The Classic Korean Gimbap (김밥)

The Classic Korean Gimbap (김밥)

If I were to describe Gimbap (김밥 or Kimbap) I would say it is the friendly version of sushi.  All the ingredients are cooked (no raw fish!) and the popular beef marinade that makes Korean BBQ so popular is included.  It’s easily portable too so it’s a favorite choice for picnics, outdoor events, and large parties to feed a crowd.

Just like sushi there are so many versions of Korean Gimbap you can make just by changing the filling. My personal favorite is the classic which is made with marinated beef, carrots, spinach, eggs and danmuji*.   A vegetarian-friendly version is also possible.  Just leave out the meat and add in more vegetables.

One of my fondest memories as a child is watching my mom make Gimbap.  My sisters and I would anxiously wait for the moment my mom was ready to slice the freshly-made Gimbap cylinder rolls into bite-sized pieces.  The 2 end pieces (‘the rejects’) never made it to the serving platter because of the uneven vegetable pieces (a.k.a not pretty enough for serving).  For my sisters and I these rejects were still equally as delicious as the ‘pretty’ pieces, and we were always there to grab and eat.

Today, it is now my own children who sit beside me while I make Gimbap, anxiously awaiting the ‘rejects’.  I must admit though…Gimbap always makes me feel like a kid and i still reach for the rejects (but this time instead of competing with my sisters i compete with my kids!).

*Danmuji is Korean pickled daikon radish.  It’s yellow in color and is sweet, sour and crunchy.  It is traditional Japanese but Koreans and Chinese have also adapted it to their cuisine.  It is known to help with digestion so it is often served at the end of meals.  It can be found at most local asian markets.


The Classic Korean Gimbap (김밥)

: 4
: 45 min
: 30 min
: Moderate

The Korean version of sushi (without the raw fish).


  • 3 cups short grain sushi rice
  • 6-7 sheets of dry roasted seaweed (Nori)
  • 400g ground meat
  • 2 carrots, julienned (or sliced into long thin strips)
  • 4 eggs
  • 400g spinach
  • Danmuji (enough to cut 6-7 long thin strips)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely minced
  • Additional seasonings: soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame, seeds, brown sugar, black pepper, salt, sunflower oil, rice wine vinegar. *See directions per filling for exact measurements.
  • EXTRA EQUIPMENT: You will need a bamboo sushi mat for rolling
  • Step 1 MAKE THE RICE:  Wash and rinse uncooked rice. Cook per packaging instructinos. Make sure to cook more on the dry side as you don’t want mushy rice. While the rice is cooking prepare the other filling ingredients. Once the rice is done, transfer into a big bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons sesame seeds.  Combine well.  Keep covered when not in use.
  • Step 2 MAKE THE MEAT: In a frying pan cook the meat while breaking it up as you cook. Turn off heat. Drain the excess fat. Return to heat and add in 1 finely minced garlic, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoons black pepper. Mix/Cook until all the ingredients are well combined. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Step 3 MAKE THE CARROTS: Whether you have julienned carrots or long thin carrot sticks add them to the frying pan. Add about 1/4 teaspoons of salt and a few drops of cooking oil. Cook until slightly softened. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.
  • Step 4 MAKE THE SPINACH: Blanch cleaned spinach in boiling water. I usually use pre-washed spinach sold in prepackaged bags. Leave to blanch for about 5 minutes, just until the spinach is just wilted but still bright green in color. Rinse in very cold water so the cooking stops. Squeeze out as much water out of the spinach as possible. This step is important so squeeze out the water several times. Tip: After each squeeze, loosen up the spinach apart from each other and then squeeze again. Once you have most of the moisture out, put in bowl and add in 1/8 salt, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon rice-wine vingegar. Mix and combine well. Use your hands to mix for best results. Set aside.
  • Step 5 MAKE THE EGGS: Take 2 eggs and crack into a separate bowl. Add in 1/8 teaspoon of salt and whisk vigorously. Heat a frying pan on med-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and with a paper towel spread the oil so that it is covering the entire surface of the pan. Add the eggs and make sure it covers the entire pan making a round flat shape (like a French Crepe). After a few minutes when the top looks cooked, flip to the other side. After a minute the eggs should be done. While still in the pan start from one end of the egg and start rolling it like a log. Once you have a log, transfer it to a plate. Once cooled lay the egg log horizontally and slice from right to left. This should result in long thin egg strips. REPEAT this step for the remaining 2 eggs.
  • Step 6 MAKE THE DANMUJI: There is nothing to prepare here except to cut them into long thin strips (the width of the seaweed sheet). You need about 6-7 strips, 1 for each sushi roll you will make. Alternatively you can have 2 smaller pieces to cover the width of the seaweed sheet. For the remaining Danmuji that you will probably have you can cut them into smaller pieces and serve them with your sushi for an extra sweet-sour crunch, or just seal tightly and use next time you make Gimbap.
  • Step 7 FOR ASSEMBLY: Make sure you have all your ingredients already prepared and set on your clean working station.  Instructions on how to roll are in above video.
  • Step 8 TIPS: 1/ Lay the shiny side of the seaweed sheet face down. 2/ Spread cooked rice only up to 80% from the bottom of seaweed sheet. 3/ To cut even bite-size pieces first slice the cylinder directly in the middle first.  With each half slice those directly in the middle.  Then continue to slice in smaller pieces. This should help with porportions. 4/ Double the recipe for a larger crowd.
  • Step 9 Dipping sauce is not needed because the rice and fillings are already seasoned and has enough flavor.