Creamy, cheesy sauce. Chewy, squishy Korean rice cakes. Carbonara Tteokbokki is the non-spicy Korean Rice Cake dish that’s good as a snack, appetizer, or main meal!
It’s no surprise that the world has fallen in love with Tteokbokki, Korean Rice Cakes. Versatile, easy, and on the table in 15-minutes!
What is Carbonara Tteokbokki?
Carbonara Tteokbokki (Ddukbokki) is a popular Korean street food made with cylindrical (tube-shaped) rice cakes and a creamy carbonara-style sauce.
Although most people are familiar with red, spicy-sweet Tteokbokki — there are actually many different kinds. Carbonara Tteokbokki is one well-known favorite.
The cheesy sauce is actually a cross between Italian alfredo sauce and carbonara — a true fusion dish with a beloved South Korean flavor profile.
Sometimes called Cream Tteokbokki, it’s kid-friendly and not spicy at all. The flavorful sauce pairs well with chewy, tender rice cakes. They soak up every bit of the delicious sauce!
- Korean rice cakes (tteok/dduk). Tube-shaped rice cakes. Choose either fresh, refrigerated, or frozen. Any size works.
- Onion + Garlic. The essential aromatics.
- Bacon. Adds smoky, meaty flavor.
- Whole Milk. Full-fat, whole milk has the best flavor without being overly rich. Sub with 1/2 cup heavy cream + 1/2 cup water if you don’t have it.
- Parmesan Cheese. Salty, cheesy flavor. Use freshly grated parmesan (off the block) to ensure a non-grainy texture.
- Mozzarella. Sprinkle a small handful at the end for that cheesy pull!
- Parsley. For garnish — adds pretty color and flavor.
- Black Pepper. A sprinkle finishes the dish!
- Prep rice cakes. (For frozen rice cakes, add to a bowl and cover with cold water to defrost for 15-20 minutes. For refrigerated rice cakes, rinse well with cold water, drain, and set aside. For fresh rice cakes, separate rice cakes and add directly to the sauce when ready.)
- Saute bacon in a non-stick skillet.
- Add onions and garlic.
- Add rice cakes and milk. Cook until soft and chewy.
- Add parmesan cheese.
- Off the heat, add mozzarella. Garnish with parsley and black pepper. Serve and enjoy!
Watch how to make it:
- Save leftover sauce. Leftover sauce keeps and reheats well. Transfer to an air-tight container and keep in the fridge to be used for another day. Or, simply add more rice cakes and eat immediately.
- Cook on medium to medium-low heat. The heat needs to be high enough so the sauce reduces and thickens. But low enough so the sauce doesn’t burn. Watch carefully to achieve the right saucy consistency.
- Defrost Frozen Rice Cakes. To defrost, add frozen rice cakes to a bowl and cover with cold water. As it sits in the cold water for 15-20 minutes, it will defrost.
- Rinse Refrigerated Rice Cakes. Sometimes, refrigerated rice cakes can develop a slimy coating. Rinse well in a fine mesh sieve before using.
- Non-stick skillet. The best tool for cooking carbonara tteokbokki at home, as it’s a very saucy cheesy dish and everything has a tendency to stick. Stainless steel pans also work, but clean up can be messy.
- Silicone spatula. For mixing the sauce and rice cakes. Especially good for scraping the thick sauce.
Variations + Additions:
- Hard/Soft boiled eggs. A classic tteokbokki addition! An easy way to make it more filling.
- Fish cake. Also called Eomuk, it’s another common addition that adds flavor and protein.
- Mushrooms. Throw in a handful of sliced mushrooms with the onion. Shitake, brown or white, King oyster, and black oyster mushrooms all work well.
- Broccoli. Add lightly steamed broccoli to balance the heavy creaminess of the sauce.
- Thyme or Rosemary. Add fresh or dried herbs for another layer of aromatic flavor.
A Primer: Korean Rice Cakes
- Korean Rice Cakes are cakes made from sticky rice. Also called Tteok or Dduk, they are a common ingredient in Korean cuisine.
- Tteok/dduk comes in different shapes, sizes, and thickness.
