What is in plum syrup Korean?

Plum syrup, known as maesil-cheong in Korean, is a popular condiment and ingredient used in many Korean dishes. It is made from maesil, or Korean green plums, which have a sour and tangy flavor. The plums are boiled down into a thick, sweet syrup that provides a nice balance of sweet and sour in recipes.

What ingredients are in plum syrup?

The main ingredients in Korean plum syrup are:

  • Maesil (Korean green plums) – Provides the tangy, sour plum flavor
  • Sugar – Added to balance out the sourness of the plums
  • Water – Used to boil the plums and make the syrup

That’s it! The simple combination of plums, sugar, and water makes a versatile condiment. Other optional ingredients can include:

  • Citric acid – Accentuates the sour flavor
  • Honey – Used in place of sugar for added sweetness
  • Spices like cinnamon or star anise – Add warmth and complexity

How is plum syrup made?

Making traditional plum syrup involves just a few easy steps:

  1. Wash and drain fresh maesil plums
  2. Remove pits from plums
  3. Add plums and sugar to a pot with water
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened
  5. Remove from heat and cool before bottling

The amount of sugar added depends on how sweet you want the final syrup. Generally equal parts sugar and plums by weight is used. The mixture is simmered until it thickens and reduces to a syrupy consistency.

For an extra sour plum syrup, add a teaspoon or two of citric acid. For deeper flavor, spices like cinnamon, star anise, or ginger can be simmered with the plums as well.

What does plum syrup taste like?

Plum syrup has a sweet-tart flavor that provides a nice balance of sugar and acidity. Here are some notes on the taste:

  • Sweetness – Sugar balances out the tartness of the green plums
  • Tart and sour – Fresh plums lend a bright, pronounced sourness
  • Fruity – Distinct plum flavor comes through
  • Thick and syrupy – The reduction process gives it a viscous texture
  • Slight spiciness – Optional spices can provide warmth

The sweet-tart taste and syrupy texture make it unique from other condiments. It provides more complexity than just straight sugar or honey.

What is plum syrup used for?

Plum syrup serves many culinary purposes in Korean cuisine thanks to its balanced sweet-sour flavor. Some common uses include:

  • Sauce for chicken or pork – Brushed on for flavor and caramelization
  • Salad dressing base – Blended with oil and other ingredients
  • Marinade ingredient – Tenderizes meat and adds flavor
  • Dipping sauce for dumplings
  • Dessert topping over shaved ice or cake
  • Sweetener for beverages like tea

It also makes a great condiment served alongside meals, dipping sauce, or glaze for roasted vegetables. Professional chefs may use it for creative modern applications as well.

Sauces and Marinades

Plum syrup is commonly blended into sauces and marinades for its sweet/sour balance. For example, it can be mixed with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and chili paste for a sauce for chicken. The plum syrup lends sweetness to balance the saltiness of soy sauce and spiciness of chili paste.

As a marinade, the syrup’s acidity helps tenderize meats like beef or pork while imparting fruity flavor. It brings more complexity than just sugar or corn syrup in a marinade.

Salad Dressings

In salad dressings, plum syrup provides the sweet element along with tangy fruitiness. It can be whisked together with rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and other seasoning to make a bright, flavorful dressing for leafy greens.

The syrup is more complex and natural than plain sugar in dressings. Just a small amount can provide balance to acidic ingredients like vinegar.

Dipping Sauces

As a dipping sauce, plum syrup adds sweet and tart flavors to balance the other ingredients. It’s commonly mixed into dipping sauces for dumplings, egg rolls, and tempura vegetables. For example, blending it with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

The syrup helps cut the saltiness of soy sauce in dipping sauces for a more balanced flavor.

Dessert Topping

While less common, plum syrup can also be drizzled over desserts as a topping. During the summer months, it’s served over shaved ice desserts along with condensed milk and fruit like strawberries. The syrup melts and drizzles through the ice similar to chocolate syrup.

It also makes a tasty topping for cakes and pastries to provide moisture and fruity sweet-tart flavor. Plum syrup can be an unique alternative to chocolate or caramel syrup over ice cream as well.

Beverage Sweetener

In beverages, plum syrup can sweeten and add layers of flavor. It’s commonly added to cold green tea for a refreshing drink during hot days. The syrup balances the astringent tea flavor with sweetness and fruitiness.

