Best Jajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)
This jajangmyeon recipe delivers the authentic flavors of Korean black bean noodles, featuring thick, chewy wheat noodles enveloped in a rich, savory black bean sauce. A hallmark of Chinese-Korean fusion cuisine, it’s recognized as one of Korea’s most popular noodle dishes — absolutely delicious!
Jajangmyeon holds a special place in the hearts of many Koreans; it’s a nostalgic cornerstone in the realm of Korean noodle dishes. It’s what you eat when you’re celebrating something big or when you just need a little pick-me-up.
Think of it as Korea’s answer to mac ‘n cheese – total comfort food. It usually shows up at the table with buddies like Jjamppong, a kicky seafood noodle soup, and Tangsuyuk, which is basically the best sweet and sour pork you’ll ever have.
But its the thick, chewy noodles slobbered with rich, savory black sauce have universal appeal. Whether you’re revisiting childhood memories or trying it for the first time, this straightforward recipe makes achieving that restaurant-quality Korean jajangmyeon attainable at home.
One bite, and you’ll understand the hype—dark sauce smears that you often see in Korean dramas!
What is Jajangmyeon?
Jajangmyeon (자장면), often referred to as Jjajangmyeon (짜장면), is a popular Korean-Chinese noodle dish. It consists of chewy wheat noodles smothered in a savory sauce made from chunjang (춘장), a fermented Korean black soybean paste.
Jajangmyeon has a deep, savory taste from the black bean sauce that’s a little bit sweet and a little bit salty. The sauce is thick and clings to the chewy noodles. Each bite gives you a hearty flavor that’s really satisfying, kind of like a really good spaghetti but with its own unique Korean twist.
This delicious and satisfying meal has its origins in This delicious and satisfying meal has its origins in but has been adapted to suit the Korean palate, making it a beloved staple in Korean cuisine.
Adapted from the ‘Zhajiangmian’ by early Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century, jajangmyeon quickly gained popularity in Korea, particularly in Incheon. Using chunjang, a fermented black bean paste, it became a cost-effective meal for urban workers and a staple at celebrations.
Popularity in Korea:
The rise of Korean-Chinese restaurants in the ’70s and ’80s saw jajangmyeon becoming a staple across Korea. The ’90s brought instant jjajangmyeon, making it easy for anyone to enjoy this dish at home. Today, it’s as common as pizza delivery in the U.S., especially popular on moving days. It also holds cultural significance on Black Day (April 14th), when singles come together to eat jajangmyeon in solidarity.
Varieties of Korean Black Bean Noodle Dishes
- Classic Jajangmyeon: This traditional recipe features hand-pulled noodles and a hearty black bean sauce with diced pork and vegetables.
- Seafood Jajangmyeon: A seafood spin on the classic where squid and shrimp bring a taste of the sea to the robust black bean sauce.
- Gan-Jjajang: For those who love a hands-on meal, this version presents a less saucy, more substantial mixture of meat and veggies served beside, not on, the noodles. Mix it up and enjoy the blend of flavors.
- Jjajangbap: Swap out the noodles for rice and experience a whole new way to enjoy the savory thick black bean sauce.
- Instant Jajangmyeon: Perfect for busy days, this quick-fix option from the convenience store is ready with just hot water—a speedy, tasty bite of Korean flavor.
Noodles are key to jajangmyeon’s chewy, satisfying texture. While hand-pulled noodles are the gold standard, various commercial wheat noodles also do justice to the dish’s hearty sauce.
You can buy these wheat noodles easily at most Asian grocery stores, usually labeled as udon and jajangmyeon (우동 짜장면) or jungwhamyeon (중화면).
For the best texture, look for fresh noodles in the refrigerator section of Asian grocery stores or Korean markets. However, if you’re in a pinch and can’t find these specific types, udon noodles or dried spaghetti make acceptable substitutes.
Just keep in mind that dried noodles may not hold their shape as well as their fresh counterparts once cooked.
Jajangmyeon sauce is made from a thick, sweet, and savory black bean paste called ‘chunjang.’ It’s stir-fried with diced pork, vegetables like onions and sometimes zucchini or potatoes, and a bit of sugar to add sweetness.
This mixture is simmered until until they are soft and the flavors meld into a rich, thick sauce that’s dark, almost black. This sauce is then poured over noodles to create the classic jajangmyeon dish.
- Pork: Choose loin or shoulder cuts for the best texture.
- Wheat Noodles: Fresh noodles are ideal, but dried noodles works too.
- In a pinch, spaghetti or udon noodles are a suitable alternative.
- Chunjang: The key to authentic jajangmyeon is this Korean black bean paste, Fry it in oil or pork fat to create the rich jajang sauce.
- It is available in jars or packets at Korean markets usually found in the same isle with gochujang and doenjang pastes.
- You can also find pre-roasted chunjang , which is ready to use without extra frying.
- Lard: Use it to add depth to your sauce, or choose oil for a lighter version.
Note: Avoid using Chinese black bean paste; it’s different and will change the flavor of the dish. If you like Chinese black bean flavors, see my recipes for Chinese Beef and Pepper Stir-fry or Twice Cooked Pork.
- Asian Leek or Green Onion: These bring a subtle sharpness and fragrance to the dish.
- Mixed Vegetables: Typically onions, cabbage, and zucchini are used for their complementary flavors and textures.
- Oyster Sauce: Adds a touch of umami and depth.
- Cornstarch Slurry: A simple blend of cornstarch and water that thickens the sauce.
