Now that we’ve established my borderline pathetic dedication to Korea’s bingsu, we can get to the good stuff. Oh yeah baby, the vegan bingsu guide is FINALLY here!
For the newcomers who still think that bingsu is literally just shaved ice and are baffled by the need for a vegan version, let me catch you up to speed: bingsu in Korea is often made with frozen milk and topped with condensed milk and/or ice cream and/or whipped cream. Though certainly no problem for our lacto-vegetarian friends, these are decidedly not vegan friendly. Even in the case of a bingsu made from frozen water, sometimes cafes will put a secret layer of condensed milk for added sweetness, which again would render the entire dessert non-vegan.
It took some searching, but I have found a number of establishments that offer (or are willing to make) vegan bingsu. Finally those who are vegan or transitioning to veganism, have dairy allergies, or simply don’t like cow’s milk, can enjoy the glory of bingsu without compromising your beliefs (or digestion!)
1. La Bonne Tarte
Address: 서울특별시 서대문구 대신동 90-1, 국제오피스텔 1층
90-1 Daesin-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Ewha Womans Univ. Station, Exit 2
Hours: Mon-Sat 9:00am – 9:00pm (Closed Sun)
I wish I had known about this place when I was till studying at Ewha because I could’ve saved my tummy a lot of unnecessary trouble (and started going dairy-free a lot sooner!) La Bonne Tarte is a cafe that focuses on organic, non-gmo ingredients for their desserts. Their menu isn’t vegan, but they have a vegan sandwich and a vegan bingsu option during the summer. It’s not written on the menu, but if you ask for a vegan bingsu, they’ll be happy to make it for you. It’s a pretty standard patbingsu with sweet red beans and chunky soy-milk based ice, but at the bottom there are cubes of watermelon for that extra refreshment factor.
2. Cafe Koo 카페쿠
Address: 서울특별시 용산구 한남동 29-4 한성아파트 A동 101호
29-4, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Hangangjin Station, Exit 2
Price: 7,500 (single) or 11,000 (serves 2-3)
This small nondescript cafe is the last place I expected to find vegan bingsu. There’s a soymilk bingsu on their summer menu for 11,000 won, but when I attempted to order it for myself the 아줌마 refused and offered to make me a mini vegan patbingsu (pictured above) for 7,500 won. She asked me several times if she could add just the tiniest about of condensed milk in it, but after telling her no each time, she gave in and made the dessert without it. It’s a standard patbingsu with injeolmi powder, red beans, rice cake, and almonds. It’s refreshing, light, not sweet, and has the perfect red bean to shaved ice ratio. The larger soymilk bingsu might have different toppings, but I wouldn’t know because she won’t let me order it. If you tries it, do let me know how it is. Remember to tell her no 연유 (condensed milk)!
3. Rawfood Vegan Cafe 앞으로의 빵집
Address: 서울특별시 종로구 익선동 42
29-1 Samil-daero 32ga-gil, Ikseon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Jongno 3 Station Exit 6
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:00am-8:00pm; Sat-Sun 11:00am-8:30pm
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The recently opened vegan cafe has a menu that boasts fresh savory dishes and beautifully arranged fruit tarts and desserts. Last month they premiered this vegan bingsu on their Instagram. Finely shaved milk ice (which I assume is made from almond milk based on the caption), homemade condensed almond milk, mugwort rice cakes, almonds, sunflower seeds, dried persimmon, injeolmi power, and sweet red beans give this power-packed bingsu a lot of earthy flavor, body, and maximum mix-ability. It’s one of the finest specimens of vegan bingsu I’ve ever seen. Pow!
4. Loving hut 러빙헛
1218-16 Gaepo 4(sa)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Maebong Station Exit 4
Hours: Everyday, 11:00am-9:00pm
If you didn’t know, now you know: Loving Hut, the international vegan restaurant chain, has branches all over South Korea. They used to have more branches in Seoul, but now there’s just two–the restaurant with an attached vegan store and the “smile” cafe. (The address above is for the restaurant/store.) Loving Hut is one of the few places where you can find very reasonably priced Korean and Western style vegan dishes. (vegan Korean-style fried “chicken,” anyone?!) In the summer, their main menu is supplemented with mulnaeng-myeon, the Korean cold noodles, and patbingsu, which comes with injeolmi powder, red beans, vegan ice cream, strawberry syrup, cornflakes, and almonds.
5. Pan Honesta, 빵어니스타
Address: 서울특별시 마포구 성미상로 153-13, 2층
2nd Floor, 153-13 Seongmisan-ro, Mapo-Gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Hongdae Exit 3
Hours: Wed-Sun 12:00pm-9:00pm (Closed Mon & Tues)
Pan Honesta previously appeared on my 15 Vegan friendly cafes in Seoul list, and I’m happy to mention it again here. Their luscious oat-milk based matcha bingsu is rich in color, flavor, and sprinkled with pecans, almonds, and cashews. It’s served with a sweet soy milk cream, but if you’re avoiding soy, ask for it to be served on the side to make the bingsu soy-free. And yes this is the most expensive bingsu on the list, but it’s also fairly large– enough for a party of three assuming everyone has had lunch or dinner.
6. Dalyang 달냥
Address: 서울 성북구 종암동 45-183
45-183, Jongam-dong, Seongbuk-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Korea University Station Exit 3
Hours: Tues-Sat 11:30am-9:00pm (Closed Sun & Mon)
Dalyang is another cafe that appeared on my 15 Vegan-friendly cafes in Seoul list; their innovative menu, daily specials, and reasonable prices make it a local vegan favorite. In summer their soft serve (soy) ice cream on the dessert menu is joined by this absolutely adorable vegan patbingsu with fresh AF red beans, a scoop of vegan ice cream, chocolate sauce, and various jellies for a touch of fun, flavor, and texture. It’s perfect after you’ve enjoyed other summer specials like vegan peanut 비빔면!
7. Maju Story 마을찻집 마주이야기
Address: 서울특별시 강북구 인수봉로55길 10 2F
10 Insubong-ro 55-gil, Insu-dong, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul
Nearest Station: Suyu Station Exit 3 or Hwagye Station Exit 2
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-10:00pm; Sun 6:00pm-10:00pm
Maju Story has four kinds of vegan bingsu on their menu– yup, count ’em, four–regular patbingsu, green tea patbingsu, coffee bingsu (pictured), and chocolate bingsu. To my knowledge it’s the only place in the city that offers vegan coffee and vegan vegan chocolate bingsu. If that’s not enough to convince you to take the trek out there (it’s wayyyyy in Northern Seoul) then maybe the cozy atmosphere, friendly service, eco-friendly set up, and reasonable price point could tip the scales for you? You can read more about Maju story in this post by The Minimalist Ninja.
And that concludes our vegan bingsu roundup! These seven cafes aren’t clustered in one area, so hopefully there will be one near you. If there’s a place that serves vegan bingsu that I didn’t mention, drop the name and location below in the comments!
Next week, I’m taking a break from bingsu and will tell you all about where to find vegan ice cream and gelato in Seoul.
‘Til next time!