Low carb bibimbap

Given that my article entitled “Everything you always wanted to know about fermented foods” has just been published on the informative blog Science-Based Medicine I thought that I would re-post this older post on how to make low carb bibimbap. It is a very tasty way to use kimchi .

I have not actually holidayed in South Korea. I have only stopped at the airport a number of times on transit to other parts of the world. But every time I stop at Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, I head straight for the food court to get a big bowl of bibimbap. If you are not familiar with bibimbap it is a signature Korean dish meaning ‘mixed rice’. It is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with various seasoned vegetables, and a delicious and spicy sauce containing sunchang gochujang, (a Korean hot pepper paste made from red chilli, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans and salt) soy sauce and sesame oil. A fried egg and beef are also often added to this dish. I also love to top it with kimchi. Kimchi is a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of vegetables, most commonly napa cabbage, with a variety of seasonings, the most common including brine, scallions, spices, ginger, chopped radish, garlic, shrimp sauce and fish sauce.

Bibimbap is actually a very nutritious meal, however, I normally limit refined carbohydrates in my diet, so I set out to make a low carbohydrate, simpler version. This is not a dish that I would consider making on a week night, unless I had the seasoned vegetables and marinated meat left over from the weekend. I suggest that if you are going to prepare this meal, leave it to the weekend.

Bibimbap step 14

The nutritional components of bibimbap

As I was writing this post, I did a little bit of research into the components of bibimbap and came across the reported health benefits of kimchi. As it is a fermented product, I assumed that the bacteria contained within it were likely to be beneficial by adding variety to your existing gut microbial community, known as the microbiome. The predominant lactic acid bacteria involved in the fermentation process of kimchi include Weissella, Lactobacillus, Leuconostoc and Pedicoccus species (1 – 3). I came across a number of studies reporting various health benefits of kimchi including cancer prevention (4 – 7) and anti-obesity effects (8 – 10). Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that kimchi is going to cure cancer, and I also noticed that one of these studies was supported by the Globalization of Korean Food R and D program (slightly suspicious), but including this nutritious, fermented food as a part of your diet may have benefits to your long-term health.

I also discovered that sesame seeds and sesame oil contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamin B (in the whole seed only) and, interestingly, contain some of the group of natural compounds known as lignans. Sesame lignans include sesamin, sesamolin and sesaminol (11). There has been quite a bit of research into these lignans and studies have shown that the lignans display antioxidative properties, meaning these compounds can scavenge free radicals which can lead to life style disease such as circulatory disorders and aging (12 – 14) and may have serum lipid-lowering effects in experimental animals and humans. One recent study entitled Comparative Effects of Sesame Seeds Differing in Lignan Contents and Composition on Fatty Acid Oxidation in Rat Liver looked at groups of 6 – 7 rats starting with the same average body weight fed different experimental diets for 16 days. These experimental diets contained the same protein, fat, and fibre content, and mineral and vitamin composition, but either did not contain sesame or contained 200g/kg of one of 4 different variety of sesame. The results showed that those rats feed the diets containing sesame seeds had significantly increased levels of various hepatic enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation and significantly decreased levels of enzymes involved in fatty acid synthesis. Serum triacylglycerol (type of lipid or fat) concentrations were significantly lower in the groups of rats fed the diets containing sesame seeds compared to the rats fed the control diet without sesame seeds. However, this study found that hepatic or liver cholesterol levels were higher in the rats fed the diets with sesame seeds and that after the 16 days there was no significant difference in the body weight of the rats in each group (15). I am not going to go into any more detail about the health benefits of sesame seeds and oil, but I found these antioxidant and serum lipid-lowering properties of the lignans quite interesting. Again, I am not declaring sesame seeds as a cure for disease, part as a part of whole food diet, consisting predominantly of vegetables and quality protein, sesame seeds may have benefits to your long term health.