It can also be drizzled into cocktails, lemonade, soda water, milk tea, coffee drinks, and smoothies. Just a small amount enhances other flavors and provides natural sweetness.

What are some plum syrup recipe ideas?

Here are a few recipe ideas to highlight the uses of plum syrup in Korean cooking:

Plum Syrup Chicken


  • 1 lb chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons plum syrup
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  1. In a bowl, combine plum syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.
  2. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat.
  3. Heat oil in pan over medium high heat.
  4. Cook chicken thighs for 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through.
  5. Brush with more plum syrup before serving.

Plum Syrup Salad Dressing


  • 1/4 cup plum syrup
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well blended.
  2. Toss with salad greens until evenly coated.

Plum Syrup Glazed Salmon


  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 3 tablespoons plum syrup
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together plum syrup, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil.
  3. Place salmon fillets skin-side down on a baking sheet.
  4. Brush glaze over the top of the salmon fillets.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until salmon flakes easily with a fork.
  6. Remove from oven and brush again with glaze before serving.

The sweet and salty plum glaze gives the salmon a delicious flavor and glossy finish!

Where to buy plum syrup in Korea

There are a few options for purchasing plum syrup in Korea:

  • Grocery store condiment aisles – Mass-produced plum syrup can be found at large supermarkets and chain grocers.
  • Korean specialty markets – Smaller boutique brands are often sold at Korean grocery stores.
  • Online retailers – Websites sell plum syrup across Korea and ship nationwide.
  • Farmer’s markets – Markets may have plum syrup from local producers based on seasonal availability.
  • Make it at home – Plum syrup can be made DIY-style with fresh Korean plums.

Some of the best-known Korean brands of plum syrup include Cheongyang, Sempio, Maeil, and Pulmuone. Prices range from around $5-15 USD depending on the brand and size. The syrup is available year-round, though fresh plums are peak season in early summer.

Grocery Store Availability

In major supermarkets like Emart, Homeplus, and Lotte Mart, plum syrup can typically be found in the condiment or international foods aisle. There will often be a few options from the major brands. The syrups come in plastic squeeze bottles or glass jars ranging from 8 oz to 34 oz.

Korean Specialty Markets

Specialty grocers like H Mart and Assi Plaza carry unique imported varieties of plum syrup alongside the major brands. You may find regional styles like plum balsamic vinegar from Jeju or artisanal plum syrups. The variety and availability depend on the specific market.

Online Shopping

Korean online retailers like Coupang have a wide selection of plum syrups available to order. This provides the convenience of browsing many brands and sizes from home. Two-day delivery is common across most of South Korea. Online shopping allows you to easily purchase plum syrup any time.

Farmer’s Markets

Occasionally farmer’s markets and local flea markets will carry small-batch plum syrups made seasonally by regional producers. For example, the Gwangjang Market in Seoul may have plum syrups only during summer when plums are fresh. This provides the most authentic local plums.

How to make plum syrup at home

While buying pre-made plum syrup is most convenient, you can also easily DIY it with fresh plums when they are in season. Here is a simple home recipe:


  • 1 lb Korean green plums, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water


  1. In a pot, combine the chopped plums, sugar, and water. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Once thickened to a syrup consistency, remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
  4. Transfer plum syrup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one month.

Adjust the sugar based on desired sweetness level. For an extra tangy syrup, add 1-2 teaspoons citric acid. You can also experiment with spices, honey, or other flavors.

Key takeaways on plum syrup in Korean cuisine

Here are some of the key points to highlight about the use of plum syrup in Korean cooking:

  • Made from Korean green plums that provide a sweet-tart flavor
  • Versatile ingredient used in sauces, dressings, marinades, and more
  • Adds sweetness as well as a fruity, tangy flavor
  • Commonly paired with soy sauce to balance saltiness
  • Available pre-made at Korean grocery stores or can be DIY at home
  • Enhances the flavor of meat, salads, desserts, and beverages
  • Brings complexity beyond just sugar or corn syrup

Plum syrup is deeply rooted in Korean culinary traditions but also sees modern uses in fusion and contemporary cooking. Keeping a bottle in the fridge provides easy access to a tasty sweet-sour flavor enhancer!

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