Gimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)
This classic gimbap is prepared with lightly seasoned vegetables, tangy pickled daikon, fluffy eggs, and savory ham. The Korean seaweed rice rolls are packed with flavor and texture, and are great as on-the-go meals. It’s also a delicious and different way to use up some of that leftover holiday ham.
Gimbap (김밥), also spelled kimbap, is a Korean seaweed rice roll. Seasoned rice (bap, 밥) and a variety of savory fillings are rolled in roasted seaweed sheets (gim, 김).
It’s a popular on-the-go meal to pack for lunches, picnics, and potlucks. You’ll often find these rolls individually wrapped in aluminum foil.
More recently, gimbap got some attention in the Netflix Korean drama, Extraordinary Attorney Woo, as Woo Young Woo’s favorite meal.
Rice for Gimbap
Short grain white rice is commonly used to make gimbap. I use medium grain rice as well. Tip: It helps to have the rice cooked slightly drier than usual so that the roasted seaweed doesn’t get too soggy.
Gimbap rice is typically seasoned with just salt and toasted sesame oil. However, I like to add a bit of rice vinegar for its subtle tang and sweetness. I borrow this idea from sushi rice, which is seasoned with rice vinegar as well as sugar.
Gim (roasted seaweed)
Classic Gimbap Fillings
You can get creative with the ingredients you use in your gimbap with your own combination of vegetables and protein.
However, if you want to make some classic gimbap rolls, you’ll want to use the following ingredients:
- pickled radish (danmuji, 단무지)
- julienned carrots
It’s also common to add imitation crab sticks, braised burdock root (ueong, 우엉), and fish cake (eomuk, 어묵), but I like to keep mine as simple as possible.
If you’re familiar with bibimbap, you’ll notice there’s some overlap in ingredients, namely the julienned carrots and spinach. You could conveniently make some gimbap with leftover bibimbap toppings.
Other variations add kimchi, tuna, cucumber, perilla leaves, or even cheese. You will just want to be able to add the ingredient in a thin strips across your rice roll (e.g., long thin strips of fried egg, cucumber, pickled daikon, ham etc.).
Leftover Thanksgiving or Christmas Ham
If you have leftover ham from your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and you’re tired of making the usual ham sandwich, you could try changing it up and make these classic Korean seaweed rice rolls or even kimchi fried rice.
Gimbap with tteokbokki
I like to enjoy my gimbap with tteokbokki and fish cakes in udon soup. You’ll often see these three dishes served together by street vendors back in Korea. You can dip the gimbap into the spicy tteokbokki sauce for extra flavor and spice, while sipping on some warm, umami-packed udon soup.
When I prepare all three dishes at home, I usually make my “lazy” gimbap, which just has two fillings, pickled radish and ham (or SPAM). The pickled radish adds juicy crunch and sweet tang with the savory, salty ham.
Does Gimbap need dipping sauce?
Sushi is usually served with soy sauce for dipping. Gimbap, on the other hand, is already packed with savory flavor and is normally eaten without any dipping sauce.
However, on occasion and when there’s no tteokbokki, I like to prepare some gochujang dipping sauce, the same sauce I use for my bibimbap. You get extra umami flavor and spicy heat.
In a way, gimbap reminds me of a wrapped form of bibimbap. And unsurprisingly, the gimbap and bibimbap gochujang sauce combo works. They also serve a gochujang dipping sauce with the bibimbap roll at En Hakkore 2.0, my favorite place for sushi burritos here in Chicago.
Tips for making gimbap
- It’s best to use freshly cooked rice. When preparing the rice to cook, use a little less water than usual to prevent the roasted seaweed from getting soggy.
- Using a bamboo mat, roll the filling ingredients tightly together. I’m honestly still not that great at rolling gimbap, but I’m happy as long as it just tastes good! I like to make myself feel better by saying that my gimbap just have a more rustic look.
- Even when stored in an airtight container, sliced gimbap will get pretty dry the next day. However, you could always dip them in egg batter and pan fry for some deliciously warmed up gimbap jeon (김밥전). I only learned about this hack when it was trending on TikTok.
- I highly recommend enjoying it with tteokbokki and udon soup.
Enjoy it with:
Mise en place
If you make this Classic Gimbap, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag @chrisseenplace on Instagram!
Gimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Rolls)
- 10 oz baby spinach
- 1½ tsp toasted sesame oil
- ¼ tsp salt (or TT)
- 4 cups cooked, short or medium grain white rice (make with about 2 cups uncooked rice)
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- ¼ tsp rice vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt (or TT)
Prepare Gimbap Filling Ingredients
- Blanch the spinach in boiling water for about 30 seconds and strain it. Let it cool and squeeze out most of the water. Toss with the sesame oil (1½ tsp), and salt (¼ tsp or TT).
- Whisk the eggs with a pinch of salt in a small bowl. Lightly oil a skillet with vegetable oil and heat over medium-low heat. Pour the eggs into the skillet, gently swirling the skillet to get a thin even layer covering the bottom of the pan. When the egg is mostly set, carefully flip it over and cook the other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer it to a cutting board and let it cool before cutting it into 3/4" thick strips.
- Lightly oil the same skillet again and add the carrots with a pinch of salt and stir for about 2 minutes or until cooked through with still a bit of bite. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- In a large bowl, season the freshly cooked rice with toasted sesame oil (1 tbsp), rice vinegar, and salt, and gently mix until the rice is evenly seasoned. You can cover the bowl with a damp paper towel to help prevent the rice from drying out while you are preparing the gimbap rolls.
- Place the bamboo gimbap mat on a flat surface. The bamboo sticks should be horizontal. Place a sheet of gim, shiny side down, on a bamboo mat (or a piece of aluminum foil). With plastic gloves on, spread a thin layer of rice evenly over the 3/4 of the seaweed sheet (about 2 inches uncovered at the top edge away from you). You want to add enough rice so that the fillings will be completely wrapped by a layer of rice. You could also add a few, cooked rice grains along the top edge to help the seaweed stick after rolling.
- Place the ingredients (spinach, egg, carrot, pickled radish, ham) on top or next to each other about an inch or two from the bottom edge of the rice.
- Using both hands, lift the bamboo mat edge closest to you up and away, tightly rolling it over the fillings. (Tip: Use your fingers to keep the filling ingredients tightly in place, and use your thumbs to roll the mat over.)
- Continue to tightly roll the rest of the seaweed, and gently squeeze the roll. Set it aside and repeat the process again with the remaining seaweed sheets.
- Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the roll with some toasted sesame oil to give it nice sheen and flavor.
- Very lightly coat a sharp knife with toasted sesame oil (this will help prevent the rice from sticking to the knife), and slice the rolls into ⅓ inch thick pieces.
- Mix the gochujang dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl and serve with the sliced gimbap.
Gimbap Jeon with Leftover Gimbap
- Whisk two eggs in a small bowl, and coat the leftover gimbap pieces with egg.
- Heat a lightly oiled medium sized skillet over medium-low heat, and pan-fry the coated gimbap.
- Fry each side for about 1 minute or until the egg batter is cooked through.
- Serve with gochujang dipping sauce.