My Best Cooking Tips
- Pre-fry the Chunjang Paste in Oil: To enhance the flavor of the sauce, fry the black bean paste in hot oil for 2-3 minutes.
- This step helps eliminate any bitter taste and creates a more delicious sauce.
- Opt for lard when possible: Using lard in your recipe will contribute a deeper, richer flavor to the sauce.
- If lard is unavailable, you can use oil as a substitute.
- Add a Savory Kick: Use Asian leek or green onion for extra umami. Sauté Asian leek or green onion in lard or oil, along with a little amount of sugar, to impart a savory taste.
- The sugar caramelizes the leek slightly and integrates a smoky flavor into the sauce.
- Use Chicken Bouillon Powder: A pinch can add a complex undertone to the sauce.
- Alternatively, use chicken stock in place of water for the same rich flavor.
How to Cook Jajangmyeon
Step 1. Prep Chujang Paste
- Heat some oil or a large skillet in a wok on medium-low heat, then add the chunjang paste. Stir-fry it for 2 to 3 minutes.
- After that, use a fine mesh strainer to transfer the paste to a small plate and put it aside. Get rid of the oil and give the wok a quick clean.
Step 2. Cook Pork and Aromatics
- Warm up the lard in the wok over medium-high heat. Toss in the leek and sugar, stir-frying until the leek begins to caramelize.
- Then, add the pork and continue cooking until it’s fully cooked and no pink remains.
Step 3. Stir-fry vegetables
- Add the cabbage and onion to the wok, cooking them until they start to soften. Throw in the zucchini pieces and give everything a good stir.
- Then, blend in the set-aside chunjang paste and oyster sauce, making sure all the meat and vegetables are evenly coated.
Step 4. Thicken the Sauce
- Add water and chicken bouillon powder to the mixture, stirring thoroughly. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it cook for 3 minutes.
- Then, stir in the starch slurry and cook until the sauce reaches a thicker consistency.
Step 5. Prepare the Noodles
- Boil the noodles in a large pot of water, following the instructions on the package.
- To achieve chewier noodles, add a splash of cold water each time the water reaches a rolling boil.
- Once cooked, drain the noodles and divide them into individual serving bowls. Then, mix in the sauce.
Place a portion of noodles in each bowl and ladle the jajang sauce over them. Garnish with julienned cucumber matchsticks on top of the noodles, if desired.
Alternatively, you can serve the sauce over cooked rice, creating a dish known as jjajangbap (짜장밥).
What to eat with jajangmyeon
Enjoying Korean noodles with black bean sauce is often a feast of flavors, and it’s commonly paired with complementary dishes that enhance the experience:
- Danmuji (Yellow Pickled Radish): The sweet and tangy crunch of Asian pickled radish cleanses the palate between bites of the savory noodles. Find danmuji at Korean grocery stores or Asian markets, available either whole or sliced into convenient rounds.
- Pa-Kimchi: A classic Korean kimchi made with green onions, its spicy and fermented flavors balance the richness of jajangmyeon perfectly.
- Tangsuyuk (Sweet and Sour Pork): The crispy, sweet, and sour flavors of tangsuyuk provide a delightful textural and flavor contrast to the creamy jajangmyeon sauce.
- Jjamppong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup): If you love a variety of noodles, jjamppong offers a spicy contrast to the sweet and savory jajangmyeon.
Many enjoy adding a fried egg on top of their jajangmyeon, although this is a matter of personal taste. Most importantly, be sure to eat it quickly before the noodles become too soft — soggy noodles are not enjoyable!
Enjoy these noodle recipes featuring popular dishes from Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.
- Yaki Udon (Stir-Fried Udon Noodles)
- Hong Kong Pan-Fried Noodles
- Gochujang Noodles
- Nangmyeon (Korean Spicy Cold Noodles)
- Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)
Best Jajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)
- 4 servings jjajangmyeon noodles, fresh or dried noodles
- 5 tbsp Korean black bean paste (chunjang)
- 4 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp lard, or oil
- 1/2 cup chopped Asian leek, or green onion
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 lb pork, chopped into small pieces
- 1/4 small cabbage, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/2 zucchini, chopped
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp chicken bouillon powder
- 1 tbsp cornstarch , mixed with 3 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cucumber, sliced to matchsticks to garnish, optional
For Jajangmyeon Sauce
- To pre-fry Korean black bean paste (chunjang), heat oil in a wok over medium-low heat, and add chunjang paste. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Use a fine mesh strainer to scoop the paste onto a small plate and set aside. Discard the oil and clean the wok.
- Heat lard in the wok over medium-high heat. Add the leek and sugar, stir-frying until the leek is slightly caramelized. Add pork and cook until no longer pink.
- Stir in cabbage and onion, cooking until slightly softened. Add zucchini pieces and toss. Mix in the reserved chunjang paste and oyster sauce, ensuring that all meat and vegetables are coated evenly.
- Pour in water and chicken powder, stirring well. Bring the sauce to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Add the starch slurry and cook until the sauce thickens.
- Meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil. Add the noodles and cook according to the package direction, and drain. Be careful not to overcook them.
- Place a portion of noodles in each bowl and ladle the sauce over them. Garnish with optional cucumber matchsticks, if desired. Alternatively, you can serve the sauce over cooked rice, creating a dish known as jjajangbap (짜장밥).Note: Jjajangmyeon is traditionally accompanied by pickled radish slices. However, a modern twist involves pairing the dish with green onion kimchi (pa kimchi), which creates a delightful combination.