50+ Best Korean Snacks & Beverages: Complete Guide to Convenience Store Food in Korea (2024)
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50+ Best Korean Snacks & Beverages: Complete Guide to Convenience Store Food in Korea (2024)

Food is at the heart of our lives. It makes up so much of cultures around the world and who we are as people. That’s why it is such an important part of traveling. Yet, tourists often don’t make it much farther than the most famous or well-known foods. That should change.

There is much to experience and learn from the simple, daily foods that are our quick bites and comforting snacks – convenience store foods. As a snack lover, I always try to find the best convenience store foods when visiting a new country. After nearly a decade of living in South Korea, I explored all that Korean convenience stores have to offer. Trust me, there’s a lot. 

Korea takes its snacks seriously. Researchers Seul Ki Park and Ji Hyun Lee found that almost 30% of Korean youth eat from convenience stores more than 3 times a week. To meet this demand there is constant innovation. It brings new snacks and beverages alongside some undying classics.

Let’s face it, we don’t have the time or stomach capacity to try everything on a short trip. I set out on my journey of 1,000 snacks to help you find the best snacks and beverages worth trying in Korean convenience stores.

I decided on five key criteria to rank each snack or beverage: Taste & Flavor, Nutritional Value, Convenience, Price Value, and Uniqueness. Both taste and uniqueness are subjective. They are based on my personal experience trying each one. How each product compares to others in the same category determines its nutrition, price, and convenience. Jump to How We Test and Score for the full breakdown of the system.

By focusing on these five criteria, we’ve ranked over 50 Korean convenience store snacks and beverages to find the ones that truly stand out. This guide will help you navigate the delicious world of Korean snacks, ramen, and beverages across different brands.

In this Guide

Infographic titled 'Top Korean Snacks & Beverages in 2024' showcasing the best selections in four categories. 'Best Salty Snack' is Orion Squid Peanut Snack with a score of 8.9, 'Best Sweet Snack' is Turtle Chips Choco Churro with a score of 9.1, 'Best Beverage' is Hite Roasted Dark Barley Tea with a score of 8.8, and 'Best Best Ramen' is Cheese Rabokki with a score of 8.1. Each item displays a star rating, price in Korean won, and sub-scores for Taste & Flavor, Nutritional Value, Convenience, Price Value, and Uniqueness. The bottom left corner features 'Most Unique' snack Zanmang Loopy Hot Chili Lime Tteokbokki with a score of 7.4. On the bottom right, a color-coded pie chart illustrates the scoring breakdown by percentage, emphasizing Taste & Flavor as the most heavily weighted criterion at 40%.

Our Picks for the Top Korean Snacks & Beverages in 2024

In this guide, we selected the biggest and our favorite categories of Korean convenience store foods: salty snacks, sweet snacks, instant and packaged ramen, and beverages. Besides the best in each category, we also picked a Most Unique snack to highlight what makes Korean snacks special. Amongst the snacks, ramen, and beverages that didn’t take the crown, there are still amazing products that are worth checking out.

Top Salty Snack in Korean Convenience Stores

Orion Squid Peanut Snack (오징어 땅콩)

Total Score: 8.9
Taste & Flavor: 10 | Nutrition: 9.2 | Convenience: 5.5 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7

Image of Orion Squid Peanut Snack package with a price tag of ₩1,500. The package, branded since 1976, displays peanut-shaped snacks with a graphic of a tidal wave. Adjacent is a nutrition facts label for one 98g package, detailing 492 calories, 11g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 320mg sodium, 57g total carbohydrates, 20g total sugars, and 12g protein. Allergens listed include peanut, squid, shrimp, and shellfish (oyster). Ingredients include processed peanuts, wheat flour, corn syrup, sugar, and other additives, emphasizing the snack's rich flavor profile and nutritional content.

Tasting Notes: Squid, Salty, Nutty, Crunchy
Additional Flavors: Gochujang Mayo, Soy Sauce Wasabi, Buldak, Roasted Seaweed
Purchased at: CU

First released in 1976, “Squid Peanut” by the company Orion has proven to be one of the most popular and long lasting Korean snacks. It was inspired by the common practice of eating dried squid alongside peanuts as a drinking snack. Orion turned this combination into a fantastic little ball of a ground squid and peanut cracker with a peanut in the center. It’s a combination of savory squid, nutty peanuts, and crunchy crackers that make my personal favorite snack from South Korea.

Following the flavor trends of the last few years, Orion has started developing other flavor variations. One example is the Gochujang (Korean spicy pepper paste) Mayo flavor which is creamy packed with a welcome kick of spice. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed by any of the versions of this snack and it is snack you can not miss.

Top Sweet Snack in Korean Convenience Stores

Turtle Chip Choco Churros (꼬북집 초코츄러스)

Total Score: 9.1
Taste & Flavor: 10 | Nutrition: 8.7 | Convenience: 8 | Price: 9.4 | Uniqueness: 8

A playful bag of Turtle Chip Choco Churros, priced at ₩1,700, adorned with an animated character and dusted churros. The nutrition facts for an 80g package detail 426 calories, 22g fat, 14g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 200mg sodium, 52g carbohydrates, 24g sugars, and 5g protein. Allergens include wheat, soybeans, and milk. The ingredients showcase wheat flour, digestive chocolate, churros flavor seasoning, and cocoa powder. A wooden bowl displays the distinctive choco-coated, shell-shaped snacks.

Tasting Notes: Crunchy, Rich Chocolate, Cinnamon
Additional Flavors: Original, Cheese, Spicy, Injeolmi, Sea Salt Caramel
Purchased at: GS25

This chocolate churro flavored snack is a new version of the hit Kobuk Chip, known as Turtle Chip. What makes this chip special are the four layers put together in a turtle shell shape. The result is a sensational texture experience. When you take a bite, all the layers crush together for the perfect crunch. To match the unique texture they continually release and develop new flavor combinations. While some are available globally, only Korea has the newest and best of flavors.

My personal favorite is Chocolate Churros. They taste exactly how you would want them to: cinnamon sugar with rich chocolate and packaged together with the iconic, 4-layered crunch. I have never not finished a bag of these in the same sitting. It’s a truly special example of Korean snack innovations mixed with unique flavor combinations. A must try.

Top Ramen in Korean Convenience Stores

Cheese Rabokki (치즈 라볶이)

Total Score: 8.1
Taste & Flavor: 9 | Nutrition: 7.7 | Convenience: 4.5 | Price: 9.8 | Uniqueness: 8

Cheese Rabokki cup noodles, selling for ₩3,500, display a tempting cheese graphic on a yellow lid. The 230g pack lists 687 calories, 15g fat, 5.8g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 1,270mg sodium, 127g carbohydrates, 31g sugars, and 12g protein. The allergens mentioned include wheat, soybean, milk, tomato, and beef. The ingredients feature refined salt, alcohol, fat powder, and cheese powder among other seasoning elements. The noodles inside the cup are drenched in a rich, cheesy sauce.

Tasting Notes: Cheesy, Chewy, Spicy, Sweet
Purchased at: GS25

Rice cake, ramen, cheese. Rice cake, ramen, cheese. How can you get better than that? Rabokki (라볶이) is a much loved regular dish at bunsik (분식) restaurants in Korea. Bunshik fast food places serve traditional Korean foods like tteokboki, ramen, gimbap, donkatsu. The abbreviation “ra” represents ramen, while “bokki” stands for tteokbokki. This ramen dish is a tasty carb overload of cheese, ramen, and rice cakes. Ingredients are fresher and this packaged ramen is found in the refrigerated section of convenience stores. It’s a bit more complicated to prepare as you have to layer the ingredients, pour water and then microwave as well. Add sliced cheese or microwaved sausages to elevate this ramen even further. The flavor is cheesy, chewy and savory with a nice kick of spice. Most certainly a guilty pleasure, but exceptionally satisfying and a must try.

Top Beverage in Korean Convenience Stores

Roasted Dark Barley Tea (블랙보리)

Total Score: 8.8
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 9.7 | Convenience: 10 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7

Transparent 520ml bottle of Hite Roasted Dark Barley Tea priced at ₩1,800, displaying dark text and golden barley stalk graphics against a light brown liquid background. Nutrition facts state 34 calories per bottle, zero fats, 15mg sodium, 8g carbohydrates, 2g sugars, and 1g protein, with no allergens listed. Ingredients include roasted barley and purified water.

Tasting Notes: Nutty, Earthy, Toasted, Refreshing
Purchased at: CU

Beyond its famous green tea, South Korea has a rich and diverse tea culture. People have been drinking barley tea for centuries. It is a popular traditional beverage. Made with roasted barley grains, it’s technically not actually tea. Many restaurants serve barley tea instead of water and there are dozens of bottled varieties available.

