Dalgona coffee is the food trend that everyone’s talking about across just about every social media platform, from TikTok, to YouTube, to Instagram.
That’s no exaggeration. Each year, Google unveils top 10 lists of its most searched-for trends. For its most searched-for recipes, dalgona coffee claimed the number 1 spot, even beating out lockdown favourite, sourdough bread, which only made it to number 3. Click here to see Google’s top 10 recipe list in full.
Keep reading to learn what dalgona coffee is, our favourite tips and tricks for making it, and to discover equally delicious alternatives.
What is Dalgona Coffee?
Dalgona coffee hails from South Korea and takes its name from a popular toffee sweet that has long been a mainstay of the South Korean street food scene. The word dalgona (달구나) simply means 'it’s sweet'.
The original dalgona sweet is similar to honeycomb candy, which is made by stirring baking soda into melting sugar so that it foams up and, once removed from the heat, eventually sets into a light and crumbly caramel full of air pockets.
Dalgona coffee is simply equal parts water, coffee and sugar whipped together. Like the candy from where it takes its name, it’s sweet, light and airy. Of course, it still tastes like coffee. And, being a drink, it doesn’t so much resemble honeycomb as a soft meringue.
That might sound like a cross between cappuccino and dessert. In a way it is. But it’s perhaps more similar to whipped coffee variants like the hand-beaten coffees found in India, Pakistan and Libya, as well as the more globally known frappés that hail from Greece.
With dalgona coffee, however, any added milk sits underneath, with the coffee floating on top like a cloud. One advantage the dalgona coffee has over your typical cappuccino is that it tastes amazing whether you drink it hot or cold.
Dalgona coffee exploded in popularity in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, as homebound coffee enthusiasts sought ways to add pizazz to their morning cup of joe without the expensive coffee machines used in most cafes.
The trend is thought to have started at a cafe in Macau, where South Korean actor Jung Il Woo was filmed trying one for the first time. He likened the taste to the famous dalgona candy and an internet crazy was born.
The video was uploaded to YouTube and the internet went nuts. Recipes on the video platform have views already numbering up to 10 million. Many share their own variations that top the dalgona coffee with coffee powder, cocoa or even crumbled biscuits. Or why not tip your hat to the drink’s candy namesake by crumbling some honeycomb onto it?
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s how you can make your own dalgona coffee at home.
How to Prepare Homemade Whipped Coffee
Here we’ll share our preferred method of making dalgona coffee, as well as some excellent whipped coffee alternatives. So let’s begin with the original dalgona coffee.
Food blogger Jessica Hylton from Jessica in the Kitchen shares her recipe for making dalgona coffee with loads of handy tips. One of the great things about dalgona coffee – and undoubtedly one of the main reasons why it captured the internet’s collective imagination – is that you don’t need any fancy ingredients or equipment. All you need is coffee (even instant will do), water, sugar and, preferably, a hand mixer.
What’s so great about Jessica’s recipe is that she has clearly experimented while making a lot of dalgona coffee. Luckily for us, she shares her notes. Don’t have a hand mixer? No problem. It should take about 8 minutes with a standard whisk – at least with a strong wrist. Wondering if it works without sugar? Yes, but it won’t hold its texture for long.
For more handy tips and techniques for making dalgona coffee, see Jessica’s recipe in full here.
On the other hand, if you’d prefer to make your whipped coffee extra special, Taste of Home has compiled a list of their 11 favourite ways to enhance the dalgona here. But since you may be inexperienced in the whipped coffee domain, we’ll give you our two picks of the litter.
The first one we’d urge you to try is the salted caramel whipped coffee. The reason for that should be immediately obvious: everybody loves a bit of salted caramel. But it isn’t just that. The addition of caramel syrup and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt makes the dalgona coffee experience more evocative of its namesake candy. If Jung Il Woo thought his sweet whipped coffee tasted like dalgona sweets, then he needs to try this one.
For our second choice we’ve gone with the boozy dalgona coffee with that afterwork or post-dinner pick-me-up in mind. We mean no disrespect to the traditional Irish coffee, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up. Just add a shot or two of your preferred cream liqueur to the milk before plopping that dollop of dalgona coffee on top.
Alternatives to Dalgona Coffee
Dalgona coffee looks as delicious as it tastes. It simply wouldn’t be fair to indulge in front of those who can’t – or try not to – consume coffee or caffeine without supplying an equally mouthwatering alternative.
Fortunately, we’ve found some fantastic coffee-free variants, and you might not be surprised to learn that one of them is for dalgona hot chocolate. The match just makes perfect sense.
Perhaps more interesting is dalgona tea. Fanny Camota at Living Richly on a Budget shares 3 fantastic dalgona tea recipes here, including dalgona thai tea, dalgona chai tea, and dalgona matcha.
So that’s everything you need to know on making the perfect dalgona coffee (or hot chocolate or tea) to your tastes and with the ingredients and equipment available to you. Click here if you’re interested in other ways to make barista-grade coffee at home.