Delicious, savory, flavorful , easy– Doenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew) is Korean comfort food to the core.
If there’s one dish that defines Korean home cooking, it’s Doenjang Jjigae.
Nothing says home to a Korean like a bubbling, jiggling pot of this cozy stew!
What is Doenjang Jjigae?
Doenjang Jjigae is a popular Korean stew that’s flavored with Doenjang, fermented soybean paste. Packed with tofu, meat, and various vegetables — it’s cozy, comforting, and so hearty!
A classic of Korean home cooking, it’s well loved and made frequently at home. Most Korean households make Soybean Paste Stew regularly. Like 1-2x a month, at least!
If you’re a fan of Korean dramas, you’ll routinely see people eating this dish. That shows you the popularity of Doenjang Jjigae. Everyone cooks and eats it!
- Doenjang. Korean fermented soybean paste. Can be found in a glass jar or plastic tub at the Korean market. Salty, umami-rich, vegan, and gluten-free. Use the best Doenjang or soybean paste you can find.
- Tofu. Medium firm to extra firm works best; anything softer will fall apart.
- Gochujang. Korean fermented chili paste. A little bit adds depth of flavor.
- Soy Sauce. Adds umami depth and richness.
- Onion + Garlic. The aromatics that add so much flavor!
- Pork Butt/Shoulder. My preferred meat for for everyday Doenjang Jjigae. Good flavor, not too fatty. Pork and doenjang complement each other so well! You can also sub with pork belly, pork loin, or pork ribs.
- Potato + Zucchini. Potato thickens the stew. Zucchini absorbs all that thick, stewy flavor.
- Fresno or Jalapeno Pepper. Add at the end for a spicy kick!
- Saute pork and onion in medium saucepan.
- Add potato, water, doenjang, gochujang, garlic, soy sauce, and bring to a boil.
- Add zucchini.
- Add tofu and chili pepper.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a sprinkle of fish sauce if it tastes flat.
- Garnish and serve!
- Use the 3 “jangs” of Korean cooking for best flavor: Doenjang, Gochujang, and Ganjang (soy sauce).
- Find the best Doenjang you can. Homemade is best but any dark, strong smelling doenjang will yield good results.
- Add fish sauce at the end. Many Korean cooks use anchovy stock as a soup base. To keep this recipe fast and easy, I substitute with a sprinkle of fish sauce at the end instead.
- Taste and adjust flavor, right before serving. As a fermented food item and main ingredient, doenjang will not always taste the same. I recommend tasting your jjigae at the end. If it tastes flat, add a sprinkle of fish sauce. If it’s too salty, add a pinch of sugar or more water. If it’s too watery, add more doenjang and/or gochujang to thicken.
Special Equipment: Ttukbaegi or Korean clay pot
Koreans use Ttukbaegi or clay pots to cook Doenjang Jjigae. The clay pots easily transfer from stovetop to table. An easy, one pot meal!
Note: Clay earthenware pots take longer to heat but also take longer to cool — keeping jjigaes bubbling hot, even at the table! So good!
Ttukbaegi come in different sizes. I recommend a medium sized (1000ml) Korean clay pot for my Doenjang Jjigae recipe, which serves 2.
If you don’t own a clay pot, a medium stainless steel pot also works. Cook everything, as stated in the recipe. Before serving, divide between two bowls.
A classic of Korean home cooking, there are endless variations to Korean Soybean Paste Stew.
- Make it spicier. Add 1-2 Tbsp of Gochukaru and/or Gochujang. Or add more chili peppers at the end.
- Change up the vegetables. Feel free to rummage in the fridge. Shitake, enoki, or brown mushrooms all taste great. So do bean sprouts and napa or green cabbage or most greens. You could even add kale, carrots, Asian eggplant, and brussel sprouts, too.
- Change up the protein. If you don’t eat pork, beef or chicken are good substitutes.
- Add fresh seafood. Clams, mussels, shrimp, squid, or white fish are good additions.
- Make it vegan. Swap the pork with shitake mushrooms for a “meaty” texture. Or leave out the pork and fish sauce at the end — it will still be delicious.