Generally, it has strong, earthy flavors that are refreshing and quite delicious. It is well-known for its many health benefits: high antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Hite’s Roasted Dark Barley Tea is an unsweetened version, and the earthy, grainy scent is what strikes you immediately. Barley tea is something you definitely need to try when in Korea. As a convenient, easy, and tasty convenience store beverage, I highly recommend Hite’s version for a great starting point.

Most Unique Snack in Korean Convenience Stores

Zanmang Loopy Hot Chili Lime Tteokbokki Snack
(잔망루피 핫칠리라임 떡볶이 스낵)

Total Score: 7.4
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 8.1 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 9.3 | Uniqueness: 9

The Zanmang Loopy Hot Chili Lime Tteokbokki Snack bag, priced at ₩1,700, displays a quirky character wielding a fork, with a dark background and fiery lime accents. Nutrition facts for an 80g package include 415 calories, 20g fat, 8g saturated fat, 470mg sodium, 53g carbohydrates, 18g sugars, and 4g protein. Notable allergens are soybean, wheat, and tomato. The ingredient list features a hot chili lime flavor seasoning among other components. In front, a bowl showcases the textured, spice-coated snack pieces.

Tasting Notes: Cheesy, Chewy, Spicy, Sweet
Additional Flavors: Cheese, Rosé
Purchased at: CU (Exclusive)

What makes Korean snacks so unique is the combination of tradition, innovation, and cultural relevance. All bundled in small bags of deliciousness. Zanmang Loopy’s Hot Chili Lime Tteokbokki Snack is a perfect example of a unique Korean snack that checks all the boxes.

Tradition: Tteokbokki, simmered rice cakes, is a traditional food. It was served to the royal court 500 years ago in the Joseon Dynasty.

Innovation: Hot Chili Limes is a flavor combination using foreign ingredients in new, exciting ways.

Culture: The character the snack is named after, Loopy, is from the popular kids TV animation, Pororo. This character quickly gained popularity in Korea. As of 2024 Loppy has 300K Instagram followers and over 2 million YouTube subscribers. And now its own line of snacks.

Altogether, this is a great example of the unique and exciting foods available in Korean Convenience stores in 2024.

Watch the sassy Loopy enjoy convenience store food in a mukbang. It’s a kind of eating show where the host eats loads of food for their viewers.

Our top picks are only the beginning of the unique and delicious convenience store foods that await in Korea. While some of these products can be found online or in Korean supermarkets globally, many are available only there. Not to mention they taste better when eaten at sunset on the Han River in Seoul! A trip to South Korea, like on one of our Student Programs in Korea, is the best way to discover all these amazing snacks and everything else the country has to offer.

Sunset at the Han River in Seoul, South Korea

What are Convenience Stores in Korea?

In South Korea, there are more than 55,000 convenience stores in the country which surpasses even the number of McDonalds globally. That’s at least 1 convenience store for every 1,000 people. Convenience stores in Korea are more than just a place to buy snacks, they are an essential part of local communities. They are often open 24/7 and sell just about everything you need or can imagine. They have become a part of daily life for many people. I know I would not have survived my study abroad in South Korea without my daily lunch trip to the convenience store for a bag of chips, gimpbap (a type of Korean fast food), and coffee.

Four major brands will be on almost every corner: GS25, CU, 7-Eleven, and Emart 24. Choosing a favorite is often a heated debate amongst kids and adults alike. My personal preference is GS25 for the quality of their ready-to-eat meals and a great selection of exclusive snacks.

The four major convenience store chains in Korea

Where to buy snacks in Korea?

Convenience stores like GS25 or CU are the best places to buy the Korean snacks, ready-to-eat meals, or beverages you want to try. Each different brand has its selection of exclusive flavors and products, so there is always something new to discover. If the exact item you’re looking for isn’t at the first store you walk into, there is surely another right down the street. For new and hard-to-find releases like the famous Honey Butter Chips in 2014 or the recent collectible Pokemon Cream Bread, half the fun is in the search. Besides convenience stores, there are supermarkets like Homeplus, Emart, and Lotte Mart. They will have larger quantities at cheaper prices.

Best Korean Salty Snacks to Try

Shin Ramyun Shrimp Cracker | HEYROO Yellow Cheese Rusk | Loopy Rosé Tteokbokki Snack | Mala Flavor Popcorn | Nongshim Shrimp Cracker Black | Korean Smoked Galbi Flavor | Smash it! Smash it! BBQ flavor | HBAF Golden Cheese Popcorn | Crispy Potato Sticks | Orion Squid Peanut Snack | Zanmang Loopy Hot Chili Lime Tteokbokki Snack

Nongshim Shrimp Cracker (농심 새우깡)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.8 | Convenience: 6.5 | Price: 10.0 | Uniqueness: 6 Nongshim Shrimp Cracker package with a bold red background and a price tag of ₩1,400, featuring a vibrant image of a shrimp. The nutrition facts for a 90g package list 465 calories, 25g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 5g cholesterol, 610mg sodium, 54g carbohydrates, and 6g protein. Allergens include wheat, shrimp, soybean, and milk. Ingredients consist of wheat flour, rice bran oil, corn starch, shrimp, palm oil, and various flavorings. The foreground displays a wooden bowl filled with light golden-brown shrimp crackers. Tasting Notes: Shrimp, Salty, Crunchy
Purchased at: GS25
"My hand goes, my hand goes, to Shrimp Cracker!" - Slogan from Nongshim
The classic of the classic. Shrimp Crackers (Saewookkang) from Nongshim have been around since 1971. They are one of the oldest and most love snacks in South Korea. Opening the bag reveals the iconic shrimp flavors. It brings memories of the sea and even seagulls who might just steal your snack from you! Nongshim Shrimp Crackers live up to their name and taste strongly of shrimp. They have a well-balanced saltiness and a satisfying crunch. h. You can’t go wrong and they will continue to be a classic of Korean snacks. Shrimp Cracker Commercial from 1991

HEYROO Yellow Cheese Rusk (HEYROO 황치즈 러스크)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 7 | Convenience: 5.5 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 HEYROO Yellow Cheese Rusk packaging with a price of ₩1,800. The bright yellow bag features images of rusks and highlights the cheese content. Nutrition facts for a 100g package show 519 calories, 27g total fat, 16g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 11mg cholesterol, 791mg sodium, 60g total carbohydrates, 23g sugars, and 9g protein. Allergens include soybean, milk, and wheat. Ingredients listed are flour, sugar, margarine, cheese mix powder, and several flavor enhancers and additives. Beside the bag is a wooden bowl filled with golden-brown cheese rusks. Tasting Notes: Cheesy, Crunchy, Salty
Additional Flavors: Caramel, Butter, Chocolate, Cranberry
Purchased at: GS25 (Exclusive)

Yellow Cheese (hwang chichu) flavored snacks and desserts took off in the early 2000's in Korea. They’re sweet, salty, and slightly tangy; cheese with added sweetness. This snack made exclusively for GS25 combines the yellow cheese addictive flavor with rusk. Rusk is a twice-baked, insanely crunchy bread that makes for a unique texture and flavor experience. It’s a perfect example of the new experimentation and evolution of Korean snacks to more diverse flavors and styles.

Loopy Rosé Tteokbokki Snack (루피 로제 떡볶이 스낵)

Total Score: 6.6
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 8.6 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 9.3 | Uniqueness: 4 A package of Loopy Rosé Tteokbokki Snack priced at ₩1,700 featuring a playful character illustration. The 80g package's nutrition facts show 395 calories, 17g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 430mg sodium, 56g carbohydrates, 15g sugars, and 4g protein. Allergens include wheat, soybean, milk, tomato, and beef. Ingredients listed are flour, various oils, seasoning foods, sugar, compound seasoning foods, sweeteners, and a range of flavor enhancers. Beside the package is a bowl of crispy, golden-brown tteokbokki-shaped snacks Tasting Notes: Sweet, Creamy, Spicy
Additional Flavors: Cheese, Hot Chilli Lime
Purchased at: CU (Exclusive)

Gotta collect them all! All 170…? This is another flavor variation of our Most Unique Snack winner, Zanmang Loopy’s Tteokbokki Snacks. Its random sticker comes in 170 different poses of Loopy. That’s a lot of Loopy to collect. This particular flavor is Rosé, a creamy version of a tomato-based pasta sauce originating in Northern Italy. Rosé flavored snacks, braised chicken (Jjimdak), and simmered rice cakes (tteokbokki) gained popularity since 2020 due to social media. They are creamy, sweet, with a hint of spice. Loopy's Rosé snack combines a snackified traditional Korean food with a unique, foregin flavor. It comes together for a memorable eating experience.

