Kalguksu is a hearty Korean noodle soup recipe. Made with chewy knife-cut noodles and soaked in a hearty chicken broth, this dish is like a Korean version of chicken noodle soup.
Kalguksu is a very well-rounded dish packed with protein, carbs from the chewy noodles, and a nutritious chicken broth. A serving of Chicken Kalguksu is only 447 calories, with 37 grams of protein, 22 grams of fat, and 37 grams of carbs, following the recipe and portions below.
The key to making this dish help rather than hinder progress toward your fitness goals is portioning high-calorie ingredients mindfully and choosing the right proteins.
💭 What is Chicken Kalguksu?
Kalguksu is the Korean word for knife-cut noodles. Dak kalguksu, or chicken kalguksu, refers to the noodle soup dish that consists of a chicken-based broth. The noodles are simmered in a delicious chicken broth chock full of vegetables. It's essentially the Korean version of a chicken noodle soup.
If you liked this recipe, check out the following:
- Dakdori Noodle Soup for another delicious Korean chicken noodle soup recipe with some extra spice
- Dak Bulgogi Recipe or Spicy Dak Bulgogi Recipe for a delicious grilled Korean bbq chicken recipe
- Chicken Bibimbap recipe for a classic Korean rice bowl recipe
- Healthy Korean food guide for more healthy Korean recipes
🍎 Calories and Nutrition – Is Kalguksu Healthy?
While Kalguksu is undeniably delicious, is kalguksu healthy?
Kalguksu is a very healthy dish given that it predominantly consists of protein from the meat and carbs from the noodles, making it a well-balanced nutritious meal.
To understand the calorie and nutrition content of a typical kalguksu recipe, it’s useful to look at the core ingredients that make up kalguksu. Kalguksu is made of four main components: protein, vegetables, noodles, and broth.
- Protein: Kalguksu is often served with chicken, beef, or seafood. If your goal is to keep calorie consumption low, using a lean protein such as boneless chicken thigh or chicken breast is ideal. Certain proteins, such as pork, can be extremely calorie dense from the extraneous fat it contains, so it's important to make mindful decisions about the protein choice.
- Vegetables: Vegetables are a great way to round out the noodle soup. You can add onions, garlic, carrots, or cabbage to name a few. They will not add a significant amount of calories to the dish.
- Noodle: Kalguksu, or Korean knife-cut noodles, are chewy, wheat-based noodles that are the star of this dish. They're predominantly made of carbs, which are important to include in our diet. But it is essential to portion carbs mindfully since they can easily add up calorie-wise.
- Broth: The broth consists of an anchovy broth base enhanced with various condiments such as fish sauce, doenjang, and gochugaru, none of which add a significant amount of calories.
Looking at each component, it’s easy to see that Kalguksu can easily be made to be a high-calorie and high-fat dish if the protein and noodles are not chosen or portioned correctly, making it less than ideal for dieting purposes. However, it’s not hard to make it low-calorie and macro-conscious — this recipe will show you some tweaks that will make kalguksu easy to fit into your everyday diet.
🍏 How to Make It Healthy – The Fitsian Method
In this recipe, I use a more protein-heavy ratio to make this a more macro-friendly and calorie-conscious dish. Here are some key tweaks I made:
- Used 1 serving of kalgusku noodles at 150 calories
- Portioned 4oz boneless, skinless chicken thigh for a lean protein source
- Mindfully portioned the different components of the soup seasonings to be 90 calories
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredient, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of this low-calorie kalguksu recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
- Chicken Thigh – I opted for boneless skinless chicken thighs since it has enough fat for the flavor but not too much so that it would make the dish unhealthy
- Ginger, Garlic, and Onion – Aromatics to help bring out the flavor in the broth.
- Chicken Broth or Water – The base of the broth. You can use chicken broth
- Gochugaru (Optional) – To give the broth a slight kick. This will give the broth a slight red color
- Soy Sauce, Mirin, Sesame Oil, Fish sauce – Seasonings to give the broth additional flavor
- Black pepper and salt – To season the chicken and the soup
- Kelp (Optional: for simmering) – Great for giving the broth an umami seafood flavor
Kalguksu and Mix-Ins
- Kalguksu noodles – Chewy knife–cut noodles that are the star of the dish
- Julienned carrots and cabbage – Vegetables to round out the noodle soup and make it more filling and hearty dish
- Chili crunch (Optional) – Gives the noodles a nice spicy kick
- Scallions – For garnish and to add a touch of freshness
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Prepare the aromatics and chicken – Mince the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and carrots, and cut the cabbage into small pieces. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, removing any excess fat in the process. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
Sauté the aromatics and chicken – In a saucepan, spray cooking oil and sauté the vegetables and brown both sides of the chicken pieces.
Toast spices – Once the chicken is seared and the aromatics begin to become fragrant, add in the gochugaru and let toast for about 2-3 minutes.
Make the broth – Add in the chicken broth and the remainder of the soup base ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
Prepare the noodles – While the soup is cooking, prepare the kalguksu noodles according to the package instructions and set aside.
Assemble the bowl – In a bowl, add in the noodles and pour the broth over. Top with scallions and chili crunch if using and enjoy your delicious chicken Kalguksu!
💡 Frequently Asked Questions
Kalguksu are noodles made out of wheat dough and eggs. They are rolled and cut with a knife, hence the term knife-cut noodles. You can get them at most Asian grocery stores in the refrigerated noodle section.
Yes you can definitely freeze kalguksu noodles as long as they haven't been mixed in the soup yet. Just put them in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer.
Kalguksu is also delicious with seafood and beef. Some restaurants, such as the famous Hangari Kalguksu in Koreatown Los Angeles, have a menu full of variations that you can look to for inspiration. If your goal is to cook a relatively healthier and lower-calorie recipe, I would recommend sticking with chicken or seafood.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Swap out the proteins – Mix in some seafood for a delicious seafood kalguksu dish
Make it less spicy – Omit gochugaru to have a non-spicy kalguksu
Add a poached egg – Add a poached egg to add a touch of creamy egg yolk to the dish
To store, keep the noodles and soup separate, or the noodles will get overly soggy. You can pre-make the chicken soup and store it in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
- 1 tablespoon Doenjang
- 1 teaspoon Gochugaru
- 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
- ½ tablespoon Mirin
- 1 teaspoon Sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Anchovy stock powder
- 1 Kelp (Optional: for simmering)
- 2 cups Water
Kalguksu and Mix-Ins
- 1 serving Kalguksu noodles
- 1 clove Garlic
- ¼ Onion
- 4 oz Chicken thigh (Boneless, skinless)
- 1-2 Mushrooms (Sliced)
- Julienned carrots
- Black pepper and salt (To taste)
- 1 teaspoon Chili crunch
- Furikake, scallions (For garnish)
Nutrition and Macros
- 447 Calories
- 37 g Protein
- 22 g Fat
- 37 g Carbs
- Begin by preparing the kalguksu noodles according to the package instructions and set aside.
- Mince the onion, garlic, mushrooms and carrots and cut the cabbage into small pieces. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, removing any excess fat in the process. Weigh the chicken to ensure that it's at 4 ounces, or the desired weight. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
- In a saucepan, spray cooking oil and sauté the vegetables and brown both sides of the chicken pieces.
- Once the chicken is seared and the aromatics begin to become fragrant, add in the doenjang and gochugaru and let them toast for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the water and the remainder of the soup base ingredients. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes.
- In a bowl, add in the noodles and pour the broth over. Top with scallions, furikake, and chili crunch and enjoy your delicious chicken Kalguksu!