Home » 15 Minute Tteokbokki! Quick and Easy Korean Spicy Rice Cakes

15 Minute Tteokbokki! Quick and Easy Korean Spicy Rice Cakes

Tteokbokki may sound complicated, with its double consonants and all. But these Korean spicy rice cakes are one of the easiest, most satisfying foods you’ll ever make.

It’ll take you around 10 to 15 minutes from start to finish. There’s very little prep. It’s not a persnickety dish at all, which is probably why it’s the head honcho of Korean snack foods. Here’s what I mean…

What is Tteokbokki?

Tteokbokki, whether it’s spelled topokki, ddukbokgi or ddeokbokki, dukbokki, all refers to the same thing. And that’s 떡볶이, which means:

  • Dduk (떡): Rice cake
  • Bokki (볶이): Stir fried

*I’ll be using all the spellings interchangeably.

No matter how you spell it in English, it’s all referring to the same dish: chewy spicy rice cakes smothered in a very spicy, a little sweet, and a lot delicious sauce.

spicy rice cakes

It’s so yummy, in fact, that I think these spicy rice cakes may be the most eaten food in Korea (after kimchi, of course). I don’t have statistics on this, but tteokbokki is served everywhere in Korea. It’s one of the most popular street foods so there’s always a big batch of it simmering in food trucks. There are little old ladies in tents selling spicy rice cake by the cup. And of course, it’s always on the menu at bunsik restaurants.

That’s because tteokbokki falls squarely in the realm of Korean snack foods, otherwise known as bunsik. And it’s not just a snack food – it’s the snack food. Don’t believe me? Ask a dozen Korean schoolchildren what their favorite food is. Nine out of ten times, it’ll be tteokbokki. I’d bet money on it.

Parents literally have tabs open at local bunsik restaurants so their kids can have their fill of spicy rice cakes between school and tae kwon do classes. My dad once put a deposit of the equivalent of $100 with our local street corner tteokbokki lady so my brother and sister could grab a cup or two after school. At around $0.50 a cup, it lasted them nearly a year. Last time we visited our old neighborhood, she remembered us. Tteokbokki bonds are strong.

Anyway, that’s how popular it is. It’s the PB&J, the ham and cheese sandwich, the elote, the pani puri, of Korean food. You’re not likely to find it at “proper” or upscale restaurants. But if you’re in a Korean city, you won’t be able to walk a mile in any direction without encountering someone making or eating spicy rice cakes.

So what do you need to get addicted to it make it?

Topokki Ingredients

Traditionally, tteokbokki is made with an anchovy and dasima (kombu) stock. If you order tteokbokki at a little restaurant in Korea, you’ll also get it with slices of cabbage and fish cakes hanging out with the rice cakes.

But my memories of tteokbokki are a little different.

We moved to the States when I was 6, far away from the ubiquitous bunsik restaurants and street side topokki trucks. My mom was a single mom at the time. She worked full time and was the sole (and somehow caring and present) parent all the time. She understandably didn’t have the time or energy to cook most days.

But she was still a mom. So every time we’d go to the Korean mart, I’d beg for some ready-made tteokbokki. She’d say: “We have that at home.” And true to her word, she’d make me her version of tteokbokki. Which was, without fail, made up of more vegetables (like everything we had in the fridge) than rice cakes.

I vowed to never eat tteokbokki like that again. But some aspects of it stuck – like onions. The crisp of sliced onions goes so well with the chewiness of tteokbokki that once you’ve had them together, you’ll realize that they were destined to be forever entwined in tteokbokki bliss.

Now a mom myself, I get the feed-your-kid-all-the-veggies urge. I also get the lack of time and energy. So this is my simplified and yet still so delicious spicy tteokbokki recipe.

Here’s what I use, pretty much every time.

For the Tteokbokki

  • 500 grams (roughly 1 lb) of tubular rice cakes
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 green onions, aka scallions
  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions

Tteokbokki rice cakes are usually stick-shaped. But if you can’t find those, you can also make it with the flat, oval ones. They’ll taste exactly the same, they just cook faster. So if you’re making it with the flat ones, let the water and sauce boil and reduce for a bit before you add the rice cakes in.

For the Tteokbokki Sauce

The main thing these rice cakes have going for them is their addictive chewiness. But flavor-wise, they’re pretty darn bland. So the tteokbokki sauce really, reeeally matters.

To get that perfect spicy sweet blend, we’re going to mix these ingredients into a small bowl:

  • 3 tbsp gochujang
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • Optional: 1 tbsp soy sauce

The above proportions make a lovely spicy and sweet tteokbokki sauce. Just remember that it’s all customizable! If you prefer a little less sweetness, use 2 tbsp of sugar instead. If you want more spice, add another tablespoon of gochugaru. And so on.

The soy sauce is optional. Spicy tteokbokki tastes delicious without it but even that 1 tablespoon adds a bit of umami that’s very welcome in my book. Especially since we’re not using anchovy stock.