Mala Flavor Popcorn (마라맛 팝콘)

Total Score: 5.8
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 6.6 | Convenience: 6.5 | Price: 5.7 | Uniqueness: 6 Bag of Mala Spicy Popcorn with a fiery design, priced at ₩1,700. Nutrition facts for a 55g serving include 305 calories, 11g fat, 7g saturated fat, 80mg sodium, 44g carbohydrates, and 3.1g protein. Allergens are wheat, soybean, and beef. Ingredients highlight corn, mixed edible oil, mala flavor seasoning, and several other flavor enhancers. Next to the bag, a wooden bowl overflows with popcorn, coated in the distinctive mala spices. Tasting Notes: Pepper, Spicy, Salty
Purchased at: GS25 (Exclusive)

This popcorn is salted and seasoned with a unique Mala blend. The Chinese spice blends known as "mala" are distinguished by the use of Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers. It's famous for its numbing and tingling sensations. Although it is most popular in Korea in Mala soup (마라탕), this spice can now be found in many different snacks. This particular popcorn captures the chili flavor well, but lacks the tingling sensation and a crunchy texture. Fun to try for the unique flavor, but leaves some to be desired.

Nongshim Shrimp Cracker Black (새우깡 블랙)

Total Score: 7.8
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 8.6 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 6.9 | Uniqueness: 7 A sleek package of Nongshim Shrimp Cracker Black with a price of ₩2,000, featuring an elegant black design and a red shrimp illustration. Nutrition facts for a 72g serving show 360 calories, 17g fat, 6g saturated fat, 15mg cholesterol, 510mg sodium, 46g carbohydrates, 4.2g sugars, and 6g protein. Contains allergens such as wheat, shrimp, soybean, and milk. The ingredient list includes wheat flour, rice bran oil, shrimp flavor base mix, processed butter, glycine, and truffle powder, among others. In front, a wooden bowl displays the snack with a distinct truffle seasoning. Tasting Notes: Truffle, Salty, Shrimp
Purchased at: GS25 (Exclusive)

So this snack is a premium version of the classic Sekong or shrimp cracker made by Nonggim. Following the premium price, it uses better quality ingredients. Shrimp Crackers Black contain 17% shrimp versus the 8.5% in the classic cracker. Along with a larger cracker size, it also packs a unique flavor, black truffle. The truffle smell is STRONG. If you don't like artificial truffle flavor, this is a snack to skip. It’s safe to say you won’t find too many other snacks around the world that will combine the shrimp and truffle flavors quite like this. It's a salty, crunchy, and satisfying version of the classic Shrimp Cracker.

Korean Smoked Galbi Flavor (프링글스 숯불갈비맛)

Total Score: 5.1
Taste & Flavor: 4 | Nutrition: 7.7 | Convenience: 6.5 | Price: 2.4 | Uniqueness: 6 Limited Edition Pringles can in vibrant orange, labeled 'Korean Smoked Galbi Flavour', priced at ₩4,000. Nutrition facts for the 100g package display 521 calories, 28.2g total fat, 12.6g saturated fat, 626mg sodium, 62.4g carbohydrates, 2.7g sugars, and 4.3g protein. Contains allergens such as wheat, milk, soybeans, and chicken. Ingredients include potato flakes, vegetable oil, corn flour, and a variety of seasonings and flavor enhancers. A wooden bowl in the foreground holds several Pringles chips. Tasting Notes: Sweet & Salty, Potato, Soy
Purchased at: CU

The Korean Smoked Galbi Flavor Pringles is a limited edition version of the "World of BBQ" series. Galbi is a popular type of Korean BBQ that uses marinated beef short ribs. Galbi marinades include soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sugar among other spices. It comes together for a deep savory and slightly sweet meat that is guaranteed to satisfy. However, these Pringles, while attempting to capture the heart of Korean Galbi, leave a lot to be desired. If you are a Pringles lover they are a worth shot, but if not these are an unfortunate pass.

Smash it! Smash it! BBQ flavor (오뚜기 뿌셔뿌셔 바베큐맛)

Total Score: 7.4
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 9 | Convenience: 6.5 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 Vibrant yellow package of 'Smash it! Smash it! BBQ flavor' noodles with a price tag of ₩1,200. The front features a cartoon image of a smiling character with a wooden mallet. The nutrition facts label for a 90g package lists 415 calories, 15g total fat, 7g saturated fat, 810mg sodium, 62g carbohydrates, 4g sugars, and 8g protein. Allergens include wheat, soybean, egg, milk, beef, chicken, pork, and shellfish (oyster, mussels). Ingredients are wheat flour, various oils, onion extract, eggshell calcium, flavorings, and nutritional fortification. Beside the package is a wooden bowl with uncooked noodle pieces and a mallet, indicating the snack's interactive preparation. Tasting Notes: Savory, Sweet, Crunchy
Additional Flavors: Bulgogi, Yangnyeom Chicken, Tteokbokki and Pizza
Purchased at: CU

Smash it! Smash it! This barbecue flavored ramen snack is a nostalgic childhood favorite for many Koreans. Inside each page is a block of ready-to-eat dry ramen noodles and a package of seasoning. You crush the noodles, pour in the seasoning, and shake the bag to mix. You're left with a salty, sweet, and crunchy Ramen noodle snack. It's a fun eating experience with some unique flavor varieties.

HBAF Yellow Cheese Popcorn (바프 황치즈 팝콘)

Total Score: 9 Taste & Flavor: 8.3 | Nutrition: 7.6 | Convenience: 8.5 | Price: 8.1 | Uniqueness: 7 Image of HBAF Golden Cheese Popcorn bag with a price tag of ₩1,700, adorned with colorful cartoon characters and cheese graphics. The nutrition facts label for a 70g serving size details 305 calories, 10g total fat, 3.1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 570mg sodium, 51g total carbohydrates, 30g total sugars, and 3g protein. Allergens noted are soybean and milk. Ingredients include sugar, corn, corn syrup, various oils, seasonings, and cheese powder. Beside the bag is a wooden bowl of the golden-coated popcorn.   Tasting Notes: Cheesy, Salty, Crunchy, Sweet
Purchased at: 7-Eleven (Exclusive)

HBAF, a Korean manufacturer, is famous for its premium roasted nuts, honey roasted peanuts, and other snacks. Uniquely flavored almonds, such as tiramisu and black sesame, are popular souvenirs from Korea. This popcorn follows their premium standards. It's cheesy, crunchy, and the perfect amount of sweetness. HBAF’s Yellow Cheese flavor is like cheesy kettle corn that checks all my boxes. A dangerously delicious snack and a must try if you can find it.

Crispy Potato Sticks (눈을 감자)

Total Score: 6.7
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 8.8 | Convenience: 6.5 | Price: 4 | Uniqueness: 2 A red package of Crispy Potato Sticks priced at ₩2,000, featuring an illustration of the potato sticks and a cartoon potato. A nutrition facts label for a 56g package displays 291 calories, with 15g total fat, 4.9g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 360mg sodium, 35g total carbohydrates, 1g total sugars, and 3g protein. It lists allergens like wheat, milk, soybean, beef, and chicken. Ingredients include frozen potato chips, vegetable oil, modified starch, flour, salt, and pepper seasoning. The product is presented alongside a wooden bowl filled with the actual seasoned potato sticks. Tasting Notes: Crunchy, Salty, Potato-Flavored
Purchased at: CU

It's hard to go wrong with potatoes. Thankfully, this isn’t one of the exceptions. As clearly as the name "Crispy Potato Sticks" states, this snack is thinly sliced potatoes seasoned and fried to crispy perfection. They are essentially entire slices of the crispy bit at the end of normal French Fries. They make for a delicious savory and salty snack. The flavor is familiar, but done in a really, really good way even if it is not especially unique. Take some advice and have a side of ketchup handy.

Best Korean Sweet Snacks to Try

Big Star Chocolate Snack | Churros | Caramel Peanut | Strawberry Banana Kick | Chocolate Mushroom | Pikachu Egg Cookies | Margaret| Choco Heim | Cookdas| Turtle Chip Choco Churros

Big Star Chocolate Snack (Cookie Run Edition) (쿠키런큰별초코스낵)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.7 | Convenience: 8 | Price: 9.8 | Uniqueness: 4 The Big Star Chocolate Snack, Cookie Run Edition, priced at ₩2,000, displays a dynamic character from the game on a brown package. Nutritional details for a 99g serving report 500 calories, 25g total fat, 21g saturated fat, 105mg sodium, 62g carbohydrates, and 7g protein. Contains allergens such as soybean, milk, and wheat. Ingredients include compound chocolate, various types of processed fats and oils, cocoa, cereals, and flavor enhancers. Accompanying the package is a bowl of the chunky, chocolate-coated cereal snacks. Tasting Notes: Rich Dark Chocolate, Crunchy, Sweet
Purchased at: CU (Exclusive)

This snack was produced by Devsisters, the South Korean developer of the popular mobile game Cookie Run. A collectible sticker inside features a game character. Players level up these "Cookie" characters to defend their Kingdom. A gaming company producing snacks is unexpected, but Big Star Chocolate Snack delivers. It is a rich, dark chocolate cookie that has a powerful crunch and melts in your mouth at the same time. Dangerously addicting, any chocolate lover is sure to fall in love.

