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Gimbap Recipe 3: Tuna Gimbap

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kid friendly
prep time: 
30 min
inactive time: 
0 min
cooking time: 
50 min
total time: 
80 min

Tuna gimbap is relatively modern version of Korean gimbap. But, it's number one selling gimbap in Korean gimbap chains. Tuna and mayonnaise are the main ingredients. Other ingredients can vary depending on your preference. However, perilla leaves pairs exceptionally well with tuna. The strong yet pleasant flavor and aroma of perilla leaves mask fishy taste of tuna. The leaves also function as barrier between tuna and rice which prevents mayo and moist form tuna from leaking and making the rice soggy. Also, danmuji (yellow pickled radish) is key for authentic Korean gimbap.

For Koreans, gimbap is one of those foods that brings back warm and fuzzy memories. The nostalgia likely includes picnics and school field days, where gimbap was nearly essential. It also frequently shows up on birthday party tables. Although gimbap is closely associated with special occasions, it's also an everyday food pretty much seen everywhere, including convenience stores, service stations, cafeterias, and restaurants.

Gimbap has evolved quite a bit over the years. Back in the day when Koreans were poor, it was just seaweed and rice with maybe one vegetable. Today It is much more elaborate and nutritious. Gimbap to Koreans is like sandwiches to North Americans; it's very common, yet never gets old. On top of being delicious, it's nutritious, portable and versatile.

There are an infinite number of variations in gimbap. Sharing gimbap with friends at a school picnic was fun because each family adds a different twist, whether it's a special ingredient, unique shape or size. You can always make your own signature gimbap by adding your favorite ingredients or seasonings, or by making different shapes.

See other variations of gimbap:
Classic Gimbap
Petal Shape Gimbap recipe
Mini Mayak Gimbap
Kimchi Gimbap
Nude Gimbap

Change serving size to: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Change to: Metric US
3 cupsRice, white short grain 쌀
6 sheetSeaweed for Gimbap (Korean rice roll) 김밥김 (unseasoned)
5 ozPickled Radish (Dan-mu-ji or Yellow Radish) 단무지
Canned Tuna 참치 통조림
6 tbsMayonnaise 마요네즈
4 ozCarrot (large Korean carrot) 당근
2 ozFishcake, Eomuk or Odeng 어묵(오뎅)
125 Cucumber 오이
Egg 계란
2 ozPerilla Leaf, Kaet-nip 깻잎
6 tbsSoy Sauce (regular) 왜간장
3 tbsSugar 설탕
2⅔ tbsSesame Oil 참기름
pinch Black Pepper 후추
1¼ tspGarlic (minced) 다진 마늘
1 tbsVinegar 식초
1½ tspMul Yeot / Malt (Maltose) Syrup 물엿 (or Jo-cheong/Rice Syrup, can use sugar instead)
1½ tspSesame Seeds 깨
⅔ tspSalt 소금
1 tspVegetable Oil 식용유
Ingredients Notes: 

*The default serving of this recipe is set to 3. For this recipe, 3 servings refer to about 6 rolls of gimbap. Please note that ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.

kitchen tools
- 1 bamboo mat for rolling
- 1 small to medium pot or rice cooker for rice
- 1 large bowl to mix up rice
- 1 sauce pan for braising burdock root/fish cake
- 1 small to medium pan for sautéing carrots
- 1 small to medium non-stick pan for eggs

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Optional Ingredients and Substitution
- You can omit beef or use shiitake mushrooms instead.
- There is no set of rules for gimbap ingredients. You can substitute most ingredients with your favorite ingredients. However, danmuji (yellow pickled radish) is key to authentic Korean gimbap. Season the ingredients with sesame oil and either salt or soy sauce unless it's already salty without any seasoning (e.g., crab meat).

Whatever you use, ensure they don't produce liquid. The liquid will go through the rice and leak out or make the roll soggy. Remove moisture by squeezing with hands or by pat-drying with clean towel. If you must use moist ingredients, place them on top of perilla leaves or something else that acts as a barrier between the rice and the ingredient.

Most common ingredients used in gimbap in Korea include danmuji (yellow pickled radish), spinach, cucumber, carrot, perilla leaf, burdock root, crab meat, fish cake, egg, beef, cheese, ham, beef, kimchi, tuna mixed with mayo, etc.

