Essential Vegan Food in Korea Travel Guide (2024)

I’ve been to South Korea four times in just the past two years, and overall, my experience of visiting as a vegan has been really good!

Bigger cities like Seoul and Busan have a large number of vegan restaurants and cafes, and in smaller cities, there’s usually a few vegan and vegetarian restaurants, plus veganizable options at non-vegan places.

And the vegan food in Korea? Delicious. ๐Ÿ’ฏ

Here are my main tips for vegan food in Korea as a frequent visitor and vegan traveler.

At the end, I also included a list of vegan festivals in Korea, local vegans to follow, and vegan shopping.

If you’re new to South Korea, make sure to read my essential Korea travel tips for first-time visitors.

๐ŸŽฅ Watch the vlog:

๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท 12 Best Vegan Cafes + Restaurants to Visit in Seoul, South Korea in 2024 ๐ŸŒฑ + Prices

Quick Vegan Food in Korea Tips:

Inside Dotori Cafe in Seoul with sky blue walls and rustic wooden tables
  • Most cafes will usually have a plant milk option, and if there are none, ades and teas are common.
  • Most temple restaurants have fully-vegan menus.
  • Fish sauce and anchovies are a common ingredient in seemingly-all vegetable dishes.
  • While veganism is not widespread in Korea, the number of vegan and plant-based options have been steadily increasing.
  • Many traditional Korean sweets are usually vegan.
  • Most vegan cafes and restaurants aren’t centrally located but spread out throughout each city, so expect to travel (worth it).

Vegan Restaurants in South Korea

The front view of 'Vegan Kitchen' restaurant in Myeongdong, Seoul, with a vivid green storefront and signage advertising diet food, poke, salad, TVP, and Korean food. Above it, signs for 'Restaurant Indonesia Bakso Bejo Korea' are also visible, indicating a diverse culinary experience.

Here are my vegan food in Korea posts if you’re visiting these cities:

Apps to Download for Vegan Food in Korea:

  1. HappyCow: You can download the app on your phone and read reviews from other vegans and vegetarians for vegan food in Korea they’ve tried.
  2. Google Translate or Papago app: Translate menus by using the camera tool to scan the menu to English, or use the translator to communicate with staff. Read more travel tips on my South Korea guide.
  3. Naver Map: Type in “๋น„๊ฑด” or vegan into Naver Map and results for nearby vegan options will appear.

Non-Vegan Ingredients to Look Out For:

Korean Vegetable Sides in small plates on table - Soban Vegan Restaurant Busan
  • Fish sauce and shrimp paste: Used for seasoning in stews and side dishes, including many kimchi.
  • Anchovy broth: A popular base for soups and stews.
  • Dairy: Used in breads and baked goods (plenty of vegan bakeries like For Four Bread)
  • Eggs: Used in toppings for bibimbap, noodles, or in pancake dishes.

Common Korean Dishes to Veganize:

A platter of vegan tofu kimbap served at Maru Gimpab Vegan Restaurant in Seoul, showcasing rolls filled with tofu, carrots, and cucumbers, garnished with sesame seeds, with side dishes in the background
Veganized Korean street food at Maru in Seoul

These dishes are for times you’re not able to find any vegan restaurants or vegan options nearby, or are eating with non-vegans.

  • Bibimbap: Without meat or egg.
  • Kongguksu noodles: Without topped egg.
  • Vegetable gimbap rolls: Make sure it doesn’t have eggs in it.
  • Japchae noodles: All-vegetable ones without meat.
  • Bibim-guksu noodles: Without topped egg.
  • Bowl of rice with banchan side dishes: Aim for basic banchan that’s less likely to be seasoned with fish sauce.

Accidentally-Vegan Street Food in Korea

Here are some accidentally vegan street food in South Korea to try.