In addition to the kimchi and sesame seeds served with bibimbap, the vitamins and minerals from the fresh and seasoned vegetables and the protein and fat from the meat and eggs make this a very nutritious and tasty meal so head down to your local Asian grocery store and get cooking!

Low carbohydrate bibimbap

Makes 2 large serves with a small amount left over (could be made into a third serve with an extra egg)



250 grams lean mince

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

½ brown onion

1 clove garlic, minced

Seasoned spinach

250 grams fresh spinach

1 tablespoon shallots, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ tablespoon sesame oil

Seasoned bean sprouts

125 grams mung bean sprouts

1 tablespoon shallots, finely chopped

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ tablespoon sesame oil

Bibimbap sauce

2 tablespoons Sunchang gochujang

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

Seasoned mushrooms

½ tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon shallots, finely sliced

1 cup mushroom, thinly sliced

½ clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Water for cooking

1 carrot, peeled

1 Lebanese cucumber

2 eggs, fried

Kimchi to serve (see Note below)

2 cups cauliflower rice


Step 1 – Take a trip to your local Asian supermarket and purchase Sunchang gochujang (I like the brand Daesang), kimchi, sesame oil, sesame seeds and bean sprouts.

Bibimbap step 1

Step 2 – Marinate your meat by combining the mince with the soy sauce, sesame oil, onion and garlic.

Bibimbap step 2

Step 3 – Pour yourself a drink. It makes the process more enjoyable.

Step 4 – Roast 4 tablespoons of sesame seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan, stirring often.

Bibimbap step 4

Step 5 – Mince all the garlic and shallots.

Bibimbap step 5

Step 6 – Prepare the bibimbap sauce by combining the gochujang, sesame oil, honey, water, roasted sesame seeds, white vinegar and garlic into a small bowl and mix well.

Bibimbap step 6

Step 7 – Julienne the carrots and cucumber.

Bibimbap step 7

Step 8 – Prepare the seasoned spinach. I used frozen spinach to make life easier. Thaw the frozen spinach in the microwave for 4 – 5 minutes. Mix in the shallots, garlic, roasted sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Bibimbap step 8

Step 9 – Prepare the bean sprouts by mixing the shallots, garlic, roasted sesame seeds, soy sauce and sesame oil through the fresh bean sprouts.

Bibimbap step 9

Step 10 – Prepare the cauliflower ‘rice’. In order to reduce the carbohydrates and calories in this dish I used cauliflower ‘rice’ instead of white rice. The cauliflower ‘rice’ still has the same texture as white rice and absorbs all the flavours of the bibimbap. Add 2 cups of cauliflower florets to a food processor and process until a rice-like texture has formed.

Bibimbap step 10

Step 11 – Prepare seasoned mushrooms. This step is my own addition to bibimbap. Traditionally, shitake mushrooms are used in this dish, but to be honest, I just don’t really like them. So instead I made these seasoned mushrooms. Add the sesame oil to a non-stick pan and cook the shallots until soft. Add the remaining ingredients and cook until the mushrooms are soft. Add water as required to prevent sticking.

Bibimbap step 11

Step 12 – Cook the marinated mince in a fry pan.

Bibimbap step 12

Step 13 – Fry the eggs. I prefer my yolk hard so I flipped the eggs, however, you can leave them sunny side up if you prefer a runny yolk.

Bibimbap step 13

Step 14 – Assemble the bibimbap by dividing the cauliflower ‘rice’ between 2 serving bowls. Top with the meat, seasoned spinach and bean sprouts, seasoned mushrooms, carrot, cucumber and the fried egg. Drizzle the bibimbap sauce over the top (see top photo).

Step 15 – Mix it all together and EAT!

