Kimbap (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)
Kimbap, also known as gimbap, is a type of Korean seaweed roll that consists of rice, vegetables, and seaweed. It has always been a popular choice for Korean picnics. To make home preparation a breeze, here are some step-by-step instructions.
Whenever I visit Korean stores, I have a habit of buying store-made kimbap – Korean seaweed rice rolls – to munch on while driving back home.
But more often than not, I end up regretting it as the taste doesn’t compare to the homemade version, especially the ones my mother used to make. Therefore, I am sharing my mother’s recipe for you to try.
What is Kimbap?
Kimbap (or sometimes spelled gimbap) means “seaweed and rice” in Korean. Along with Korean bibimbap, it is another popular Korean rice dish.
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. And it’s inexpensive and presents beautiful.
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 it as Korean sushi or Korean sushi roll, but we prefer it to be called by the Korean name, “kimbap (김밥)“.
Seasoning Option for Rice
It is recommended to use short or medium grain white rice since long grain rice lacks the necessary stickiness to adhere to the seaweed sheets. To achieve the ideal texture, cook the rice with slightly less water than usual.
There are three common ways to season the rice for Korean seaweed rolls:
- Sesame oil and salt
- Vinegar, sugar, sesame seeds
- Korean plum extract (mashil chung, 매실청) and salt
Most people prefer seasoning the rice with sesame oil and salt. However, if you’re not a fan of strong sesame oil fragrance, you can try using Korean plum extract instead.
In fact, my mother always used Korean plum extract to season her rice, and her kimbap was always voted as the best by everyone who tasted it.
Korean seaweed roll fillings offer a wide range of options to choose from. Here are some popular options for you to consider:
- 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 choose, you can make your kimbap vegan or vegetarian-friendly.
Seaweed Sheets (Gim)
When shopping at Korean stores, you may come across various types of seaweeds. For making kimbap, you should look for dark, dense, and roasted seaweed sheet (Gim or 김 in Korean), also known as nori.
You can find more information about Korean seaweed on my pantry page.
When selecting seaweed, avoid any sheets that have a hint of red or purple hue as it indicates that the seaweed is old and has turned rancid.
To store seaweed for longer periods, it’s recommended to keep it in the freezer after opening the package. Seaweed can quickly become rancid if exposed to sunlight and humidity.
To create a beautifully defined look, use an additional half-sheet of seaweed over the rice to hold the filling. This will create a border between the filling and the rice, giving your kimbap a neat and attractive appearance.
How to make Kimbap
These are the classic 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 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 egg: Beat eggs and cook in a skillet over medium heat in 3 batches. Roll them up and slice thinly
- For the carrot: cook shredded carrot in a skillet in a little bit of oil with some salt. Add 2 tbsp of water to create a 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 over medium high heat. Mix together soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine in a small mixing bowl, and then add the mixture to the fishcake. Continue to stir-fry for another minute.
- For the spinach: blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water with some salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the excess water. Place spinach in a mixing bowl and season with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Toss well.
How to Roll Kimbap
Rolling kimbap can be intimidating if you’re a beginner, but with some practice, you can master the skill in no time. Here are some easy-to-follow instructions to help you get started:
Step 1: Set up your filling station
- Make sure to have all your ingredients ready and in one place.
- Cut three sheets of seaweed in half and set them aside.
Step 2. Spread rice and layer the filling
- 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.
Step 3. Roll firmly with bamboo mat
- 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 4. Slice into even thickness
- The finished roll should have an even thickness.
- Place on a platter, seam side down, while you are making another. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices with a sharp knife.
- Grease your fingers with a little oil when spreading the rice on the seaweed to prevent it from sticking to your fingers.
- Apply a little oil to the blade of your knife using a brush before slicing the seaweed rolls to prevent it from sticking to the knife.
Kimbap is best consumed on the day it is made to ensure maximum freshness. It can be left at room temperature for a few hours but it is not recommended to keep it in the refrigerator for too long as the taste may be compromised and it may not be as enjoyable to eat.
Watch full 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 (Korean Seaweed Rice Roll)
For the rice
- 2 cups (480 ml, about 450 g) uncooked short grain white rice
- 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water
- 2 tbsp Korean plum extract (maeshil cheong)
- 1/2 tsp salt
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 (283 g) package shredded carrot
- 2 tbsp water
- 4 eggs, beaten
For the fishcake
- 3 sheets flat fish cake, sliced thinly
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp sweet rice wine (mirim)
- 1 tbsp corn syrup
For the spinach
- 1 bunch (12 oz, 340 g) spinach
- 2 pinches salt
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- dashes toasted sesame seeds
- 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 egg: Beat eggs and cook in a skillet in 3 batches. Roll them up and slice thinly
- For the carrot: cook shredded carrot in a little oil over medium high heat with some salt. Add 2 tbsp of water to create a 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 over medium high heat. Mix together soy sauce, sugar, and rice wine in a bowl, and add the mixture to the fishcake. Continue to stir-fry for another minute.