  • Hotteok: They often market this as honey hotteok but generally use brown sugar. Go for plain or seed-filled hotteok.
Folded Hotteok Korean pancake inside a paper cup in front of hotteok vendor Myeongdong Food Street in Seoul South Korea
  • Japchae noodles: All-vegetable ones without meat.
Paper bowl of vegan japchae noodles with vegetables from a Myeongdong Food Street in Seoul South Korea
  • Roasted sweet potatoes or seasonal chestnuts
Baskets of Roasted Sweet Potatoes being sold at Myeongdong Food Street in Seoul South Korea
  • Candied strawberries & fruit (aka tanghulu).
  • Turbo potatoes: Get it plain, with salt, or plant-based spices.
  • Fresh Fruits and Juice
  • Mungbean pancakes: Not topped with meat, but do note it may be cooked on a grill with the non-vegan pancakes.
  • Mayak gimbap rolls
  • Plain tteok rice cakes (generally the actual tteokbokki dish is not vegan).
  • Sweet tteok (similar texture to mochi).
  • Dalgona: toffee candy (yes, the ones you see in Squid Games).
  • Other traditional Korean sweets that are usually vegan: Gangjeong (sweet rice puffs), Yakgwa (sweet โ€œhoneyโ€ cookies โ€“ some are made with honey, some are not), and Songpyeon (sweet filled rice cakes, usually made during Chuseok holiday). Just look out for honey ingredients.

Vegan Food in Korea: Convenience Stores

Beyond the basic nuts, dried fruit, and chips here are some vegan food in Korea options at stores like 7-eleven, CU, GS25, and Emart (they’ll all vary):

Vegan banana milk: Made with almond and soy. I wish they sold this in bigger cartons. It’s so good! I bought the multi-packs in eMart supermarket.

7 boxes of yellow Vegan Banana Milk boxes from Convenience Store in Seoul South Korea

Vegan ramen: This one is vegan and you can find it in most convenience stores. Pair it with microwavable rice, gim/seaweed and pickled radish for a good last-resort meal.

Blue Bowl of Bibim Vegan Ramen from a Convenience Store in Seoul South Korea

Caramel puffs: You’ll see a vegan label at the bottom left. These are addicting! eMart sells bigger bags of these (shown below, wish I had more luggage space).

Orange bag of vegan caramel puffs

Plant milks: You’ll find tons of plant milk options from soy to chocolate milk, local brands and international brands.

Vegan triangle kimbap: The ones from Plantable and Veggie Garden are usually vegan, just make sure to check the ingredients. These can be rare to find.

Veggie Garden Vegan Kimbap next to a box of vegan chocolate milk box from Convenience Store in Seoul

Inari: sushi rice in tofu skin pockets. Theyโ€™re only found in some convenience stores. Look out for non-vegan dashi ingredients.

Vegan popsicles: Find these in the freezer shelves in most convenience stores. These are really good!

Two Korean vegan popsicle wrappers, one flavored 'passion fruit' and the other 'flat peach', showcased side by side. The packaging is vibrant with images of the respective fruits and has Korean text, set against a bright yellow background.

Vegan Food in Supermarkets

An array of vegan meat products displayed in a freezer at a South Korean eMart, with brands like Plantable and Pulmone offering plant-based options and vegan food in Korea

Here are some vegan products you can find in most eMart supermarkets, whether you’re cooking or bringing these back with you (I put them in aluminum thermal bags I got from Daiso in Myeongdong and they were fine on a 13-hour flight).

Package of Plantable brand Vegan Bulgogi Onigiri Rice Balls, highlighting the plant-based ingredients with an image of two onigiri on the front
Plantable Vegan Bulgogi Rice Balls
Pulmone Vegan Meat Fried Rice packaging, prominently featuring a dish of fried rice with vegan meat, and plant-based labeling in Korean
Pulmone Vegan Meat Fried Rice
Plantable Vegan Kimchi Manu Dumplings packet, with the product name in English and Korean, and an appetizing image of kimchi-flavored dumplings
Plantable Vegan Kimchi Mandu Dumplings

Vegan Food in Korea: Fast-Food Restaurants:

Lotteria Vegan Miracle Burger set with fries and soda

In case you’re unable to find vegan food in a small city or are eating with non-vegans, here are common restaurant chains with vegan options.

  • Lotteria is a popular burger chain throughout South Korea. They serve the vegan Miracle burger. For $5 USD, you can get a whole set with drinks and fries. Iโ€™ve had this in a few cities, and enjoyed it.
  • No Brand Burger is another burger chain that offers a vegan burger and salad with vegan ham. Iโ€™ve yet to try it, but it has decent reviews.