Bibimbap step 15

  1. Choi, H. J., Cheigh, C. I., Kim, S. B., Lee, J. C., Lee, D. W., Choi, S. W. (2002). Weissella kimchii sp. nov., a novel lactic acid bacterium from kimchi. Int J Syst Evol Microbiol. 52:507–11.
  2. Kim, M., Chun, J. Bacterial community structure in kimchi, a Korean fermented vegetable food, as revealed by 16S rRNA gene analysis.(2005). Int J Food Microbiol. 103:91–6.
  3. Chang, J. Y., Chang, H. C. (2010). Improvements in the quality and shelf life of kimchi by fermentation with the induced bacteriocin-producing strain, Leuconostoc citreum GJ7 as a starter. J Food Sci. 75:M103–10.
  4. Kim, B. K., Choi, J. M., Kang, S. A., Park, K. Y., Cho, E. J. (2014). Antioxidative effects of Kimchi under different fermentation stage on radical-induced oxidative stress. Nutr Res Pract. 8(6):638-43.
  5. Hur YM, Kim SH, Park KY. (1999). Inhibitory effects of Kimchi extracts on the growth and DNA synthesis of human cancer cells. J Food Sci Nutr. 4:107–12.
  6. Badel, S., Bernardi, T., Michaud, P. (2011). New perspectives for Lactobacilli exopolysaccharides. Biotechnol Adv. 29:54-66.
  7. Son, T., Kim, S., Park, K. (1998). Antimutagenic activities of lactic acid bacteria isolated from kimchi. J Korean Assoc Cancer Prev. 3:65–74.7.
  8.  Han, K., Bose, S., Wang, J. H., Kim, B. S., Kim, M. J., Kim, E. J., Kim, H. (2015). Contrasting effects of fresh and fermented kimchi consumption on gut microbiota composition and gene expression related to metabolic syndrome in obese Korean women. Mol Nutr Food Res. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201400780.
  9. Choi, I. H., Noh, J. S., Han, J.-S., Kim, H. J., et al., (2013). Kimchi, a fermented vegetable, improves serum lipid profiles in healthy young adults: randomized clinical trial. Journal of medicinal food. 16: 223-229.
  10. Kim, E. K., An, S.-Y., Lee, M.-S., Kim, T. H., et al., (2011). Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients. Nutrition Research. 31: 436-443.
  11. Namiki, M. (2007). Nutraceutical Functions of Sesame: A Review. Crit Rev. Food Sci. Nutr. 47: 651 – 73.
  12. Namiki, M. (1995). The chemistry and physiological functions of sesame. Food Rev. Int. 11: 281 – 329.
  13. Nakano, D., Kwak, C. J., Fujii, K., Ikemura, K., Satake, A., Ohkita, M., Takaoka, M., Ono, Y., Nakai, M., Tomimori, N., Kiso, Y.; Matsumura, Y. (2006). Sesamin metabolites induce an endothelial nitric oxide-dependent vasorelaxation through their antioxidative property-independent mechanisms: possible involvement of the metabolites in the antihypertensive effect of sesamin. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 318: 328-335.
  14. Nakano, D., Itoh, C., Ishii, F., Kawanishi, H., Takaoka, M., Kiso, Y., Tsuruoka, N., Tanaka, T., Matsumura, Y. (2003). Effects of sesamin on aortic oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction in deoxycorticosterone acetate-salt hypertensive rats. Biol. Pharm. Bull. 26: 1701-1705.
  15. Ide, T., Azechi, A., Kitade, S., Kunimatsu, Y., Suzuki, N., Nakajima, C. and Ogata, N. (2015). Comparative effects of sesame seeds differing in lignan contents and composition on Fatty Acid oxidation in rat liver. J Oleo Sci. 64: 211-22.

12 thoughts on “Low carb bibimbap

  1. Pingback: Green sesame patties | I can't believe that's healthy

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  3. I so love bibimbap, and low carb (or low starch) is even better. My first challenge is to learn how to make good kimchi. Once you’ve had the stuff in Korea, the stuff in a supermarket jar in Australia just doesn’t taste the same!


  4. I recently made this dish for the first time and am desperate to make it again. I’ll definitely be trying it with cauliflower rice! (ALSO – excellent referencing 😉 )


  5. Pingback: How to make tahini | I can't believe that's healthy

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