Doenjang: The Ultimate Guide to This Korean Soybean Paste
What is doenjang?
Doenjang (literally “thick sauce” in Korean) is a fermented soybean paste that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s made from soybeans, salt, and fermented with “nuruk” (molds from rice, barley, and other ingredients). It has a deep, rich flavor and is used in many Korean dishes.
Let’s look at the history, ingredients, and health benefits of this unique paste.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 Discovering the Wonders of Doenjang: The Traditional Korean Soybean Paste
- 2 The Origins of Doenjang: A Historical Journey
- 3 Exploring the Different Types of Doenjang
- 4 The Art of Making Doenjang: From Soybeans to Paste
- 5 Ways to Use Doenjang: From Traditional to Modern
- 6 Keeping Your Doenjang Fresh: Tips and Tricks
- 7 The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Doenjang
- 8 What Else is Out There? Exploring Similar Foods to Doenjang
- 9 Where to Find the Best Doenjang: A Guide to Buying Soybean Paste
- 10 Conclusion
Discovering the Wonders of Doenjang: The Traditional Korean Soybean Paste
Doenjang is a type of fermented soybean paste that is a staple in Korean cuisine. It is made from soybeans and other ingredients such as chili, salt, and sometimes vegetables. The paste is aged for several months to develop its unique flavor and aroma.
What are the Key Ingredients?
The main ingredient in doenjang is soybean, which is a highly nutritious food that is rich in protein and low in fat. Other ingredients include chili, salt, and sometimes vegetables like lettuce and blanched bean sprouts. The paste is entirely natural and does not contain any artificial additives.
What are the Nutrition Facts?
Doenjang is a highly nutritious food that is low in calories and sodium. One tablespoon of doenjang contains approximately 20 kcal and 200 mg of sodium. It is also a good source of protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients.
Where and What To Buy?
Doenjang can be found in most Korean grocery stores and is also available for purchase online. It comes in two types: traditional doenjang, which is aged for several months and has a deep, rich flavor, and red doenjang, which is made with chili and has a slightly spicy taste. When buying doenjang, it is recommended to look for high-quality products that are made with natural ingredients.
What are Some Recommended Recipes?
Doenjang can be used in a variety of recipes, including:
- Doenjang jjigae: a traditional Korean stew made with doenjang, tofu, and vegetables
- Doenjang pork belly: thinly sliced pork belly marinated in doenjang and grilled
- Doenjang seasoned vegetables: blanched vegetables seasoned with doenjang and sesame oil
Doenjang is a versatile and flavorful ingredient that adds depth and complexity to any dish. Give it a try and discover the wonders of this traditional Korean soybean paste!
The Origins of Doenjang: A Historical Journey
Doenjang, a fermented soybean paste, has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient Korea. Scholars have found records and texts that claim the production of soy sauce and soybean paste in Korea dates back to the Three Kingdoms period, which lasted from 57 BC to 668 AD.
The Introduction of Doenjang
During the Goryeo period, which lasted from 918 to 1392, historical documents show that doenjang was introduced to Korea. The word “jang” means paste, and “doen” means soybean, hence the name “doenjang.”
The Chosun Period
The Chosun period, which lasted from 1392 to 1910, saw the widespread production and use of doenjang in Korean cuisine. Historical records show that doenjang was a staple in the Korean diet during this period, and it was used in a variety of dishes, including soups, stews, and marinades.
Claims and Analysis
There are claims that doenjang was even used as a form of currency during this time, highlighting its importance in Korean society. Scholars have analyzed historical documents and found that doenjang was not only a food source but also had medicinal properties.
The Modern Era
Today, doenjang is still a popular ingredient in Korean cuisine and is often used in combination with other fermented pastes like gochujang. The production of doenjang has become more streamlined and efficient, but the traditional methods of making it are still used in some households.
Exploring the Different Types of Doenjang
Traditional doenjang is made using the slow and aged fermentation method. The soybeans are boiled and mashed, mixed with meju (fermented soybean blocks), and then left to ferment for months. This type of doenjang contains no wheat flour and is often used as a base for soup or as a condiment to accentuate the savory flavor of vegetables.
Modern doenjang is produced using a faster method that involves adding wheat flour and brine to the soybeans. This type of doenjang is often produced in a factory and can be found in various products, such as tofu, gochujang, and even milk. It is also commonly used as a dipping sauce or a marinade for meat.