(Crown) Churros (크라운 츄러스)

Total Score: 8.0
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 7.5 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 4 Bright yellow bag of Crown Churros with a whimsical design, priced at ₩1,500, featuring churros with a honey drip and hearts. The nutrition facts for an 84g package include 463 calories, 27g total fat, 10g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 51g carbohydrates, and 4g protein. Allergens listed are wheat and soybeans. Ingredients comprise wheat flour, various oils, sugars, cinnamon powder, and other flavoring agents. A wooden bowl holds a portion of the cinnamon-coated churros snacks. Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Sweet, Crunchy
Purchased at: GS25

This snack is a take on the classic fried dough pastry with cinnamon sugar that we all know and love – Churros. The version made by Crown is a crunchy, well-balanced cinnamon sugar snack that is impossible to put down. If you are lucky, you might come across a Cinnamon Apple Pie variation which is truly a gem. The classic Churros are improved just like their real counterparts, dipping in some vanilla ice cream or chocolate syrup. Not that they need it anyway.

(Crown) Caramel Peanut (카라멜땅콩)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 9.5 | Convenience: 8 | Price: 9.5 | Uniqueness: 3 Crown Caramel Peanut bag with vibrant red coloring, cartoon peanut characters, and a price tag of ₩1,500. The nutrition label for a 72g serving indicates 370 calories, 18g fat, 6g saturated fat, 150mg sodium, 48g carbohydrates, and 4g protein. Allergens include peanuts, wheat, soybean, and milk. Ingredients such as corn starch, sugar, and mixed edible oil are listed. The image includes a wooden bowl full of the light, puffy caramel-coated peanuts. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Nutty, Caramel
Purchased at: GS25

Caramel Peanut is another longtime classic produced by the Korean company Crown. Crown, established in 1947, is one of the oldest confectionery companies in Korea. This snack was first released in 1989 and has remained a favorite for people of all ages. It is a rendezvous of peanuts and caramel together in a crispy, puffy snack. The flavor is like Cracker Jacks, but a bit less sweet and melts in your mouth. Don't forget to shake up the bag to get the actual pieces of peanuts that might be hiding at the bottom.

Strawberry Banana Kick (바나나킥딸기)

Total Score: 5.4
Taste & Flavor: 4 | Nutrition: 8.0 | Convenience: 7 | Price: 6.4 | Uniqueness: 2 Tasting Notes: Artificial Sweetness, Fruity, Puffy
Purchased at: CU

Strawberry Banana kick is a new flavor of the classic Banana Kick snack by Nongshim. Each snack is shaped like a banana and has a super airy, crisp crunch that will delight both kids and adults. Yet, it is almost half sugar, 0.5g of sugar for every 1g of puffed snack. That’s 50% more sugar than the average of all the sweet snacks we recorded. A bit too sweet for my own sweet tooth. It is an interesting flavor of a classic Korean childhood snack, but I would not buy it regularly.

Chocolate Mushroom (초코송이 (Choco Songi))

Total Score: 6.3
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 7.8 | Convenience: 6 | Price: 9.9 | Uniqueness: 4   Tasting Notes: Milk Chocolate, Crunchy, Salty
Purchased at: CU

Another classic from the Korean company Orion, Choco Songi, is a chocolate topped biscuit that resembles the shape of a mushroom. The name comes from combining chocolate (choco - 초코) and the word for a bunch (songi - 송이) to mean a bunch of mushrooms. It quickly became a staple after its 1984 release. Even the packaging has stayed the same since then. The snack has a cute shape and a long history, but the chocolate flavor is mainly meh. I don't go out of my way to buy this snack often, and you shouldn't either. It's fine, but there are a lot better Korean snacks than Choco Songi.

Pikachu Egg Cookies (PB 피카츄 계란과자)

Total Score: 7.0
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 9.2 | Convenience: 5 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 5 Brightly colored Pikachu Egg Cookies bag priced at ₩2,000, with a playful Pikachu graphic. The nutritional label for a 106g serving reveals 525 calories, 25g fat, 11g saturated fat, 40mg cholesterol, 240mg sodium, 69g carbohydrates, 31g sugars, and 6g protein. Contains allergens such as egg, soybean, milk, and wheat. The list of ingredients includes wheat flour, sugar, whole egg liquid, various oils, and flavorings. The image foreground features a pile of round, egg-shaped cookies with a light dusting of sugar. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Eggy, Crispy
Additional Varieties: Chocolate Chip Cookies (Squirtle), and Strawberry Star Puffs (Charmander)
Purchased at: 7-Eleven (Exclusive)

Pika Pika! Pikachu might not have anything to do with eggs or cookies for that matter, but that doesn’t matter. This snack is a part of a series of exclusive pokemon themed snacks produced for 7-Eleven. They each contain 1 of 55 different Pokemon collectible chips, so time to eat them all to collect them all. Pikachu’s chosen snack are egg cookies made from egg whites and sugar. They are crispy, sweet, and just a tad bit salty. The shape and texture remind me of the Nilla vanilla wafers that I used to eat as a kid. Watch out, they are dangerously addicting and very easy to consume the entire bag!

(Lotte) Margaret (롯데 마가렛트)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.7 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 2 Classic Lotte Margaret cookie box, selling for ₩1,700, featuring an image of round, golden-baked cookies and hazelnuts. Nutritional content for an 88g serving includes 448 calories, 24g fat, 13g saturated fat, 55mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 50g carbohydrates, 23g sugars, and 6g protein. Noted allergens are wheat, egg, milk, soy, peanut, and beef. Ingredients list wheat flour, cake powder, processed butter, and a variety of flavorings and leavening agents. The image foregrounds a pair of the rich, crumbly Margaret cookies. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Buttery, Soft, Light Roasted Peanuts Additional Flavors: Chocolate, Roasted Mocha
Purchased at: 7-Eleven

The soft, buttery Margaret cookies are made by the popular company Lotte. It comes in an assortment of flavors, such as chocolate, roasted mocha, and original. The original has a wonderful balance of sweetness and buttery texture, making it an excellent treat with tea or coffee. This kind of cookie melts in the mouth with a slight hint of peanuts.

Choco Heim (크라운 초코하임)

Total Score: 6.6
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 8.4 | Convenience: 8 | Price: 5.8 | Uniqueness: 4 Choco Heim package priced at ₩1,400, featuring an elegant chocolate bar design and a creamy wafer image. Nutrition facts for a 47g package state 250 calories, 14g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 110mg sodium, 27g carbohydrates, 18g sugars, and 4g protein. Contains allergens like wheat, soybean, and milk. Ingredients mention wheat flour, processed fats, sugar, mixed milk powder, cocoa preparations, and various emulsifiers and flavor enhancers. A wafer with hazelnut cream filling is prominently displayed in front. Tasting Notes: Chocolatey, Creamy, Wafer-like
Additional Flavors: White Chocolate
Purchased at: 7-Eleven

This is a favorite chocolate flavored hazelnut wafer-style snack from the company Crown. The name Choco Heim comes from the words for chocolate and the German, Heim, or home. It tries to embrace the home-like feeling that chocolate can bring. Choco Heim consists of two cylinders of solid chocolate cream sandwiched between layers of crunchy wafers. It's a terrific snack with a unique wafer texture and satisfying chocolate taste. The white chocolate variety is also a great snack to try!

Cookdas (크라운 쿠크다스)

Total Score: 7.5
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 6.6 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 5 Elegant Crown Cookdas package with a classic red and gold design, a price of ₩1,500, displaying biscuit sticks with white drizzle. The nutrition facts for a 77g package include 420 calories, 24g fat, 16g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 140mg sodium, 47g carbohydrates, and 4g protein. Contains allergens such as wheat, soybean, egg, and milk. Listed ingredients are wheat flour, sugar, various processed fats and oils, processed cheese, and a mix of flavorings including mascarpone cheese powder and vanillin. The image features several of the creamy white-coated biscuit sticks. Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Creamy, Crumbly
Purchased at: 7-Eleven

Cookdas is another wafer type snack made by Crown. What sets it apart from the Choco Heim is that the wafer is crumblier, more delicate, and less airy. There are several types such as chocolate , strawberry cream cheese, and the original, vanilla. It is made of thin wafers with a vanilla white cream in the center once. Nearly as classic as choco pies, it's a childhood favorite that has stood the test of time.