- For the spinach: blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water with some salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. Squeeze out the excess water. Place the spianch in a mixing bowl and season with salt, sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Toss well.
To assemble Kimbap
- 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 with a sharp knife.
- 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.
Hi Holly! Thank you so much for the recipe. Under notes, for the optional vinegar mixture for the rice, is it 1/2 tsp or 1/2 TBS of salt?
It’s 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Thanks!
I would love to try making kimbap, but I have trouble eating seaweed. Is there an alternative to seaweed that I could use?
You can roll with cooked egg sheets. Check out my kimbap video to see how I made the egg sheet. In that case, you can omit the egg in the filling. Hope this helps.
Thanks for the recipe.
These are fun — look great, and I’ll bet they taste great. Agree with Angie that they look like a professional sushi chef made them. 🙂
I wasn’t familiar with kimbap before this post, but the process seems very similar to making sushi at home. There was a time (pre-child) that Laura and I used to make sushi at home. We still have the rolling mats and stuff…and you’ve inspired me to pull them back out sometime soon. This sounds like a fun recipe to make together on a weekend evening!
It is indeed fun to make kimbap especially with families. Hope you can try making one. You don’t have to put all the filling ingredients and be creative to make your own style.
I’ve never heard or even tried kimbap, but these rolls sound wonderful (Even though I might not be familiar with some ingredients). I also must admit the rolls look splendid and so neatly done – even layers, tightly rolled up. You don’t often see this quality even at a restaurant, and for some homemade rolls is is simply impeccable work!
I know some of the Korean ingredients are not common in America. Kimbap is becoming popular among many American these days. It take some effort to get them ready to roll, but worth the try. It is a wonderful finger food.
These look like from a professional sushi chef 🙂
is it absolutely required to use rice vinegar?
You can use white vinegar instead.
I have all the ingredients, and I’m excited to get started, however, all I could find was prefried fish cakes, do I still prepare it as suggested? Or do I just reheat them? Thanks for your help.
You can prepare it with the recipe to add more flavor or you can use as is. Usually it tastes better if you add the seasoning to the fish cakes. Have fun making them. They will be delicious!
Thank you Ms.Holly for a visually beautiful guide on how to make a kimbap! I’m really thankful for your detailed instructions which is easy to follow. And I have just read your introduction in the ABOUT page, aw, it so sweet of you Ma’am, to create this blog as a gift for your children.. May God bless you more Madamme and your family ’cause you deserve it!
P.S. What camera did you use Ma’am? You’re pictures are all good. ^v^
Thank you so much for your blog! My husband is half Korean, and my mother-in-law has taught me to cook a lot of Korean food. Your recipes are authentic and delicious 🙂 My mother-in-law doesn’t have her recipes written down, and whenever I refer to this blog when I have a question, it turns out just like hers! YAY! Thank you! Do you have a recipe for kongnamul soup?
I posted Beef and Bean Sprout Soup yesterday. Hope you get to try it. There are may versions of Kongnamul soup. I will remember to post as much as I can.
Hello, Holly! I’ve been reading your various recipes as I prepare for a big Korean lunch tomorrow with guests! I’m trying your cola braised Korean chicken + my other usual panchans. 🙂 I’ve made kimpop from another recipe, and they were good, but something was not quite right. I never steamed my carrots (!!) and I never rinsed the radish (!!!) which may be the missing steps. Thank you for the details that help a non-Korean wanna be chef!
Question: is there a specific way to cut the kim-pop? I’ve tried using different knives, but have trouble with my seaweed tearing or the kim-pop tearing apart while I try to separate them. Am I not pressing the roll tight enough? Any input is appreciated!!!
Thanks from your Padawan Learner,
Sharpen your knife before cutting. Avoid serrated knife. Instead of pushing down motion, use jigsaw motion to cut through the seaweed layer. Also try not to cut each slice too thin, at least 1/2″ thick slices unless you have a very sharp knife. I usually wipe my knife with a damp cloth (or wet paper towel) per each kimbap roll before you cut to remove the stickiness from the rice in the previous roll. Basically you wipe off the sticky residue from your knife every roll you cut.
Coat your kimbap roll with a little sesame oil or other oil by using your hand or brush, just to bring a little shine. It also help strengthen the seaweed.
Hope all these tip will help. Tearing happens sometimes but I like it because the torn piece can go into my mouth immediately. 🙂
I realy like your blog. This is the first time I see this blog. Yes, i like the way you show how to roll the kimbap. Thank you for sharing.