Yellow Soybean Doenjang
Yellow soybean doenjang is a type of traditional doenjang that is made using only yellow soybeans. This type of doenjang is known for its rich and deep flavor and is often used as a base for soup or as a condiment for stir-fried dishes.
Cheonggukjang doenjang is a type of fermented soybean paste that is made using a mix of soybeans and ground anchovies. This type of doenjang is known for its strong and pungent flavor and is often used as a soup base or a dipping sauce for cabbage.
Jangjae doenjang is a type of traditional doenjang that is made using fresh soybeans and wheat flour. The soybeans are boiled and mashed, mixed with meju, and then left to ferment for months. This type of doenjang is often used as a condiment for sliced vegetables or as a dipping sauce for cold dishes.
Variants of Doenjang
There are many variants of doenjang, including Chinese-style soy sauce, which contains soybeans, wheat, and saline, and is often used as a condiment for stir-fried dishes. There is also a variant of doenjang that is made using tofu, which is often used as a dipping sauce for cold dishes. Additionally, there is a variant of doenjang that is made using cabbage, which is often used as a soup base or a condiment for sliced vegetables.
Overall, doenjang is a versatile and delicious food that can be used in a variety of dishes. Whether you prefer the traditional slow-aged method or the modern fast-produced method, there is a type of doenjang that will suit your taste buds.
The Art of Making Doenjang: From Soybeans to Paste
Doenjang is a traditional Korean soybean paste that has been widely produced for centuries. The production process involves boiling soybeans and rice, which are then ground into a coarse mixture. This mixture is combined with additional boiled soybeans and salt, and then left to ferment for several days. The fermentation process is crucial to understanding the function of doenjang, and there are numerous techniques and changes that can be made to the length of fermentation time to create different types of paste.
The Role of Meju
Meju is a solid block made from boiled soybeans and rice that is a main ingredient in the production of doenjang. The meju is combined with additional boiled soybeans and salt to create a mixture that is then left to ferment for several days. The fermentation process is focused on the microbial changes that occur within the meju, which are essential to the production of a high-quality product.
The Fermentation Process
During the fermentation process, the soybean paste undergoes numerous changes that are crucial to its quality and function. The paste contains powerful compounds that can help prevent heart disease and lower glucose levels in the body. It also contains a high level of fat, which can help prevent the body from absorbing too much glucose from other foods.
The Final Product
After several days of fermentation, the soybean paste is typically ground into a coarse mixture and then combined with additional salt and water to create a sauce-like consistency. The final product is known as doenjang and is widely used in Korean dishes. Compared to other soybean products, doenjang has a higher sodium content, but it also contains an abundance of essential nutrients that can benefit the body.
Investigating the Health Properties of Doenjang
Studies have shown that the consumption of doenjang can have numerous health benefits. In one study, mice that were fed a high-fat diet and given doenjang had lower levels of body fat and improved glucose tolerance compared to mice that were not given the paste. The bacterial metabolite produced during fermentation, called park, has also been found to have powerful antioxidant properties.
Ways to Use Doenjang: From Traditional to Modern
Doenjang is an essential component of Korean cuisine, and it is commonly used as a seasoning, dipping sauce, or mixed with other ingredients to create a flavorful combination. Here are some ways to use it:
- Mixed with sesame oil and wrapped in lettuce or perilla leaves, it complements grilled meat or vegetable dishes.
- As a component of bibimbap, a popular Korean rice dish, it adds depth and umami flavor to the combination of vegetables, meat, and egg.
- Added to soup or stew, it creates a rich and savory broth that is perfect for cold winter days.
- Mixed with chile paste, it becomes a spicy dipping sauce that pairs well with vegetables, meat, or seafood.
In Traditional Korean Cuisine
Doenjang has a long historical and cultural significance in Korea, and it is still widely used in traditional dishes. Here are some examples:
- Doenjang jjigae is a hearty stew made with doenjang, vegetables, and meat or seafood. It is a staple food in Korean households and restaurants.
- Kongnamul guk is a simple soup made with soybean sprouts and doenjang. It is a popular side dish that is often included in a Korean meal.
- Jangajji is a type of pickled vegetable that is prepared by boiling vegetables in brine and adding doenjang. It is a good way to preserve vegetables and add flavor to them.
In Modern Cuisine
Doenjang is not only a traditional food but also a trendy ingredient that is found in many modern dishes. Here are some examples:
- Doenjang-flavored popcorn is a popular snack in Korea that is gaining popularity worldwide.