Best Korean Instant and Packaged Ramen to Try

Grandpa's Authentic Rice Noodles | Shin Ramyun Black Cup | Jjapaghetti | Angry Jjapaguri | Jin Ramyun | Buldak Stir-Fried Noodles | Beef-Bone Soup Noodle | Teumsae Ramyun| Nongshim Dry Noodle| Cheese Rabokki

Grandpa's Authentic Rice Noodles (할배 쌀국수 (사골 미역 쌀국수))

Total Score: 5.4
Taste & Flavor: 4 | Nutrition: 8.8 | Convenience: 8.5 | Price: 1.8 | Uniqueness: 5 A comforting cup of Grandpa's Authentic Rice Noodles, priced at ₩1,200, with a traditional-style lid design featuring a friendly grandfather's face. The 73.5g serving has 225 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.6g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1,740mg sodium, 47g carbohydrates, 2g sugars, and 6g protein. Allergens include buckwheat, soybean, wheat, pork, and beef. The ingredient list includes rice flour, wheat flour, barley powder, and various seasonings. The image shows a spoon lifting the delicate noodles garnished with seaweed from the steaming broth Tasting Notes: Seaweed, Shewy, Salty, Good with Kimchi
Purchased at: CU (Exclusive)

Grandpa’s Authentic Rice Noodle is an instant noodle made with rice noodles and seaweed. In Korea, its tradition to eat seaweed soup (미역국- miyokkkuk) on your birthday. The long strands of seaweed in the ocean symbolize living a long life, just like the length of seaweed. This instant noodle has chewier noodles due to rice flour. The seaweed flavor is strong. The broth is not vegetarian, despite the main ingredients being rice and seaweed. It's made with bone broth. The bone broth, noodles, and seaweed come together for a savory and salty noodle dish perfect for a light and refreshing meal.

Shin Ramyun Black Cup (신라면 블랙 컵)

Total Score: 6.8
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.1 | Convenience: 5.5 | Price: 8.2 | Uniqueness: 5 The Shin Ramyun Black Cup, with a price tag of ₩1,800, is illustrated with bold graphics and a striking black background. The 101g serving contains 445 calories, 15g fat, 7g saturated fat, 10mg cholesterol, 1,530mg sodium, 68g carbohydrates, 5g sugars, and 9g protein. Allergens include wheat, soybean, egg, peanut, shrimp, chicken, pork, and beef. The rich ingredients list showcases wheat flour, palm oil, potato starch, beef extract, and a robust blend of Korean spices. The image features hearty noodles and garnish being picked up with chopsticks, ready to be enjoyed. Tasting Notes: Spicy, Savory, Comforting, Unami
Purchased at: CU

Shin Ramyun Black is a premium version of Shin Ramyun, the most classic Korean ramen you can get. Higher-quality ingredients provide a rich, flavorful broth with lots of unami from black garlic and a hint of sweetness. Actually, the use of black garlic is where the name "black" originates. Black garlic is a special type of aged garlic that is fermented for 40 to 60 days. During the fermentation the color changes black and it develops a sweet, savory and somewhat bitter taste. Premium toppings, including real meat, and a flavorful broth make this a ramen worth trying!

Jjapaghetti (짜파게티 범벅 소컵)

Total Score: 7.8
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 7.3 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 A Jjapaghetti instant noodle cup, costing ₩1,000, with a vibrant design and a cheerful cartoon chef. The nutrition label for a 70g serving lists 315 calories, 10g fat, 4.7g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 850mg sodium, 50g carbohydrates, 6g sugars, and 6g protein. The cup contains wheat, soybean, egg, milk, shrimp, pork, and beef allergens. Ingredients include wheat flour, palm oil, potato starch, and a rich jjajang (black bean sauce) flavoring. The image captures thick, saucy noodles being lifted, emphasizing the savory and slightly sweet sauce. Tasting Notes: Bold, Savory, Mildly Spicy
Purchased at: CU

Japaguri: Jajangmyeon + spaghetti= amazing. Japaguri is a play on the words for Jajangmyeonn, black bean noodles, and Spaghetti. Jajangmyeon is a Korean Chinese fast food dish made with black bean sauce and vegetables. The savory, sweet flavor from the black bean sauce on top of spaghetti style noodles creates a unique flavor and texture. One of the most striking things about this ramen is the color. After preparing it's a deep black. Don’t let the color hold you back, it’s delicious.

Angry Jjapaguri (앵그리 짜파구리)

Total Score: 7.5
Taste & Flavor: 8 | Nutrition: 6.4 | Convenience: 6 | Price: 8.9 | Uniqueness: 8 Angry Jjapaguri instant noodles, priced at ₩1,800, with a fierce character on the lid. The nutrition facts for a 108g serving note 500 calories, 19g fat, 8g saturated fat, 35mg cholesterol, 1,230mg sodium, 74g carbohydrates, 9g sugars, and 8g protein. It contains allergens like wheat, soybeans, eggs, pork, beef, shrimp, squid, and shellfish(mussels). Ingredients detail wheat flour, palm oil, potato starch, modified starch, and a rich blend of spicy seafood and vegetable flavors, along with dried vegetables and seaweed. An image of noodles being lifted from the cup accentuates the spicy seasoning. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Savory, Spicy
Purchased at: GS25

Taking it to a whole new level, Jjapaguri uses Jjapa (짜파) from Jjapaghetti (짜파게티) and Guri (구리) from Neoguri (너구리), another popular ramen from the same company. The result is Jajangmyun (black bean noodles) and Korean ramen melding together. Added to the normal deep black of Jjapagetti, this ramen now has a rich red tone from the chili. It’s got a much bigger spice kick, but it’s manageable and the spice helps bring out the savoriness of the black bean noodles. The noodles have also changed to ramen style. They are a bit more chewy and delicious. It's a great combination of two classic instant noodles.

Jin Ramen - Mild (진라면순한소컵)

Total Score: 6.7
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 8.6 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 9.7 | Uniqueness: 2 Jin Ramen - Mild version in a cup, with a price of ₩1,000, displaying an inviting image of the mild broth and noodles. The 65g package nutrition facts indicate 280 calories, 9g total fat, 3.5g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1,170mg sodium, 43g carbohydrates, 3g sugars, and 7g protein. Contains common allergens like wheat, soybean, egg, milk, beef, pork, chicken, shellfish(oysters and mussels). Ingredients feature wheat flour, palm oil, potato starch, and a mix of spices. The cup shows a hearty serving of noodles being pulled up with chopsticks, highlighting its appetizing broth. Tasting Notes: Mild, Comforting, Savory
Purchased at: CU

The classic of instant noodles in Korea is Jin Ramyun by Nongshim. But there's a lot of disagreement among Koreans over the flavors. The mild flavor in particular, which some may view as an affront to "regular" spicy flavor, is this one. If you're concerned about the spiciness of ramen noodles but still want to taste the traditional flavor, this is a good option to try. The actual flavor is still mildly spicy and savory from the chicken and vegetable soup. It tastes familiar and similar to cup noodles in the US or other countries.

Buldak Stir-Fried Noodles (불닭볶음면)

Total Score: 7.5
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 9.6 | Convenience: 4 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 The iconic Samyang Buldak Stir-Fried Noodles package priced at ₩1,200 features an animated chicken breathing fire. The 140g serving contains 530 calories, 16g total fat, 8g saturated fat, 1,280mg sodium, 85g carbohydrates, 7g sugars, and 12g protein. It includes allergens such as wheat, soybean, egg, milk, chicken, and beef. The ingredient list boasts wheat flour, modified starch, palm oil, and a mix of spicy seasonings. An image shows gooey noodles being lifted from a bowl, covered in spicy sauce. Tasting Notes:
Additional Flavors: Nuclear (2X Spice), Carbonara, Cheese, Curry, Rosé, Jjajang (Black Bean Noodle), Habanero, Chicken Stew, and Jjambbong (Spicy Seafood Flavor)
Purchased at: CU

Buldak Stir-Fried Noodles, also known as Spicy Fire Chicken Noodles, exploded in popularity world-wide after a famous Youtuber, Joshua Carrott, uploaded the original Fire Noodle Challenge in 2014. It goes without saying that these noodles are SPICY. If you can handle the burn, it is actually quite the flavorful ramen. They are best eaten alongside a fried egg and some cheese to help with the spice. Buldak Stir-Fried Noodles are a worthy flavor adventure for any who are daring enough. Samyang Foods have developed many new spicy flavors since they became popular. I am a fan of the Rosé flavor for its creaminess that pairs well with the heat. While it is possible to find many Buldak Noodles online, there are a few that you will need to buy in Korea to try. The original Fire Noodle Challenge by the Korean Englishman

