Where is the perfect Korean radish substitute for kimchi or another favorite Asian recipe? Closer than you think!
Look no further to find a great substitute for Korean radish, as well as several alternatives to daikon radish, than your local produce market or grocery store.
The Korean radish is a popular ingredient in Korean cuisine, as well as other Asian cuisines. It serves up a peppery flavor and slightly sweet taste that is an indispensable feature of many Asian dishes.
Though widely available in Asia, substitutes are still popular for fun and variety. The daikon radish, which others refer to as Japanese radish, winter radish, Chinese radish, or white radish, is so similar to its Korean cousin that many confuse the two.
The colorful watermelon radish works as a clever alternative to the regular radish as well.
However, the Korean radish can be hard to find in other regions. In fact, you may be hunting for the best daikon radish substitutes, as even daikon is often only available in the largest American cities.
Whether you’re looking to replace daikon radish, Korean radish, or didn’t know there was a difference, there are several local options near you.
What is Korean Radish?
The Taste and Texture of Korean Radish, and How to Use It
Korean radish, commonly referred to as mu or moo in Korean cuisine, is a versatile ingredient that steals the show in many authentic Asian dishes.
Many love this crisp and slightly sweet radish for its unique flavor and texture, and it plays a significant role in not just Korean but many Asian culinary traditions.
In Korean cuisine, chefs use mu in the preparation of various side dishes, soups, stews, and pickles. One popular dish that features Korean radish prominently is the traditional Korean radish soup, known as mu-guk.
This hearty soup, made with beef or anchovy broth, showcases the radish’s natural sweetness and adds depth to the overall flavor.
The radish is also a commonly addition to kimchi, the beloved Korean side dish made of fermented vegetables. Its crunchy texture and mild taste add a refreshing element to the spicy and tangy flavors of kimchi.
In Chinese cuisine, cooks often stir-fry the radish or use it in hot pot dishes. You can find it in daikon salad or shredded to garnish various dishes in Japanese cuisine.
In Vietnamese cuisine, pickled Korean radish often accompanies savory dishes such as banh mi sandwiches or spring rolls.
Whether cooked or eaten raw, it adds a refreshing and slightly peppery taste to the overall dish. Its natural sweetness makes it an excellent ingredient for balancing out spicy or savory flavors.
Korean Radish and Daikon Radish, a.k.a. Chinese Radish or Japanese Radish
Is the Korean radish and daikon the same vegetable? There’s some debate (hello, sweet potatoes versus yams!), but the answer is no.
Though both are popular in East Asian cuisine, the Korean radish is shorter and rounder with a greener neck. The Korean radish in terms of taste is so similar to daikon radish that it is hard to differentiate, but the Korean radish has a slightly milder flavor than its winter radish cousin.
Notably, daikon has higher water content than the Korean radish, which happens to also make it lower in calories.
Why Substitute for Daikon Radish When Unable to Find Korean Radish?
Korean radish can be so difficult to find in some areas of the United States that some Americans have never experienced its signature crunchiness or spicy flavor at all. Daikon can be more common in big cities, but just as rare as its Korean twin in smaller towns.
Few local veggies can serve up that authentic Asian taste. Thankfully, there are some excellent replacements that won’t shy away from the spotlight.
Best Substitutes for Korean Radish
1. Daikon Radish (Best Substitute)
A close cousin of the Korean radish and horseradish root, daikon has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that makes it a great substitute with a very similar taste. Daikon is a root that looks like a large white carrot, a bit larger than most parsnips.
It is not as spicy as other radishes, making it a popular choice for those who prefer a milder taste. Its flavor is refreshing and crisp. The texture of daikon is another reason why it can be a suitable replacement for Korean radish.
It has a firm and crunchy texture when raw, which softens slightly when cooked. This texture provides a pleasant crunch in salads or pickled dishes, while absorbing flavors from soups and stews.
Of the best Korean radish substitutes, the daikon is the top performer.
The taste of daikon is perfect as a Korean radish substitute for kimchi, pickled radish, and radish salad. Slice, grate, or julienne this radish.
2. Watermelon Radish
Watermelon radish, an heirloom variety of daikon, can match daikon’s milder flavor profile while also boasting a hot pink flesh that offers an exciting pop of color for any dish.
As a daikon radish alternative, it’s a fun option for kimchi, pickled radish, and radish salad.
3. Ponytail Radish
Similar to daikon, ponytail radish is a long, slender white radish. Distinguishable by its small red top, it has a slightly more peppery taste and crisper texture than daikon.
Another great alternative in kimchi or pickled radish dishes, ponytail radish is also delicious to roast with brown sugar and sesame seeds.
4. Gegeol Radish
This radish is also long and white but stubbier with a mild flavor and a slightly crisp texture. Gegeol radish is available all year in Asian markets, so it is a popular substitute for the Korean radish or daikon in Korea.
Because of its milder flavor, this is a great choice for those turned off by daikon’s signature bite. It makes for a less potent kimchi or rich mu-guk (radish soup).
5. Young Summer Radish
Named for its only growing season, the young summer radish is more similar in taste and texture to the common cucumber than the Korean radish. This makes it perfect, however, for some Asian or fusion dishes.
Try young summer radish in refreshing oi muchim (cucumber salad) or a quick side dish called mulgogi-namul.
6. Indian Radish, or Mooli
Popular in India, mooli is similar to parsnips in its white carrot shape, but with a crisp peppery taste similar to daikon. Grate this radish in salad or as garnish, or add it to curries or stews.
7. Red Radish
Can’t find daikon? Even when compared to the oriental radish, the red radish is a solid runner-up. For a bit of color, this type of radish is another great choice.