- Doenjang-marinated meat is a good way to add flavor and tenderize the meat. It is commonly found in Korean BBQ restaurants.
- Doenjang-ace inhibitory peptide is a bioactive peptide that is produced during the fermentation of doenjang. It has been shown to help increase blood flow and decrease blood pressure, which may have health benefits.
In Homemade Doenjang Production
If you are interested in making your own doenjang, here is a simple method:
- Mix ground meju (fermented soybean) with salt and water to make a dough.
- Let it ferment for a few days in a warm place.
- Boil the resulting mixture to produce a thick paste.
- Age the paste for several months to increase the flavor and nutritional benefits.
Doenjang is a versatile and flavorful food that can be used in many ways. Whether you are a traditionalist or a modern foodie, there is a type of doenjang that will suit your taste.
Keeping Your Doenjang Fresh: Tips and Tricks
Storing your doenjang in the refrigerator is highly recommended to keep it fresh for a longer period. The cool and dry environment of the refrigerator helps to maintain the color and flavor of the sauce.
Use an Airtight Container
When storing your doenjang, make sure to use an airtight container to prevent air and moisture from entering. This will help to keep the sauce fresh and prevent it from spoiling.
Dark and Dry is Best
Doenjang should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. Leaving it in direct sunlight or in a warm and humid environment can cause the sauce to spoil quickly.
Remove Vegetables and Meat
If you have added vegetables or meat to your doenjang, it is recommended to remove them before storing the sauce. This will help to prevent the vegetables and meat from spoiling and affecting the flavor of the sauce.
Stay Fresh for a Year
Doenjang can be kept for up to a year if stored properly. However, it is important to consume it before the expiration date to prevent it from becoming bitter or too salty.
Using Doenjang in Soups and Broths
Doenjang is a popular ingredient in soups and broths. When using it in these dishes, it is recommended to blanch the vegetables and meat before adding them to the pot. This helps to remove any unwanted smell and ensures that the flavor of the doenjang is not affected.
Doenjang in Ssamjang and Namuls
Doenjang is also a key ingredient in ssamjang and namuls. When using it in these dishes, it is recommended to mix it with anchovy broth and blanched radish greens. This helps to enhance the flavor of the doenjang and makes it more enjoyable to consume.
Doenjang and Pork Belly
Doenjang and pork belly is a favorite combination in Korean cuisine. When using these two ingredients together, it is recommended to boil the pork belly first. This helps to remove any unwanted smell and ensures that the flavor of the doenjang is not affected.
The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Doenjang
Doenjang, a fermented soybean paste, is an essential ingredient in traditional Korean cuisine. It is used as a condiment to add flavor to soups, stews, and other dishes. Doenjang is made by mixing soybeans, salt, and water and then fermenting the mixture for several months. The resulting paste is rich in nutrients and has many health benefits.
How to Incorporate Doenjang into Your Diet
Doenjang can be used as a condiment to add flavor to soups, stews, and other dishes. It can also be used as a supplemental source of nutrients. Here are some tips on how to incorporate doenjang into your diet:
- Use it as a dip for vegetables.
- Add it to marinades for meat or tofu.
- Mix it with rice or noodles for added flavor.
- Use it as a base for salad dressings.
What Else is Out There? Exploring Similar Foods to Doenjang
- Miso: This Japanese fermented soybean paste is similar to doenjang but has a smoother texture and a sweeter, less pungent flavor. It’s often used in soups, marinades, and sauces.
- Tamari: This soy sauce is made without wheat and has a richer, less salty flavor than regular soy sauce. It’s great for dipping sauces and marinades.
- Natto: This Japanese dish is made from fermented soybeans and has a sticky texture and strong flavor. It’s often eaten for breakfast with rice and toppings like green onions and raw egg.
Spicy Seafood Sauces
- Gochujang: This Korean chili paste is made from red pepper flakes, glutinous rice, and fermented soybeans. It has a sweet and spicy flavor and is often used in marinades, stews, and dipping sauces.
- Sambal Oelek: This Indonesian chili paste is made from ground chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. It has a bright, spicy flavor and is great for adding heat to stir-fries, soups, and marinades.
- Hoisin Sauce: This Chinese sauce is made from soybeans, sugar, vinegar, and spices. It has a sweet and savory flavor and is often used as a glaze for meats or as a dipping sauce for spring rolls.