Sari Beef-Bone Soup Noodle Small Cup (사리 곰탕면 소컵)

Total Score: 6.9
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 7.6 | Convenience: 8.5 | Price: 7.6 | Uniqueness: 2 The Sari Beef-Bone Soup Noodle Small Cup, priced at ₩1,150, features a comforting, authentic broth representation on the lid. The nutrition facts for a 61g serving report 275 calories, 1.7g total fat, 0.6g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1,050mg sodium, 41g carbohydrates, 2g sugars, and 5g protein. The allergens are wheat, soybean, milk, egg, and beef. Ingredients include rice flour, wheat flour, barley powder, and beef bone flavor extract. A photo captures steaming noodles being lifted from the cup, showcasing its savory soup. Tasting Notes: Rich mild flavor, Comforting Savory.
Purchased at: GS25

Perfect for the traveler that wants to enjoy Korean ramen, but can’t handle the spice. Sari Beef-Bone Soup is a flavor packed, mild ramen that is approachable to most. Its broth is based on Gomtang, a rich soup made from simmering beef bones with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and green onions. Like the soup it's based on, this cup noodles is filled with comforting flavors ideal for a cold winter day.

Teumsae Ramyun Small Cup (틈새라면 소컵)

Total Score: 6.2
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 7.7 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 8.3 | Uniqueness: 3 Teumsae Ramyun Small Cup, priced at ₩1,150, features a bold red lid with fiery graphics indicative of the noodle's spiciness. The 65g serving contains 280 calories, 11g total fat, 5g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 1,420mg sodium, 40g carbohydrates, 2g sugars, and 5g protein. This product has allergens such as milk, soybean, wheat, chicken, beef, and shellfish (oysters). The ingredients include wheat flour, modified starch, palm oil, gluten, and a fiery seasoning mix. The imagery showcases spicy, steaming noodles being lifted, emphasizing the product's heat and flavor. Tasting Notes: Salty, Savory, Unami
Purchased at: GS25 (Exclusive Version)

This is a GS25 exclusive version of the classic Teumsae Ramyun, released in 1981. Teumsae Ramyun is influenced by Korean street food flavors. The GS25 version has an even spicier sauce than the original. The ramen makes true on its promise for "heat without a break," as stated on the package. It has a strong Korean-style heat that smacks you in the back of the throat from the first taste and lingers throughout. For people who enjoy spicy food, this is a terrific cup of ramen.

Shin Ramyun Dry Noodle (Non-Fried) (신라면 건면)

Total Score: 6.5
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 8.1 | Convenience: 10 | Price: 7.4 | Uniqueness: 3 The Shin Ramyun Dry Noodle (Non-Fried), costing ₩1,800, showcases a warm, inviting image of noodle soup on its lid. A 77g package provides 285 calories, 4.4g fat, 1.4g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 1,630mg sodium, 54g carbohydrates, 5g sugars, and 7g protein. Contains allergens such as wheat, egg, milk, soybean, beef, and chicken. Ingredients feature wheat flour, modified starch, and a non-frying noodle process, along with seasonings and flavorings that include green tea extract and roast sesame. The accompanying photo depicts noodles coated in a spicy, flavorful broth, emphasizing the non-fried yet delicious taste. Tasting Notes: Savory,
Purchased at: GS25

Presenting a lower calorie and healthier option, Shin Ramyun Dry Noodles is non-fried and has a moderately spicy broth. The noodles are made from wheat flour and are air-dried which makes them a bit firmer and chewier. I have found the non-fried texture of the noodles is actually quite a welcome addition. It’s a good daily ramen when watching out for extra fat, but be careful as it is not a low sodium by any means.

Can I Bring Ramen from Korea to the US?

When leaving a new place, getting a few snacks to take home is a great way to bring back some of the flavors and memories of your trip. Most of the time bringing commercially packaged items is not a problem. When it comes to ramen, watch out. Some countries, like the US Customs, have strict rules for meat products. They are especially strict for chicken due to high disease rates. Unfortunately, even some soup packets with chicken as an ingredient don’t quite make the cut. I've seen many people traveling from Korea get stopped at customs. Their bags get checked and any chicken ramen packets get tossed. So to avoid the trouble, just make sure you only take back ramen and snacks without chicken seasoning.

Best Korean Beverages to Try

McCol | McCol Zero | Pororo Apple Flavor | Vegemil A | Vegemil B | Pear Puree Can | Grape Bongbong | Birak Sikhye (Sweet Rice Drink)| Banana Milk | Almond & Soy Banana Milk| Maeil Picnic Apple Flavor| Seoul Milk Coffee Milk| Barley Tea| Black Sesame Latte

McCol (맥콜)

Total Score: 6.2
Taste & Flavor: 4 | Nutrition: 7.1 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 9 | Uniqueness: 7 McCol soda can featuring a red and blue retro design with Korean characters, priced at ₩1,500 for a 250ml serving. The nutrition label shows 125 calories with 6g of total fat, 30mg sodium, 31g carbohydrates, and 31g sugars. The can's ingredients list includes barley extract, purified water, liquid fructose, and various flavorings, without any allergens specified. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Bitter, Citrus
Purchased at: CU

Sales of zero sugar products in South Korea doubled in 2022 compared to 2016. The trend continues upward through 2024. It’s the next big trend in the beverage industry. So much so that even some of the oldest carbonated drinks like McCol released a zero sugar version last year. The sugar-free McCol has a similar taste to the original, especially the strong barley extract flavor. I found that the artificial sweeteners actually tone down the bitterness of the original. Choosing between the original and the zero, I would recommend trying McCol Zero.

McCol Zero (맥콜 제로)

Total Score: 7.6
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 9.5 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 8.5 | Uniqueness: 7 Diagonal view of a McCol Zero soda can with a price tag of ₩1,500, featuring a striking black, red, and gold design. The can reads 'Zero' indicating a low-calorie option with only 5 calories per 250ml serving, as shown on the nutrition facts label which also lists 0g fat, 35mg sodium, and 1g carbohydrates. Ingredients include barley extract, natural flavorings, and sweeteners like sucralose Tasting Notes: Sweet, Bitte, Zero Calorie
Purchased at: CU

In 2022, sales of zero sugar products in South Korea more than doubled compared to the market in 2016 and continued to rise through 2023 and 2024. It’s the next big trend in the beverage industry. So much so that even some of the oldest carbonated drinks like McCol released a zero sugar version last year. This sugar free McCol has most of the same taste of the original, especially the same strong barley extract flavor. I found that the artificial sweeteners actually tone down the bitterness of the original. Choosing between the original and the zero, I would recommend trying McCol Zero.

Pororo Apple Flavor (뽀로로 사과맛)

Total Score: 5.9
Taste & Flavor: 4 | Nutrition: 8.6 | Convenience: 7 | Price: 8.1 | Uniqueness: 3 Front view of a 235ml Pororo Apple Flavor drink bottle priced at ₩1,500, decorated with a colorful Pororo the Little Penguin cartoon character. Nutrition facts state the beverage has 75 calories, 6g total fat, 30mg sodium, and 11g sugars. The bottle also indicates it contains milk and lists ingredients such as refined water, sugar, apple concentrate, and various additives like emulsifiers and sweeteners. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Green Apple, Children's Flavor
Additional Flavors: Milk, Strawberry, Blueberry, Banana, Melon, Chocolate
Purchased at: CU

Pororo Apple Flavor is one of many fruit drinks named after the beloved childhood animation Pororo. It is quite sweet and frankly tastes a bit more like grapes than green apple to me. Each different flavor has its own adorable design. While surely enjoyed amongst children, it is not a unique beverage and can be skipped.

Vegemil A (베지밀 A)

Total Score: 6.9
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 8.8 | Convenience: 10 | Price: 4.7 | Uniqueness: 5 Glass bottle of Vegemil A soy milk, tagged at ₩1,800, with a green twist cap. The label features a green and orange logo with soybean images and Korean text. The 190ml bottle's nutrition label lists 110 calories, 6g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 8g carbohydrates, and 6g protein. The product contains 95% soy milk and lists allergens as soybeans. Tasting Notes: Creamy, Nutty, Soy
Purchased at: GS25

Vegemil A is the original soymilk beverage first introduced by Dr. Chai-Wong in 1973. The name comes from the Koreanized pronunciation of vegetables and milk (Vegetables + milk = Vegemil). It was made to help provide essential nutrients to children who were lactose intolerant. After Dr. Chai-Wong founded the largest soymilk factor in Korea in 1984, Vegemil A became a staple in Korean households. It’s creamy and nutty with a slight bitterness and not too much sweetness. It has grown to be particularly popular amongst vegetarians or vegans in Korea.