Good to Know
Size and flavor of gimbap
You can make various shape and size of gimbap.
To make gimbap smaller and also more flavorful, make the rice layer as thin as possible.
You can also decrease the size by cutting 2-3" off of the seaweed.

Gimbap tastes best when it's freshly made. In room temperature, it can last 4-6 hours. In a hot summer day, it may only last an hour or two.

The leftover ingredients may last a day or two with an exception of seasoned spinach. Make sure you don't put all the ingredients in the same container or at least use cling wrap or aluminum foil as dividers so they are not touching each other. Seasoned spinach is delicious but doesn't last as long as other ingredients. For this reason, some people prefer cucumber over spinach in their gimbap.

More questions? Please leave your questions below in the comment section. We will do our best to answer as soon as we can.

Ingredient amounts in the recipe instructions are for the default serving size.
Click to enlarge photos.
Ingredient amounts in the recipe summary are for the default serving size.

1. Prepare rice

Wash 3 cups of short grain rice twice and drain all the water. Add water (3 cups for electronic rice cooker or 4 cups for regular pot) to the rice and add 2 (2”X2”) pieces of kelp in the water. After 30 minutes, remove kelp but leave rice and water. Kelp water apparently prevents rice from drying up and helps rice stick to the seaweed better. But, you can omit kelp if you don’t have any.

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Wash & drain

  • 3 cups rice

Add 3 cups water (for rice cooker)

Soak 2 pieces kelp image: clock.png Remove minkelp

2. Cook rice

Cook rice. For detailed instructions, see how to cook rice in a rice cooker and how to cook rice in a pot .

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Cook rice

3. Prepare perilla leaves

Thoroughly wash 24 perilla leaves under running water (4 leaves per roll, you can increase the number if you like perilla leaves). Drain water using a strainer and let it air-dry completely. If it’s still not dry when you are ready to roll a gimbap, pat-dry with a clean towel or paper towel.

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Wash 24 perilla leaves

Air-dry or pat-dry

4. Prepare burdock root

Peel and rinse 2.5 oz (70 g) of burdock root. Cut into thin strips.

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Peel & Rinse

  • 2.5 oz (70g) burdock root

Cut into strips

5. Soak burdock root

Soak the burdock root strips in 1 cup water and 1 tbs vinegar for 30 minutes.

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Soak burdock root

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbs vinegar

image: clock.png 30 min

6. Blanch burdock root

Boil 2 cups of water. Blanch the burdock roots in boiling water for 3 minutes.

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Boil 2 cups water

Blanch burdock root image: clock.png 3 min

7. Cut fish cake

Cut fish cake into ½” thick strips.

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Cut fish cake

  • ½” strips

8. Braise burdock root & fish cake

In a sauce pan, mix ¾ cup water, 6 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2½ tablespoons of sugar and add fish cake and burdock root in the pan. If you are cooking a larger amount, you probably want to cook fish cake and burdock root separately using the same seasoning. Cook uncovered on medium heat.

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  • ¾ cup water
  • 6 tbs soy sauce
  • 2½ tbs sugar


  • fish cake
  • burdock root

Cook uncovered

Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 7 min

9. Braise II

When the liquid is almost gone, add 2 teaspoons of mulyeot (Korean malt syrup) or jocheong (rice syrup). If you don’t have mulyeot, just add a little more sugar or sugar substitute.

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  • 2 tsp mulyeot or jocheong

10. Prepare carrot

Peel and rinse a carrot. Cut 3.5oz (100g) of carrot (about ⅓ large Korean carrot) into long ¼” thick strips. If you are using smaller carrots, just cut into shorter strips. You will just have to add a few more when making a roll.

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Peel & rinse

  • 3.5oz (100g) carrot

Cut into

  • long ¼” strips

11. Cook carrot

Preheat a pan with 1 tsp vegetable oil on medium heat. Sauté carrots on medium heat for 2 min or until they are cooked (not crunchy any more).”

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Preheat pan

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

Sauté carrots

Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 2 min

12. Prepare eggs

Beat 3 eggs with an added pinch of salt and black pepper. Preheat a pan with 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil on medium heat for a min.

