Yukgaejang is a hearty, spicy beef soup made with shredded beef, lots of scallions and other vegetables. Perfect soup to keep you and your family warm and nourished during cold months!
Yukgaejang (육개장) is a hearty, spicy beef soup that’s highly popular in Korea. Made with shredded beef, lots of scallions (pa, 파) and other vegetables such as gosari (fernbrake fiddleheads), beansprouts, and mushrooms, this is a substantial soup that has a great depth of flavor.
You won’t need anything other than a bowl of rice for a completely satisfying meal on a cold winter day. In Korea, yukgaejang is also popular as nourishing soup that helps fight the summer heat.
As we do with many Korean soups, we often enjoy this soup with some rice mixed in. Some people prefer to keep the rice and soup separately while eating. What’s your preference?
Which cut of beef to use
Beef brisket (yangjimeori, 양지머리) is the typical cut for this soup and many other Korean soups. It’s a flavorful, tough cut of meat that’s great for making broth. When properly boiled, the meat turns pull-apart tender, making it ideal for this soup. You can also use flank steak (chimasal, 치마살) or shank meat (satae, 사태).
If chicken is used instead, the soup is then called dakgaejang (닭개장).
If you want to use only one vegetable for this soup, it should be scallions and lots of them. After the beef, this is the most important ingredient for this soup. In Korea, the large variety green onions, called daepa (대파), are used for soups. No, they are not the same as leeks. Daepa is packed with unique sweet oniony flavor which elevates the taste of soups.
Luckily, daepa now is available at Korean markets around here, especially during fall and winter.
There are other similar beef soups in Korea, but gosari (fernbrake fiddleheads) is unique in this soup. You can buy dried gosari (고사리) at any Korean market and rehydrate by a combination of soaking and boiling in water. Look for the ones with short, thin stems. Besides adding soft, chewy texture to the dish, gosari imparts a deep, earthy flavor to the soup. A bag of dried gosari can last for a long time in your pantry, and you can also use it in bibimbap (비빔밥).
Sesame oil is essential, and it’s typically infused with gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes). Simply heat the oil and mix with the gochugaru. For added layers of flavor, I usually add very small amounts of gochujang (Korean red chili pepper paste) and doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste). But, absolutely optional! This yukgaejang recipe is not fiery hot. Adjust the heat level according to your taste.
If you want your soup to be extra rich, you can also boil some beef bones (such as neck bones) with the meat. Or, I sometimes add some pre-made seolleongtang broth (aka milky bone broth or sagol yuksu) to boil the meat because I usually have some in my freezer. You can also use store-bought milky beef bone broth, which is usually labeled as sagol yuksu (사골육수) or sagol gomtang (사골곰탕).
You can also use anchovy broth or dashima broth to boil the beef to add extra flavors to the resulting broth.
I usually drizzle lightly beaten eggs over the soup at the end of cooking. Some people prefer thin egg omelette garnish (jidan, 지단). You can skip the eggs if you want.
Noodles are also a great addition! Dangmyeon (당면), sweet potato starch noodles (aka japchae noodles), is typical for this soup.
2 - 3bunches scallions2 or 3 stalks of Korean daepa
2tablespoonsgochugaru, 고추가루 (red chili pepper flakes) - 2.5 to 3 TB for spicier soup
2tablespoonsguk ganjang, 국간장 (soup soy sauce)
1teaspoongochujang, 고추장 (red chili pepper paste) - optional
1teaspoon doenjang, 된장 (soybean paste) - optional
salt and pepper
2eggs - optionallightly beaten
3ouncesdangmyeon (당면), starch noodles - optionalsoaked in warm water for 20 minutes
Add the gosari and 4 cups of water to a small pot. Boil over medium heat, covered, until tender. Mine only took about 30 minutes, but the time can vary significantly depending on gosari. Turn the heat off and let it cool in the cooking water. When ready to use, rinse in cold water and drain. Cut into 4-inch lengths, removing tough ends of the stems, if any. (See note 1.)
In a large pot, bring the meat, onion, optional radish, and garlic to a boil in 14 cups of water (see note 2). Reduce the heat to medium, and skim off the scum. Boil, covered, until the meat is tender enough for shredding, about 1 hour. Pull a string of meat off and check the tenderness. Let the meat cool a bit in the cooking liquid. Discard the vegetables, reserving the stock in the pot. Spoon off any visible fat. The broth should be about 7 to 8 cups.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred into about 3 to 4-inch strips.
Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling water for a minute. Wash with cold water and drain. Cut the scallions into 4-inch lengths. Thinly slice the soaked mushrooms.
In a pan, heat the sesame oil until hot over low heat and stir in the chili pepper flakes. Turn the heat off as soon as the oil starts to turn red and the chili pepper flakes become a bit pasty. This only takes a few seconds. Do not burn the flakes.
Add the meat, fernbrakes, mushrooms, 1 tablespoon soup soy sauce, and garlic. Combine well.
Add the meat and gosari mixture along with 1 tablespoon of soup soy sauce into the broth. Stir in the optional gochujang and doenjang, and boil over medium heat, covered, for 20 minutes.
Throw in the bean sprouts and scallions, and boil for another 10 minutes. Add salt (1 teaspoon or more) and pepper to taste. Within a few minutes before turning the heat, add the optional noodles. Slowly drizzle the optional eggs over the boiling soup and turn the heat off. Serve with rice.
You can also soak the gosari for several hours to soften and then boil over medium heat until tender.
You can use a combination of milky beef bone broth and water if you want. Add 4 to 6 cups or more. And simply reduce water by the same amount.
This recipe was originally posted in December 2014. I’ve updated it here with new photos, more information and minor improvements to the recipe.