Vegemil B (베지밀 B)

Total Score: 7.2
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.4 | Convenience: 10 | Price: 4.7 | Uniqueness: 5 Vegemil B soy milk in a 190ml glass bottle with a red twist cap and a price of ₩1,800. The label has a green and orange logo with soybean graphics and Korean text. The nutrition facts show 125 calories, 6g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 150mg sodium, 11g carbohydrates, and 6g protein per serving. It contains 93% soy milk, with soybeans listed as allergens, and hints at a peanut flavor in its ingredients. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Creamy, Soy
Purchased at: GS25

Vegemil B is identical to Vegemil A except for the sweetness. It has 3 grams more sugar. It was first introduced in 1983 as a way to reach a bigger audience because some people felt the original was too bitter. Having tried both, Vegemil B is slightly more tasty. This beverage, among other Vegemil flavors, has been crucial in Korea's soymilk industry becoming one of the world's largest.

Pear Puree Can (갈아만든 배 캔)

Total Score: 7.2
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 7.1 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 5 A top-down view of a Pear Puree beverage can, priced at ₩1,500, with a realistic pear graphic and yellow background. The nutrition label on the can reveals 168 calories per 340ml, no fat, 10mg sodium, and 42g of sugars, indicating a sweet fruit-based drink. The ingredients list shows purified water, sugar syrup, and 12% pear puree. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Fresh, Slightly Tart
Purchased at: GS25

The Pear Puree Can is a wonderful canned fruit beverage made from fresh grated pears. It consists of 12 percent pear puree, much more than other available drinks. The flavor is not like the pear you might be familiar with in the US or other countries. It is made from asian pears which have a slightly tart and even earthy flavor. It’s such a refreshing beverage that tastes just like you're biting into a juicy, yummy pear.

Grape Bongbong (포도 봉봉)

Total Score: 7.3
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 6.9 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 The Grape Bongbong can, priced at ₩1,500, is decorated with vibrant green grapes and a sleek design, promoting a refreshing grape soda. It contains 180 calories per 340ml can, with 0g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, and a significant 45g of sugars from its content of purified water, sugar syrup, and grape concentrate. It's free from allergens, making it a sweet treat accessible to many. The packaging promises a fizzy and fruity experience with its fun depiction of grapes. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Tart, Chewy
Purchased at: GS25

This is another classic drink that's been around since 1981. The name Bongbong refers to the small grape-shaped tapioca pearls inside the drink. It’s kind of like bubble tea, without the tea of course. The actual beverage is grape flavored and very sweet. The slight tart flavor and texture of the tapioca help balance out the sweetness and make it an enjoyable beverage. Grape Bongbong was popular for Koreans growing up. Adults today can drink it to remember their childhood. Make sure you get to the bottom so you don’t miss the grape pearls!

Birak Sikhye (Sweet Rice Drink) (비락 식혜)

Total Score: 8.1
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 8.9 | Convenience: 9 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 7 A can of Birak Sikhye, a traditional Korean sweet rice drink, with a price tag of ₩1,500. The 340ml can showcases a bright yellow design with Korean characters and is described as a refreshing beverage. It has 130 calories per serving, with 0g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 10mg sodium, 32g carbohydrates, 27g sugars, and 1g protein. The ingredients list purified water, malt extract, sugar, barley malt, and ginger extract among others. The can states 'since 1993', emphasizing the drink's longstanding popularity in South Korea. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Earthy Rice, Traditional
Purchased at: GS 25

Sikhye is a traditional Korean sweet rice drink that's been used for celebrations and a sign of hospitality for centuries. It's made from fermenting cooked rice with a combination of water, sugar and a special type of yeast called nuruk (누룩). This fermentation process gives it its iconic fizziness from the carbon dioxide that's made. Traditionally it was a symbol of hospitality and it often served to guests as a sign of respect and appreciation. Nowadays, people drink it at special occasions such as weddings, birthdays, or Korean New Year Day. Birak Sikhye from the company Paldo is the most popular canned version of this drink. Having also had many great homemade sikhye, the Birak Sikhye is a great option although a bit on the sweet side. It’s earthy, sweet and don't be surprised by the few grains of rice while you're drinking it. Sikhye is a wonderfully unique and traditional drink from South Korea that is a must try when you visit.

Banana Milk (바나나 우유)

Total Score: 5.6
Taste & Flavor: 5 | Nutrition: 5.3 | Convenience: 6 | Price: 6.8 | Uniqueness: 6 The classic Korean Banana Milk, costing ₩1,800, presented in a unique bottle with a straw. The nutrition facts for a 240ml container show 208 calories, 8g fat, 5g saturated fat, 110mg sodium, 27g carbohydrates, and 7g protein. It contains milk as an allergen. The listed ingredients include whole milk, purified water, sugar, and banana concentrated juice. The bottle design highlights its rich and creamy texture, accompanied by the sweet flavor of bananas. Tasting Notes: Artificial Banana, Very Sweet, Creamy
Additional Flavors: Sweet Potato, Melon
Purchased at: GS25

This banana milk is a favored drink by countless Koreans who enjoyed it as children and carry the memories with them. It's a beverage that has withstood the test of time and is incredibly common. Since its launch in 1974, this specific brand's flavor and packaging have remained identical. The flavor is a strong yet familiar imitation banana familiar, combined with creamy whole milk. It now comes in a wide variety of tastes, including melon and even sweet potato. Although it is a classic, I find it a bit too sweet and not such a unique flavor. So unless you need to cooldown from some spicy ramen, it’s something you can pass up.

Almond & Soy Banana Milk (식물성바유 바나나맛)

Total Score: 6.8
Taste & Flavor: 6 | Nutrition: 8.2 | Convenience: 8 | Price: 6.4 | Uniqueness: 6 Tasting Notes: Strong Banana, Gentle Sweet, Soy
Purchased at: GS 25

This is a vegan version of the classic banana flavored milk made by the same company. It's essentially a vegan take on the classic banana milk, with the substitution of soy milk and almond flavor. The plant substitutes give it a somewhat lighter and less sweet taste. In my opinion, this version is a little more refreshing than the traditional milk since it is less sweet and has a distinct flavor from the almond and soy. It is also less creamy because it contains less fat than the traditional milk. However, if you're lactose sensitive or vegan, it's a fantastic option to experience the popular banana milk.

Maeil Picnic Apple Flavor (피크닉사과)

Total Score: 5.7
Taste & Flavor: 3 | Nutrition: 8.6 | Convenience: 7.5 | Price: 10 | Uniqueness: 2 Maeil Picnic Apple Flavor juice box, with a red apple and white cloud design on a blue background, priced at ₩1,000. The side panel provides nutrition facts for a 240ml serving: 84 calories, 70mg sodium, 21g carbohydrates, 20g sugars, and no protein, noting the inclusion of milk in allergens. The main ingredients are water, sugar, and apple juice concentrate. Tasting Notes: Red Delicious Apple, Artificial Sweet
Additional Flavors: Green Grape, Peach, Orange
Purchased at: GS 25

The Picnic Apple Flavored beverage from Maeil is well-loved amongst kids and teenagers, a lunch box staple. It's very similar to a regular old juice box and the flavor is like a red, delicious apple but very sweet and a little bit artificial. Maeil also makes green grape, peach, and orange flavored cartons in addition to the apple. It's a classic but not super exciting or anything special.

Seoul Milk Coffee Milk (서울우유 삼각커피 우유)

Total Score: 6.7
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 7.5 | Convenience: 2.5 | Price: 9 | Uniqueness: 7 Seoul Milk Coffee Milk pouch with a straw inserted, priced at ₩1,100. The packaging is predominantly beige with red and black Korean text and the Seoul Milk logo. The nutrition facts label states 130 calories per 200ml container, 3.5g total fat, 11mg cholesterol, 93mg sodium, 19g carbohydrates, and 5g protein. The ingredient list mentions whole milk, sugar, and coffee powder. Tasting Notes: Sweet, Coffee, Creamy
Purchased at: CU

Milk Coffee from Seoul Milk is exactly how it sounds, coffee flavored milk. What’s not quite what you would expect is the packaging. It has a unique pyramid shape, making opening a puzzle at first glance. Using scissors to snip a corner for the straw solves makes quick work of this rather interesting beverage. Having been around in the same shape with the same taste since 1974, it is a nostalgic beverage for many Koreans. Despite its tricky opening, the drink's familiarity and surprisingly yummy taste keep it popular and around for a long time to come.