How to Make Spicy Tteokbokki

Here’s the step-by-step on how to make spicy tteokbokki. It’s an easy process and should take you around 15 minutes from start to finish.

Pre-Prep

Unless you’re using freshly-made rice cakes, the first thing you want to do is to pre-prep the rice cakes. For me, that consists of a quick rinse and blanch.

Here’s why: As soon as you open a packet of rice cakes, you might notice a not-so-pleasant scent. It’s from the alcohol used to preserve the rice cakes as well as the desiccant sachet that keeps the packet dry. So don’t be alarmed – but also, let’s get rid of it. I’m sure that you, like me, prefer to not have that lingering on your spicy rice cakes.

So before starting, boil some water in your kettle. While it comes to a boil, pour the rice cakes into a sieve and rinse under lukewarm running water for about a minute. Just make sure every rice cake is rinsed under water.

Transfer the rice cakes to a pot of boiling water and let them blanch for just 30 seconds. Immediately drain and rinse under cold water. This not only softens them but I find it gets rid of any lingering unpleasant scent. They should smell nice and rice-y afterwards.

Now we’re ready to make some tteokbokki.

Make tteokbokki sauce

It’s time to make the tteokbokki sauce! To get that perfect spicy sweet blend, we’re going to mix these ingredients into a small bowl:

  • 3 tbsp gochujang
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • Optional: 1 tbsp soy sauce

Sauté onions

We’re going to give the onions a quick sauté to soften and season them a bit.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tsp of sesame oil and the onions. Sauté for 2 minutes.

Add Tteokbokki and Sauce

Immediately add 2 cups of water and the rice cakes. Add the sauce and stir to mix everything together. Make sure the rice cakes are mostly submerged.

Bring to a Boil

Let it come to a boil – this should take about 5 to 7 minutes.

Note: If you’re using eggs, this is the perfect time to make your soft or hard boiled eggs, while you wait for the tteokbokki to come to a boil. I place eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes and a half for slightly runny yolk.

Drop in the scallions and continue to cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the rice cakes are soft. Remember to stir occasionally while it simmers so the rice cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Note: From start (dropping the rice cakes into the water) to finish, the cooking process typically takes around 10 to 12 minutes. BUT it can take longer, depending on your rice cakes. If you’re not sure the rice cakes are done, taste one! It should be a little past al dente – with a lot of chew but not too soft.

Tip: I prefer a lot of sauce to slurp up with the tteokbokki but if you prefer a thicker sauce, then add the water and sauce in first and let it boil, reduce and simmer for a couple minutes before adding the rice cakes to cook.

Finishing Touches

When the sauce is looking thicker and the rice cakes are cooked, place in the boiled eggs. If you want cheese tteokbokki, this is the time to sprinkle that in.

Turn off the heat. Garnish with sesame seeds, even a drizzle of sesame oil, and more scallions. Serve warm.

What to Eat With Tteokbokki?

Tteokbokki stands well on its own as a snack. But pair it up with one of the dishes below and it becomes a solid meal. So what do you eat tteokbokki with? Here are the yummiest combinations…

Kimbap

The number one dish to eat tteokbokki with has to be a roll (or two) or kimbap. The sweet and spicy tteokbokki sauce makes an ideal complement to the Korean rice rolls. Just slather up each piece of kimbap with a generous amount of tteokbokki sauce and you’ll see what I mean.

Fish Cake Soup (Odeng Guk)

If you really want the full authentic experience of street side tteokbokki, you’ve got to have it with a side of fish cake soup. The combination of the two dishes immediately brings back memories of standing at a food truck, slurping on a cup full of fish cake soup in between bites of tteokbokki.

It’s actually a really simple recipe that consists of just a handful of ingredients. And don’t let the combination of ‘fish’ and ‘cake’ put you off – it’s pure umami goodness. I always make it with plenty of chili peppers added to the broth so you get an amazing throat hit as well.

Korean Tempura

Ahh, twigim. How I love thee. The closest comparison to these deep-fried pieces of crunchy, crispy goodness is the Japanese tempura. And like tempura, you can make them with pretty much anything.

My personal favorite is gimmari, which are basically glass noodles wrapped in seaweed and fried to perfection. Sweet potato twigim is also amazing with tteokbokki. And don’t get me started on chili pepper as well as squid twigim.

No need to prepare a separate sauce, either. You just lather the twigim into the tteokbokki sauce and eat. That crunchy paired with the chewiness of spicy rice cakes is highly addicting. You’ve been warned.

Korean Blood Sausage (Soondae)

Don’t let the blood part put you off. These don’t have the texture of, say, blood jelly or blodplättar. It also doesn’t taste remotely bloody like tiết canh. Actually, you don’t taste the blood at all. I was like 13 years old when I finally realized that these have anything to do with blood.

They’re usually made by stuffing cow or pig intestines with glass noodles and various seasonings and then steaming them. They’re a little bit of chewy, little bit of gelatinous, and very, very delicious, especially when dipped in tteokbokki sauce.

