Kimbap (or gimbap) is Korean seaweed roll made with rice, vegetables and seaweed. Kimbap is an all-time favorite Korean picnic food. Some people calls Korean kimbap as Korean sushi, but they are not the same. Here are step-by-step instructions to make home preparation easy.

Slices of colorful kimbap with vegetable filling is served on a round plate with a pair of chopsticks.

When I go to Korean stores, I often pick up a package of store-made kimbap, Korean seaweed rice roll, to eat in the car driving back home. Then, I usually regret it because it is not nearly as good as homemade kimbap, especially the kind my mother used to make.

What is Kimbap?

Kimbap (or sometimes spelled gimbap) means “seaweed and rice” in Korean. This meal-on-the-go seaweed roll is made from cooked white rice and variety of vegetables, fish and meats that are rolled in gim (김) – dried seaweed sheets.

Kimbap might seem like a labor intensive food, due to all the ingredients you have to prepare separately. However, it is not as bad as you think, and the outcome is rewarding.

Kimbap vs Sushi

Many think kimbap and sushi might be the same, but there is a big difference in terms of the use of rice and the fillings.

In a Japanese sushi, the rice is seasoned with vinegar and sugar while in a kimbap is mixed with sesame oil and salt. People often call kimbap as Korean sushi or Korean sushi roll, but we prefer it to be called by the Korean name, “kimbap (김밥)“.

Korean seaweed rolls are stacked together on a wooden board.

How is kimbap versatile?

  • Depending on the ingredients you put in, it can become a meat lover’s snack – like bulgogi kimbap, or vegetarian friendly – yachae kimbap that you can easily find in Korean markets. There are many other varieties such as spam kimbap, fish cake kimbap, or fish roe kimbap, and etc. If you are interested in other ideas, my cookbook, Korean Cooking Favorites, has a great recipe for “Salad Kimbap.” Please check it out.
  • They are a perfect finger food, so it’s great for a meal-on-the-go. You can also feed a person or a crowd at a party, depending on how many you want to make.
  • Kimbap travels well. As a result, they will look beautiful at a potluck party or on your picnic table. In fact, it is widely popular as a picnic food in Korea. From the young to the “young at heart,” everyone loves and enjoys anytime, anywhere.

Why you should try this kimbap recipe?

  1. It’s my mother’s cherished recipe: It’s unique and delicious.
  2. Taste: The seasoning of rice is different than most other Korean kimbap that uses sesame oil. My kimbap recipe uses Korean plum extract and salt.
  3. Beautiful look: my kimbap has a defined look because of the pattern created by the rice and the combination of ingredients. There’s a trick how to accomplish that look.
Rolled Korean seaweed rolls are stacked together on a cutting board

Ingredients

1. What do you put in kimbap?

  • For vegetables; spinach, carrot, cucumber, Asian chives, watercress, perilla leaves, lettuce
  • For pickled vegetables; radish pickles, cucumber pickles, jalapeno pickles, burdock roots
  • For proteins; egg, canned tuna, beef, ham, bacon, pork or pork belly, shrimp tempura, seasoned anchovies, spicy shredded squid
  • Other fillings; fishcakes, imitation crab meats, and etc

Depending on the ingredients you select, you can make yours vegan or vegetarian.

2. kimbap rice seasoning

Kimbap rice has to be short or medium white grain rice. Long grain rice won’t work because the rice needs to have a level of stickiness to adhere to the sheets of seaweed. You will want to cook your rice with slightly less water than usual for a better texture.

There are three ways to season the rice to make kimbap.

You can use any of the choices above to season your rice according to your taste. Typically, people like to season their rice with sesame oil and salt. I am not a huge fan of a strong sesame oil fragrance in kimbap, though. My mother always used Korean plum extract to season her rice and everyone who tasted her kimbap voted hers the best.

3. Seaweed Sheet

Dried seaweed sheets are for making Kimbap.

You will see several kinds of seaweeds in Korean stores. Look for dark (almost black), dense, roasted seaweed sheet (Gim, 김). Learn more about Korean seaweed in my pantry page.

How to choose and store Korean seaweed: If the seaweed has any hint of red or purple hue, avoid it. It is old and has turned rancid. Once opened, I recommend keeping your seaweed in the freezer for longer storage. Seaweed can go rancid easily if exposed to the sun and humidity.

How to make Kimbap

Various ingredients for traditional Kimbap are presented on the counter

These are the classic kimbap fillings – spinach, carrot, egg, imitation crab meat, fish cake sheets, braised burdock roots, and radish pickles.

Step 1. Season the rice: Drizzle 2 tbsp of Korean plum extract and a couple pinches salt over freshly cooked rice and toss well. Cover rice with a kitchen towel and let it cool.

Step 2. Prep the kimbap filling ingredients: It’s convenient to use a store-bought radish pickles and burdock roots combo that can be easily purchased at Korean stores. Make sure to drain them well before using. Remove the plastic wrap from the imitation crab meat and set aside.