- Oyster Sauce: This Chinese sauce is made from oyster extract, soy sauce, and sugar. It has a rich, umami flavor and is great for stir-fries and marinades.
- Coconut Aminos: This sauce is made from coconut sap and has a similar flavor to soy sauce. It’s a great gluten-free alternative for marinades and stir-fries.
- Liquid Aminos: This sauce is made from soybeans and has a similar flavor to soy sauce. It’s a great gluten-free alternative for marinades and dressings.
- Eumryo (음료): This Korean dish is made from thinly sliced beef or pork and vegetables stir-fried in a spicy sauce. It’s a great low-carb option for a quick and easy meal.
- Namul (나물): This Korean side dish is made from blanched or sautéed vegetables seasoned with sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce. It’s a great low-carb option for adding veggies to your meals.
Authentic Korean Dishes
- Kimchi (김치): This Korean staple is made from fermented vegetables, usually cabbage, and has a spicy, sour flavor. It’s great as a side dish or in soups and stews.
- Jjigae (찌게): This Korean stew is made with a variety of ingredients like tofu, seafood, or pork, and has a spicy, savory broth. It’s great for a hearty meal on a cold day.
- Japchae (잡채): This Korean dish is made from sweet potato noodles stir-fried with vegetables and meat. It’s a great option for a filling and flavorful lunchbox meal.
Cookbook and Recipe Resources
- Discover Korean Food: This sister site to Maangchi’s Korean Cooking offers recipes and information on Korean cuisine.
- Korean Cookbook: This cookbook by Robin Ha offers a variety of Korean recipes, from basics like kimchi and sauces to more complex dishes like jeongol and gui.
- Monthly Newsletters: Maangchi’s Korean Cooking offers monthly newsletters with recipes, facts, and recipe cards provided for easy serving and nutritional value estimates.
Street Food and Snacks
- Tteok (떡): These Korean rice cakes come in a variety of shapes and flavors and are often eaten as a snack or dessert.
- Hangwa (한과): These traditional Korean sweets are made from rice flour, honey, and nuts or seeds. They’re often served with tea as a snack or dessert.
- Chicken Jeon (전): This Korean fried chicken is coated in a batter made from flour, egg, and spices and is often served as a street food or appetizer.
From soy-based alternatives to authentic Korean dishes, there are plenty of options to explore beyond doenjang. Whether you’re looking for gluten-free, low-carb, or spicy options, there’s a sauce or dish out there for you to try. So why not discover something new today?
Where to Find the Best Doenjang: A Guide to Buying Soybean Paste
If you’re lucky enough to live near a Korean grocery store, you’ll likely find a wide selection of doenjang options. These stores specialize in Korean foods and will likely have a variety of brands and types of doenjang to choose from. Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for recommendations or advice on which brand to try.
If you don’t have a Korean grocery store nearby, check out international markets in your area. These stores often carry specialty foods from around the world, including Korean ingredients like doenjang. While the selection may not be as extensive as a Korean grocery store, you may still be able to find a few options to choose from.
If you’re not able to find doenjang in local stores, or if you’re looking for a specific brand or type, consider shopping online. There are many online retailers that specialize in Korean foods and ingredients, and you may be able to find a wider selection of doenjang than you would in a physical store. Just be sure to read reviews and check the expiration date before making a purchase.
Some specialty stores may also carry doenjang, especially those that focus on natural or organic foods. These stores may have a smaller selection than a Korean grocery store, but they may carry high-quality, naturally fermented doenjang that is worth seeking out. Check out health food stores or specialty Asian markets in your area.
If you happen to be in Seoul, South Korea, be sure to check out Doenjangno, a street in the Jongno district that is famous for its doenjang. Here, you’ll find shops that specialize in doenjang and other fermented foods, as well as restaurants that serve dishes made with the flavorful paste. It’s a must-visit destination for any doenjang lover.
In conclusion, whether you’re looking for a local store or an online retailer, there are many places to find high-quality doenjang. Don’t be afraid to try different brands and types to find your favorite, and be sure to store it properly to keep it fresh for as long as possible.
Doenjang is a Korean fermented soybean paste with a rich flavor and a umami taste. It’s a traditional Korean ingredient used in a variety of dishes, from soups to stir-fries.
So, now you know all about doenjang and how to use it in your cooking. It’s time to get adventurous with this delicious paste.
Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.