Are Korean rice cakes gluten free?

Are Korean rice cakes gluten free?

Garaetteok (가래떡), also known as garae-tteok, or just tteok, are a type of Korean rice cake. Tteok are used in dishes like tteokbokki (떡볶이), a popular street food with a spicy sauce, and tteokguk (떡국), a Korean Lunar New Year soup with thinly sliced rice cakes.

Because traditional rice cakes are made from just rice and water, those versions are naturally gluten free. However, many modern versions now include wheat flour, so you must choose wisely.

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Tteokbokki from Delish

Garaetteok Ingredients and History

Garaetteok were traditionally made by pounding non-glutinous rice until smooth, then shaped into cylindrical cakes and sliced into pieces. Modern tteok are often made with steamed rice flour, and extruded through a specialized machine. The rice cakes have a subtle rice sweetness, and a chewy texture.

The first references to tteok appear in books about wars between China and Korea around 480-222 B.C. At the time, they were mostly eaten ceremonially, because rice wasn’t yet widespread in Korea. Herbs and flowers were added to the tteok to convey the special medicinal properties it was thought to have. Tteok was eaten to help increase vitality, build strength, and recover from illness. During the Three Kingdom’s era in Korea (from about 57 B.C. to 668 A.D.), rice became more popular. But it wasn’t until Korea embraced Buddhism around 1200 A.D. that its comsumption really skyrocketed. After that, tteok spead widely across Korea.

Tteok reached it’s peak popularity during the Joseon dynasty. By that point, records show a huge variety of tteok recipes, with a large array of different ingredients and methods. When peasants were too poor to make tteok from rice, grains like millet were used instead. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for tteok to be made from a mix of rice and wheat flour, but there are still many 100% rice options.

Buy Gluten Free Garaetteok

Korean rice cakes are easy to find frozen or refrigerated at local Korean stores, like H Mart. Some Korean grocers even make fresh tteok, and fresh versions are extra tasty! You’ll find the best prices locally, but we’ve also linked to some gluten free rice cakes that can be purchased online.


Garaetteok from Masterclass

Gluten Free Recipes That Use Garaetteok

Many store-bought tteok contain wheat flour, and certain Korean sauces, like gochujang and doenjang, include it as well. Because of this, most traditional Korean dishes will need to be made at home to ensure they’re gluten free. It’s worth it, I promise! Many of these recipes are really simple but have a big flavor payoff. So if you’re a fan of chewy rice textures and savory-spicy sauces, you’ll love these options.


Cheese and tteok from Eatcho Food

* Title image courtesy of Bloomberg.

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