How to Reheat Tteokbokki

Once tteokbokki has been in the fridge for even a day or more, the rice cakes become hard and horrible. Like so…

So you absolutely have to reheat it. And this is one of the biggest reasons why I like making spicy rice cakes with plenty of sauce to begin with (which this recipe will produce).

Just empty the tteokbokki into a microwave safe dish, make sure the rice cakes are mostly submerged in the sauce, and microwave for about 2 minutes.

Result = yummy, chewy tteokbokki brought back to life.

Tteokbokki Modifications

Make it gluten-free. Rice cakes, as long as they’re made of 100% rice, are already gluten free. So make sure you make tteokbokki with rice, not wheat, rice cakes. Everything else – onions, eggs, sugar, garlic, gochugaru – is naturally gluten free as well.

Just be careful with the gochujang and soy sauce. Check that the gochujang you buy uses glutinous rice instead of barley malt. If you’re still unsure about using gochujang, just substitute the gochujang in this recipe with gochugaru instead. The finer the powder, the better. To make the sauce a little thicker, add 2 tablespoons of corn syrup (skip the sugar if you’re doing this).

Make it vegan. Just skip the eggs. You can add fried tofu instead for extra protein.

Lower in calories. The bulk of the calories come from the rice cakes. If you want to get a hit of tteokbokki without the calories, you can use a half half blend of rice cakes and shirataki noodles. It’s like a low-calories rabokki option. Yum.

How Much Does it Cost to Make Tteokbokki?

To make tteokbokki at home, here’s what it cost me:

  • £2.85 for 500 grams of Jongga rice cakes
  • £0.20 for 2 small onions
  • £0.25 for 2 eggs

And not more than £1.00 for the amounts used for all sauces and garnishes. So overall, around £4.30 for 4 servings of homemade tteokbokki. Not bad.

Spicy Tteokbokki (Korean Spicy Rice Cakes)

Sweet and SPICY! These wonderfully chewy rice cakes make the perfect savory snack and take less than 15 minutes to cook from start to finish.
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine Korean
Servings 4
Calories 406 kcal

Ingredients
  

Spicy Tteokbokki

  • 500 grams rice cakes About 1 lb
  • 2 small onions Or 1 large onion
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 green onions
  • 2 boiled eggs

Tteokbokki Sauce

  • 3 tbsp gochujang
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce Optional but recommended

Instructions
 

  • Boil water in a kettle. While it comes to a boil, place the rice cakes into a sieve and rinse under lukewarm running water for around a minute, making sure every rice cake gets rinsed.
  • Transfer the rice cakes to a pot of boiling water and blanch for just 30 seconds. Immediately drain and rinse under cold water.
  • Make tteokbokki sauce by mixing 3 tbsp gochujang + 3 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp gochugaru + 1 tbsp garlic + 1 tbsp soy sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add a tsp of sesame oil and the onions. Sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Immediately add 2 cups of water and the rice cakes. Add the sauce and stir to mix everything together. Make sure the rice cakes are mostly submerged.
  • Let it come to a boil – this should take about 5 to 7 minutes.
    Note: While you wait for the tteokbokki is come to a boil is the perfect time to boil the eggs, if using. Bring water to a boil and cook the eggs for 6 minutes and 30 seconds for slightly runny yolk.
  • When the tteokbokki is boiling, add in the scallions and continue to cook for another 4 to 6 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and the rice cakes are soft. Remember to stir occasionally while it simmers so the rice cakes don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • When the sauce is looking thicker and the rice cakes are cooked, place in the boiled eggs. If you want cheese tteokbokki, this is the time to sprinkle that in.
    Turn off the heat. Garnish with sesame seeds, even a drizzle of sesame oil, and more scallions. Serve warm.

Notes

How do I get a thicker sauce? Mix the water and sauce together without adding the rice cakes. Let it come to a boil, simmer and reduce for 4 to 5 minutes. And then add the rice cakes.
This is how the street food trucks in Korea do it: they have the sauce on simmer all the time and add more rice cakes (and sauce ingredients) as necessary. 
Do I have to soak the rice cakes? All I do is rinse and blanch. For refrigerated rice cakes, this has always been absolutely fine. But some may be hard even after the rinse, blanch, and cooking for 10 minutes. That’s okay – just simmer them longer. It actually helps the sauce thicken more as the starchiness is released so it’s a win win either way. 
Is this gluten free?
Make it gluten-free. Pretty much everything in this recipe – rice cakes (that are made of rice, not wheat), onions, eggs, sugar, garlic, gochugaru – is naturally gluten free.
And soy sauce – you can use a gluten-free option or tamari sauce. The only thing to be careful of is the gochujang. Choose one that uses glutinous rice instead of barley malt. If you want to be absolutely safe, substitute the gochujang in this recipe with gochugaru instead. The finer the powder, the better. To make the sauce a little thicker, add 2 tablespoons of corn syrup (skip the sugar if you’re doing this).

Nutrition

Calories: 406kcalCarbohydrates: 81gProtein: 11gFat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 321mgPotassium: 230mgFiber: 2gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 808IUVitamin C: 8mgCalcium: 43mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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