Dalgona is Korean sugar candy made with sugar and baking soda and became an overnight sensation from the popular Netflix show, Squid Game. Make this easy dalgona candy recipe and learn about the history and its customs in Korea.

Dalgona is Korean sugar candy that has been featured in the Netflix show, Squid Game

What is Dalgona?

Dalgona (or Ppopgi) is basically an old-fashioned Korean sugar candy made with just sugar and baking soda. It looks like a cookies but has a hard and honeycomb toffee-like texture. The reason this dalgona candy is so nostalgic to Koreans is because of how it is made – in a soup ladle!

The popular Netflix show “Squid Game” featured this dalgona candy, and it became an overnight sensation via social media. I haven’t watched that particular show, but I can see why these, so called squid game cookies, are so intriguing to non-Koreans. And dalgona candy recipe is a fun to make if you know the story behind it.

Dalgona vs Ppopgi

Any Korean who grew up in 1970s Korea (like myself) will have a memory of two special Korean candy treats – Dalgona (달고나) and Ppopgi (뽑기). They were slightly different; while Ppopgi is made with plain sugar, Dalgona was made with a glucose solid.

These two candies were popular among Korean children in the 70s through early 80s. Interestingly, over the past few decades people have confused the names. What most people now call “Dalgona” should really be called “Ppopgi” candy. I’ll ride the current trend and call this recipe Dalgona.

FYI, this recipe is for Dalgona candy, not the Dalgona whipped coffee.

History of Dalgona Candy

In 1970s Korea, there weren’t many sweet baked goods available for children. Home baking was virtually unheard of and even having an oven was a rare luxury. Only the wealthiest of families then could have an oven.

Dalgona was a popular sugar candy for young children in those days, and the candy came with a game. There were many dalgona vendors on the street, each with a portable charcoal stove that provided an opportunity for children to make their own dalgona candy. As far as I can remember, I only paid a few pennies.

The vendor would give you a cheap ladle filled with a small amount of sugar. You squat down and hold the ladle directly on the briquet, stirring the sugar with a disposable wooden chopstick until the sugar caramelizes. When the sugar turns to a deep amber color, you add a tiny amount of baking soda. Suddenly the contents of the ladle turn into a golden bubbly mass. You quickly turn it over onto a flat surface. Then then the vender will press the mass down with a hotteok press to flatten it, then gently make an indentation with a shaped cutter.

The fun part begins after that. You want to try to cut the candy around the shape with your hand. The goal is to pick out the indented shape without breaking it. The name Ppopgi (뽑기) comes from that–it means “picking out.” It’s not that easy to do because the candy breaks easily.

Some kids used a needle or a toothpick to poke around the pattern to pick out the shape. Some even used their own saliva to moisten the edge. Only a few with very good fine motor skills could succeed.

If you succeed, you get a second ladle of sugar for free! It’s like a game. I took the Ppopgi game challenge numerous times and hardly ever succeeded. The game can’t be too easy, otherwise the vendor won’t make any profit, right?

By the early 1980s, as Korea developed economically and more families began to have ovens in their own homes, dalgona and ppopgi candy started to disappear, and dalgona street vendors exist now only in our memories.

Korean Childhood Memory

Like me, most Korean children were obsessed with this sugar candy in the 70s. Often they attempted making it at home – using their mother’s one and only kitchen ladle. When mother was out running some errands (because she wouldn’t let us do it if she was at home), that’s when we wanted to try it. After several attempts to caramelize the sugar, the ladle would be left with burn marks and discoloration. When she came back, mother would discover that her kitchen ladle is ruined. Then comes the yelling–and maybe even worse, a smacking on your backside! Ouch!

Korean Dalgona candies are pressed with cookie cutters

Tools for making Korean Sugar Candy

You can buy a Dalgona tools set from online stores. You can also use any small cookie cutter that you have, along with a Korean Hotteok Press. I would recommend investing in a hotteok press tool, because you can use it to make the amazing Hotteok (Korean sweet pancakes filled with brown sugar syrup). Try my recipe for Hotteok and you will love it.

If you don’t have a hotteok press, use the bottom of small sauce pan to press down.

