Ssamjang (Korean Dipping Sauce)
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This Ssamjang (Korean Dipping Sauce) Recipe has all the flavors! Use it as a Korean BBQ sauce for ssam – or as a vegetable dip. Ready in 5 minutes!
I had a culinary problem. Our guests were set to arrive – and most of the food for the dinner party was good to go.
However, I had forgotten one thing… A dip for the vegetable tray. A cold chill overtook me for a second.
That is, until I remembered I could make a funky, savory and sweet Korean ssamjang in 5 minutes.
As I rummaged through the pantry looking for my ever-present containers of gochujang and doenjang, I knew it was going to be alright. Crisis averted.
Was the veggie platter a hit that night? You better believe it 🙂
Let’s make ssamjang!
What is ssamjang?
Ssamjang (쌈장) is a thick paste that marries the savory earthiness of doenjang with the spicy sweetness of gochujang. Minced garlic, chopped scallions and sesame seeds add flavor and texture – while a dash of sesame oil and honey round out the flavor profile with a roasted, nutty sweetness.
Used primarily as a dipping sauce for the ssam (grilled meats and assorted banchan wrapped in leafy greens) ubiquitous in Korean BBQ, it’s one of the most famous Korean condiments out there.
Think of it as Korean BBQ sauce.
However, it’s not quite fair to limit its use to simply a condiment for galbi wrapped in parilla or lettuce.
My favorite use of ssamjang is as a Korean vegetable dip.
- Doenjang – 된장 – Fermented Korean Soybean Paste: This funky paste is made of soybeans and salt (or brine). Somewhat similar to miso paste, doenjang jettisons the milder, sweeter elements you’ll taste in miso in favor of a more earthy, salt-forward punch. Grab doenjang on Amazon.
- Gochujang – 고추장 – Korean Hot Pepper Paste: Made of powdered red Korean chilis, glutinous rice starch and soybeans, this fermented paste is loaded with spicy, savory and sweet flavors. Korean red chili peppers aren’t quite as spicy as cayenne pepper – and impart a complex smokiness to the mix. Luckily, it has never been easier to find gochujang in the West than it is now. Many corner grocery stores stock it in the Asian ingredients aisle – or you can easily pick up gochujang on Amazon.
- Garlic: A couple cloves of minced garlic lay down a nice, sharp base of pungent flavor.
- Scallions: Bright and peppery, two chopped scallions will give this ssamjang some garden freshness.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: You’ll love the deep nutty, roast-y elements that a bit of sesame oil imparts to this Korean sauce.
- Toasted Sesame Seeds: Buy them toasted – or toss them in a pan and brown them yourself. A couple minutes in a small pan over low heat should do the trick. Careful – they burn quickly!
- Honey: Raw honey is a great tool to impart sweetness to ssamjang without going overboard into cloying territory.
Substitute for doenjang
If you can’t track down doenjang but are intent on making this easy Korean dipping sauce, you can use awase miso instead.
Made of a combination of red and white miso paste, awase miso will work in a pinch – and still delivers on many of the the earthy and umami elements you’ll need for this ssamjang recipe. Read all about miso paste.
How to make ssamjang
Aside from the punchy flavors, one of my favorite aspects of this Korean ssamjang recipe is how easy it is to make. Simply place all of your ingredients into a bowl and mix well.
That’s it! Yep – it’s ready in 5 minutes.
You can serve with veggies or Korean barbeque immediately – or store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week for later use.
Want to alter the flavors a bit to suit your taste? Here are a couple of simple variations:
- Make it less spicy by using less gochujang.
- Go for more spice by adding a teaspoon of gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes).
- Make it more or less sweet by altering the amount of honey you use.
What to serve with ssamjang
I use ssamjang as a delicious Korean vegetable dip – much in the way I’d set out a tray of fresh cut veggies with hummus at a party. It never lasts long!
At a get-together, a veggie platter sitting next to banchan like this Korean bean sprouts recipe (sukju namul), this vegan kimchi – or something more hearty, like these scallion pancakes (pajeon) – will make your party guests happy indeed.
But ssamjang uses are legion. The most iconic application of this condiment is with Korean BBQ. After loading up a perilla or lettuce wrap with galbi or bulgogi, you can use this ssam sauce to create the perfectly spiced bite of food. In this case you can use it as a topper or a dipping sauce.
And if you’re planning to whip up an entire Korean feast in your kitchen, check out these other delicious and easy Korean recipes:
- Tteokbokki (Dukbokki) – 떡볶이
- Korean Cucumber Salad
- Vegan Jajangmyeon (Korean Noodles With Black Bean Paste)
- Japchae – 잡채; 雜菜 – Korean Glass Noodles
- Doenjang Jjigae – Korean Soybean Paste Stew
Happy cooking (and eating)!
Other all-purpose Asian sauces and condiments:
- Quick and Easy Tonkatsu Sauce とんかつソース
- General Tso Sauce
- Japanese Restaurant Style Ginger Salad Dressing
- The Best Szechuan Sauce
- Easy Dumpling Sauce
Did you like this Ssamjang Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!Print
Ssamjang (Korean Dipping Sauce)
You’re gonna love the sweet heat and savory earthiness in this easy ssamjang recipe! Use it as a Korean BBQ sauce – or as a unique dip for your vegetable tray.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: about 1 cup 1x
- Category: Condiment
- Method: Stirring
- Cuisine: Korean
- ½ cup Korean fermented soybean paste (doenjang)
- 3 tablespoons Korean hot pepper paste (gochujang)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons honey
- Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- Serve with lettuce leaves, rice, or as a sauce for meats, seafood, or vegetables.
Make it less spicy by using less gochujang.
Make it sweeter by adding 1 tablespoon honey.
To toast sesame seeds, place them in a pan over low heat and shake the pan for 1-2 minutes until the seeds turn golden brown. Make sure to keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly!
Keywords: dipping sauce, Korean, doenjang, gochujang, korean bbq, bbq sauce
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