tasting glass noodle dish (this version is vegan) will always win over anyone whether you serve it as a side dish or appetizer. I also have a full Japchae version that includes beef if you want to go more traditional.
Bulgogi Kimchi Pasta is one of my most favorite Korean fusion dishes. If you like Korean food, you will love this pasta. And the addition of Jalapeno peppers will totally wake up your stomach to do its job! As I often say, I’m not a fan of fusion food but this one really works.
3 Gluten-Free Korean Desserts for Thanksgiving
You cannot have Thanksgiving without the traditional pumpkin and pecan pie but there’s no law that says you cannot enjoy some Korean dessert for Thanksgiving. Here are are some great Korean sweets that you can make and impress your family and friends. And they are also all GLUTEN FREE!
Sweet Red Bean Rice Cake GF is an oven-baked dessert that’s made from sweet rice flour, eggs, butter, milk and sugar. This one bakes like a regular cake so you can use any fancy molds you have. The picture on the left was baked using a mini bundt cake pan and using freshly milled rice flour at home. Read more here if you are interested in fresh milling your own grain flour.
Yaksik (Instant Pot Recipe or Regular) GF, VG is made from sweet rice, chestnuts, dried jujubes and pine nuts. Seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil, honey and cinnamon. You can serve these in individual muffin cups to make it extra pretty and convenient! I have both an Instant Pot recipe and a non-IP recipe.
- Bukkumi (Pan-fried Rice Dumplings) GF, VG is a dessert dumpling that is made from sweet rice flour dough. Traditionally sweet red bean paste is used as the stuffing but you can get creative and use different stuffing like sweet chestnuts or mung beans. And you can decorate the top with edible flowers or leaves so that’s extra fun to do with your family and kids! Serve with honey for extra sweetness.
May you have a time full of blessings~
XOXO ❤️ 🦃
Updated Nov 5th 2018, Nov 8th 2019 with GF, VG keys
Updated Oct 2020 with 2 additional recipes