Sikhye is a traditional sweet Korean rice punch often served after a meal. This mildly sweet rice drink is made of fermented barley malt and cooked rice. With this easy recipe and the use of an instant pot or rice cooker, you can enjoy the authentic taste of this Korean drink anytime at home.

Two glass bowls of Kroean rice punch is served with a bottled Shikhye

In Korean cuisine, a sweet drink is often served at the end of a meal as a light dessert. Cinnamon ginger punch (sujeonggwa) and watermelon punch (subak hwachae) are two well-known Korean drink recipes that are served for that purpose.

This Korean rice punch (Sikhye, 식혜) is another traditional sweet beverage that we love. If you enjoy dining at upscale Korean restaurants, you have probably already experienced this rice punch at the end of your meal.

Cooked rice and barley malt are fermented together with water at a low temperature for several hours. (Don’t worry, it will not become alcoholic!) The liquid will turn light amber, and the rice will become spongy. Some rice grains will float to the top. The result will be a moderately sweet malt-flavored rice drink.

Traditionally, many Korean home-cooks make sikhye for Korean holidays like New Year’s Day, Lunar New Year’s day, and Chusek (Korean Thanksgiving), along with a Korean sweet rice dessert (yakbap).

You can, of course, buy canned Korean rice drinks at the store, but they can’t beat the taste of the homemade version. And it is not that difficult to make at home. All you need is an instant pot, rice cooker, or slow cooker.

Malt barley and cooked rice are needed to make instant pot Kroean rice punch.

Ingredients for Korean Rice Drink

  • Malted Barely (yeot-gireum, 엿기름): You can find barley malt in any Korean market. It can come crushed, powdered, or in individual pouches. For taste, I recommend either the crushed or pouched kind. Look for white-ish malt barley instead of brown, which contains more malt. If you can’t find barley malt, malt wheat can be substituted but it will alter the taste slightly.
  • Rice: Use cooked white rice (no brown rice!): If you don’t have cooked rice handy, use microwavable commercially cooked rice (Hetbahn). That’s perfectly fine!
  • Sugar: Sugar is added at the end of the fermentation to sweeten the drink. You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on your preference.
  • Additional: Some people like to add a few of slices of ginger to add a hint of spice. It’s optional.
  • Clean fabric pouch or a fine strainer: Use a natural fiber kitchen pouch to hold malt barley inside.
Korean sweet rice punch is stored in a glass bottle.

What Equipment you need for making Shikhye?

Use one of the three below

  1. Instant Pot
  2. Rice Cooker
  3. Slow Cooker

If you don’t have any of the kitchen appliances above, you’ll have to use the very old-fashioned method that Korean great-grandmothers used: a warm floor and blanket! Unfortunately, this method isn’t available to most people outside of Korea.

Old-fashioned Korean rice punch

In the olden days when the modern electric kitchen appliances were not available to our great-grandmothers or grandmothers, they used the heated floor for the fermentation. Traditional Korean houses use a uniquely Korean floor heating system called ondol (온돌) to warm their rooms.

They put the malt and rice mixture in a pot, and then place it in the warmest area of the floor (usually in the master bedroom). Then they covered the pot with layers of thick blankets to keep the warmth inside. After several hours, the rice punch is ready and the taste was heavenly! Even better than the punch made with a modern appliance.

My mother used to make her rice punch this way on Korean holidays every year. She would always forbid us to even get close to the site of the blanket mound in her room. After all, she had 5 wild little munchkins and accidents always had a way of happening! 😭

How to make Korean rice punch

Step 1: I like to use a clean fabric pouch, either cotton or linen, to put the malted barley malt in. Put barley malt in a pouch and tie up with a string and secure very tightly. Put the pouch in a bowl of warm water.

Don’t have a fabric pouch? No worry! You can soak the barley malt directly in the water, and rub them with both of your hands harshly to extract all the malt from the barley. Make sure you remove all the small barley pieces, then skip to step 3.

Step 2: While the pouch is in the water, manually press and squeeze the pouch multiple times to squeeze out the malt powder from the barley so it can mix with the water. Do this for about 1-2 minutes.
Squeeze out the pouch tightly to get all the good juices out. Discard the malt barley left inside the pouch.

Step 3: Let the barley malt water sit for at least 30 minutes. The starch will sink to the bottom. Then carefully, without shaking the bowl, pour the malt water into another bowl leaving the sunken starch behind. Be careful not to let the starch fall in. (A little bit going in is okay.) Discard the starch.

Step 4: Put cooked rice in the instant pot (or rice cooker) bowl and break up the grain briefly with a rice spatula. You can adjust the amount of rice as you wish. Pour the strained malt water over the rice. Cover with a lid and set your instant pot on the Keep Warm setting. The fermenting time can vary from 4-8 hours depending on the heat level of your appliance. An instant pot can take about 4-5 hours; a rice cooker and slow cooker might take longer.

