Is naengmyeon gluten free?

Is naengmyeon gluten free?

Naengmyeon is a cold noodle dish from North Korea that became popular across both North and South Korea after the Korean war. The chewy noodles are served with a cold, slightly sweet and vinegary broth that’s spiced with mustard oil, then topped with sliced vegetables and hardboiled eggs. Despite traditionally being served in the winter, it’s now most commonly eaten during the summer, because it’s very cooling and refreshing.

Naengmyeon often isn’t gluten free, because the noodles usually contain some wheat flour, and the broth or meat may include soy sauce. Quick-made versions may also contain Dasida, a Korean beef bouillon powder that contains wheat flour. Despite all that, it’s actually very easy to make this dish gluten free by subbing in gluten free varieties of buckwheat noodles and soy sauce, and skipping the beef bouillon powder! In this article, we’ll dive into the ingredients used in the different styles of naengmyeon and provide gluten free alternatives for each.


Mul naengmyeon from The Spruce Eats

Styles of Naengmyeon

There are so many regional styles of naengmyeon, but we’ll focus on three main types today: mul-naengmyeon, bibim-naengmyeon, and jungguk-naengmyeon.

Mul naengmyeon (물 냉면) originates from Pyongyang, North Korea. To make it, buckwheat noodles are precooked and topped with an icy cold broth made from beef brisket and the brine from radish water kimchi (동치미). The dish is served with hardboiled egg, sliced radish, cucumber, Korean pear, and spicy mustard oil. The broth often includes Korean soup soy sauce (국간장), which contains gluten. However, more traditional versions may exclude the soy sauce for a clearer broth.


Mul-naengmyeon from Peter Janhaas

Bibim naengmyeon (비빔 냉면) is said to have originated in Hamhung, North Korea. It’s less soupy and has more of a thick sauce instead. To make it, cold buckwheat noodles are topped with a sweet, vinegary sauce made with gochugaru (고추가루, Korean hot pepper flakes) or gochujang (고추장) and aromatics like ginger and garlic. The spicy red sauce usually includes soy sauce, so it’s not gluten free. Bibim naengmyeon is served with the same toppings as mul naengmyeon.


Jungguk-naengmyeon from Wikipedia

There’s also jungguk naengmyeon (중국냉면), a Korean-Chinese dish that’s especially popular in the areas of Korea and Northeast China where the countries border each other. This version is similar to mul naengmyeon, but richer and more nutty, because it incorporates peanut sauce. The addition of peanut sauce makes the broth more creamy, thick, and opaque. Common toppings include sliced cucumber, carrot, tomato, hardboiled egg, and sometimes seafood. Chinese style wheat noodles are used in jungguk-naengmyeon, so it’s not gluten free.

Buy Gluten Free Naengmyeon Noodles

The usual noodles used in naengmyeon are made with a blend of buckwheat and other starches like, sweet potato, potato starch, arrowroot starch, kudzu root, or wheat. Buckwheat is naturally gluten free, so as long as you use a noodle variety that’s made from 100% buckwheat flour or gluten free starch, you’re set. You’ll find a variety of gluten free noodle options below.


Gluten Free Naengmyeon Recipes

Choose your favorite gluten free noodle option from the previous list to make these recipes gf! Besides the noodles, you may need to sub gluten free soy sauce and gochujang, depending on the recipe.

* Title image courtesy of Ella's Pick.

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