Hobakjuk (Korean Pumpkin Porridge)

This Korean Pumpkin Porridge called Hobakjuk (juk meaning porridge) is famous for its healing characteristics. Young, old and weakened persons in both of the Koreas are fed this creamy pumpkin porridge when they need to regain strength. Hobakjuk is the perfect combination of sweet pumpkin and salty rice balls.

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A popular variant of Hobakjuk is to eat it with saealsim. These are rice balls made of glutinous rice.

About Hobakjuk: a traditional Korean Pumpkin Porridge

You could debate on whether you would rather define this Korean Pumpkin Porridge as a type of soup. But because not too much water is added and the effect on the grounded glutinous rice the Korean use to make their Hobakjuk, we think porridge is better suited for the job.

Korean Pumpkin Porridge is often enriched with red or black beans, but we opt for the version with saealsim. Saealsim means bird’s egg, but those eggs are completely vegan, since the name refers to kneaded, boiled glutinous rice balls. We get why the Korean like to eat their Hobakjuk with Saealsime: the salty rice balls perfectly balance the sweet taste of pumpkin.


For 2 servings

Pumpkin, glutinous rice, salt, brown sugar and sesame seeds is all you need.
  • ¼ big pumpkin (or 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 cup (150 grams) of glutinous rice (or substitute with ½ cup of glutinous rice flour)
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of black (and/ or white) sesame seeds (or alternatively use a few pine nuts for garnishing)

Note: any type of pumpkin that is yellow or orange and has a creamy structure will do.

Kitchen utensils

  • Cooking pan
  • Mortar and pestle

How to make Korean Pumpkin Porridge

Soak: 60 min. | Prep: 5 min. | Cook: 30 min. | Total: 35 min.

  1. Soak the glutinous rice for at least 60 minutes. (Longer or overnight is fine. Skip this step if you use glutinous rice flour.) 
  1. Peel the pumpkin and cut into big chunks.
  1. Boil the pumpkin in ample water for about 15-20 minutes until the chunks are soft enough to mash.  
If you pestle the glutinous rice, you are halfway making the dough for the rice balls.
  1. Meanwhile, rinse the glutinous rice and make sure as much water as possible is gone. Try really to only get the rice without the water. Pestle the rice. (Or use a spoon and a cutting board. This actually works surprisingly well.) Set aside ⅓ of the pestled rice to add to the porridge later.

  2. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to ⅔ of the grounded rice (or the ½ cup of glutinous rice flour) and mix well. Knead little bowls of this dough. If the balls stick together, you’re on the right track. If they lack a bit of structure because they seem to dry, add a teaspoon of hot (almost boiling) water to the dough. Do this carefully and add only one teaspoon at the time, as too much water will ruin the dough and it’s hard to fix it. Whether or not you need to add water depends on how well you rinsed the rice.

  3. Let the sticky balls rest for at least 10 minutes. This allows them to dry a bit and stick further together. Don’t skip this step as it is of key importance for the rice balls not fall apart when boiling. 
  1. While the rice balls rest, go back to the pumpkin. If the chunks are soft enough, rinse and keep the broth. Mash the pumpkin chunks in a mortar and pestle or simply with a fork. (You could use a food processor, but it makes the porridge smooth and hence less porridge-like and less traditional. I personally really like the porridge structure in the dish as it is really not a soup.) 
  1. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt and the ⅓ cup of grounded glutinous rice to the mashed pumpkin. Mix well and let it rest for a moment. 
  1. Boil some water in a cooking pan and when the water boils, add the rice balls. Let them dance in the boiling water for about 4-5 minutes. Take out when the outside becomes a bit sticky. 
  1. Heat up the mashed pumpkin a bit and when doing so add a few splashes of the pumpkin broth you kept. 

Serve your Korean Pumpkin Porridge hot and with the rice balls divided over two bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

What do you think of this Korean Pumpkin Porridge? Do you like the rice balls? We would like to hear from you, so don’t be shy and leave a comment below :).

The combination of the salty rice balls with the sweet flavor of pumpkin make the perfect combination.


Recipe: Hobakjuk
Country: Korea
Soak: 60 min.
Prep: 5 min.
Cook: 30 min.
Total: 35 min. 
Ingredients: pumpkin, glutinous rice, salt, brown sugar, sesame seeds
Type of meal: main dish

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