How to keep the rice rolls fresh if made them a day before?
You can’t. You need to consume on the day you made. They don’t keep well in the fridge.
Wow!! you my friend are just simply AMAZING!! I love the humor you bring to the table so to speak =) I just wanted to say that the recipe you have listed is the best one I have came across so far *and my search is done now since I found you* Thank-you for being so awesome!
How would the rice cooking change if I want to use brown short grain rice instead?
I made these for my family and they turned out great! Thank you for this recipe!
김밥에 김치하고 함께 먹어도 너~~~~~~~~무 맛있어요^^
캬! 맛있죠 그렇게 먹으면…
I love your recipe.. And i really enjoy your story.
Hi! I loved reading this post! Thank you! Great stories that made me laugh! I was inspired to make Kimbap and blogged about it at http://foodflavorfascination.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/black-beauty-kim-bap/
I love how you called the Kimbap “Black Beauty.” It reminded me of some memories.
I’ll have to try making the pickled radish too.
Thanks Samantha. You did a great job with your kimbap.I enjoyed reading your post.
Our family loves making and eating kimbap! We play around with the fillings – sometimes adding different things like avocado, cucumber or kimchee. But I don’t like that there is saccharine in the pickled radish. The radish is really an essential flavor that is needed and the kimbap tastes bland without it. So my question: is there a way to make the pickled radish at home, so that I can keep the saccharine out?
Also – I loved your story about your childhood friend. Now everytime I make kimbap for my daughter’s lunch I hum Billy Jean to myself and smile!
Yes, you can make pickled radish at home. Get a Korean or daikon radish and and slice into long strips (the size you desire for making kimbap). Sprinkle 1/4 cup of coarse salt per radish and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain the liquid that has been extracted from the radish.
In a pot combine 1 cup vinegar + 1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup sugar together and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from heat and pour over the radish. Let it sit in the room temperature for 4 hours, then keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and your radish will be ready to serve. Store them in the fridge for as long as you want.
It is nice that your family enjoy making Kimbap. It is a great family activity, isn’t it?
Delicious! Mine didn’t look like the picture, but they were still good.
I believe that taste is more important than the look when it comes to a food. Glad to hear you liked it. Thanks!
May I ask, why must we put kelp into the rice in water?
Hi, the rice seasoning in this kimbap recipe is closed to the Japanese sushi rice which my family often use. Sea kelp adds nice flavor. You can omit the kelp if you prefer without it.
Wow, this looks delicious. I must try it sometime soon. I love sushi of all forms and although there is no raw fish here, it looks delicious. I am not sure where I would find the fish cake, but I am sure I can substitute.
Yum I love whenever my mom makes this! Hopefully I can make it for myself now.
Yes. If you are doubling the amount of rice, you can double the vinegar seasoning mixture as well. You've must made them very well last time. They like to put you to work! Have fun making them!
Hi there! I made this recipe the other day and now I've been asked to repeat it again, but for double the people! Can you simply double the rice and vinegar portions? Or should it be to some other ratio? thanks!
Wow. Looks fabulous, I am going to give this a try.
rice vinegar is the best option but if you can't find one, sub with sherry
wine vinegar or white vinegar. Use a little less amount since rice vinegar
is milder than the other kinds.
Hope you enjoy your stay in Egypt.
ohh, this brings me back to my days living in seoul! i miss kimbap! I have a question. I live in Cairo now, and their rice is short grain so I think it will be fine…IF I can't find (or afford at the expensive import stores) rice vinegar, what do I do???
I don't use dipping sauce. It is just good to eat without it. However, I often make simple miso soup to go with though.
I'm so excited to try this recipe. It looks delicious and it's one of my favorite things! Is there a dipping sauce you usually make with it?
Hope you can make Kimbap soon. Yes, I agree that the surprise is doubled because it exceeds the expectation you had. Thanks.
Your kimbap looks so mouthwatering…! Everytime I a visit a blog and somebody makes kimbap or sushi, I always think, 'I need to make this tomorrow!' ;). The story of that old classmate of yours is so funny, but often quiet people have got surprising talents. And the surprise is often doubled, because they tend to be so introvert and quiet ;).
I like how you are so precise with your step-by-step food pics (never would have thought about cooking rice in a cast iron pot), but that memory about Mi-gyoung is too precious! You're not only a fantastic cook, but also a great storyteller.
kimbap always reminds me of being a kid. we always had it for road trips and picnics too, i really should make some!
Oh, this is bringing back so many lunchtime memories! I'm half-Korean and grew up in the States, and sometimes my mom would pack kimbap for my lunch, which I loved, except when some other kids teased me for my "weird" food!