Recipe: Makgeolli Bread or Rice Wine Bread (막걸리 술빵)

It's a little embarrassing just how much I love makgeolli. In addition to enjoying hitting up my favorite makgeolli joints around town, I love having friends over, whipping up a quick and easy anjoo (this being a fine example of one such anjoo) and just chatting about life over a makgeolli bottle... or two... or three...

Recently I had an unopened makgeolli  leftover (a true rarity) and after contemplating whether I should just swig it as its expiration date was looming close, I decided to invest in some time to try making some makgeolli bread.

Yeast is an important component in baking, as everyone knows, but alcohol with live cultures such as makgeolli can act as a perfectly fine substitute. There are actually a few varieties of rice cakes called 'sool ddeok' or 술떡 (literally meaning alcohol rice cakes) which are popular with the older Koreans and go through a similar cooking process.

This is a relatively easy bread to make, even for a novice baker like me, and is actually made by steaming rather than baking. It's a very simple but flexible bread which allows you to control the amount of sugar and any toppings or ingredients you want. I chose to add some simple slivered almonds and dried cranberries but you can add toppings like sunflower seeds, black beans, sesame seeds, peas, corn, whatever suits your fancy.

If you have a big pot, steamer, and cheesecloth, you're all set to go but if you're lacking some of the equipment, you can improvise like I did (more on that below).

Makgeolli Bread (막걸리 술빵))
Makes one loaf

You'll need:
- 2 cups of Flour
- 1 tbsp of Baking Powder
- 1 tsp of Salt
- 2/3 cup of Brown Sugar (many recipes call for 1 cup but I found 2/3 to be enough for me)
- 2 large Eggs
- 1 cup of saeng Makgeolli
- Small handful of your favorite toppings (seeds, dried fruit, beans, etc)

1. In a bowl, measure out and sift the flour and baking powder.

2. In another large bowl, add in the sugar, salt, eggs and makgeolli and mix until most or all of the sugar is melted.

3. Carefully incorporate the flour and baking powder into the egg/makgeolli mixture and mix until the mixture is mostly smooth.

4. Cover the top with plastic wrap with a few holes punched to let it "breathe". Set it aside in a warm place for about 2 hours to let the makgeolli do its work in letting the mixture rise. If you're short on time, you can set the bowl over a pot of hot (not boiling) water for an hour or so to accelerate the work.

After 1-2 hours, the mixture should have risen considerably with plenty of bubbles formed.

5. Prepare a big pot with water and place your steamer inside with a cheesecloth over it. In my case, I didn't have a large enough pot for my large steamer so I improvised by using a dol sot or stone pot (돌솥) in lieu of the steamer and placing a cheesecloth over it.

When the water begins boiling, pour the mixture into the cheesecloth and sprinkle whatever toppings you want to add on top.

Close the lid over it and let it steam on high heat for 25-30 minutes. You can check if it's cooked thoroughly by sticking a chopstick or skewer in and seeing if it comes out clean.

6. When it's finished, the bread should easily plop right out of the cheesecloth. Let it cool a bit before cutting into wedges.

For the initial few hours, there may be a slight alcohol odor in the taste which goes away as time passes. It should be fluffy, moist and soft- inside and out- with a sweet taste.

Perfect for a snack or part of a breakfast to go in the morning. If you like it warm, you can give it a whirl in your microwave for about ten seconds to reheat but it's fine unheated as well.

I should say, it's not likely you'll have much, if any, leftovers of this bread... :)


  1. I landed on your blog while searching for a recipe for Chogye guksu and enjoyed your review of Chogywtang, so I went cruising and came on the line "It's a little embarrassing just how much I love makgeolli." Oh, yes!!! Here is a kindred spirit. ;) I will be trying your cake recipe very soon - thank you!
    Here's a post I would like to see - something that talks about the different varieties - not necessarily the different brands, although that would be ok, too. For example, I love the black soybean varieties, and there's one sweet one (Walmae?) that I' don't care for, and what does saeng mean, anyway? A Westerner like me living i Silicon Valley has access to all these things, but no way to learn about them. Except, of course by buying a lot of stuff, which I do. I realize it would be a real sacrifice (hahah) to do the research for a lot of writing on Makgeolli, but at least one of your new readers would appreciate it.

    Oh, and abou the bread - when you say brown sugar, what is shown isn't wester brown sugar, which is white sugar treated with a bit of molasses. It looks more like raw sugar or unprocessed sugar. The two would give very different tasts. So, clarification, please? Thanks!

  2. Hello Judith! Thanks for your kind words.

    I used to think makgeolli were all the same but as I have learned in the last few years, like wine, makgeolli comes in so many different varieties, scent, texture, notes, etc. There's a really great makgeolli bar I recommend to friends near the Haebangchon area called "Damatori" and if you're ever in Seoul you should definitely check it out if you're a makgeolli fan.

    "Saeng" is the Chinese character for "live" and if a makgeolli is saeng makgeolli that means there are live cultures in it. This means a lot of great probiotic benefits but it also unfortunately means the shelf life is less than the pasteurized version. In a place like America, unless you live close to factories or establishments that brew their own makgeolli, you're probably more likely to get the pasteurized version.

    I'll try and include more makgeolli mixes in future reviews. I have done so in the past when I've traveled so if you click on the 'makgeolli' tag you may see some that I've already mentioned about. My favorite makgeollis in Korea include Sobaeksan (소백산) and Geumjeongsan (금정산). Interestingly, the former is said to have been a favorite of the late president Noh Moo Hyun while the latter is said to have been a favorite of past president Park Chung Hee.

    Baedari (배다리) and white lotus (하양연꽃) are favorites for many women (not to generalize of course). There's also a premium makgeolli called Boksoondoga (복순도가) which is a real artisan makgeolli, each bottle made by hand. It was even served at the G-10 summit to world leaders here in Seoul in 2010. It goes about 15,000 to 20,000 in bars and restaurants (about 8,000 if ordered online) which is quite pricey for makgeolli but is absolutely top notch, fantastic stuff. I don't think they have it in America but if you ever get the chance to try it in Korea, please don't be afraid to splurge a little and go for it!

    As for your question, if going by the picture in the wikipedia page for brown sugar ( I would go with the dark or light brown sugar. Hope that helps!

  3. Stew, thanks! There are one or two makgeollis available to me that carry the saeng descriptor, so I will pay special attention to the expiration dates when I buy those - oh, heck, I'll just drink them right away! I don't recognize any of the brands, I'll look more carefully. I have 2 Korean supermarkets a mile or so from me, so I am very lucky. My tastes in beverages tend towards the rich and bold - I"d rather drink stout or Belgian beer than lagers, for example.

    I dream of getting to Korea for G*Star next year (I am the director of a videogame museum) but there are a lot of "ifs" in the way. We'll see what happens!

  4. Looks delicious Stewart!!

  5. Hi Stewart, since I live in the States and won't have access to live Makgeolli, would it be possible to add a packet of instant yeast instead? Thanks in advance. - David

    1. Yes you can but in that case it simply becomes bread at which point you can follow the exact recipe for any common bread recipe.

      If you live in the states and happen to live nearby a major Korean grocery market many sell makgeolli. :)


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