Non-Vegan Restaurants in Korea to Look For:

Vegan meal at a Gyeongju restaurant, showcasing hummus, falafel balls, and a crisp salad with a drizzle of balsamic glaze

If you’re craving other cuisines or having trouble finding vegan food, try ordering these dishes that are generally vegan by default (always good to check).

  • Indian Restaurants: Chana Masala, Aloo Gobi, Dal, Vegetable Biryani, Roti, Samosa. (Ensure dishes are not made with ghee.)
  • Japanese Restaurants: Edamame, Inari Sushi, Vegetable Tempura (ask if made without egg in batter), Miso Soup (confirm no fish stock), Avocado Roll, Cucumber Roll.
  • Mediterranean Restaurants: Hummus, Dolma (grape leaves), Falafel, Tabouli, Fattoush, Pita Bread (confirm vegan), Roasted Vegetables.

Basic Language Phrases for Vegans

Hello written on a lined paper with the translation in Korean underneath - language Seoul travel tips
  • Does this have __ ?: ์ด๊ฒƒ์— __๊ฐ€ ๋“ค์–ด์žˆ๋‚˜์š”? (Igeose __ga deureo-innayo?)
  • No, there is none: ์•„๋‹ˆ์š”, ์—†์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (Aniyo, eopseumnida)
  • Yes, there is: ๋„ค, ์žˆ์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (Ne, itsseumnida)
  • Please do not put __: __๋„ฃ์ง€ ๋ง์•„์ฃผ์„ธ์š” ( __ Neohji marajuseyo)
  • I don’t eat meat: ์ €๋Š” ๊ณ ๊ธฐ๋ฅผ ๋จน์ง€ ์•Š์Šต๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (Jeoneun gogireul meokji anseumnida)
  • I am a vegetarian: ์ €๋Š” ์ฑ„์‹์ฃผ์˜์ž์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (Jeoneun chaesikjuuija-imnida)
  • I am a vegan: ์ €๋Š” ๋น„๊ฑด์ž…๋‹ˆ๋‹ค (Jeoneun bigeon-imnida)
  • Meat: ๊ณ ๊ธฐ (Gogi)
  • Milk: ์šฐ์œ  (Uyu)
  • Eggs: ๊ณ„๋ž€ (Gyeran)
  • Cheese: ์น˜์ฆˆ (Chijeu)
  • Chicken: ๋‹ญ๊ณ ๊ธฐ (Dakgogi)
  • Fish: ์ƒ์„  (Saengseon)
  • Shrimp: ์ƒˆ์šฐ (Saewu)
  • Shrimp paste: ์ƒˆ์šฐ์ “ (Saewujeot)

Vegan Festivals in Korea

The biggest annual vegan festival in Korea is Vegan Festival Korea, which usually takes place in the fall.

Throughout the year, there are small vegan events and fairs, usually in Seoul. I’ll continue to update this section.

  • April 11-13, 2024. Korea Vegan Fair | Website
  • 2024 TBA, Vegan Festival Korea, usually October | Website

๐Ÿ“– Check out my full list of 130+ vegan festivals around the world.

Vegan Communities in Korea

Local Vegans to Follow in Korea

Vegan Shopping in Korea

Olive Young's shelf displaying 'make p:rem' vegan skincare products, including Rice Makgeolli Cleansing Foam and cleansing oils. The packaging is predominantly white with green accents, highlighting their vegan qualities and award badges
  • Beyond vegan food in Korea, there are lots of vegan skincare, makeup and other beauty and toiletry items you can buy in South Korea.
  • Most vegan products in shops like Olive Young will be labeled vegan. If you’re unsure, look up the product online or contact the company.
Variety of '7 DAYS' vegan face masks by the brand 'A by BOM,' including Calming (Herb), Lotus+N, and Bamboo+B. These Korean skincare masks feature vibrant floral designs and are showcased on a white background
  • Just because a brand has one or two vegan-labeled products, it doesnโ€™t mean all of their products are vegan.
  • Olive Young stores usually have displays for their lines of vegan makeup products.
An in-store display titled 'LET'S VEGAN' features a range of vegan makeup products at Olive Young in Seoul, Korea. The display includes lipsticks, blush, eyeshadows, and a large image of a makeup brush and a compact powder highlighted in the center.

Hope this Vegan Food in Korea guide was helpful and enjoy eating all the great vegan food.

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