Kimbap is the most popular on-the-go meal in Korea! Learn how to make classic kimbap at home with my step-by-step guide!
What is kimbap (or gimbap)?
Gimbap (김밥) is a Korean seaweed rice roll filled with a variety of delicious fillings. Gim is dried sheets of seaweed, and bap means rice.
We all grew up on these rice rolls. They were a must for our school field trips and outdoor activities as well as family road trips! Whether it’s the anticipation the night before or watching the early morning preparation by mom to pack these in lunch boxes, there is no other dish that takes me back to my childhood like these seaweed rice rolls!
Today, gimbap is the most popular on-the-go meal in Korea. You can practically find gimbap everywhere, and it’s popular with adults and kids alike. Try them yourself and be prepared to fall in love with these delicious Korean rice rolls.
There are many variations of gimbap these days, but the best one for me is the classic gimbap my mother used to make for us on our field trip/picnic days.
It takes some time to prepare the individual fillings, but the process is easy and fun.
Rice for gimbap
Gimbap rice is typically made with white, short grain rice. For healthier options, you can mix in some brown rice or multigrain rice.
It’s important to cook the rice slightly drier than normal by using a bit less water. Then, lightly season it with sesame oil and salt for a nutty and savory note.
Gim (seaweed sheets)
For making gimbap, seaweed sheets need to be slightly thick to be able to hold the rice and all the fillings. They are also lightly roasted. You can find seaweed sheets for rice rolls (aka sushi) at Korean/Asian markets.
Although gimbap fillings have evolved to include all sorts of things, the classic ingredients are yellow pickled radish (danmuji), eomuk (fish cake), carrots, spinach, eggs, and beef. You can use any tender cut of beef. Thin bulgogi meat or ground beef works fine as well.
Braised burdock root (우엉) is also commonly used in classic gimbap. You can usually find packages burdock root pre-prepared for gimbap next to yellow pickled radishes (danmuji). Or, you can make your own, using my recipe.
With different fillings cooked individually, gimap has an interesting combination of textures and flavors.
Everything is well seasoned, so we don’t usually eat gimbap with a sauce.
How hard is the rolling process? It takes some practice, but don’t be scared! You’ll find it much easier with your second roll. Just remember to roll it tightly by putting firm, even pressure with your hands all over the roll.
Ready to roll?
Tips for the perfect gimbap
- Freshly cooked rice is best for making gimbap.
- Mix the rice with sesame oil and salt while the rice is still warm.
- Wet your fingers before spreading the rice onto the seaweed to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands. It’s easiest to have a small bowl with water next to your rolling-station so that you can wet your hand in between rolls.
- Use a sharp knife for cutting your rolls. You need to make a clean slicing motion and make the full slice in one go without pressing on the roll.
- Store the sliced gimbap in an airtight container. Gimbap is best eaten on the day it’s made, but you can keep it in the fridge and reheat either in the microwave or in a pan. Sometimes, we dip refrigerated gimbap in egg batter and pan fry. A delicious way to revive gimbap!
More gimbap recipes
Gimbap (Korean dried seaweed rice rolls)Main Course, Snack Print Recipe
- 2 cups uncooked short grain rice standard measuring cup not the cup that comes with a rice cooker
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- salt to taste start with 1/2 teaspoon
For the beef
- 8 ounces lean tender beef, cut into 1/2 inch-thick long strips (or bulgogi meat or ground beef)
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice wine (or mirin)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
For the vegetables
- 1 bunch spinach, about 8 ounces
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- salt to taste - about 1/4 teaspoon
- 2 medium carrots, julienned (or 1/2-inch thick long strips)
- 5 yellow pickled radish (danmuji, 단무지) strips, 1/2-inch thick
For the fish cake
- 1 sheet fish cake - eomuk (어묵)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 eggs
- 5 gimbap gim (김밥용 김), seaweed sheets
- Cook the rice using a little less water than usual. (Freshly cooked rice is best for gimbap.)
- Crack and beat the eggs, in a bowl with a spoon or a fork. Stir in a pinch of salt. Heat a small non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add the eggs to the pan. When the bottom is set, flip it over. Transfer to a cutting board. Cut lengthwise into 3/4-inch thick strips.
- Rub or brush the roll with a little bit of sesame oil for extra flavor and shiny look. Apply a little bit of sesame oil to a sharp knife. (This will keep rice from sticking to the knife. Repeat as necessary after each cut. Wipe the knife with a damp towel if the rice still sticks.) Cut the roll into 1/2-inch thick bite sizes.
This gimbap recipe was originally posted in May 2012. I’ve updated it here with more information, new photos and minor changes to the recipe.