So you’re coming to Korea, or you’re already here and you’re not sure what’s halal and what’s not. What can you eat and what can’t you eat? The most important place to visit are the Korean convenience stores! Unfortunately, there are traces of meat or animal fat in things you wouldn’t expect there to be. ? So, for your convenience (no pun intended) here are 10 Muslim-friendly Korean convenient store snacks!
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The main convenience stores you’ll find dotted around South Korea will be CU, 7 Eleven and GS 25. There are definitely more, but we'll stick to the ones that are easy to find.
Disclaimer: Most of the snacks are not halal-certified, but their ingredients have been personally verified by our Muslim Korean writer. As some time has passed since this article was first published, do note that things may have changed and we recommend you use a translator app to check the ingredients list for sensitive ingredients like 'pork' or 'shortening' first. We recommend you consume these at your own discretion!
1. Samgak Kimbap
This small triangular wonder is a super tasty and filling Muslim-friendly snack. “Samgak” translates to three sides (or you know, a triangle!) They’re rice balls with various fillings packaged in a way that the seaweed on the outside stays crispy.
The tuna mayonnaise flavor is a safe bet and you can find it in most convenience stores, but the kimchi and tuna flavours are a hit and miss. If you can’t read Korean, you’re going to want to be a little careful - the blue packs with fish are usually fine, but the purple and pink ones have some sort of meat or pork added to them.
Just to be sure, here's the label you're looking for:
Tuna Mayonnaise, standard
An Emart24 opened up opposite my apartment and look at these beauties! What is Emart24 you ask? Emart is a large supermarket group and they’ve recently started opening 24-hour convenience stores just like CU, GS25 and 7 Eleven. And if you happen to find one, you’ll see that they have a larger variety to offer.
Here’s a few other samgak kimbap options you can consider the next time you pop by a Korean convenience store!
Spicy wasabi tuna
Note: A reader shared with us that the safest place to buy the Tuna flavour is at 7-11, as most of the Tuna kimbap in the other convenient stores contains beef or pork. Do consume this snack at your own discretion.
#HHWT Tip: Buy the kimbap after 8.30pm (at 7-11) to enjoy exclusive offers!
2. Banana milk
South Korea has a large selection of flavoured milk
Oh yes! This stuff is addictive. There are lots of types of banana milk but this particular type by Binggrae are the ones you NEED to try! Binggrae has received Halal certification, so chug away to your heart’s content.
3. Melon ice cream
Melona is a popular ice cream brand even among locals
This one goes hand in hand with the banana milk; you absolutely have to try this! There are also a bunch of ice lollies that are suitable for vegetarians! It's easily available at most convenient stores and supermarkets so you don't have to search high and low for a bite.
4. Crispy seaweed snacks
Credit: Derek David Chua on Facebook
Koreans are crazy about it, and my students love eating it with rice at school and asking the lunch ladies for more. They also believe that it’s also good for your hair which is definitely a plus! What’s more, the plain salted ones are vegan-friendly! Since most of the halal snacks in Korea are sweet, it’s a nice change and relatively healthy compared to the other greasier snacks on offer.
Note: A few readers have mentioned that other flavors of the snack might contain rice wine or beef flavoring, hence we recommend sticking to the plain salted ones!
You'll find all kinds of chips in Korea
Chips are a practical must-have snack no matter what part of the world you’re in, and Korea’s definitely no exception to the rule! Our Korean friend helped us read the packaging and we managed to find these two that don’t have any traces of meat!
This particular brand is called 아 그칩.The two flavours here are cheese volcano (right) and ranch (left)! They’re a little sweet and are super light, so you could probably eat a bag on your own.
#HHWT Tip: When you check the ingredients, the quickest way to check if it has meat is to check the allergens. You’ll be surprised to find that some cheese-flavoured chips will have beef or some type of meat in them (don’t worry, there are still a handful that are Muslim friendly!). Look for the word 고기. If you see it, steer clear!
A classic all-time favourite snack among Koreans and foreigners alike, Pepero is a lovely snack to keep in your bag. There’s even a special day dedicated to giving Pepero to your loved ones on November 11th because when written numerically it’s 11/11 (four Peperos all lined up, yum!). As there can be multiple factories manufacturing Pepero (meaning different batches may have differing halal status), we recommend checking for any additives OR only buying the boxes you can find at Muslim-owned halal food marts in Korea such as Kampungku in Myeongdong, Seoul.
7. Dried fruits and veggies
This one’s going to be a hit and miss. I first found out about these from my co-teacher. You can find chestnuts, sweet potato, dried strawberries, pears, and the list goes on. Sweet potatoes are usually the easiest to find in most stores.
You can also find dried fruit at Olive Young's little food section, so remember to stock up on those the next time you drop by Olive Young for your cosmetics needs!
If you’re not a fan of dried fruits, you can find readily-packaged fruits in most Korean convenience stores. Ahh, the luxury! It’s still somewhat cheap considering you’re buying a ready-packed fruit at a convenience store!
8. Dr. You cereal bar
It’s chewy and super nutty so it makes for a nice mid morning pick me up. You can have the original flavor (pictured above) or the light bar (honey and oat.) We prefer the original but we know many locals for the light version. Besides, no one ever said you can’t just get both if you can’t decide!
9. Instant drinks (ice or hot)
If you’re in Korea between May and September, chances are you’ll need to cool down and grab a cold drink. Every convenience store I’ve been into has a little freezer with cups of ice. Nearby, you’ll find large sachets of coffee, chocolate drinks, ice teas and "ades" (think lemonade).
10. Boiled eggs
These eggs are pre-boiled and easy to pop into your mouth for a quick protein-filled snack
If all else fails, convenience stores usually have a small selection of ready-to-eat boiled eggs. You also have a range of bottled and canned juices and coffees to keep you going ☕️ Just peel and go! It’s an easy little protein pick-me-up
Hope this list will help you find some halal snacks to enjoy while you’re exploring Korea! Next time you find yourself feeling hungry, head to a convenience store and look out for these little treats. Since most of them are open till late and easily available everywhere, you won't find yourself with nothing to eat!