Ssamjang (Korean Dipping Sauce)

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Crank up the flavor to your Korean BBQ meal at home with Ssamjang. Also called Ssam Sauce, it’s the essential Korean Dipping Sauce served with with lettuce wraps, grilled meat, and vegetables. A combination of soybean paste and chili paste delivers an explosion of umami. An easy 5-minute sauce that’s thick, rich, and absolutely delicious!

You can buy pre-made ssamjang paste at the Korean grocery. But the homemade version tastes SO much better!

What is Ssamjang or Ssam Sauce?

Ssamjang 쌈장 is a popular dipping sauce or condiment served at Korean BBQ restaurants. In Korean cuisine, Ssamjang is a staple sauce or condiment. Thick and rich with a punch of flavor — it’s often served with grilled meat, vegetables, and lettuce wraps. If you’ve ever eaten Korean Pork Belly BBQ (Samgyeopsal), it’s the savory sauce that’s served alongside it.

In Korean, “Ssam” means wrap and “Jang” means sauce. Essentially, SsamJang is “wrap sauce.” It’s a sauce that’s eaten with lettuce wraps, called Ssam in Korea.

To enjoy, take a lettuce leaf and layer with rice, meat, and green onion. Add a generous smear of ssamjang sauce on top! The lettuce leaf is then folded and wrapped into a neat package before eating. YUM!

The savory flavors come from two Korean ingredients — Doenjang (soybean paste) and Gochujang (chili paste). Every household has their unique way of making ssamjang, usually with equal parts Doenjang and Gochujang. But I prefer a Doenjang-heavy base with plenty of garlic, green onion, and chili pepper. Sesame oil makes it smooth and fragrant. A little bit of vinegar adds a punchy kick of flavor. I also like to add Maesil Cheong (Korean green plum syrup) but you can swap with maple syrup if you don’t have it.

hands making a lettuce wrap for Korean bbq

How do I eat Ssamjang Sauce?

Ssamjang is a multi-purpose Korean dipping sauce or condiment. Enjoy with:

  • Fresh vegetable crudites. Use as a dip for cut-up vegetable sticks. That’s how I ate ssamjang as a child. Raw veggies are so delicious this way! Recommendations: cucumber, carrot, chili peppers (Korean, fresno, or shishito), bell peppers, and tomato wedges.
  • Vegetable Wraps. The wraps can be lettuce leaves, perilla leaves (kkaennip), or thinly sliced pickled radish. It can also include Gim (roasted seaweed snack), napa cabbage leaves, or long pieces of cooked seaweed. Soft lettuce leaves, such as Butter, Bibb, Red Leaf or Green Leaf, are preferred to make wrapping easier.
  • Samgyeopsal (Pork belly slices). Serve Ssamjang and Samgyupsal together — they make a classic Korean flavor pairing. The savory, sharp, flavorful kick of Ssam Sauce complements and cuts through the fatty richness of crispy fried pork belly.
  • Grilled meat. Ssam sauce also tastes good with any other grilled meat. Chicken Bulgogi, LA Galbi (BBQ Short Beef Ribs), Spicy Pork Belly Bulgogi, and Korean Beef Bulgogi are nice accompaniments.
  • Grilled vegetables. Instead of meat, serve with grilled oyster mushrooms, zucchini, and onion.
  • Korean soups and stews. Add a generous spoonful to Doenjang Jjigae or Gochujang Jjigae. An easy and popular way to add more flavor if the jjigae tastes flat.
small bowl of ssamjang

Ingredients:

  • Doenjang. Korean soybean paste. Similar to Japanese Miso but more salty and sharp. Look for it at Korean grocery stores.
  • Gochujang. Korean chili paste. Adds subtle spicy flavor and depth.
  • Garlic + Green Onion. The aromatics are essential to both flavor and texture.
  • Chili Pepper. Adds a nice texture and subtly spicy flavor. I recommend green or red chilies, Fresno, or jalapeno.
  • Maesil Cheong. Korean green plum syrup. A little bit of sweetness! Sub with maple syrup if you don’t have it.
  • Toasted Sesame Oil. All that nutty fragrance. Plus, it makes it smooth and pourable.
  • Rice vinegar. A little sharpness from vinegar makes the flavor extra delicious. White distilled vinegar or apple vinegar also works well.
  • Toasted Sesame seeds. Adds a nice texture and nuttiness. Toasting the seeds at home brings out the nutty flavor and aroma but you can also buy sesame seeds that a pre-toasted.

