What Does Kimchi Taste Like?

It’s rare to find a dish that’s full of flavor, goodness, AND culture (in more ways than one!). From the humble home pantry to the ultra-trendy restaurant, Kimchi is the kitchen staple that instantly upgrades almost every meal! So what does Kimchi taste like?

Fermented vegetables give Kimchi a sour, tangy flavor with hints of spice, salt, and sweetness. It has a strong vinegary smell and a slightly crunchy texture. Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut but with a spicy kick and enhanced flavor. The overall taste is described as umami (savory deliciousness).

Despite its strong and highly unique flavor, Korea’s legendary dish has managed to become a global food favorite. Are you eager to purchase your first batch of Kimchi but are a little uncertain about its taste, use, and shelf life? We have all the facts you need to know about this fascinating dish:

What Is Kimchi Ingredients?

The following key ingredients are combined and fermented to produce traditional Kimchi:

  • Cabbage (typically Chinese napa cabbage)
  • Chinese radish
  • Cucumber
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Scallions
  • Red pepper flakes or gochugaru
  • Fish sauce
  • Salt 

What Does Kimchi Taste Like?

You can think of Kimchi as sauerkraut’s bold and spicy cousin! The overall taste and texture of Kimchi will vary, as it depends on the ingredients used and the length of fermentation. There are currently over 200 types of Kimchi, all with unique ingredients and flavor profiles.

The taste of Kimchi can range from mild, sweet, and tangy to bold, sour, and spicy. This is what you can expect as you take your first bite:

  • Due to fermentation, kimchi will always have a sour, pungent, or tangy flavor.
  • Red pepper gives kimchi its beautiful red color and spicy kick.
  • Kimchi made without red pepper will generally taste mild, sweet, and slightly tangy.
  • A longer fermentation time will intensify the flavor of the vegetables and seasonings used.
  • Kimchi has a soft and chewy texture with a vinegar-like smell.
  • The overall flavor of kimchi is described as umami, which means ‘a pleasant savory taste’.

Like many other pungent foods, Kimchi may take some time to get used to!

How To Eat Kimchi

Kimchi certainly deserves a spot on your plate with its exciting flavor and powerful health benefits!

  • Enjoy kimchi on its own as a satisfying snack or side dish.
  • You can add this fermented classic to just about any savory dish to enhance flavor, color, and crunch.
  • In Korean cuisine, kimchi is traditionally served as a condiment or mixed into soups, stews, stir-fries, pancakes, and noodles.
  • Serve kimchi over eggs, avocado toast, rice, noodles, quinoa, and other grain-based dishes.
  • Use kimchi as a delicious filling for hotdogs, burgers, tacos, sandwiches, and wraps.
  • Leftover kimchi liquid can add flavor to mayonnaise, salad dressing, soup, and dips

Can You Freeze Kimchi?

Kimchi has a fairly long shelf life. For very large amounts of Kimchi that you won’t manage to consume within the next few weeks, it would be best to store it in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Kimchi freezes surprisingly well, and it manages to keep its flavor and texture when frozen and defrosted correctly:

  • Avoid freezing kimchi in glass containers because they can break or shatter at lower temperatures. Rather place the kimchi into an airtight plastic container or zip-lock bag. Remove as much air as possible.
  • Divide large batches of kimchi into individual portions before freezing.
  • It is advised to consume frozen kimchi within 3 months for the best flavor and texture.
  • Defrost kimchi in the refrigerator overnight.

How Long Does Kimchi Last In Fridge?

Store-bought Kimchi will usually list the best-before or use-by date on the label.

An unopened jar of Kimchi can last between 8-12 months in the refrigerator, while an opened jar generally lasts for three months.

How To Store Kimchi

Here are a few simple steps you can take to keep your Kimchi fresh, delicious, and safe to eat:

  • Kimchi kept at room temperature will last for up to 1 week after opening, as warmer temperatures quicken spoilage.
  • It is safer and highly-recommended to store opened or unopened kimchi in the refrigerator, at or below 39°F (4°C).
  • Kimchi continues to ferment as it ages, eventually becoming very sour and mushy. For this reason, you may prefer to consume it within 3 months of opening.
  • Kimchi can be frozen in airtight plastic containers for an increased shelf life.
  • Keep kimchi tightly sealed and do not open and close the jar often, as too much air may enter and expose the kimchi to harmful bacteria.
  • To keep your kimchi fresh, make sure the vegetables are always fully-submerged in the liquid.

Does Kimchi Go Bad?

Kimchi does go bad but It can be somewhat difficult to tell when Kimchi has gone bad. Here are a few things to examine and consider:

  • Mold: Round and fuzzy black, blue, or green dots on your kimchi is a sign of mold. This is dangerous to smell or consume, so discard the kimchi immediately.
  • Smell: While kimchi naturally has a sour, vinegary smell, bad kimchi may smell ‘off’, with an extremely sour and alcohol-like odor.
  • Taste: Kimchi becomes extra sour over time, but if the taste has become unpleasant or too strong to handle, rather throw it.
  • If in doubt – throw it out!

Can Pregnant Women Eat Kimchi?

Health care professionals state that, while fermented foods, such as Kimchi, may provide many health benefits during pregnancy, you still need to take a few precautions:

  • Avoid consuming kimchi if fermented foods are not usually part of your regular diet.  Rather wait until after your pregnancy. Eating new or unfamiliar foods while pregnant may cause unwanted side effects.
  • If you regularly consume probiotic foods, such as kimchi, you can continue to do so during your pregnancy. Eat in moderation.
  • Store-bought kimchi is the safest during pregnancy, as you will avoid any risk of contamination and illness.

Final Thoughts

Like a box of chocolates, Kimchi has an array of flavors, an intriguing appeal, and a surprisingly addictive taste. Longer shelf life can be achieved if it is stored and handled correctly. We hope you now have a newfound interest and appreciation for this fermentation sensation!