Allergy Friendly Korean

Nick and I were invited to a Korean Barbecue this weekend. BBQs can be intimidating for people with food allergies, and with my soy and vinegar intolerance, a Korean BBQ seemed even more daunting. As soon as we got the invitation I realized if I wanted to go and actually eat Korean food, I’d have to bring my own dish. Luckily, that is just the kind of challenge I love!

I searched through a lot of recipes before I settled on this one for Japchae at Beyond Kimchee. This awesome blog has tons of easy to follow Korean recipes. I decided to go with Japchae because I knew I could find great substitutions for the offending ingredients. As an added bonus, the dish is served at room temperature – perfect to bring to a BBQ.

If you choose to make this dish using my substitutions, I recommend you read through Holly’s original recipe at Beyond Kimchee before you begin. It’s her recipe after all, and her instructions are fantastic!

I’ll start with my slightly altered ingredient list. Don’t be intimidated – it looks complicated, but it was actually very easy to make. Aside from the ingredients, I made the recipe almost exactly as described on Beyond Kimchee.


10 oz glass noodles or rice vermicelli

1/3 lb. lean beef

1 bunch spinach

1 medium carrot

1/2 small onion

1 large clove garlic

1/4 lb. oyster mushrooms

Beef Marinade

1 T coconut aminos

1 t honey or agave nectar

1 t pure sesame oil

1/4 t pepper

Mushroom Seasoning

1 T coconut aminos

1/4 t honey or agave nectar

1/2 clove chopped garlic

1 t pure sesame oil

Spinach Seasoning

1/2 t salt

1/4 t honey or agave nectar

1 t pure sesame oil

Noodle Seasoning

3 T coconut aminos

1 T honey or agave nectar

2 T pure sesame oil

1 t pepper

2 T sesame seeds (optional)

If all of that looks like way too much to handle, let me put it a little more simply. To make this recipe you need rice noodles, beef, spinach, carrot, onion, garlic, mushrooms, coconut aminos, pure sesame oil, honey, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds. That’s not so much, right? Let’s get cookin’!


I started by slicing the beef into 1/4 inch strips while Nick mixed together the beef marinade. This is the perfect dish to cook as a couple because there are so many different things to prep! Once the beef was in its marinade, we set it aside and started to chop the veggies – mushroom, spinach, onion, garlic, and carrot.

The spinach and mushroom need to be blanched before they are marinated, so I put a pot of water on to boil and prepared an ice bath while Nick mixed the veggie marinades. I blanched the veggies separately – mushrooms first, then spinach, for about 5 seconds each. I put them into the cold water bath for a few seconds after and then squeezed the excess water out and put them in their respective seasonings.


At this point the prep was done and the cooking became more of a one woman job! I sautéed the onions and garlic with a little bit of olive oil and salt. After they were translucent, I removed them from the skillet and sautéed the carrots with a little more olive oil, salt, and honey until they were tender, but still slightly crisp. I removed the carrots, wiped the skillet clean, and put in the marinated beef. I removed the beef when it was done cooking, but left the juices in the pan for later.


I set aside all of the ingredients to cool while I cooked the rice vermicelli. The original recipe calls for glass noodles, but rice noodles are quite a bit easier to find. Make the noodles according to package directions, being sure to rinse the them in cold water immediately after they are done cooking.

Finally, time to put everything together! Put the skillet back on the burner to warm up the juices from the beef. Fry the cooked noodles in the delicious beef drippings and mix in the noodle seasoning.


Once the noodles have cooled, mix all of the ingredients together. I followed Beyond Kimchee’s advice and used my hands. You’ve just created a soy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free Korean dish!


One more note: If you’re not familiar with coconut aminos, it is a soy sauce substitute that tastes almost identical, but is soy and gluten-free. It’s a miracle product for creating soy-free Asian dishes! I also specify that the sesame oil in this recipe be “pure” sesame oil, because most other varieties include soybean oil. Be sure to read labels! These are the products I used:


The BBQ ended up being a huge success (check out the backdrop for the evening below), and the host even put together a vinegar-free salad with me in mind. The dressing was made of sesame paste, olive oil, and cheese, and it was INCREDIBLE! I can’t wait to attempt to recreate it!


What dishes have you altered in the name of allergy-free eating?

2 thoughts on “Allergy Friendly Korean

  1. You know I am making substitutions all the time in the name of health! Thank you for telling us about coconut animos! I had heard of soy animos, but I too am having a sensitivity to soy. I’ll look out for this promising product. Thanks!

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