The Five Colors of Korean Cuisine: Exploring Obangsaek


Time to read 2 min

What's on your plate today? In this era of 'Instagrammable' food, it's not just about taste anymore. It’s about creating dishes that are pretty and unique enough to post on social media. Just like the saying "we eat with our eyes first," beautifully presented food feels more satisfying. The sight of a gorgeous meal makes us smile, eager to share it with the world. Korean cuisine does this effortlessly with the concept of ‘Obangsaek’ – the five traditional colors that make any dish a visual delight.

The Harmony of Obangsaek

"Imagine a world where the universe, nature, and people exist in perfect harmony."


Obangsaek represents five colors rooted in the philosophy of yin-yang and the five elements. These colors – yellow, blue, red, white, and black – influence every aspect of Korean life, including food. They symbolize various natural elements and are believed to balance health and well-being. 


Signifies life and renewal. Green vegetables, rich in chlorophyll, are great for the liver and eyesight, boosting metabolism and health.


Symbolizes the sun, passion, and vitality. Red foods like tomatoes and red peppers contain lycopene and beta-carotene, which purify the blood and stimulate the heart. Red bean porridge, traditionally eaten on Dongji Day, was believed to ward off evil spirits.


Stands for truth, purity, and nature. Foods like onions, radishes, and bellflower root boost lung and bronchial health. Historically, white clothing, symbolizing purity, was common in Korean culture, and white foods like Baekseolgi rice cakes were part of significant rituals.


Denotes wisdom and the cycle of life. Black beans, rice, and seaweed, rich in anthocyanins, support kidney function and improve eyesight. In Korean culture, black also represents the revival and transformation inherent in nature.


is the color of balance and centrality. Carrots, pumpkins, and oranges, rich in carotenoids, are easy to prepare and decorate, symbolizing the universe's center. Yellow has long been associated with nobility and the royal attire.

Health Benefits of Eating the Rainbow

Eating foods in these five colors isn't just about aesthetics; it's about holistic health. Here are the benefits of incorporating Obangsaek into your diet:

  1. Bone Support : Foods in various colors deliver essential vitamins and minerals, optimizing body functions and preventing diseases.
  2. Immune Boosting : Different colored foods enhance the immune system, promoting overall health.
  3. Anti-Inflammatory : These foods reduce inflammation, improving digestive health and preventing constipation.
  4. Disease Prevention : A colorful diet lowers the risk of chronic diseases, including genetic disorders, some cancers, and diabetes.
  5. Mental Health : Visually appealing meals stimulate appetite and happiness, positively affecting mental well-being.
  6. Weight Management : Nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods help manage weight by making you feel full and preventing overeating.

The Art of Korean Cuisine

Traditional Korean dishes like bibimbap perfectly embody Obangsaek. Bibimbap mixes yellow (egg yolk), green (spinach), red (carrots, red pepper paste), white (bean sprouts, radish), and black (bracken, meat) into a harmonious and delicious meal. Royal cuisine also highlights this with diverse dishes combining the five colors, ensuring a visually and nutritionally balanced meal.

So, next time you open your fridge, look for these vibrant colors on your plate. Not only will your meals be a feast for the eyes, but they'll also nourish your body and soul, embracing the unique and healthful traditions of Korean cuisine.