Pour the beat eggs and cook until all the eggs are fully cooked. Let it cool on the side.

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Beat 3 eggs

  • a pinch salt
  • a pinch black pepper

Preheat pan

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • Med Heat image: medheat.png image: clock.png 1 min

13. Cut eggs

Once the eggs have cooled, cut into ½” thick strips.

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Once cooled

Cut eggs

into ½” thick strips

14. Cut cucumber

Wash and peel cucumber, leaving some skin for color. Cut 4.4oz (125g) of cucumber into ¼” thick and 9” long strips. (You can use a few shorter ones instead if you don’t have a whole cucumber.) Don’t use the middle part containing seeds. (optional - you can sprinkle some salt on the cucumber strips and leave it for 10 min. Then, pat-dry to remove moisture.)

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Wash & peel cucumber

Cut 4.4oz (125g)

into ½” thick strips

Sprinkle with salt

Leave image: clock.png 10 min

Pat-dry with paper towel

15. Cut danmuji

Rinse danmuji yellow pickled radish) with water. Pat-dry with paper towel. Cut 5oz (150g) of danmuji into ¼” thick strips.

image: RKIMBF17.JPG

Rinse danmuji

Pat-dry with paper towel

Cut 5oz (150g) danmuji

into ½” thick strips

16. Prepare tuna

Open 2 cans of tuna. Drain water or oil using a strainer.

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2 cabs tuna

Drain water/oil

17. Season tuna

In a bowl, mix the drained tuna with 6 tablespoons of mayonnaise. You can vary the amount of mayonnaise to your preference.

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Mix tuna

with 6 tbs mayonnaise

18. Roast seaweed (optional)

If the seaweed you got is not pre-roasted, you can roast in a pan. Roasting removes dampness and fishy smell from the seaweed. Cook each side of the seaweed in a pan on medium heat for a few seconds only. Do not over-cook. The seaweed will get crunchy and break apart. Do not use any oil.

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Cook each side seaweed

in a pan

Med Heat image: medheat.png a few seconds

19. Season rice

Season cooked rice with 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gently mix the rice with a spatula without squashing the rice. Mix it around until it’s cool enough to touch with bare hands. You want the rice to be a bit warm when you are making the roll.

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Season rice

  • 1 tbs sesame oi
  • ¼ tsp salt

Gently mix

20. Spread rice on seaweed

Place the seaweed on a bamboo mat, rough side up. Thinly spread rice over the seaweed, leaving a very small area at the bottom (place this side close to yourself) and a larger area on top. The size of the larger area and the thickness of the rice layer can vary depending on how big you want the gimbap to be. See tips above for more details.

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21. Add perilla leaves

Place 4-8 perilla leaves on top of rice.

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4-8 perilla leaves

22. Add ingredients

Place tuna mixed with mayo on top of perilla leaves. Add all other ingredients in the center. If the ingredients are shorter than the length of the seaweed, place a few to ensure the pieces are overlapping at the ends.

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Place all ingredients

in the center

23. Roll I

Tightly roll the seaweed so that the end close to you meets the other end of the rice layer, using your fingers to secure the ingredients. Do not roll all the way. Gently squeeze along the roll a few times.

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Roll the seaweed

(two ends of the rice layer meet)

Gently squeeze

24. Roll II

Bring the whole roll up to the end of the bamboo mat. This time roll all the way. Gently squeeze along the roll a few times.

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Roll to the end of the mat

Roll all the way

25. Coat with sesame oil

Using your hand or a brush, lightly coat the roll with sesame oil.

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26. Cut

Prepare a clean sharp knife and a clean wet towel. Wipe both sides of the knife with the wet towel. Start cutting the roll into ½” thick sections. Do not press down too hard with the knife as the roll will be crushed. Use front and back motion repeatedly when cutting just like cutting bread.

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27. Slice danmuji

Slice danmuji (yellow pickled radish) into ⅛” thick half moon shape to serve it on the side with gimbap.

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Slice danmuji

⅛” thick half moon shape

28. Serve

Arrange on a plate or in a lunch box. Serve with Danmuji on the side. Enjoy!

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Serve on a plate

with danmuji on the side