South Korea is crazy for sweet potatoes! This healthy, delicious food is not only a trend, it is a way of life. What pumpkin spice and cinnamon are to other countries is what sweet potatoes are to Korea. Sweet potatoes are a symbol of the winter holiday season. They bring warmth and snuggly vibes during the coldest months of the year.
Sweet potatoes were first brought into the Korean peninsula from Japan by Jo Um-yi, a delegate from Japan. In Korea, sweet potatoes are called goguma (고구마) . However, to my supprise there are many different varieties of sweet potatoes in South Korea.
The sweet potatoes here have purple flesh that is naturally sweeter and starchier than sweet potatoes found elsewhere. The most popular ones in Korea are Chestnut Sweet Potatoes, Water Sweet Potatoes, Pumpkin Sweet Potatoes, and Honey Sweet Potatoes. They are from the same species, but the texture and taste differ due to growing conditions.
Being the culinary innovators that they are, over the years the Koreans have reinvented the sweet potato again, and again. From lattes to yogurts, to pizzas, and even noodles, there are so many great ways to enjoy this tasty treat. Here are some of the best picks:
Before that, let’s check out some interesting facts about sweet potatoes in Korea:
- There is a sweet potato research center in Yeoju that studies the agriculture and health benefits of sweet potatoes.
- Stir-fried sweet potato stems are a popular side dish in Korea.
- Sweet potatoes are a trendy diet food in Korea. You can easily find sweet potato poke bowls or salads in healthy restaurants.
- In the winter, roasted sweet potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. Often, you can see street vendors roasting potatoes over an open flame or in a special drum canister made specially to cook them. Also, you can find roasted sweet potatoes in convenience stores like GS25 or CU.
- Sweet potatoes are a natural ingredient used in Korean skincare products like body lotion and face masks.
Sweet Potato Chips
The food team at Nongshim, one of the largest instant noodles and snack companies in South Korea, have come up with a simply genius way to enjoy the sweet potato: Goguma Kkang (고구마깡). Light and crispy, these chips taste exactly like sweet potato, making them the perfect treat if you can’t decide between savory or sweet.
Sweet Potato Bun
These tender, fluffy sweet potato buns offer an undeniably chewy bite with subtle sweet notes and a bright elegant purple color skin.
The buns are made with tapioca flour and are stuffed with honeyed sweet potato mash then rolled in purple sweet potato powder. They really look like sweet potatoes! Plus, they are almost always baked and served fresh out of the oven.
Sweet Potato Yogurt
Sweet potatoes are known as a powerful adjunct to human health due to their high fiber, carotene, vitamins, and antioxidants. The combination of sweet potato and yogurt will give you an abundance of nutrients.
Want a breakfast full of energy? You can purchase these purple sweet potato yogurts at local marts or online. The rich taste of sweet potato and yogurt is super delicious!
Sweet Potato Rice Cake
Purple sweet potato rice cake is a hot trend among Koreans. Compared to normal rice cakes which are tasteless when eaten alone, sweet potato rice cakes have sweet fillings. It is common to see the rice cakes added to malatang (Chinese spicy hot pot) or jjimdak (Korean soy-braised chicken).
Sweet Potato Mousse Cakes
Usually, sweet potato cakes are made from a mixture of mashed sweet potato and natural honey. The combination is a match made in heaven!
Furthermore, sweet potatoes are a fantastic ingredient to use in desserts because they add a moist element but are high in fiber. Popular South Korean bakery chains like Paris Baguette and Tous les Jours have also started selling sweet potato mouse cakes.
Sweet Potato Ice-cream
In Korea, the world of convenience store ice cream is essentially infinite. Although there are variations, my favorite sweet potato ice cream is a cake sandwich with sweet potato ice cream in the center. An ingenious confectionary creation!
In October 2021, Baskin Robbins introduced their new ice-cream flavor ‘Cheese and Sweet Potato’. They purchased 17 tons of sweet potatoes from farms in Haenam and used them to launch their new flavor. The blend of the savory taste of sweet potato and mild cheese taste is undeniably delicious!
Sweet Potato Latte
The sweet potato latte tastes like a hug in a mug, especially during cold weather. Contrary to its name, this drink does not contain any coffee. Which, makes it a great option for any age group!
Lattes contain cooked Korean sweet potato, dairy, and sweetener. Typically, people will add sugar or honey to their Goguma Lattes. Due to the high fiber content of sweet potato, it is very nutritious, healthy, and filling. You can make your own from scratch, buy at the coffee shop or purchase instant ones online.
Sweet Potato Pizza
Sweet potato pizzas are made using fully ripened sweet potatoes which have very soft and sweet flesh. At first, I thought sweet potato would not go well with tomato paste and cheese, but I was absolutely wrong.
The saltiness of tomato and sweetness of sweet potato creates one of the most special pizza combinations I’ve come across. However, some people don’t like sweet potato pizza because they think it is too greasy. But, I think it should be fine if you eat only one or two slices. If you ever visit Korea, do try this unique pizza that will lighten up your taste buds!
Want to learn about more Korean winter treats? >>Click Here<< for a guide to winter street food in Korea.