Food in Korea for Picky Eaters

Author: Dan Brewer

Last Updated:

Eating local food is one of the things we enjoy most when we travel. In fact, food often plays a large part on choosing where we travel to. There’s a reason we love traveling to Thailand and Mexico so much – in large part it’s because of the local cuisine. 

But we faced a challenge when visiting Korea with kids. Unlike Thai and Mexican food, we knew very little about Korean food, which made it really hard to figure out what to feed our picky kids in Korea. At first, all the Korean food looked so exotic and foreign, but soon we started figuring out what food to eat in Korea with kids

a display of corn dogs at the Namdaemun Market in Seoul, Korea.
Our kids ate a ton of corn dogs – a very popular street food in Korea.

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An Introduction on Food in Korea for Picky Eaters

We took the easy way out on the first morning of our family trip to Seoul and had breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s. Thankfully a Korean bacon and egg McGriddle sandwich tastes just as good in Seoul as it does back home. (They don’t have cream for the coffee though!! Grrrrrr!)

After our first breakfast in Seoul with kids, we enjoyed exploring this exciting Korean city for a few hours until our first planned activity – a Seoul Street Food tour! 

a 9 year old girl practices her chopsticks skills while on a Seoul food tour with her family.
Our daughter practices her chopstick skills in the Gwangjang Market.

Our Seoul food tour began in the renowned Gwangjang Market, where our guide led us through the maze of food stalls. The Korean staples smelled so good, yet looked unfamiliar and intimidating, making us happy we had a guide to help us find the best street food in Korea. 

uncooked dumplings on display at the Gwangjang Market in Seoul, South Korea.
The kimchi dumplings were generally too spicy for our kids.

Over the course of our 3-hour Seoul food tour, our family tried many local Korean specialties, including many dishes we’d never have had the guts to try on our own. 

The adults really enjoyed the mung bean pancakes, yukhoe (raw beef with egg yolk and pear slivers), spicy rice cakes, and the pork and Kimchi dumplings. While the kids did themselves proud and tried most of those exotic Korean dishes, it’s fair to say they didn’t love them. The Korean food our kids liked on the food tour were the maki rolls and the cream bread dessert.

a family enjoys trying new South Korean dishes on a food tour in Gwangjang Market.
The kids tried lots of new South Korean foods at this stall.

Going on a Seoul food tour with kids gave them the confidence that they could try different Korean foods. It was an invaluable launching point for the rest of our trip to South Korea with kids.

For anyone who is traveling to Korea with a picky eater and is unsure about Korean food, we highly recommend your family book a Seoul food tour. In our experience, the benefit of going on a food tour in Korea with picky kids is huge, giving everyone in the family more confidence to find and try new foods on your family trip.

a young boy is excited to try a new tea at a Seoul tea house.
Our son is excited to try the tea our food guide ordered for him.

We booked our Seoul food tour through Secret Food Tours and recommend them highly. 

A Daily Strategy on How to Eat with Kids in Korea

It wasn’t long before we had settled into a bit of a rhythm for eating with our kids in Korea. We are typically early risers (~7 AM at home), but due to jet lag we were often awake before sunrise. Most restaurants open late in Korea (9 AM or later), so while we were in the major cities, we found ourselves eating breakfast at McDonald’s most mornings.

Given our love of eating local foods while traveling, we’d normally be embarrassed to admit eating so much American fast food, but honestly, it was the only restaurant open at 7 AM and it gave our picky eaters a good filling start to the day. 

Lunch is the meal where we tried to get more adventurous on eating Korean food with our kids. We’d try to find Korean street food vendors who sold food which our kids would eat.

a young girl tries a lunch of steamed dumplings on a family vacation to Korea.
Our daughter was the more adventurous of the two.

For dinner, we’d often find a restaurant serving filling and reasonably healthy food we knew they’d like. Some nights we’d go for pizza (ordering enough to have leftovers for breakfast, thus avoiding another morning trip to McDonald’s!), or Mexican, or street food. The whole idea was to get their tummies full, to help them get a good night’s sleep and get over their jet lag. 

Hotel vs. Vacation Rental

When traveling to Korea with kids, your choice of family accommodation plays a big role in how easy or hard it will be to feed your family in South Korea. 