Hint: If you see a few grains of rice floating on top, that’s a good sign that the rice punch is well fermented. If you don’t see any rice floating, wait 1-2 more hours. You do not want to wait more than 8 hours because the rice will spoil.

Step 5: Add a desired amount of sugar and ginger slices (if using) and bring the punch to boil and cook for 5 minutes. Use the “Saute” setting for an instant pot. If using a rice cooker, you will need to transfer the punch to a pot and boil it on the stove.

Step 6: Skim off any debris or foam from the top of punch with a fat skimmer. Collect a few scoops of rice from the bottom of the punch and soak them in cold water for later use.

Garnishing Korean Rice Punch:

The rice cooked in the punch retains its sugar inside which makes the rice grains heavy, so they tend to rest on the bottom. Rinsing and soaking the rice grains in cold water will remove the sweetness and allow these rice grains to float to the top when served. It’s a great way to garnish the rice punch. They will eventually sink to the bottom after a few minutes. Other typical garnishes are pine nuts and jujube flowers.

How to Store Korean rice punch

Allow the punch to cool completely. Transfer the punch into plastic or glass containers, and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shikye also freezes well. Pour the punch into freezer safe bottles or containers and freeze up to 3 months.

Korean rice punch is served in glass bowls with jujube flower garnish.

More Drink Recipes

If you are looking for a light beverage to enjoy after meal, Korean drink recipes come in handy. Some of my favorites are;

Korean rice punch is served in glass bowls with jujube flower garnish

Easy Korean Rice Punch Recipe (Sikhye) – Instant Pot

Sikhye is a mildly sweet Korean rice punch made of fermented barley malt and cooked rice. This easy recipe uses an instant pot or rice cooker and you can enjoy the authentic taste of Korean drink anytime at home.
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Ingredients

  • 3 cup barley malt
  • 12 cup warm water
  • 2 cup cooked rice
  • 3-4 slices ginger (1/4-inch thick), optional
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cup sugar
  • a few dried jujube flowers , to garnish, optional
  • a few pine nuts, to garnish, optional

Equipment

  • instant pot or rice cooker
  • linen or cotton pouch See note #1 below

Instructions 

  • If using a clean fabric pouch, either cotton or linen, put malt barley in a pouch and tie up with a string and secure very tightly. Put the pouch in a bowl of warm water. See note #1 if you don't use a fabric pouch.
  • While the pouch is in the water, manually press and squeeze the pouch multiple times to squeeze out the malt powder from the barley so it can mix with the water. Do this for about 1-2 minutes. Squeeze out the pouch tightly to get all the good juices out. Discard the malt barley left inside the pouch.
  • Let the malt barley water sit for at least 30 minutes. The starch will sink to the bottom. Then carefully, without shaking the bowl, pour the malt water into another bowl leaving the sunken starch behind. Be careful not to let the starch fall in. (A little bit going in is okay.) Discard the starch.
  • Put cooked rice in the instant pot (or rice cooker) bowl and break up the grain briefly with a rice spatula. You can adjust the amount of rice as you wish. Pour the strained malt water over the rice. Cover with a lid and set your instant pot on the Keep Warm setting. The fermenting time can vary from 4-8 hours depending on the heat level of your appliance. An instant pot can take about 4-5 hours; a rice cooker might take longer.
    Hint: If you see a few grains of rice floating on top, that’s a good sign that the rice punch is well fermented. If you don’t see any rice floating, wait 1-2 more hours. You do not want to wait more than 8 hours because the rice will spoil.
  • Add a desired amount of sugar and ginger slices (if using) and bring the punch to boil and cook for 5 minutes. Use the “Saute” setting for an instant pot. If using a rice cooker, you will need to transfer the punch to a pot and boil it on the stove. Skim off any debris or foam from the top of punch with a skimmer.
  • Allow the punch to cool completely. Transfer the punch into plastic or glass containers, and store them in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Shikye also freezes well. Pour the punch into freezer safe bottles or containers and freeze up to 3 months.

To garnish the rice punch

  • Collect a few scoops of rice from the bottom of the punch and soak them in cold water for later use. See note #2.
  • Pour the rice punch in a serving bowl or glass. Add a tablespoon of rinsed rice, dried jujube flowers, and pine nuts (if using).

Notes

1. Don’t have a fabric pouch? You can soak the barley malt directly in the water, and rub it with both of your hands harshly to extract all the malt from the barley. Remove the barley with a fine strainer. Make sure you remove all the small barley pieces, then skip to step 3.
2. Rice garnish on the punch: The rice cooked in the punch retains its sugar inside which makes the rice grains heavy, so they tend to rest on the bottom. Rinsing and soaking the rice grains in cold water will remove the sweetness and allow these rice grains to float to the top when served.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @beyondkimchee on Instagram. I love to see your masterpiece.