Instructions:

  1. Mix ingredients in one bowl.
  2. Garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil, slices of raw garlic and jalapeno, and a few cranks of black pepper.
  3. Serve with various grilled meat, vegetables, lettuce wraps, and rice. Enjoy!

Watch How to make it:

PRO Tips:

  • Finely mince green onion, garlic, and chili pepper. For better texture, mince finely. I use a microplane to mince the garlic. For the green onion and chili pepper, I cut into half lengthwise, then mince finely.
  • Garnish. Right before serving, add a drizzle of sesame oil, a few grinds of black pepper, and several slices of raw garlic and jalapeno. A classic Korean finishing touch!
  • Make ahead. Ssam Sauce can be made and stored safely in the fridge, up to 2 days in advance. Keep in an air-tight container so it doesn’t dry out.

How to serve:

  • Communal bowl. For a family-style meal, serve in one bowl in the middle of the table. People can serve themselves as much as they like.
  • Individual portions. To make dipping and scooping easier, serve in small, individual portions for each person. That way, people can dip and scoop as much as they like and not worry about double-dipping.

*I use small, stainless steel sauce trays (2-portion tray, 3-portion tray) (affiliate) when serving ssamjang. Each person receives their own portion, alongside a mixture of sesame oil with salt and pepper (1/4 tsp salt, few cranks of black pepper, sesame oil to cover). Look at the video for more details.

small bowl of ssamjang

FAQ

How do I store leftover Ssam Sauce?

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, tightly sealed, for 1 week. Store in an airtight container, in the coldest part of the fridge and be careful of cross-contamination. When serving, add more sesame oil if it’s too thick.

Is Ssamjang spicy?

In my humble opinion, ssamjang sauce is not that spicy. The spice level is mild or medium. If you’d like to make it less spicy, add less Gochujang and omit the chili pepper completely.

More Korean recipes:

small bowl of ssamjang with green onions and lettuce wraps

Ssamjang Ssam Sauce (Korean Dipping Sauce)

The Subversive Table | Lis Lam
Savory, garlicky, and utterly addictive Ssamjang — the essential Korean Dipping Sauce! A popular favorite with lettuce wraps, grilled meat, and vegetables. A combination of soybean paste and chili paste delivers an irresistible explosion of umami. An easy 5-minute sauce that's thick, rich, and absolutely delicious!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course BBQ, condiment, Dinner
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4
Calories 115 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup Doenjang (Korean fermented soy bean paste)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 green onions (minced)
  • 1 green fresno pepper (can be subbed with jalapeno, if you can't find it)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Maesil Cheong (Korean green plum syrup) (can be subbed with maple syrup)
  • 1-2 tsp Gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste, depending on spicy level)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (white distilled vinegar or apple vinegar also works)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

To serve:

  • jalapeno slices
  • (raw) garlic slices
  • black pepper
  • small drizzle sesame oil

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix well.
  • Transfer to a small serving dish or portion into 4 individual dishes. Garnish with an additional drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. You can also add thin slices of raw garlic, jalapeno, and a few cranks of black pepper if desired.
  • Serve with Korean BBQ: lettuce wraps, green onions, grilled meat, and rice.  Enjoy!

Video

Notes

*Ssamjang keeps for a long time in the fridge, tightly covered.  About 1-2 weeks.  Make sure there’s no cross-contamination.
PRO Tips:
  • Finely mince green onion, garlic, and chili pepper. The texture is a big part of the addictiveness of Ssamjang. Don’t make it overly chunky but mince finely into same-sized bits. I use a microplane to mince the garlic. For the green onion and chili pepper, I cut into half lengthwise then mince finely.
  • Garnish. Right before serving, add a drizzle of sesame oil, a few grinds of black pepper, and several slices of raw garlic and jalapeno. A classic Korean finishing touch!

Nutrition

Serving: 0gCalories: 115kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 2gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 387mgPotassium: 49mgFiber: 1gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 100IUVitamin C: 6mgCalcium: 18mgIron: 0.5mg
Keyword Ssam Sauce, Ssamjang
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15 minutes, All Recipes, Dinner with Friends, Featured, Gochujang, Korean, Side, Weeknight Meals

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