- Thin the broth. Add more water for a thinner broth. It won’t be so thick and chunky.
What is Doenjang?
Doenjang is Korean fermented soybean paste. A fermented food item, Doenjang is deeply and intensely flavorful. Salty, savory, and full of umami depth — it’s the base of so many delicious Korean recipes. It’s also vegan and gluten free, making this Korean staple easy to vegetarianize or veganize.
The older the Doenjang, the darker and more pungent it will be. I prefer dark, flavorful 100 day-old Doenjang for the best taste. But if you prefer milder, regular “Mat” Doenjang works great!
Is Doenjang the same as Miso?
Doenjang and Miso are both fermented soybean pastes. But Miso is fermented with Koji, a rice based starter — giving it a slightly sweeter, milder flavor. Doenjang, on the other hand, is fermented with only salt — giving it greater depth and sharpness.
I like to think of Doenjang as a souped-up miso paste. It’s more complex, deeply flavored, earthy, and pungent. Doenjang can also be quite chunky with lots of texture. Sometimes you’ll see pieces of partially crushed soybeans in the thick paste.
Do I need to use a sieve when adding Doenjang?
Doenjang can be quite chunky and textured. When added to stews and soups, distinct bits of soybeans can float on the surface. Some people prefer a less “beany” texture and use a fine mesh sieve to achieve a silkier, smoother finish.
Personally, I don’t mind the texture. But at the end of the day, it depends on what kind of Doenjang you use and personal preference. Do what you like best!
If using a sieve, use a spoon to push doenjang through before adding to the soup pot. A fast, easy way to remove the texture but keep the flavor.
How do I store Doenjang (Korean Soybean Paste)?
Store Doenjang in the coldest part of your fridge, tightly sealed. It can dry out so make sure it’s covered well.
FYI: Doenjang is a fermented food product; it keeps aging and changing over time. The taste and color will continue to deepen. Technically, it can last several years. But over time, it will look and taste very differently!
More recipes with Doenjang:
- Ssamjang. A classic Korean BBQ condiment. Swipe onto lettuce leaves and add grilled meat of choice!
- My North Korean Grandmother’s Pork Belly. Braised deliciousness with all that homey doenjang flavor.
- Instant Pot Bossam. Another Korean classic, made easier in the Instant Pot!
More Korean recipes:
- Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice
- Gamjatang (Pork Bone Soup)
- Kimchi Jumeok Bap (Kimchi Rice Balls)
- Korean Street Toast
Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Soybean Paste Stew)
- Medium Claypot (Korean Ttukbaeggi) or Medium Saucepan
- 1/2 cup/ 8oz pork shoulder, roughly chopped
- 1 small onion, sliced into half moons
- 1 small Korean zucchini, sliced into half moons
- 1 small potato, sliced into half moons
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 1/4 cup Doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Gochujang (Korean fermented chili paste)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 box medium or firm tofu, halved and sliced
- 1 Fresno or Jalapeno pepper (optional)
- dash fish sauce
- 1 green onion, sliced
- drizzle sesame oil
- sprinkle sesame seeds
- Prep pork and vegetables: Roughly chop pork shoulder. Halve the potato and zucchini and slice into half moons. Slice onion and chili pepper. Mince garlic.
- In a medium clay pot (or saucepan), heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add pork and onion and cook, lightly stirring. Cook until pork is no longer pink and onion is mostly soft, about 5 minutes. It's ok if the pork is not completely cooked through.
- Add potato and water. Add doenjang, soy sauce, gochujang, and garlic. Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer until potato is 50% cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Add zucchini and simmer until zucchini is 80% cooked through, about 5 more minutes.
- Add sliced tofu and chili pepper. Simmer for 4-5 more minutes, until the tofu is heated through and all the flavors meld together. Spoon liquid over the tofu, if needed.
- Taste and adjust seasoning: If it's not spicy enough, add 1-2 tsp Gochukaru. If it needs more flavor, add a splash or two of fish sauce. If it's too salty, add a little more water (but not too much).
- Garnish with green onion, drizzle of sesame oil, and sesame seeds. Serve piping hot with rice and kimchi. Enjoy!