With its crisp and peppery taste, the red radish’s cheeky bite offers a delightfully similar flavor to the Korean radish. With a texture, spicy taste, and flavor that is strikingly similar to Korean radish, it works as a yummy (and very available) ingredient in many Korean dishes.
Their crisp texture and peppery taste (similar to horseradish root) make them a popular choice in salads, sandwiches, and even as a garnish.
8. White Turnip
For a milder option that minds its manners, this root vegetable is an excellent substitute for Korean radish. The subtle flavor and crunchy texture of the white turnip make it a popular choice in many Asian recipes.
Don’t cook it, however, or it will lose its crunch the same way carrots do when cooked. A boiled turnip is still delicious, but no audience will buy its act if it is stepping in for the Korean radish.
You’d best use this substitute raw to maintain the texture of Korean radish. Try it in salads or pickled. It can be a great addition to slaws or served as a crunchy topping for tacos or sandwiches.
In Asian cuisine, the white turnip frequents stir-fries, hot pots, or kimchi.
If you’re looking for a crunchy option that just won’t quit, jicama is another root vegetable always up for the role. However, it’s important to note that jicama has a mildly sweet flavor, which is quite different from the spicy and bold taste that our Korean star possesses.
While it couldn’t win any impersonator contests, jicama can provide a similar crunchy texture and mild sweetness reminiscent of what the Korean radish offers.
Use as a Korean radish substitute in kimchi or japchae, where chefs use Korean radish for its texture and ability to absorb flavors. The taste will vary slightly, so adjust seasonings accordingly.
10. Water Chestnut
Water chestnuts have that enduring crunch as well, making them a popular replacement in many canned commercial attempts at Asian fusion cuisine. However, their taste also lacks bite and is more earthy, like an eager white-haired aunt who prefers community theatre.
To use as a Korean radish substitute in kimchi or japchae, peel and finely chop the water chestnuts to match the size and texture of radish pieces. Some banchan recipes also call for sliced or julienned Korean radish, such as musaengchae (spicy radish salad) or mujeon (Korean radish pancakes).
When you can’t find Korean radish or daikon, the perky parsnip might fool you with its similar appearance. Similar to daikon, this root vegetable resembles a large white carrot. Though not a perfect substitute for daikon radish, the parsnip has potential.
Leave it raw like the white turnip, and you might be onto something. Its mild sweetness is charming, if not as charismatic as the snappy Korean star.
Compared to daikon, it has a bit more a sweet taste and smooth texture and flavor. But, if you enjoy the taste of raw white turnips, you might find the raw parsnip quite appealing as well.
Parsnips are a great radish substitute in gamja jorim, a braised potato dish. Or try them in radish kimchi soup!
12. Cabbage Heart
Finally, we get to the heart of the matter. When choosing a substitute or good replacement for Korean radish, cabbage will not be the first vegetable to come to mind.
It is not one of the best substitutes on this list. Cooked, a cabbage heart has a similar taste and texture to an artichoke heart.
Don’t let this difference in texture compared to a Korean radish deter you, however. Delicious, though quite different in texture from the Korean radish, this understudy serves as a surprisingly fitting substitute, surpassing expectations.
Cut cabbage hearts into thin strips to use as a Korean radish substitute in kimchi. Replace a side of pickled Korean radish with cabbage hearts by slicing them thinly. Or make a delicious radish salad.
13. Horseradish Root
You are more likely to have seen this root vegetable in a condiment jar than in the produce aisle. Horseradish root tastes strong and sharp, so it is best in sauces and dips, such as cocktail sauce and horseradish sauce.
Play with it grated in salads or as a garnish, but err on the side of caution. Horseradish can lose its spice and become bitter when exposed to air and heat.
It is hard to miss beets, a colorful veggie that looks like a mix between the turnip and the red radish. Cooks often cut up and pickle beets, same as they do to daikon.
The texture and flavor profile couldn’t be more different, however. The smooth dark red beetroot has a sweet earthy taste that is immediately recognizable.
For a fun twist, replace daikon with slivers of raw beetroot in a salad. It can also make a unique and bright red Korean radish substitute for kimchi.
Sweet and crunchy, this cousin to parsnips is probably in your fridge right now. Though best known for being bright orange, carrots come in a variety of shades from dark purple to creamy yellow.
Like parsnips, they go well in gamja jorim or radish kimchi soup. Any mu-guk (radish soup) or salad could benefit from this substitute.
However, carrots are a common ingredient in many of these dishes already. Use some creativity to present carrot as a substitute for Korean radish in a meal, or it may seem as though you simply forgot the radish.
Choosing the Best Substitute for Daikon Radish or Korean Radish
The Korean radish, like daikon, is a tasty staple in many Asian dishes. It just isn’t as popular in American stores.
Thankfully, you may not even have to leave your kitchen to achieve that raw daikon radish flavor. Instead of using that red radish in salads, use it as a Korean radish substitute for kimchi.
Don’t search in vain for the elusive Korean radish. Overflowing your local produce aisle, red radish can also do the trick.
Need to use that white turnip in the back of your fridge? Korean radish is a root vegetable too! Used as a substitute, the turnip will have a sweeter flavor than daikon that could liven up your next slaw.
The texture of daikon radish is similar to that jicama in your root cellar. What a great substitute for daikon in your next japchae!
Play around and see what YOU like. The best part of the radish is that it is low in calories while being high in antioxidants, vitamin C, water content, fiber, and antioxidants.
Besides just substitute daikon radish in terms of taste and texture, every alternative listed shares the same life-saving nutritional benefits! Your body is going to love these (especially your tongue!).
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