For the eggs: Beat eggs and cook in a skillet in 3 batches. Roll them up and slice thinly

For the carrots: cook shredded carrot in a little oil, add salt. Add 2 tbsp of water to create some steam and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes until crisp but tender.

For the fishcake: slice fishcake sheets thinly and stir-fry in a little oil for 1 minute. Mix together soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine, and then add the mixture to the fish cake. Continue to stir-fry for another minute.

For the spinach: blanch spinach in boiling water with some salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the excess moisture. Season with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Toss well.

How to roll Kimbap

Step 1. Get your ingredients ready to create a kimbap station. Cut 3 sheets of seaweed in half and set aside.

Step 2. Place a full sheet of seaweed, shiny side down, longer side toward you, on a bamboo rolling mat. Spread about 1 cup of rice (1/6 amount) evenly on the seaweed leaving 1 inch of space at the end. Lay a half seaweed sheet in the middle of rice.

Step 3. Put filling ingredients on top of the half seaweed sheet in a contrasting color pattern.

Step 4. Lift the entire end of mat from your side with both hands, roll over to cover the fillings, tucking in the filling with your fingers. Put firm pressure on the roll and continue to roll again as you roll away the mat until it reaches to the end.

Step 5. The finished kimbap should have an even thickness. Place on a platter, seam side down, while you are making another. Cut kimbap into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Tips For Making Perfect Seaweed Rice Rolls

  • Grease your fingers with a little bit of oil when spreading rice on the seaweed to avoid the rice sticking to your fingers.
  • For the same reason, apply a little oil to the blade of your knife with a brush when you slice kimbap.
Kimbap pieces are garnished with toasted sesame seeds and placed in a serving dish.

Storage

How long will kimbap last? Well, kimbap is best served on the day you made. You can leave kimbap in the room temperature for a few hours. Unfortunately they doesn’t taste as good if you keep them in the refrigerator too long.

Leftover Kimbap Idea:

If you have leftover kimbap, store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, coat kmbap pieces with some beaten egg and pan-fry it. See my Korean Meat Tofu Patties recipe for an idea. By turning them into Korean “jeon (pan-fried dish)”, you can still enjoy leftover kimbap, but in a slightly different way.

Watch full Kimbap Recipe Video

More Rice Dishes

Turn your boring leftover rice to make a delicious main dish. Try these favorite Korean rice recipes that people love.

Kimbap (Gimbap) is Korean seaweed rice rolls

Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)

Kimbap is Korean seaweed rice roll including rice, vegetables, and seaweed. This recipe makes beautiful Korean kimbap easily. It serves as a perfect finger food.
5 from 4 ratings

Ingredients

For the rice

For the filling ingredients

  • 6 strips pickled radish (danmuji), 1/2 inch thick, drained
  • 6-12 strips braised burdock root (Oeong), drained
  • 6 strips imitation crab meat
  • 2 tbsp oil, divided
  • 10 oz package shredded carrot
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 4 eggs, beaten

For the fishcake

For the spinach

Instructions 

  • For the rice; Rinse rice several times and drain. Soak rice in 2 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Cook rice until soft. Put hot rice in a large mixing bowl, add plum extract and salt; toss well. Cover rice with a kitchen towel and set aside to cool.
  • For the eggs: Beat eggs and cook in a skillet in 3 batches. Roll them up and slice thinly
  • For the carrots: cook shredded carrot in a little oil, add salt. Add 2 tbsp of water to create some steam and cover with a lid. Cook for 2 minutes until crisp but tender.
  • For the fishcake: slice fishcake sheets thinly and stir-fry in a little oil for 1 minute. Mix together soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine, and then add the mixture to the fish cake. Continue to stir-fry for another minute.
  • For the spinach: blanch spinach in boiling water with some salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the excess moisture. Season with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Toss well.

To assemble

  • Cut 3 sheets of seaweed in half and set aside.
  • Place a full sheet of seaweed, shiny side down, longer side toward you, on a bamboo rolling mat. Spread about 1 cup of rice (1/6 amount) evenly on the seaweed leaving 1 inch of space at the end. Lay a half seaweed sheet in the middle of rice.
  • Put filling ingredients on top of the half seaweed sheet in a contrasting color pattern.
  • Lift the entire end of mat from your side with both hands, roll over to cover the fillings, tucking in the filling with your fingers. Put firm pressure on the roll and continue to roll again as you roll away the mat until it reaches to the end.
  • Place the finished kimbap on a platter, seam side down, while you are making another. Cut kimbap into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Notes

If you want to season rice with sesame oil, toss rice with 1 tbsp sesame oil and 1/2 tsp salt.
If you want to season rice with vinegar mixture; whisk together 4 tbsp rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar, 1/2 salt in a small mixing bowl. Microwave for 1 minute until sugar dissolves. Pour into rice and toss well.
Calories: 370kcal, Carbohydrates: 62g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 109mg, Sodium: 650mg, Potassium: 606mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 13561IU, Vitamin C: 20mg, Calcium: 113mg, Iron: 3mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @beyondkimchee on Instagram. I love to see your masterpiece.