What Does Kimchi Taste Like? A Detailed Answer

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Your Korean friend might have bragged about kimchi as one of the healthiest foods in the world. He might have told you more, but deep down, you had a question brewing ‘what does kimchi taste like,’ didn’t you? I have got a detailed article just to answer your query. 


Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made of salted, fermented vegetables. Sauerkraut, radish, cucumber, ginger, garlic, and other spices are used to make this delicious dish. It has a salty, spicy, sour, and umami flavor with a fresh but pungent aroma. 

Kimchi is a very popular dish that is the soul and heart of Korean cuisine that promises a wide range of flavors. Although most Korean dishes fall on the spicy radar, kimchi has a profound flavor profile. There are variations in the flavors of kimchi due to the differences in the preparation. 

Are you wondering what the big deal about kimchi makes it a renowned dish is? Let us take a detailed look at kimchi, the secret behind its flavor profile, its culinary uses, health benefits, and many more. 

What Is Kimchi? 

Kimchi is a classic Korean side dish made of salted, fermented vegetables. Most of the kimchi recipes make use of vegetables such as napa cabbage and daikon radish. Ginger, garlic, salt, miso paste, and water are also added. 

However, don’t think it is that simple. There are many ways by which kimchi can be made, and in each type, ingredients differ. Read more to find out the different types of kimchi in the upcoming sections.

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What Does Kimchi Taste Like? 

Kimchi has a distinctive flavor profile. It has a salty, savory, spicy, and umami flavor, and this is the most basic flavor you will find in kimchi. Kimchi will have a varying flavor profile depending on the vegetables, amount of salt, spices, and the duration of fermentation.

The addition of pepper gives kimchi a spicy kick, and using anchovies or shrimp renders the characteristic umami flavor to the kimchi. Kimchis made without fish have a mild, fresh flavor.

Most of the kimchi recipes make use of cabbages. But for an enriching, refreshing flavor, carrots, radish, cucumber, and scallions are also used. The recipes of kimchi may vary depending on the region and the time of year. It is also possible to make kimchi totally vegan with a whole new flavor profile.  

Sweet and Salty Taste of Kimchi

Kimchi has varied taste flavors that you can relish. The vegetables are soaked in brine, giving them a salty taste. If you want the kimchi to be sweet or salty, you must adjust the amount of salt and sugar you add to kimchi. Baechu kimchi has a salty flavor, while Kkakdugi kimchi has a sweet flavor. Oi Sobagi kimchi has a sweet and salty taste.

Spicy Taste of Kimchi 

If you are a fan of kimchi just for its spicy kick, chances are that you probably know the reason. Most of the kimchis use red chili flakes which give a delicious, spicy flavor. Hot pepper flakes or chili powder can be used to give the desired heat level. Chonggak kimchi and oi sabogi kimchi have spicy flavors. But you should know that there is kimchi which can be made without a spicy heat flavor.

Sour Taste of Kimchi

So, what gives kimchi that enjoyable sour taste? You guessed it right! Kimchis have a sour taste due to the fermentation process that is involved. This process happens quite quickly when compared to the preparation of sauerkraut. Lactic acid produced by bacteria during fermentation gives kimchi the characteristic sour taste. 

Umami Taste of Kimchi

Do you know what the good old and healthy source of umami flavor is; seafood, of course! Umami flavor or savory taste is unmissable, and relishing it in kimchi is a heavenly experience. Adding fish, fish paste, or fish sauce gives kimchi its unique umami flavor. Anchovies and shrimp are the commonly used fishes to prepare kimchi. If kimchis are devoid of fish products, they have a light, fresh flavor.

Garlicky Taste of Kimchi

Garlic is indispensable when it comes to perking up the flavor profile of your recipes. Apart from that, it is also an ingredient with exceptional medicinal properties. It is considered an excellent dietary supplement for treating various conditions. It has a rich flavor and aroma and is a popular flavor-enhancing agent. The usage of garlic in kimchi gives kimchi a profound, distinctive flavor. 

Taste of Vegetables In Kimchi

The major vegetables used in kimchi are cabbages, cucumber, and radish. Spices and pastes or sauces are also used to enhance the flavor of kimchi. Cabbage has a sweet flavor, while cucumber has a mild flavor. Radish has a spicy, crisp flavor.

When it comes to the taste of vegetables in kimchi, you will find that these vegetables taste similar to the overall taste of kimchi – sweet, sour, spicy, and salty. Since these are soaked in a salty solution, the crunchy texture of vegetables gets softened a bit.

Why Does My Kimchi Feel Rotten?

You are all set to taste kimchi, and you find that something is not right. It is not the flavor mentioned in the blog articles you read and is not pleasant, juicy, or enjoyable. Wondering what went wrong? Kimchi tastes rotten when the vegetables go stale. But don’t let the sour taste fool you. If kimchi has an excessive sour taste, it doesn’t mean it has gone bad. That is just the result of the fermentation process. 

Should I Eat Kimchi Hot or Cold For Better Taste?

Everything comes down to your taste preferences. Kimchi can be enjoyed hot or cold. Kimchi that has been refrigerated is served cold or at room temperature. If you wish to use kimchi as a side dish, you might need to consume it at room temperature. If you love the unique taste of frozen foods, you might want to gobble up kimchi straight from the refrigerator!

Does Kimchi Taste Like Sauerkraut?