Staying in a South Korea hotel effectively means you’ll need to buy three restaurant meals a day for your family. This can be a challenge, especially if you have picky eaters or desire a little variety. Some hotels will have an included breakfast, but make sure it has international offerings, as local breakfast cuisine in South Korea often look a lot like their dinner options. 

a large breakfast buffet at the Moxy Insadong Hotel in Seoul.
Our breakfast buffet at our Seoul hotel had North American dishes.

We stayed at hotels in Seoul and Busan and a vacation rental on Jeju Island. Although we enjoyed the locations of our hotels in the big Korean cities, we found it significantly easier to feed our kids on Jeju Island. Having a full kitchen and access to a supermarket was a real treat after struggling to feed our picky eaters in the major cities of Seoul and Busan. 

What to Eat for Breakfast in Korea with Kids

To give you an idea of what your picky eaters can eat for breakfast in Korea, here is what we ate on our family trip: 

Breakfasts in Seoul with Kids

  • We ate breakfast at the McDonalds near our kid-friendly Seoul hotel on three mornings. They seemed to have a fairly standard North American breakfast menu (hot cakes, Egg McMuffins, etc), but we ordered McGriddle combos most days. Warning to parents – they do not have cream for the coffee, unless you order a specialty coffee like a latte.
A family from Canada eats McDonald's for breakfast in Seoul, South Korea.
We don’t usually eat McDonald’s when we travel with kids, but in Seoul…
  • We had leftover pizza and cream buns for breakfast on two mornings (kids love pizza for breakfast and it’s a welcome break from McDonald’s).

  • The kids had toasted ham and egg breakfast sandwiches and yogurt drinks at a bakery near our hotel called Paris Baguette. The parents had bagels with cream cheese. Paris Baguette is a popular bakery restaurant chain with many locations throughout Korea.

Family Breakfasts in Busan

  • Our hotel gave us free breakfast on our first morning in Busan with kids. Unfortunately, it was a breakfast geared towards locals – a bowl of soup with unidentified ingredients and a mound of sticky rice. Thankfully, there was a station where we could make some fried eggs. We all ate rice and eggs for a filling breakfast. Our son added dried seaweed to his and made a scramble – he loved it! We didn’t go back for any more breakfasts at our Busan hotel.

  • For our next two family breakfasts in Busan, we had a variety of pastries and yogurt drinks from another Korean bakery chain called Tous les Jour, which was just a block from our hotel.
a family enjoys a breakfast of pastries while on a family trip to Busan, Korea.
Our kids would load up on bagels and pastries at the bakeries we visited in Korea.

Breakfast for Kids on Jeju Island

By renting a vacation rental home with a full kitchen, breakfast for kids on Jeju Island was a breeze. We had cold cereal and milk all five mornings. There’s a huge selection of sugary cereal available in South Korea, but we were able to find a somewhat healthier cereal with granola and dried cranberries, which the kids really enjoyed. 

What to Eat for Lunch in Korea with Kids

To give you an idea of what your picky eaters can eat for lunch on your family trip to Korea, here is what we ate on our family trip: 

Lunches in Seoul for Children

  • We enjoyed lunch on our food tour on our first day in Seoul with kids. Our tour was primarily in the Gwangjang Market, but we also explored the trendy Ikseondong Hanok Village and Insadong Street too. On our Seoul food tour our family tried Mung bean pancakes, Yukhoe (raw beef with egg yolk and pear), spicy rice cakes, maki rolls, fish cakes, Kimchi dumplings, pork dumplings, cream bread and traditional tea varieties.
a girl enjoys an exotic fruit tea on a food tour of Seoul with her family.
Our daughter loves her citrus tea on our Seoul food tour.
  • Believe it or not, corn dogs are a hugely popular Korean street food. Our kids love corn dogs and ate ones covered with potato chunks at the Namdaemun Market. The potato chunks are kind of like big French fries stuck in the side of the corn dogs. They were delicious.
two happy kids about to eat their large, delicious corn dogs from the Namdaemun Market in Seoul, Korea.
Our kids thought the potato coated corn dogs were especially delicious!
  • The best part about the Namdaemun Market was trying our first Hotteok pancakes. These incredibly delicious pancakes are stuffed with brown sugar, honey, nuts and cinnamon. The filling turns into gooey goodness as it’s cooked. The Hotteok pancakes are served piping hot folded into a small paper cup. They are so good, I don’t think we passed up single Hotteok pancake stand during our entire family trip to Korea!
a chef prepares hotteok pancakes in the Namdaemun Market in Seoul.
The best hotteok pancakes in Korea are in the Namdaemun Market.
  • We bought some bbq pork sausages and chicken skewers from a street food vendor just outside Bukhansan National Park.
a hungry boy holds up a large chicken skewer after hiking with his family in Bukhansan National Park near Seoul.
Our kids had earned some tasty street food after a good family hike near Seoul.
  • Sweet red bean steam buns from a small restaurant in Suwon. Sweet red bean dishes may look a little unappetizing for kids, but encourage your kids to try them as they are actually quite sweet. Once our kids got past the appearance of it, they learned to like the sweet red bean steam buns.

