Korea Veggie Travel

Boribap: An Awesome Find for Vegetarians in Korea

boribap vegetarians in korea

For vegetarians in Korea, eating out can feel like a never-ending conveyor belt of bibimbap. Most social gatherings here tend to revolve around meat, meat and more meat. If you’re invited out for dinner, you can be 90% sure it will be a traditional barbeque. And, even if you do find something that seems like it may be vegetarian- say, soft tofu broth, you’re probably going to find some chunks of pork floating along the bottom.

Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been trying to eat a mostly plant-based diet. My skin has been better, I feel more energetic and I know that my diet is having less impact on the environment and cruelty to animals. It’s all been pretty dandy. That is until it comes to travelling around the country and meeting up with friends.

While big cities like Seoul and Busan cater fairly well to vegetarians, the same can’t be said for the country as a whole.

After doing a templestay in Gyeongju where Veeran and I tasted some of the most drool-worthy Korean food, we’ve been determined to find restaurants selling similar food. After scouring Naver high and low, we didn’t manage to find any temple restaurants per se, but we did make a particularly game-changing discovery:


boribap vegetarians in korea

So what’s boribap? The answer’s not that exciting, actually. Basically, boribap is a combination of steamed rice and barley served with banchan (side dishes) and a soup; usually, doenjangguk (a traditional Korean soup similar to Japanese miso.)

Right now you’re probably wondering what’s so game-changing about rice and banchan. After all, it’s pretty much the afterthought/bread and butter of every meal in Korea.

What makes boribap different is that the banchan that’s served isn’t the usual uninspiring combination of radish cubes and kimchi- although they do make an appearance, of course.

Not content with always being the supporting role, the banchan is the star of this show.

On our table, we had a combination of kimchi (of course), baby oyster mushrooms, green onion salad, courgettes, spinach and loads of other things. There was even some fish there to keep non-veggies happy.

As is customary with boribap, our dish was served with doenjangguk. Vegetarians and vegans should know that this is usually prepared with anchovy broth.

Boribap as a Dining Experience

boribap vegetarians in koea

One of the things that I loved most about our boribap meal was how reminiscent it was of the communal Korean dining experience that I miss. With the assortment of veggie side dishes and the variety of different sauces and pastes, it felt a bit like a “build your own bibimbap” night! Stuffing my banchan and rice into a lettuce leaf reminded me of soju-fuelled nights eating samgyeopsal with friends.

So, for all you vegetarians in Korea, sick of eating bowls of iced noodles while your friends chow down strips of galbi, why not suggest a night out at your local boribap restaurant? A quick search on kakao maps for 보리밥 will show you any nearby restaurants. We live in a pretty small city and had several nearby, so I’m sure that you will too!

If you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to check out some of my other posts about expat life in Korea. Here are a few to get you started!

The Ultimate Guide for Female Expats in Korea

How to Travel in Korea and Still Save Money

How to Eat Clean in Korea

5 Easy and Budget Friendly Trips to Take from Korea

10 of the Best Budget Friendly Beauty Products in Korea

Let me know, which vegetarian Korean dish do you love?

boribap vegetarians in korea

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  • Reply
    Mark Scrooby
    21st December 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Certainly one of the things we’ve most enjoyed about Korea is the food! Finding new dishes to try is always great. Good recommendations make this much easier. Not a vegetarian myself but this meal looks great. Will have to add it to the list of things to try before leaving.

  • Reply
    22nd December 2016 at 10:11 pm

    Mmmm this looks so yummy! I’m not a vegetarian but I do appreciate a meat less meal every now and then. I’m going to miss the Korean dining experience when I leave Korea!

  • Reply
    Ana Park
    23rd December 2016 at 3:49 pm

    One of my favorites in Korea! I have been trying for years to eat less meat and this I hope to do it right. At home I prepare different kinds of leafy veggies and eat with rice and beanpaste sauce. I would love to have that many side dishes ~

  • Reply
    Rocio Cadena
    26th December 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Man, I can’t imagine being a vegetarian in Korea as meat is in about 98% of all of their dishes. I love meat but I didn’t eat it that much back in the Sates. I limited my intake to a few times a month and rarely cooked red meat myself, preferring to cook chicken, turkey and fish. But since living in Korea, my red meat intake has increased tremendously. I do worry sometimes about the long term health effects of eating so much of it but it’s so convenient and delicious!

  • Reply
    26th December 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I love this so much Nicole! I’m trying to write a vegetarian guide for Korea so this is really helpful. You would LOVE Vietnam as a vegetarian, it’s really probably the most vegetarian of all Asian countries (well maybe India trumps it :P) Thanks for this guide, will definitely be linking back to you!
    Izzy recently posted…The Best Travel Books of 2016My Profile

  • Reply
    26th December 2016 at 4:31 pm

    I love this! I didn’t know this existed until you shared it here. I think this is great for vegetarians (and those who would like to eat something like bibimbap but don’t know how to order it meatless, hihi). Thanks for sharing! Pinned it 🙂
    Jackie recently posted…Malaysian Tang Yuan (Sweet Dumplings): A Winter Solstice DishMy Profile

  • Reply
    Nicky Kim
    26th December 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Wow psychic! I was literally just writing about veganism and vegetarianism. Although I am not a vegan/vegetarian, sometimes I want something that’s healthy, so I can kind of understand your veggie desires. Boribap can be really delicious, but I wish I could just pack it in a dosirak. The whole process of making it and assembling one wrap…is annoying sometimes. Anyway great post!!

  • Reply
    Kate Carter Hickey
    26th December 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I think this is essentially where Kristina from Nerdventurists and I went on her first night in Korea! We have a great place out in Sincheon which doesnt disappoint when it comes to banchan. I do love the kbbq but boribap is tasty and fresh too!
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  • Reply
    Hedgers Abroad
    27th December 2016 at 12:38 am

    We aren’t vegetarian (kuddos to all who are) but we also love boribap! It’s such a dynamic and individually specific dish that allows eat person to customize their dish to suit his or her own palate. Our Gluten-free friend loves to get splain white rice and join in this dish as well, as she gets her hands on all of the ingredients she can tolerate and can skip the ones that cause problems without losing out on the experience. You’ve added an oft-forgotten favorite to our “to-eat-soon” list.
    Hedgers Abroad recently posted…How to Survive Winter in KoreaMy Profile

  • Reply
    27th December 2016 at 11:06 am

    Boribap sounds tasty! I would definitely recommend that to vegetarian travelers. I love galbi but having a break from too much meat would be great.
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  • Reply
    27th December 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I love meat and meat dishes in Korea. Boribap is awesome, it’s simplicity and health factors. Korean side dishes kick butt, if you don’t like one thing, you are sure to find something you’ll enjoy.

  • Reply
    Jen A.
    28th December 2016 at 1:48 am

    Can we just start by saying my mouth is officially watering? My boyfriend and I have been trying to eat vegetarian once a week and it’s a struggle at times even in Busan so we will definitely be searching for Boribap!

  • Reply
    Melissa Douglas
    16th January 2017 at 12:31 am

    Oh yum, that looks great!
    I was just talking to a friend earlier actually about how I feel like an absolute troll because of all the fried chicken/bulgogi/galbi it feels like I am constantly eating so I definitely need to be on the look out for lighter options like this!

  • Reply
    Jenny - Support Your Beauty
    10th September 2017 at 8:36 pm

    What I also love to eat when in South Korea is their street foods. I was awed with the street foods because there are so many to choose from, I have tried boribap and a bottle of soju, so satisfying.

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