This is an often-asked question when it comes to kimchi or sauerkraut. Kimchi has a mixed flavor profile – salty, spicy, and tangy. But sauerkraut has a tangy, acidic flavor. Kimchi can have varying flavors depending on the ingredients used, while sauerkraut always tastes the same – as fermented cabbages.

Does Kimchi Taste Like Fish?

Thinking of why the kimchi you ordered at a restaurant tastes similar to seafood recipes you tried? Here is the reason. Kimchi has a flavor similar to fish – an umami flavor that leaves you wanting more. It has a comparable flavor since certain kimchis have fish or fish products such as fish sauce or fish paste as ingredients. 

Does Kimchi Taste Like Achaar?

Achar is an Indian term for pickles. It is made using fruits or vegetables, oil, salt, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. Gooseberry, lemon, mango, and lime are the commonly relished pickles. Achar has a tangy, spicy flavor that varies depending on the major ingredient. Kimchi is immensely sour, but other than that, it does taste like achar.

Types Of Kimchi and Their Taste

Do you know why it is hard to describe kimchi? It is that there is not just one kind! If you happen to visit Korea, you will find kimchi accompanied with every meal. You will also find differences in the taste of kimchi that you enjoy. That is because of the variations in the ingredients used. Let us take a look at the different tastes of kimchi. The different types of kimchi are:

Type of KimchiFlavor
Baechu KimchiSalty, spicy, umami
Baek KimchiMildly salty
Kkakdugi KimchiMild, sweet, juicy 
Chonggak KimchiJuicy, spicy
Oi Sobagi KimchiSweet, spicy, and acidic
Nabak KimchiMildly sweet
Dongchimi KimchiSweet, sour
Gat KimchiStrongly pungent
Bossam KimchiPleasantly juicy
Geotjeori KimchiFresh, savory

Things To Eat Kimchi With

Kimchi is a side dish that can be enjoyed as a standalone dish. That said, it can deliciously be used as an accompaniment to fried rice, noodle dishes, and stir-fries. It can be used to make fritters, pancakes, and stews. 

It can be used to flavor braise and make pasta sauces, salads, burgers, dips, and soups. Once the vegetables are eaten, the liquid can be mixed with mayo or sour cream or used as a salad dressing.

How To Make Kimchi?

You must be curious to know how to make kimchi at home and relish its goodness. It is quite easy if you do it right. Here are the steps you have to follow to make kimchi:

  • Select the vegetables you wish to add to your kimchi – napa cabbages, cucumbers, or radish. Cut them lengthwise as well as quarter crosswise.
  • Sprinkle some salt on the cabbages and massage them. Immerse them in water until they are covered and let them rest for two hours.
  • Meanwhile, prepare a paste by grinding Korean red chili flakes, garlic, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and water.
  • Rinse and drain the cabbage, mixing the paste and cabbages well.
  • Use the remaining liquid from the cabbage, and add it to the paste. Thoroughly pack these in a jar while leaving at least an inch of empty space at the top of the jar. The vegetables are fully submerged in the juices.
  • Let the mixture rest for two to five days at room temperature, ensuring no leak. Once you taste the desired sour taste, you can take it for use or transfer the contents into the refrigerator for storage.

How To Store Kimchi For Better Taste?

Kimchi will not go bad easily due to the acidic content in it. That said, it doesn’t mean it can’t go bad. At room temperature, kimchi lasts for a week. If kimchi is refrigerated, it can stay fresh for 3-6 months. It should be stored below 39°F (4°C). 

Kimchi should be stored in sterilized jars to prevent bacterial growth. All the ingredients in kimchi should be fully submerged before you seal the container. Closing the container with a plastic lid can prevent the growth of mold.

Is Kimchi Healthy?

Kimchi has attained wide popularity, majorly due to its health benefits. Here is everything mentioned in a neat list. 

  • Kimchi is highly nutritional and low in calories. It is a good source of iron, folate, vitamins B6, A, C, K, beta-carotene, choline, potassium, and calcium. 
  • Kimchi is loaded with probiotic bacteria due to the fermentation involved. These bacteria help prevent common colds, a few types of cancer, and skin conditions. 
  • Consumption of kimchi boosts your immune system and cardiovascular health and reduces inflammation. 
  • Kimchi can help with weight loss and prevent aging as well.

Nutritional Content Of Kimchi 

Let me tell you some more about the nutritional content of kimchi. It is all here in a neatly compiled table. A one-cup serving of kimchi contains:

Protei1 g
Fat< 1 g
Carbohydrates4 g
Fiber2 g
Suga2 g

Final Words 

That was all about kimchi and its distinctive, flavorsome taste. You get to experience a wide variety of flavors depending on the ingredients used and the duration of fermentation. Next time when you head to a Korean restaurant, don’t forget to try kimchi and let me know if you enjoyed it. See you soon with another article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the flavor of kimchi?

Kimchi has a spicy, sour, salty, tangy and pungent flavor.

Does kimchi have an acquired taste?

Kimchi has an acquired taste which develops over time with fermentation. 

Is kimchi really sour?

Kimchi has a sour taste due to the fermentation process that is involved.

What is kimchi similar to?

Kimchi is similar to sauerkraut.

How would you describe kimchi?

Kimchi is a spicy and delicious blend of fermented cabbages, onions, fish, garlic, horseradish, red peppers, and ginger.

Does kimchi taste like fish?

Since most of the kimchi recipes have fish or its paste as the ingredients, kimchi can have an umami flavor as that of seafood.

What does kimchi smell like?

Kimchi has a pungent smell similar to that of seafood dishes.

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