  • After visiting the Lotte World Aquarium, the kids had chicken tenders and fries at Bruxie (an American chicken & waffles restaurant chain) at the Lotte Mall.
a Canadian boy enjoys some fried chicken at the Bruxie chicken and waffles restaurant in the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, South Korea.
Fried chicken is familiar comfort food for kids in South Korea.

Family Lunches in Busan

  • After our high-speed train ride across South Korea between the major cities of Seoul to Busan, we walked the streets near Busan Station. We found a nearby restaurant which made specialty corn dogs for the kids. Our son got a standard corn dog and our daughter got one with potato chunks on the outside and mozzarella on the inside.
two happy kids show off their lunch of corn dogs in Busan, South Korea.
In a pinch, you can almost always find corn dog vendors.
  • We went hiking on our second day in Busan with kids, so we grabbed a bunch of portable food from street markets and convenience stores. For our hiking lunch we had bananas, an apple pear, honey butter almonds, cheese Ritz crackers and a yogurt drink.
a family enjoys a scenic picnic lunch on a kid-friendly hike near Busan, Korea.
A picnic lunch with a view.
  • We stopped for lunch at McDonald’s by the Busan Zoo. The kids each had a happy meal, which was essentially the same that they’d have at home. One child got a McNuggets happy meal and the other got a cheeseburger happy meal.

  • For our final lunch in Busan with kids, we walked to the KFC near our hotel. The kids each had chicken tenders and fries. 

Lunches on Jeju Island with Kids

With family breakfasts and dinners being so easy in a vacation rental house, we tried to eat lunch on the go most days on Jeju Island.

  • Our first lunch in Jeju Island, we stumbled across a Thai restaurant near Woljeongri Beach beach. Ok, so it wasn’t a Korean restaurant, but it was Asian and it was excellent. On a family trip a few years prior we also had challenges finding food in Thailand for picky eaters.

    With our previous family experiences with Thai food, our daughter was able to have a full meal there, and although our son tried his, he ended up only having a few nibbles. He topped his lunch off with a cheese bun from a bakery across the street.
a picky eater looks unimpressed with his Thai food while on a family trip to Korea.
Our son looks genuinely unimpressed with his Thai food lunch.
  • For our outdoor activity days, we grabbed bagels and cream cheese from a Paris Baguette bakery near our supermarket. We’d supplement the bagels with bananas and chocolate covered digestive cookies.

  • One day, we switched up the bagels for dinner rolls with a small jar of very expensive peanut butter (sometimes you just gotta have peanut butter!).

What to Eat for Dinner in Korea with Kids

To give you an idea of what your kids can eat for dinner in Korea, here are the family meals we had on our family trip: 

Family Dinners in Seoul

  • Our plane landed at Incheon Airport just before dinner local time. After clearing customs, etc. we had to wait about 40 minutes for the airport express train to Seoul Station. We used this time to get the kids some chicken fingers from KFC for dinner.

  • Our first real night in Seoul, we went to a pizza place near our hotel. The pizza was huge with an incredible amount of toppings. We got a half-and-half pizza, with Hawaiian on one side and mac and cheese on the other. The good news was that we had enough leftover to have some cold pizza for breakfast the next day.
a happy boy smiles before eating pizza in Seoul, Korea.
Is he happy to be getting pizza for dinner or what?
  • We ate pizza again on our last night in Seoul with kids, so we’d have an easy breakfast of leftover pizza for our travel day to Busan.

