Does Kimchi Go Bad? And How to Know

Kimchi is a delicious fermented vegetable dish popular in Korean cuisine. Fermentation or pickling preserves food, so kimchi should last for a while. But how long can you keep kimchi? Should you keep it in the fridge? Does kimchi go bad?

Kimchi does go bad. Spoiled kimchi smells unpleasant and may have mold. To prevent kimchi spoiling, store it unopened in a pantry. Refrigerate opened kimchi in an airtight container. Once open, kimchi will last for a week at room temperature and three to six months in the fridge.

Fermenting food is a way of preserving it so that it lasts longer. However, all food does go bad after a while.

How do you know if your kimchi is bad? And how should you store it to keep it from spoiling?

How To Know If Kimchi Is Bad

You will immediately tell that your kimchi is bad by looking at and smelling it.

If you are worried that the kimchi is rotten, it’s best to throw it out rather than taking a chance on food poisoning.

Bad Kimchi Smells Unpleasant

Kimchi usually has a sour, strong smell because it is fermented and contains spices. The vinegar in the kimchi should preserve it and prevent it from spoiling.

However, if your kimchi smells spoiled, extremely sour, or alcoholic, you should throw it out as it has gone bad.

Bad Kimchi Looks Moldy

Mold is a fungus that grows on spoiled food. You will see fuzzy, black, blue, or green spots on the kimchi – that’s mold. 

Mold will grow on incorrectly stored kimchi, especially if the vegetables are not covered by liquid.

You have to throw away moldy food because it is rotten and full of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

If you notice bubbles or gas in your kimchi, that is normal and doesn’t mean the kimchi is spoiled. The fermenting process causes gas.

Does Store-Bought Kimchi Go Bad?

All food will eventually go bad, even kimchi you bought at a store. 

Authentic Korean kimchi is naturally fermented, containing no artificial preservatives.

So, no matter how well you store the kimchi, it will be affected by bacteria, yeast, or mold after a while. 

However, some store-bought kimchi does contain preservatives and has been pasteurized, meaning that all the fermenting bacteria have been killed through heat.

Pasteurized kimchi will last longer than raw or unpasteurized kimchi.

To know how long store-bought kimchi will last, you must check the expiration date.

All store-bought kimchi comes with an expiration date on the jar or packaging. An expiration date tells you how long the kimchi will last before it goes bad. 

Check whether the date is a use-by date: you must use the kimchi before that date, or else it will spoil. Throw out any opened kimchi past its use-by date.

If the date is a best-before date, the kimchi will taste best before that date, but it is still safe to eat the kimchi after that.

Most store-bought kimchi will last for eight months to a year if unopened.

Eating kimchi cabbage in a bowl with chopsticks, Korean food

How Long Does Kimchi Last?

How long your kimchi will last depend on:

  • If the kimchi is opened or sealed
  • If the kimchi is store-bought or homemade
  • If the kimchi is kept in the refrigerator or pantry.

Opened Vs. Sealed Kimchi

If your kimchi is still sealed, meaning you haven’t opened it, you can keep it in a pantry, wine cellar, or cupboard for a year. Store the kimchi in a dark, cool place as sunlight can make the kimchi go bad.

Once you open your kimchi, it will last for one week at room temperature, like in a cupboard. However, storing your kimchi at room temperature is not ideal as bacteria and mold grow more quickly when warm.

Keep any opened kimchi in the fridge in an airtight container with the brine or vinegar covering all the vegetables. Do not place an open jar or tub of kimchi in the refrigerator.

Store-bought Vs. Homemade Kimchi

Store-bought kimchi will last longer than homemade kimchi because of the sterile conditions in factories where they make kimchi. Factories keep the kimchi cold to prevent bacteria and mold.

It is hard to create such sterile conditions at home, so homemade kimchi can quickly go bad.

How Long Can Kimchi Last In The Fridge?

Kimchi is best when stored in the fridge. In the past, before refrigeration, people made kimchi in giant pottery jars and buried them to keep cool.

The best place to store your kimchi once it is open is the fridge. Kimchi will last for three to six months in the refrigerator and still be good to eat.

However, the taste of the kimchi will become spicier and more sour the longer you leave it in the fridge because the kimchi carries on fermenting.

The vegetables will lose their crispness and may become soggy and unappealing. You can still use the kimchi – try it in fried rice or stew so that the flavor isn’t overwhelming.

If you like your kimchi milder and crunchier, throw it out after three months.

How To Store Kimchi Safely

Here are some storage guidelines to make your kimchi last as long as possible and stop it from going bad.

How To Store Unopened Kimchi Safely

Store unopened kimchi in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard for up to a year.

How To Store Kimchi In The Fridge

You can store unopened kimchi in the fridge, especially if it is homemade.

Once you have unsealed a container of kimchi, you need to transfer it to an airtight, fridge-proof container for storage.

To prevent the smell of kimchi from going into other food in the fridge, place plastic wrap under the lid before you close it. Keep the whole jar in a sealed freezer storage bag.

Always use clean utensils when scooping out the kimchi. Dirty utensils can lead to bacteria, which causes food poisoning.

Do not keep opening and closing the kimchi container as the air carries mold spores and bacteria that can spoil the kimchi.

How To Store Kimchi In The Freezer

Freezing is not the best way of storing kimchi as the cold can kill the healthy probiotics in the kimchi and make the cabbage mushy.

However, if you have more kimchi than you can eat within a couple of months, divide it into smaller freezer-proof containers that you can freeze until you need more kimchi. 

Decant enough for a week in each container. Take out one container per week and allow it to thaw in the fridge overnight.

Never freeze kimchi in a glass container as it may crack.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Kimchi?

Eating any spoiled food can lead to food poisoning. Never eat food that is past its expiration date or if it’s been left open at room temperature or in the sun for a long time.

Rotten kimchi can make you feel sick – you may be sick 20 minutes or a day after eating it or only weeks later.

If you eat kimchi that you think is spoiled, look out for these symptoms:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain
  • fever
  • trouble breathing
  • headache.

Go to the doctor, local clinic, or hospital if you think you have food poisoning from rotten kimchi. Food poisoning is dangerous.

Conclusion

Kimchi does go bad, starting to smell and growing mold.

To prevent this, keep kimchi in a sealed container in the fridge and use it within three to six months.

Eating spoiled kimchi can cause food poisoning.