Home found tool you need to make Korean sugar candy (Dalgona)
  • Ladle – Use a cheap one. Look for one at dollar stores or cheap kitchen supply stores. Don’t use your mother’s nice kitchen ladle. You might possibly get your backside smacked.
  • Wooden chopsticks – or popsicle sticks.
  • Hotteok Press – It’s a tool to press down the dalgona mass.
  • Sugar – use granulated sugar.
  • Baking soda – do not substitute with baking powder. It has to be baking soda.
  • Cookie cutters – any size and pattern you desire. A simpler pattern will be easier.
  • Silicon mat – It helps release the dalgona candy easily. You can also use parchment paper.

Recipe Tips

  1. Make sure to use med-low to low heat to caramelize the sugar and melt the sugar completely before adding the baking soda.
  2. Remove the ladle from the heat source when you add the baking soda.
  3. Try not to use too much baking soda. It will bubble up too much and it might stick to the hotteok press. Your candy will get bitter, too.

Recipe FAQs

How do I keep the ladle clean in between making candies?

Run the ladle under hot water to remove the hardened sugar residue after each time you make the candy. The hot water will dissolve the hardened sugar quickly. Wipe out the water with a dry towel and proceed to the next dalgona.

My shape pattern keeps breaking when I try to pick it out. Any suggestion?

One solution is to press harder with a cookie cutter when you make the indentation. The deeper the pattern, the easier it is to keep the shape of pattern. Another way is to use a toothpick to poke around the pattern. Some use water to wet the toothpick to moisten the surface.

My Dalgona has a bitter taste. What should I do?

Use less baking soda. Too much baking soda makes the candy bitter. Another reason can be caramelizing the sugar too long.

Watch Dalgona Recipe Video (Full Version)

How to make Dalgona candy at Home

Put 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar in a ladle over med-low to low heat. When the sugar starts to melt around the edge, stir with a wooden chopstick.

Keep stirring until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Reduce the heat if the sugar burns too quickly. All the sugar has melted and it should have a light caramel color.

Remove the ladle from heat, and add a pinch of baking soda. Keep stirring until well mixed.

Pour the mixture on a Silicon mat and press gently with a Hotteok Press to flatten.

Quickly press down with a cookie cutter to leave an indentation on the surface. Let the candy cool and lift it up with a spatula.

Dalgona candy is broken and used as a topping for ice cream

How to enjoy Korean Sugar Candy

  1. When the candy is cooled, lift up the candy and try to break the edges around the indented shape pattern. Have fun playing around.
  2. You can enjoy the candy as is, but try enjoying it as a topping for ice cream. Yummy!

Storage Suggestion

Once cooled, store them in an airtight zip bag and keep them on the counter for up to 3 days. If the climate is humid, your dalgona might become sticky.

Dalgona (Korean sugar candy) pattern is picked out and presented over a napkin

Try Other Korean Sweet Treats

Korean Dalgona candies are pressed with cookie cutters

Dalgona Candy (Korean Sugar Candy)

Dalgona is a traditional Korean sugar candy made with sugar and baking soda. This nostalgic candy recipe is popular via social media because of how it is made – in a soup ladle!
4.80 from 5 ratings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pinch about 1/16 tsp baking soda

Equipment

Instructions 

  • Put sugar in a ladle over med-low to low heat. When the sugar starts to melt around the edge, stir with a wooden chopstick.
  • Keep stirring until the sugar melts and caramelizes. Reduce the heat if the sugar burns too quickly. All the sugar has melted and it should have an amber color.
  • Remove the ladle from heat, and add a pinch of baking soda. Keep stirring until well mixed.
  • Pour the sugar mix on a silicon mat and press gently with a Hotteok Press to flatten. Quickly press down with a cookie cutter to leave an indentation on the surface. Let the candy cool and lift it up with a spatula.
  • Once cooled, store them in an airtight zip bag and keep them on the counter for up to 3 days. If the climate is humid, your dalgona might become sticky.

Notes

How to enjoy Dalgona
  1. When the candy is cooled, lift up the candy and try to break the edges around the indented shape pattern. Have fun playing around.
  2. You can enjoy dalgona as is, but try enjoying it as a topping for ice cream. Yummy!
Calories: 69kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Fat: 1g, Sodium: 274mg, Potassium: 1mg, Sugar: 18g, Calcium: 1mg, Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @beyondkimchee on Instagram. I love to see your masterpiece.