Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of fermented vegetables, originally made from radishes and most commonly now made from napa or chinese cabbage. It dates back to the Koryeo Period of 918-1392.
Rich in Probiotics, Vitamin A, C, Amino acids and minerals Kimchi has lots of health benefits. It is easy to make and easy to store for the long term.
Is Kimchi Good For You?
YES! Kimchi boasts the most incredible health benefits. It’s packed full of the friendly and gut-healing bacteria known as ‘probiotics’, bursting with nutrients, vitamins and minerals whilst, for those who are watching their weight, kimchi is also low in calories and low in fat. We will explore in more depth the range of health benefits related to this superfood within this article but it goes without saying that the high probiotic content is undoubtedly the reason behind kimchi’s fame on the health front. Probiotics have been shown to have vast effects on improving gut health and digestion, immunity, heart health, boosting energy levels and skin complaints.
The Health benefits of Kimchi
On its own, chinese cabbage is ridiculously high in nutrients as well as being low in calories. Packed with vitamin A and C, 10 different minerals and more than 34 amino acids.
Kimchi then packs it’s own punch thanks to the fermentation process and the abundance of probiotics that are produced which further add to the nutritional profile of this superfood. Aside from the probiotics, kimchi boasts further nutrients such as Iron, Folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin K to name but a few.
Key benefits of Kimchi include:
- Folate - important during pregnancy as it reduces the risk of central neural tube defects.
- Potassium - helps to control fluids in our bodies.
- Calcium - important for our muscles and the health of our bones and teeth.
- Gut Health - the probiotics found in fermented foods such as kimchi contain gut friendly bacteria which do wonders for maintaining and improving our overall digestive system.
- Immune System - again, thanks to the probiotics which have been shown to help improve immunity.
- Weight Management - As i’ve mentioned, kimchi is not only low in calories but it’s also high in fibre and packed with probiotics.
- Heart Health - there’s been lots of research which suggests that kimchi may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, most likely due to its anti-inflammatory properties.
What Does Kimchi Taste Of?
Kimchi is a bit like Marmite (a British yeast extract spread), it’s certainly an acquired taste and one you’ll either love or hate, or perhaps even grow to love. It has an overall sour but savoury or umami taste. The sourness is a result of the lactic acid which is produced by the bacteria during the fermentation process and gives kimchi it’s tangy punch. Depending on the recipe and amounts of red pepper used, kimchi can be pretty spicy. It’s pungent flavour is relatively similar to it’s fermented German sister ‘sauerkraut’ but in truth, you really do need to try kimchi for yourself to know if it’s a thumbs up or thumbs down for your taste buds.
How Do I Make Kimchi?
Half an hour is all you need to spare to prepare your kimchi, after which mother nature will do the hard work with the fermentation process which will take around 1 week at least.
There are lots of kimchi recipes available online so it really is up to you and your personal tastes as to which one you go for or might choose to adapt. Like any recipe, the more you test and try the better chance there is of mastering and finding which ingredients and quantities suit your taste buds. Whichever kimchi recipe you try, you will need to equip yourself and your kitchen with the following tools:
- Chopping Board & Sharp Knife
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Small Plate or other item like a can of beans to weight down the kimchi
- Sterilized jar and an air tight sealed lid
- Bowl for placing under the jar during the fermentation process
Is Kimchi Suitable for Vegans or Vegetarians?
Although on the face of it kimchi would appear to be vegetarian, most recipes will call for the addition of some sort of fish sauce or paste. That being said, either of those ingredients can be left out and replaced with water or even kelp powder. It might not taste like the traditional version but it’s by no means a reason why vegans or vegetarians shouldn’t give this wonderful product. Omitting the fish sauce won’t affect the fermentation of the dish which in itself is one of the major draws of kimchi after all thanks to the endless list of health benefits that the fermentation process generates.
Does Kimchi Go Off?
If made, preserved and stored correctly, homemade kimchi can last for several months. The difference with kimchi compared to a lot of things we consume, is that kimchi doesn’t ‘go off’ as we know it, it simply matures. And, like cheese for instance, that ripening and maturing means it’s taste will become more intense.
Just as you might check if milk is safe to drink or fish is fresh, smell is the key and you don’t need to be a genius to know when something shouldn’t be eaten. If there is a foul smell and or a white film of mould on top of your kimchi it may have spoiled and need throwing out. One important thing to note though is that mustn’t be put off if your kimchi is bubbling or bulging. For kimchi, this appearance and activity is totally normal, as is a sour taste.
Once opened, kimchi can be kept in the fridge for around a year. It will continue to ferment but not at the same rate as it would at room temperature. The fact that the fermentation process does continue does in turn mean the taste will also continue to change so if you’re a huge fan over overly fermented kimchi, it’s best to consume it within a few months of producing.
How Do I Know When My Kimchi Is Ready To Eat?
The fermentation process will heighten kimchi’s flavor and nutritional content so it is well worth a little patience and waiting for at least 5 days, if not one or two weeks before you consume it. Either way, you should check your kimchi on a daily basis. Open the jar and press down on the vegetables with a clean spoon or finger. This will not only ensure the vegetables are kept submerged in the brine but also help the gases that are created during fermentation are released. When your kimchi begins to give off a sour smell, or when small bubbles appear to be moving within the jar, give it a taste and if it tastes sour, it’s ready to eat.
As I’ve mentioned above, your kimchi can then be placed in the fridge where it will keep for up to a year.
See our article on ways to speed up the Fermentation Process of Kimchi: Can you speed up the fermentation time of Kimchi
How Do You Eat Kimchi and What Does Kimchi Go Well With
Kimchi is delicious served simply on its own but it can also be served as a side dish or use to make other dishes, the choice is yours. In Korean, they might traditionally serve kimchi alongside rice, noodles or soup or make it into pancakes which are known as ‘kimchijeon’ or add it to stews. Here are a few ideas if you want to try using kimchi in other ways as oppose from having it straight from the jar:
- Kimchi Fritters or Pancakes
- Kimchi Soup or Broth
- Kimchi Stir Fry
- Kimchi and Noodles
- Kimchi Fried Rice
- Kimchi Casserole (eg. Chicken or Pork)
- Kimchi Slaw
- Kimchi Dip
Can I Eat Kimchi Every Day?
It is absolutely fine to eat kimchi every day. If anything it would be actively encouraged to add kimchi to your daily diet due to it’s potent volume of vitamins, minerals and gut-friendly probiotics. A single serving of kimchi would equate to roughly 100g and even in that small amount, your vitamin intake would be colossal. A daily dose of kimchi means you don’t need to worry about taking vitamin or probiotic supplements, you’ll be boosting your health on so many levels in one delicious mouthful!
Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of Grow Zone and growing Food all winter. See my full About Page here.
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Co written with Hannah Bramley, a Private & Virtual PA and Lifestyle Management Consultant based in the UK. With a background in managing and ensuring the organisation and preparedness of others, Hannah is now a freelance Personal Lifestyle & Business Consultant, with the ability to turn her hand to any task. Self Sufficiency being just one of her new found interests since the events of early 2020. She is a fitness guru, an ardent foodie, a social media wizard and entrepreneur, with a passion and natural flare for organising, bringing people together and making things happen.