- The smaller the tteok/dduk, the faster it will cook.
At the grocery store, Korean Rice Cakes (Garaetteok) can be found in 3 forms:
- Fresh. Wrapped in plastic wrap, on styrafoam trays. The texture is soft and squishy; eat them immediately! They need to be used within 1-3 days. When cooked in tteokbokki, they release a lot of starch and make tteokbokki extra creamy. The cook time is also quick, about 2-3 minutes total.
- Refrigerated. Look for them in the refrigerated section, in a plastic bag. They last longer than fresh rice cakes (2-3 weeks) but are hard and cannot be eaten immediately. To achieve the right texture (squishy and chewy), cook in liquid for 4-5 minutes.
- Frozen. Look for them in the frozen food aisle, in a plastic bag. They last a long time (several months) and are a great freezer pantry item. Before cooking, defrost by soaking in cold water for about 15-20 minutes.
Why did my rice cakes splinter and break?
This is a common problem when refrigerated rice cakes are stored in the freezer. To avoid this problem, store REFRIGERATED rice cakes in the FRIDGE ONLY. Look for a label that states, “Keep refrigerated.” Do not store rice cakes with this label in the freezer.
Please note: freezer rice cakes should not splinter or break apart when cooked. But they must be frozen by the manufacturer. Look for a label that states, “Keep frozen.”
If you’ve already placed a bag of refrigerated rice cakes into the freezer — don’t throw away! Simply transfer the bag back to the fridge. After defrosting in the fridge overnight, cook as per usual.
How do I store and reheat leftovers?
To store leftover Carbonara Tteokbokki, transfer to an air-tight storage container and keep in the fridge. It should stay good for 3-4 days.
Reheat in a microwave. Cover loosely and microwave in short 1-minute to 30-second bursts, stirring in between. When the rice cakes are soft and chewy and the sauce is hot, it’s ready.
Can I make this ahead of time?
Yes, Carbonara Tteokbokki can be made ahead of time. Follow all steps but do not add the mozzarella. When it’s time to serve, simple reheat the Korean rice cake dish until steaming hot. Off the heat, add the reserved mozzarella. Garnish and enjoy!
Other easy Korean recipes you may enjoy:
- Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice
- Gyeran Jjim (Korean steamed Egg)
- Korean Purple Rice
- Gamja Salad (Korean Potato Salad)
- Tornado Eggs with Ginger Fried Rice
- Soy Sauce Quail Eggs
Creamy Carbonara Tteokbokki with Bacon
- 1 Non-stick skillet (large)
- 3 cups/300g Korean tubular rice cakes
- 1-2 tsp olive oil
- 3 slices bacon (preferably thick cut, chopped)
- 1/2 large onion (finely chopped, about 1 cup)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup milk (whole, full-fat milk preferred)
- 1/2 cup parmesan (grated)
- 1/4 cup Mozzarella (shredded)
- black pepper
Prep Rice Cakes:
- For refrigerated rice cakes: set aside in a bowl. If there's a slimy, wet coating all over the rice cakes — rinse well in cold water and drain in a colander.
- For frozen rice cakes: add to a bowl and cover with cold water for 15-20 minutes until defrosted. (They must be drained before cooking).
- For fresh rice cakes: separate rice cakes by hand and set aside on a separate plate.
- Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1-2 tsp olive oil and bacon. Cook until no longer pink and slightly brown and crispy-looking on the edges, about 2-3 minutes. Mix from time to time with a silicone spatula to make sure the bacon is evenly cooked.
- Add onion, garlic, and pinch of salt. Cook until soft and translucent, mixing from time to time, about 3-4 minutes more.
- Add milk and rice cakes. (If using frozen rice cakes and they are defrosting in water, drain first). Cook on medium to medium-low heat until the rice cakes are soft and squishy, about 3-4 minutes. Mix from time to time as the sauce will bubble and reduce until thick and creamy.
- Add parmesan cheese and black pepper. Taste and add a pinch or two of salt, if needed. Stir through the sauce, another 1-2 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle mozzarella cheese all over. The residual heat will melt it gently. As a garnish, add parsley and more black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately!