Japchae (Quick Korean Stir Fry)

This quick Korean stir fry is full of fresh ingredients with a fusion of complex textures and tastes. A healthy flavor bomb dish that will spice up your kitchen repertoire. Plus, you’ll have a delicious and nutritious dinner on the table in about half an hour. 

Move over sushi and Thai cuisine, Korean stir fry holds its own against other popular Asian dishes.

What Is Japchae?

Japchae, which literally means “mixture of vegetables”, is a traditional Korean stir fry that is packed full of veggies, noodles, and flavor. Sweet potato starch noodles (also known as glass noodles) are a traditional gluten-free noodle used in this dish. Furthermore, Japchae’s authentic flavor comes from balancing sweet and salty seasonings. This main dish certainly stands it ground against other popular Asian dishes.

Main Ingredients In This Korean Stir Fry

This recipe is a slightly varied take on the more traditional dish. I originally came across Korean stir fry over 12 years ago when reading about David Chang’s widely popular Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan. In the article, Chef Chang talked about using soba noodles instead of glass noodles. And this is how I’ve made this dish ever since.

What Are Soba Noodles?

Soba noodles (a Japanese noodle) are popular in Korean cuisine. They are made from buckwheat flour and have a pleasant nutty flavor and nice texture. Soba noodles are gluten-free, whole-grain noodles despite having “wheat” in their name.  They are full of fiber and protein. *Be sure to check the label as some soba noodle brands add wheat flour. 

Korean stir fry

The main ingredients in Korean stir fry are:

  • Vegetables- bell pepper, onion. spinach, garlic, carrot, and green onion
  • Noodles- soba noodles (or glass noodles if going traditional route)
  • Protein (or Mushrooms)- this is optional but you can use chicken, steak, pork, or simply use mushrooms (shiitake, button, oyster, or enoki). 
  • Sauce- a combination of soy sauce, sugar, sesame seed oil, and hot pepper paste (kochujang) or sriracha. 

Once you make this a few times, you can experiment with adding different veggies, proteins, and noodles. Sometimes depending on the season and which vegetables are in stock, I’ll switch this up. 

I’ve also doubled the vegetables in this recipe before to add more nutrition. You may find you’ll have to adjust the amount of sauce depending on the quantity of other foods you add.

Tips To Make The Best Korean Stir Fry

A mixture of fresh, healthy ingredients along with a special sauce creates a quick delicious dinner. Plus, you’ll enjoy switching up your weekly meal repertoire. 

Thinly Cut Vegetables, Protein, and Mushrooms

This Korean stir fry not only focuses on taste but texture. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that how you prepare ingredients makes a difference.

fresh veggies thinly cut

You’ll want to thinly slice the carrot (think matchsticks), onion (white or yellow), green onion, and red bell pepper. 

The same goes for any protein you decide to use. Thinly slice your meat of choice or if using mushrooms be sure to trim off the ends and again slice thinly.

Use Soba Noodles For Added Nutrition & Texture

The traditional noodles used in Korean stir fry are known as glass noodles (sweet potato starch noodles). However, for this recipe I use soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat flour. They add additional protein, fiber, and whole grains. Soba noodles are naturally gluten-free for those who need this as an option. Plus, they add a nice meaty texture. 

If you need gluten-free, be sure to read the label to ensure wheat flour isn’t added in addition to the buckwheat flour. The brand I used in the photo below Koyo does contain wheat. 

It’s All In The Sauce

The sauce is what gives this dish the authentic Korean stir fry taste. It’s a balance between sweet and salty. The sweetness comes from sugar with soy sauce bringing the saltiness. 

For this recipe, I use honey in place of the typical white or brown sugar. As it contains some nutrients and antibacterial properties. I also like to use Tamari which is a wheat-free version of soy sauce. However, any soy sauce will work. You’ll also use sesame seed oil.  

hot sauces

And finally an optional ingredient that adds a kick of spice is to use hot pepper paste known as kochujang (sometimes spelled gochujang), chili sauce known as sriracha, or Korean hot sauce.

Above are three versions I’ve used in this dish. All work well. You only need a couple of teaspoons.

You’ll combine honey, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, and either Korean chili paste (kuchojang) or sriracha (hot chili sauce) and add these to the dish at the end.

How To Make Korean Stir Fry

To make this Korean stir fry dish we’ll break it into a few stages. You will cook some components separately before combining. It’s not as complicated as it may look and ultimately comes together fairly quickly. 


The food prep is what ultimately takes more time than the actual cook time. Therefore, this step is imperative. 

  • Thinly slice the veggies- onions, bell peppers, and carrots.
  • If using mushrooms, trim the ends and thinly slice.
  • For the meat, you can use either chicken, steak, or pork. Again thinly slice the meat.
  • Prepare the sauce in a separate bowl and have this ready to go before cooking.

veggies and mushrooms thinly cut


You’ll cook these separately in boiling water and add to the veggies at the end. Follow the instructions on the package. The soba noodles I usually purchase require about 7 minutes in boiling water.


If you choose to use protein, you’ll want to make sure your added protein is sliced thin. You’ll cook this separately and add to the final dish. You can add about a teaspoon of the prepared sauce to the meat while it is cooking. Or simply salt and pepper the meat. If you decide to use mushrooms (such as shiitake, button, or oyster), you’ll also want to cook these separately similar to the meat. 


In a wok or large deep skillet, with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, you’ll cook the onions and carrots for about four minutes. 

cooking carrots and onion

Once the onions are translucent, you’ll add garlic, red bell pepper, green onion, and spinach. 

cooking the spinach in japchae dish

You’ll cook for another three minutes until the spinach is cooked down. 

Cooking all of the veggies


Finally, you’ll add the prepared noodles, cooked meat, and combined sauce to the veggie mix. Stir everything together to combine and heat through for another two minutes. 

Adding the noodles and the sauce


Dish the stir fry into bowls or onto plates, top with sesame seeds, and enjoy!


How To Store Leftovers

You can store Japchae, properly covered, in the fridge for about 3-4 days. You can enjoy leftover Japchae cold or warm. 

Looking For Other Healthy Dinner Ideas?

Check out these other healthy dinner recipes:

Korean stir fry recipe

Japchae (Quick Korean Stir Fry)

This quick Korean stir fry is full of fresh ingredients with a fusion of complex textures and tastes. A healthy flavor bomb dish that will spice up your kitchen repertoire. Plus, you’ll have a delicious and nutritious dinner on the table in about half an hour. 
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Course dinner
Cuisine Asian
Servings 4 people



  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I like to use tamari which is a wheat-free version of soy sauce but any soy sauce will work)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper paste, kochujang (optional) (You can also use sriracha or Korean hot sauce)


  • 8 ounces soba noodles (1/2 a pound)


  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, rinsed

Optional: Meat and/or Mushrooms

  • 1 pound thinly sliced chicken, steak, or pork
  • 1/3-1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms (shiitake, button or oyster)

Additional Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoon olive oil, for cooking veggies (more for cooking meat/mushrooms)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for topping


Prep Ingredients

  • In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, honey, sesame seed oil, and hot pepper paste (if using). Set aside. Thinly cut veggies and meat and mushrooms (if using).
    fresh veggies thinly cut

Cook Noodles

  • Prepare noodles according to package directions. Once done, set aside.

Cook Protein and/or Mushrooms (If Using)

  • In a separate skillet, cook your protein of choice or mushrooms until done. You can add one teaspoon of the prepared sauce or simply use salt and pepper to season the meat or mushrooms.

Cook Vegetables

  • In a wok or large skillet, on medium heat on the stove, heat olive oil. Add yellow onion and carrot and cook for about 4 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
    cooking carrots and onion
  • Add garlic, green onion, and bell pepper
  • And spinach
    cooking the spinach in japchae dish
  • Cook for another 3 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Cooking all of the veggies

Combine Everything

  • Stir in the noodles, sauce, and protein/mushrooms (if using). Heat for about 2 minutes.
    Adding the noodles and the sauce


  • Dish the prepared stir fry onto plates or into bowls. Top with sesame seeds and enjoy!


-Hot pepper paste, sriracha, or hot sauce are all optional. You can leave these out for a less spicy dish. 
-Soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat flour are naturally gluten-free. Plus they contain fiber, protein, and whole grains. However, be sure to read the label to ensure no additional wheat flour has been added, especially if you need gluten-free. 
-You can double the vegetables, just be sure to adjust the sauce accordingly. 
Keyword japchae, korean stir fry, noodles, quick dinner, stir fry

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