Perilla seed powder, also known as deulkkae garu in Korean, is a popular ingredient used in many Korean soups, stews, and vegetable dishes.
It comes from grinding up dried perilla seeds, which are harvested from the perilla plant.
Perilla seed powder adds a unique nutty, minty, earthy flavor and creamy texture to dishes.
Why Perilla Seed Powder is Used in Korean Cooking
Before diving into the substitutes, it helps to understand why perilla seed powder is used in Korean cuisine in the first place.
The ground powder acts as a thickener and flavor enhancer for many dishes like soups, stews, and namul (seasoned vegetable side dishes). It adds a rich, nutty taste and creamy mouthfeel.
Some popular Korean dishes that traditionally use perilla seed powder include:
- Knife-cut noodle soup (deulkkae kalguksu): The powder infuses the broth with flavor.
- Mugwort soup (ssukguk): It gives depth to the herbal soup.
- Mushroom soup (beoseot deulkkae tang): It complements the earthiness of mushrooms.
- Pork bone soup (gamjatang): It adds texture and flavor to the hearty broth.
- Stir-fried oyster mushrooms (neutari beoseot bokkeum): It provides nuttiness to balance the oyster mushrooms.
So when choosing a substitute, try to pick ingredients that can mimic both the thickening properties and nutty, earthy flavor of perilla seed powder.
Best Perilla Seed Powder Substitutes
If you can't find perilla seed powder, here are some excellent alternatives to use:
Sesame seeds, either whole or ground into sesame seed powder, make the best replacement for perilla seed powder.
While sesame doesn't have the exact same flavor, it has a similar nutty taste and will provide a creamy texture to thicken dishes. Use an equal amount of sesame seeds or sesame seed powder as you would perilla seed powder.
Since sesame seeds are much more common, they should be easy to find at any grocery store. To grind them yourself, simply blend dry sesame seeds into a fine powder in a spice grinder, food processor or high-powered blender.
Finely chopped walnuts can mimic the nutty flavor of perilla seeds. They also add a bit of thickness.
Try toasting the walnuts first to bring out their flavor. Then pulse them in a food processor until chopped into a fine powder, being careful not to go too far to the point of becoming walnut butter. Use the same amount as the recipe calls for with perilla powder.
Dried basil contains hints of an anise-like flavor that can work as a stand-in for the unique taste of perilla.
It won't provide any thickening qualities, so you may want to combine it with something like cornstarch or arrowroot powder if using basil powder in soups or stews. Or use fresh basil leaves as a garnish instead of perilla leaves.
Mint is in the same plant family as perilla, so it makes an appropriate flavor substitute. Spearmint and peppermint will both work.
Again mint doesn't thicken, so you'd need to use something else for that purpose if the dish needs it. Dried mint powder or fresh mint leaves can be used depending on the application.
Shiso is actually the same species as Korean perilla, so the flavor is very close. It has just a slightly different taste.
Use fresh shiso leaves in place of perilla leaves. Or you can buy dried shiso powder instead of perilla seed powder. It can be found at some Asian grocery stores.
How to Use Perilla Seed Powder Substitutes
Now let's go over some tips on how to properly use these perilla seed powder swaps:
- If adding sesame seeds or walnuts, toast them first to intensify the nutty flavor. Then grind into a fine powder.
- When using dried basil or mint powder, use the same measured amount as perilla powder. Combine with a starch to thicken if needed.
- For fresh herbs like basil, mint or shiso, use more than you would perilla leaves since the flavor is not as concentrated.
- If the perilla powder is mainly for texture, arrowroot or cornstarch can be subbed in the same amount. They won't provide much flavor though.
- For soups and stews, ground white or black sesame seeds will give the closest mouthfeel and richness.
- Toasted sesame oil can provide nutty flavor without changing texture. Add just a dash or two.
- If using a flavored oil like sesame, reduce any other seasonings so the flavor doesn't overwhelm the dish.
- If a recipe only calls for a small amount of perilla powder, like a sprinkle on top, it's fine to leave it out completely.
- With any new ingredient, add a little at a time at first and adjust to your taste preferences. Start with 3/4 of the substituted amount and add more as desired.
Key Takeaway: When subbing for perilla powder, grind and toast nuts and seeds first. Adjust other seasonings to balance new flavors. Use herbs fresh or dried for optimal taste.
Is perilla seed powder the same as sesame seeds?
No, perilla seeds come from the separate perilla plant. They have a different shape, color and flavor than sesame seeds. However, sesame can be used as a substitute.
Can you use perilla leaves instead of the seed powder?
Sometimes. Perilla leaves can be used fresh as a garnish or herb. But they don't provide the thickening or nutty flavor of the ground seeds.
What's the best way to grind sesame seeds into powder?
Toast the seeds first to bring out more flavor. Then grind them in a dry spice grinder, mini food processor or high-speed blender until a fine powder. Take care not to over process into sesame butter.
Can you use perilla seeds whole instead of grinding into powder?
Yes, whole toasted perilla seeds can provide texture and flavor. But they won't dissolve into the dish to thicken and integrate the flavor as much as the powder.
What dishes pair well with perilla seed powder substitutes?
The earthy, nutty taste complements vegetable side dishes, mushroom dishes, hearty soups and stews, rice porridge, and brothy noodles.
What does perilla seed powder taste like?
It has a unique flavor that is minty, basil-like, nutty, and earthy. The aroma is often described as nutty or like anise. It also provides a creamy, thick texture.
Perilla seed powder is a signature seasoning in Korean cooking. It adds lots of flavor and richness.
While not an exact match, sesame seeds (either whole or ground) provide the closest taste and texture when perilla powder is not available.
Other suitable options are walnuts, dried basil, mint, and shiso.