Easy Doenjang Jjigae (Korean Soybean Paste Stew)

Delicious, savory, flavorful — make Doenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew) a Korean staple in your home!

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 thick, chunky Korean stew that’s flavored with Doenjang, fermented soybean paste. Packed with tofu, meat, and various vegetables — it’s cozy, comforting, and hearty. And enjoyed year round.

The flavor is savory, umami-rich, pungent, and deeply satisfying. It’s really a quintessential classic of Korean home cooking. 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!

Ingredients for Doenjang Jjigae:

  • Doenjang. Use the best Doenjang or soybean paste you can find.
  • Tofu. Medium firm to extra firm works best; anything softer will fall apart.
  • 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!

PRO Tips:

  • 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 all doenjang tastes different, 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.

Variations:

A classic of Korean home cooking, there are endless variations to Doenjang Jjigae or 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 kind of cooking pot should I use?

Koreans use Ttukbaegi or clay pots to cook Doenjang Jjigae. The clay pots retain heat well, making it the perfect way to transfer a bubbling hot jjigae from stovetop to table. An easy, one pot meal!

Ttukbaegi come in different sizes. I recommend a medium sized (1000ml) Korean clay pot for my Doenjang Jjigae recipe, which serves 2. The clay pot takes longer to heat but will also take longer to cool, keeping the jjigae bubbling hot while eating.

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.

Do I need to use a sieve when adding Doenjang?

Doenjang can be quite chunky and textured with distinct bits of soybeans that float on the surface of the soup. Some people prefer a less “beany” texture and use a fine mesh sieve to remove the really big chunks.

Simply use a spoon to push doenjang through a sieve before adding to the soup pot. A fast, easy way to remove the texture but keep the flavor.

Personally, I don’t mind the texture. I use soybean paste that’s not super textured so a little bit doesn’t bother me. But at the end of the day, it depends on what kind of Doenjang you use and personal preference. Do what you prefer!

What is Doenjang? What does it taste like?

Doenjang is Korean fermented soybean paste.

As 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.

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:

More Korean recipes:

My Korean American Experience with Doenjang Jjigae

As a Korean American growing up in white suburbia, my relationship with Doenjang Jjigae was not always positive. People complained it was stinky, made their eyes water, activated their gag reflex, and that it smelled like garbage or sewage waste.

So, for awhile, I was too embarrassed and ashamed to eat it.

When I became a mother, I found myself craving and cooking Korean food again. I wanted my kids to know what it meant to be Korean. The easiest way was through food.

Today, I proudly cook Doenjang Jjigae or Soybean Paste Stew in my home. I make it for my kids and I make it for my friends.

This thick, hearty, strongly favored Korean stew symbolixes my rich and long-standing cultural history. I add a scoop of soybean paste and remind myself: I come from a people who survived war, colonization, and violent attempts to destroy us. I cut thick slices of tofu and tell myself — hatred will not overcome me or my people. I sit down to eat Korean food with with others, and in doing so, affirm that we all belong here; there is space enough for everyone.

Because of all these reasons and more, I will never give up cooking or eating Doenjang Jjigae.

PIN FOR LATER:

bowl of korean soybean paste stew (doenjang jjigae) with two bowls of rice

Doenjang Jjigae AKA Korean Soybean Paste Stew

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Filled to the brim with tofu, pork and vegetables — Doenjang Jjigae or Soybean Paste Stew — is Korean comfort food to the core.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Course Soup, Stew
Cuisine Korean
Servings 2

Equipment

  • Medium Claypot (Korean Ttukbaeggi) or Medium Saucepan

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup 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
  • 2 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

Garnish:

  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • drizzle sesame oil
  • sprinkle sesame seeds

Instructions
 

  • 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.
    white bowl filled with zucchini, potato, onion
  • In a medium clay pot (or saucepan), heat 1 Tbsp sesame 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!
    bowl of korean soybean paste stew (doenjang jjigae) with two bowls of rice
Keyword Doenjang, Jjigae
30 minutes, All Recipes, Korean, Main, Soup, Weeknight Meals

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