  • We went to a Mexican restaurant in the trendy Ikseondong Hanok Village neighborhood just a block north of our hotel. The kids had filling and healthy meals of a pork quesadilla and a taco salad.
a young boy and his taco salad at a kid-friendly restaurant in Seoul.
Luckily our kids love Mexican food from all our family trips to Mexico.
  • We had bacon cheeseburgers and fries from a restaurant called Yankees Burgers in Ikseondong Hanok Village. The burgers were very good, although they had a spicy sauce on them the kids scraped off their buns.

  • We had a street food dinner on a very popular tourist street near our hotel called Insadong. The kids had a deep fried spiral potato and a foot long deep fried hot dog, wrapped in pastry. 
two happy kids hold massive hot dogs from a street food vendor in Seoul, Korea.
Our kids loved a lot of the kid-friendly Korean street food.

Dinners for Kids in Busan

  • For our first night in Busan with kids, we ended up eating at Lotteria, which is a local version of McDonald’s, owned by Lotte, the biggest company in South Korea. It was ok, but nothing special.

  • We had a very frustrating time finding dinner for our picky eaters on our second night in Busan. We walked around many street markets and main streets in the popular district around the Seomyeon subway station.

    We even tried the Jeonpo Cafe Street which was supposed to be a kid-friendly restaurant street in Busan (it wasn’t). Eventually we found a stuffed baguette restaurant and ordered them each a stuffed pizza baguette. Our kids ended up eating the buns, but the filling was inedible for the kids as it contained so many onions. We should have asked, but forgot.

  • Thank God for the widely available huge corn dogs in South Korea. For our final dinner in South Korea, the kids each had a big corn dog and a hotteok pancake for dessert. Although it’s not the healthiest meal in the world, at least its filling. Letting the kids eat corn dogs, lets us order better street food (pork and kimchi dumplings!) and it gets the kids to bed with a full tummy. 
two picky eaters eat corn dogs for dinner in Korea.
Getting our kids corn dogs frees us up to enjoy our own tasty Korean street food!

Dinner for Children on Jeju Island

Unlike Seoul and Busan, where we stayed in hotels, we stayed in a 3-bedroom vacation rental house on Jeju Island. We also had a rental car and a large supermarket within a very short drive. This made meal time so much easier as we could make some of our go-to Airbnb meals that work nearly everywhere around the world, including South Korea.

  • For two nights in Jeju Island, we had fusilli pasta in carbonara sauce with lots of cooked bacon and carrots. This is a very filling, healthy and satisfying meal for kids. It’s our favorite self-catering meal wherever we travel with kids.

  • For the other three nights, we pan-fried Bratwurst sausage with roasted sweet potatoes on the side. Our Korean supermarket had hot, pre-roasted sweet potatoes ready to buy, so we ate a ton of them. Kids love the sweet flavor and it’s so filling and nutritious!
a family enjoys a healthy home cooked meal while staying at an Airbnb in Korea.
Feeding a picky eater in Korea is so much easier in a vacation rental!

Final Tips for Feeding Your Kids in South Korea

When you order food for your kids in Korea, always ask if it’s spicy and/or if it has onions in it. We ordered a lot of food for our kids in South Korea which you wouldn’t expect to be spicy (like hamburgers), which ended up with a spicy sauce on it.

Likewise, so many dishes in South Korea have tons of onions in them (like pizza baguettes, etc). We found most restaurant staff spoke good English, but if necessary, use Google Translate to ask. It’s already hard enough to find good, healthy and filling food for picky eaters in South Korea without having to scrape hot sauce off or pick out onions.

a family sits at a low table in a tea house in South Korea.
We wish you memorable family meals in Korea!
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Dan Brewer is an intrepid family travel blogger with a passion for exploring the world's most captivating destinations. With 58 countries under his belt and a sense of wanderlust that knows no bounds, he has made it his life's mission to share his travel experiences and insights with fellow families who love to travel.

When Dan isn't traveling with his wife and kids, he's either out enjoying the Canadian Rockies he calls home or working on one of his three travel sites (Family Can Travel, Travel Banff Canada and Ultimate Sports Road Trip).