Alternative names Gwajul
Type Yumil-gwa
Place of origin Korea
Associated national cuisine Korean cuisine
Main ingredients Wheat flour, honey, sesame oil
Food energy
(per 1 serving)
67.5 kcal (283 kJ)[1]
Cookbook: Yakgwa  Media: Yakgwa
Korean name
Hangul 약과
Hanja 藥菓
Revised Romanization yakgwa
McCune–Reischauer yakkwa
IPA [jak̚.k͈wa]

Yakgwa (약과; 藥菓), also called gwajul (과줄), is a type of yumil-gwa, which is deep-fried, wheat-based hangwa (Korean confections).[2] Traditionally, the sweet was offered in a jesa (ancestral rite) and enjoyed on festive days such as chuseok (harvest festival), marriages, or hwangap (sixtieth-birthday) celebrations.[2][3][4] In modern South Korea, it is also served as a dessert and can be bought at traditional markets or supermarkets.[5][6]


Yakgwa (약과; 藥菓), consisting of two syllables, yak (; ; "medicine") and gwa (; ; "confection"), means, "medicinal confection".[7] This name comes from the large amount of honey that is used to prepare it,[8][4] because pre-modern Koreans considered honey to be medicinal and so named many honey-based foods yak ("medicine").[7]

"Honey cookie" is a common English translation for this confection's name.


Yakgwa is a food with a long history. It was made for Buddhist rites during the Later Silla era (668–935).[9] During the Goryeo era (918–1392), yakgwa was used for pyebaek (a formal greeting) in the wedding ceremony of Goryeo kings and Yuan princesses.[10]

Yakgwa was originally made in the shape of birds and animals, but it became flatter for ease of stacking during the Joseon era (1392–1897).[10]

In pre-modern Korea, yakgwa was mostly enjoyed by the upper classes, as wheat was a rare and cherished ingredient, and honey was also regarded highly.[5]

Preparation and varieties

The dough is made by kneading sifted wheat flour with sesame oil, honey, ginger juice, and cheongju (rice wine).[1][4] Yakgwa gets its shape by being pressed into flower-shaped wooden molds called yakgwa-pan (약과판), or flattened with a mallet and cut into squares.[1][9] Depending on the size, yakgwa is classified into dae-yakgwa (large), jung-yakgwa (medium), and so-yakgwa (small).[6] The ones cut into squares or rectangles are called mo-yakgwa (angular yakgwa).[8] Shaped pieces are then slowly deep-fried at a relatively low temperature, around 120–140 °C (248–284 °F).[3] The deep-fried cookies are then soaked in honey, mixed with cinnamon powder, and dried, which gives the yakgwa a sweet taste and a soft, moist texture.[2][4] [3] The treat may also be sprinkled with various topping such as pine nuts or sesame seeds.[2]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 "Yakgwa" 약과. Korean Food Foundation (in Korean). Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Goldstein, Darra, ed. (2015). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-19-931339-6. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 "Yakgwa" 약과. Doopedia (in Korean). Doosan Corporation. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Roufs, Timothy G.; Roufs, Kathleen Smyth (2014). Sweet Treats around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 213. ISBN 978-1-61069-220-5. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  5. 1 2 Yeon, Dana (3 February 2011). "Traditional Korean Cookie Delights". The Chosun Ilbo. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  6. 1 2 Korea Tourism Organization (23 December 2015). "A Bite of Sweetness! Korean Desserts". Stripes Korea. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  7. 1 2 Wood, Alecia (29 June 2016). ""Fairy floss with butterscotch, caramel and vanilla": meet the exciting single-flower honeys of Australia". SBS. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  8. 1 2 염, 초애. "Yakgwa" 약과. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  9. 1 2 "Hangwa[Korean Sweets]". Korean Food Foundation. Retrieved 25 May 2017.
  10. 1 2 Yoon, Seo-seok (2008). Festive Occasions: The Customs in Korea. Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press. p. 122-123. ISBN 9788973007813. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
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