Black Sesame Latte (흑임자 라떼)

Total Score: 6.4
Taste & Flavor: 7 | Nutrition: 6 | Convenience: 5.5 | Price: 5.6 | Uniqueness: 7 This is a packet of Black Sesame Latte, priced at ₩1,700, which offers a creamy and nutty beverage option. The nutrition facts label shows a 230ml serving contains 185 calories, 5g total fat, 2.1g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 115mg sodium, 30g carbohydrates, 24g sugars, and 5g protein. Notable allergens include milk. The main ingredients are purified water, raw milk, sugar, coffee extracts, and black sesame paste. The package has a premium look with black and beige color tones, highlighting the latte's rich flavor. Tasting Notes: Nutty, Earthy, Coffee
Additional Flavors: Goguma (Sweet Potato) Latte
Purchased at: CU (Exclusive)

On top of all of the bottles, cans, and carton beverages, Korean convenience stores also sell drinks in plastic packages with ice. You buy the ice cup and drink pack separately and combine them after purchasing. They tend to be a bit on the pricey side with extra quality to back it up. This Black Sesame Latte from CU is part of a selection of premium drinks that use grade 1A raw milk. Black sesame is a popular ingredient used in various tradition dishes like black sesame porridge (흑임자죽) or black sesame rice cake (흑김자떡). It brings a nutty, earthy taste that when balanced with sugar, is a wonderfully unique flavor. Together with the creamy milk and coffee, this latter is a delicious sweet treat.

How We Tested and Scored

Our score is based on 5 carefully selected criteria: Taste & Flavor, Nutritional Value, Convenience, Price Value, and Uniqueness. Each of these criteria makes up an essential part of what we think is important for convenience store food. Here is how we break down each total score and what that score means:

What the scores mean:

Color-coded pie chart illustrating the weight distribution for scoring criteria: Taste & Flavor is the largest segment in dark blue at 40%, followed by Nutritional Value in green at 20%, Convenience in yellow at 15%, Price Value in pink also at 15%, and Uniqueness in orange at 10%.

  • 9.0-10Unmissable: Best of the best, don’t miss out
  • 8.0-8.9Highly Desirable: Near top tier quality, a must try for the experience
  • 7.0-7.9 Worthwhile: Solid choice; most people will enjoy
  • 6.0-6.9Acceptable: A decent find; has its perks but also its misses
  • <6.0Passable: Don’t waste your time, it’s not worth trying

Taste and Flavor (40%)

Taste and Flavor is the most important criteria, making up 40% of the total score. These are snacks after all. As a self-proclaimed veteran of snack food, I subjectively gave a score after careful consideration of each product. On a scale of 1 to 10, I considered factors like the balance of flavor, texture, and addictiveness amongst others. At the bottom of the scale is a 1, you couldn’t pay me to eat this again. On the other hand, a 10 is “Wow”, an unforgettable and dangerously addictive flavor. The lucky few scoring a 10 are the ones I crave every day and sharing is no longer on the table.
Black and white horizontal taste and flavor rating scale from 1 to 10. Number 1 is labeled 'You couldn't pay me to eat this,' 2 is 'Edible, but that's about it,' 3 is left unlabeled, 4 is 'Average, nothing memorable,' 5 is left unlabeled, 6 is 'Tasty and satisfying, would have again,' 7 is left unlabeled, 8 is left unlabeled, 9 is left unlabeled, and 10 is 'Unforgettable, top-tier flavor.

Nutritional Value (20%)

Let’s face it, we don’t eat convenience store food for its health value. For every snack, we included detailed nutritional facts, but the score is calculated separately. We used a system to compare how each snack, ramen, or beverage in the same category faced off against each other. Does Grape BongBong have especially more sugar than Banana milk? Well, then it gets a lower nutrition score. For each nutrient, we calculated a score and weight based on a comparison to the category’s average. These individual nutrient scores are tallied up for the Nutritional Value of 1 to 10 which provides 20% to the final score.

Convenience (15%)

At the end of the day, convenience store food should be, well, convenient. What this means is different for each category of food. For example, for ramen, we care about how simple the instructions are and how fast it is to prepare. Do I need a pan, or can I make it in the packaging container? As for beverages things like the recyclability of the packaging are important. Korea is huge about recycling, and while many products have met the public demand, some still fall behind. For each category, we tallied the responses (Yes =1, No = 0) for the convenience checklist, and found the weighted total score out of 10 points. Here are the checklists for each category:

Sweet & Salty Snacks Ramen Beverages
1. Ease of Opening (10%)
Can the packaging be opened easily without tools or spilling?
1. Advertising (15%)
Does the packaging image match the actual product?
1. Recyclability (25%)
Is the container easily recyclable?
2. Advertising (15%)
Does the packaging image match the actual product?
2. Preparation Simplicity (15%)
Can it be prepared with minimal steps and equipment?
2. Readability (20%)
Is it easy to read and understand the contents, i.e. flavor, sugar content, etc. ?
3. Resealability (5%)
Can the packaging be resealed to maintain freshness?
3. Opening Convenience (15%)
Can it be opened easily without scissors or knives?
3. Refreshing (15%)
Is the drink refreshing?
4. Portion Control (10%)
Is the snack packaged in a single-serving size or easily dividable?
4. After-Cooking Handling (10%)
Can the packaging be handled safely immediately after cooking?
4. Ease of Opening (10%)
Can it be opened without too much difficulty?
5. Mess-Free(10%)
Can it be eaten without making a mess
5. Preparation Speed (10%)
Can it be prepared in under 4 minutes?
5. Resealability (10%)
Can the container be resealed?
6. Package Waste (10%)
Is the packaging minimal?
6. Package Waste (10%)
Is the packaging minimal?
6. Storage Convenience (10%)
Does the beverage NOT require refrigeration before opening?
7. Recyclability (10%)
Is the packaging recyclable or made from recycled materials?
7. Clear Instructions (10%)
Are the instructions clear and easy to follow, even without being able to read?
7. Serving Size (10%)
Is the beverage appropriately sized for single servings?
8. Allergen Information (10%)
Is allergen information clearly visible on the package?
8. Recyclability (10%)
Is the packaging recyclable or made from recycled materials
9. Nutritional Information Accessibility(10%)
Is the nutritional information accessible and easy to read?
9. Portion Size (10%)
Is the portion size adequate for one meal?
10. Shelf Stability (10%)
Can the snack be stored at room temperature without spoiling quickly?

Price Value (15%)

Convenience store food is generally cheap, ranging from ₩1,000 to ₩5,000 ($1-$4; $1 = ₩1,350). That being said, there are quite a few exemptions and some items can be a bit pricey. Similar to the nutrition value score, for the price we compare the per gram/ml cost of each item to the category average. If it is higher than the average for similar snacks or drinks, then it receives a lower price value score. The bang for your buck is not quite as good. Don’t let the high price of some items hold you back. Korean convenience stores love 1+1 and 2+1 deals, especially for new items. For taking your favorite snacks home to share, the larger supermarkets sell many of the same items in larger quantities for much cheaper.

Uniqueness (10%)

I have spent years exploring and trying all of the snacks I could find. Still, I am excited to visit a convenience store and look for those “new” signs calling me. It’s a competitive market and there are always innovations or fun collaborations going on. Some of them, like the whole mint chocolate tteokbokki (rice cakes) fad, the world might have been better without. Still, the experience of finding something unique should be celebrated, and earn a few extra points. We rank the uniqueness on a 1 to 10 scale and considers questions like:

  • How many flavors of this item are there?
  • Is this flavor or type of food unique to only Korea?
  • Are the combinations of flavors special?
  • Is the packaging and design fun or unique?
  • Is there an unusual way to eat this?
  • Does it have an interesting backstory?

Pyramid-shaped coffee milk packages, popular since 1974.

All these wonderful snacks, ramen, and beverages are only the beginning that Korean convenience stores have to offer. Not just Korea has worthwhile snacks and beverages. Every new country has hidden gems in convenience foods waiting to be discovered. When you travel next, make sure you don’t miss the adventures in the convenience store aisles.

About the Author

Quintin Willekens


Quintin Willekens is from Arizona and has a degree in Business Sustainability from Arizona State University and an interest in cross-cultural connections. His passion for global cultures was ignited early, leading him to explore over 20 countries by the time he graduated. Quintin continued his cultural immersion by teaching English in South Korea for 3 years. After getting married in South Korea, you will find him wandering the streets of Seoul with his partner and dog. At Rustic Pathways he brings a wealth of international insight and a dedication to education, travel, and sustainable development.