Can You Can Kimchi? Yes. In Just 5 Steps!

If you’re a kimchi lover, you might be wondering if it’s possible to can kimchi at home. The answer is yes! Canning kimchi is a great way to preserve this beloved Korean dish. There are a few things to keep in mind when canning kimchi. Remember that you’re dealing with the preservation of probiotic food. Therefore, sterilization of all your equipment should be your number one priority!

Why should you can kimchi?

Canning kimchi is a great way to enjoy this probiotic dish all year round. Of course, kimchi already has a pretty long shelf-life by itself. In fact, this is precisely the reason kimchi was conceived in the first place. Koreans didn’t have fridges back then and needed to find ways to make their nutritious vegetables last throughout the unforgiving, long winter months. Here are the primary reasons why you should consider canning kimchi:

Ability to make larger batches at once

Making kimchi (even just one mason jar worth) can be messy. Therefore, many households prefer to make large batches at once. Making kimchi last multiple years means even a small family can make larger batches. 

You can keep the current level of fermentation and thus ensure consistency

When storing kimchi in the fridge or at room temperature, it may still last for quite a while, but its taste and texture will change. Canning it will allow you to keep the kimchi at its current preferred level of fermentation.

Saves space in the fridge

If you’ve ever made kimchi before, you know that these bulky, round mason jars tend to take up a lot of precious space in the fridge! Canning kimchi can help save some valuable fridge real estate. It does not to be stored at cold temperatures. The cans can be conveniently stacked and stored in the pantry next to your tomato paste, coconut oil, and other pickled vegetables.

It makes a great gift

Canned kimchi (preferably with your family’s own logo on it!) can make for a fantastic small gift, just like a great bottle of wine. It was prepared and fermented with much love and care and thus is a thoughtful and unique gift. It also often leads to interesting conversations at the dinner table.

Materials needed for canning kimchi:

How to can your kimchi in 5 easy steps

It goes without saying that before you proceed, your cans should be sterilized. Remember, we only want the beneficial bacteria, not the harmful ones! Once done, you can follow these 5 steps to can your own homemade kimchi in 25 minutes:

  1. Ensure your kimchi tastes great and that you want to preserve it at its current level of fermentation. Ensure
  2. Add one or two tablespoons of rice vinegar per 15 oz can to better preserve the kimchi, but leave some free space at the top of the jar.
  3. Clean the rim of the jar
  4. Close with the lids and tighten by hand.
  5. Start boiling water in a deep pot. Once the water is boiling, fully submerge the can for exactly 20 minutes. (If you live at an altitude of 1000 feet or more, factor in the altitude adjustments mentioned further down this page)

Additional tips for canning kimchi

You should always conduct food preservation with a scientific approach. There are simply additional risks that need to be mitigated compared to standard food preparation and cooking. The kitchen must be temporarily converted into a small laboratory to be able to proceed properly. Here are a few more tips related to canning and food preservation in general:

  • Only use updated, renowned recipes and preservation methods
  • Follow all the directions closely and don’t take any lazy shortcuts
  • Factor in the altitude adjustments
  • Don’t add additional starches or sugars as this will likely lower the shelf life of your kimchi
  • Ensure your cans are properly sealed
  • Use vinegar to properly acidify your kimchi
  • If using a pressure canner, don’t cool it using running water

Still feeling uneasy about the whole process? Check the USDA’s official guide to preparing and canning fermented foods for some guidance.

Altitude adjustments for canning kimchi

When canning food, you need to take into account the altitude of your location. This is because the boiling point of water decreases with increasing altitude. As a result, foods canned at high altitudes may not be properly processed and could pose a safety risk. Adjusting for altitude is especially important when canning low-acid foods, such as vegetables, meat, and poultry. Kimchi is relatively acidic, however better safe than sorry!

Altitude where the kimchi is cannedBoil the can of kimchi for
0 to 1000 feet20 minutes
1001 to 3000 feet25 minutes
3001 to 6000 feet30 minutes
6001 to 8000 feet35 minutes
8001 to 10000 feet40 minutes

There are other ways to can kimchi

The three methods of canning that are most effective for preserving food at home are pressure canning, water bath canning (that’s the method we outlined above), and atmospheric steam canning. All three methods need to be altitude adjusted.

All three methods involve heating the food in sealed jars until it is hot enough to kill any bacteria or other organisms that could cause spoilage. Applying heat to the jar also allows air to be released or forced out, creating a vacuum seal. The most indispensable factor in ensuring a safe product is to decide on the canning method that will destroy all harmful bacteria and prevent their growth during storage. Canning methods are also referred to as processing methods.

What is a pressure canner?

Pressure canners work similar to pressure cookers. They both trap steam inside to build up pressure in the pot while it is heated. For pressure cookers, this raises the boiling point of water. For pressure canners, this eliminates unwanted microorganisms.

A pressure canner must have a constant pressure to effectively kill any possible pathogens in home-canned foods. Many pressure canners will have gauges that help the user track the pressure throughout the canning process. Without these gauges, it is more difficult to tell if the canner is operating correctly as expected. Pressure cookers typically don’t come with these gauges.

The 16-quart preso pressure canner is our favorite one, as it is easy to use and is a pretty good bang for your buck if you don’t feel like spending $400 just to can a few batches of kimchi per year.

What is an atmospheric steam canner?

The steam canner has three main parts: the base, the rack and the lid. The base is not that high and the rack goes inside of it to keep the jars above the water. The cover is a high dome with one or two holes for steam to escape. Some models come with a temperature gauge.   You use it by putting water in the base, then putting the rack inside. Put your jars of kimchi on the rack and put the lid on tight. There is a knob on the lid that you turn to let steam out. You let the steam canner heat up until the gauge reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit or until steam comes out of both holes in the lid. Then you start timing how long it takes to process your food. It is important not to open the lid while it is processing because that will let all the steam out, and it will affect how long your kimchi needs to process.

Kitchen Crop’s Steam Canner is ideal if you want to adjust for altitude and save time. It is made from aluminum, which means it heats up and cools down much quicker than other steam canners. $65 is a steal, considering it has a warranty of 5 years and enables you to preserve so many other foods besides kimchi!

How long does your canned kimchi last?

Canned kimchi can last for 1-3 years if stored in a cool and dark place. That’s around 2-6 times longer than it would last in your fridge! We’ve had kimchi that was canned over a year ago, and it still tasted great! When you’re ready to eat your kimchi, simply open the can, give it a good stir, smell it, and enjoy! If you think you’re pushing the boundaries of the shelf life, please give it a good smell before taking a bite. If it tastes exceptionally foul or bitter, you should consider discarding your batch.

Will it still taste as good?

It will still taste good, but slightly more acidic due to the vinegar. There is no way around it this, because vinegar is crucial to killing off harmful microorganisms and also aids the preservation. Canning kimchi without any vinegar is risky behavior that may result in food poisoning. Safety first!

Potential disadvantages of canning kimchi

Some people do not recommend canning kimchi for the following reasons:

  1. It can make the kimchi mushy. We’ve tried kimchi that was canned a year ago and the texture did not change noticeably. Perhaps, this concern is applicable to people who use a pressure canner to can their kimchi.
  2. The boiling water bath and the vinegar may kill off the majority of the probiotic bacteria. This sounds plausible. To us, personally, the canned kimchi still tastes the same.
Here is an interesting take on this debate.

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