Is Kimchi Better Served Hot or Cold?

Kimchi can be a confusing ingredient at first. However, once you begin experimenting with using it as a base ingredient for other dishes. Despite the pungent smell and distinct taste, you will soon realize just how versatile it can be. It adds valuable contrast to virtually any savory dish. While kimchi is usually served cold, you can also use it in heated dishes, if you’re willing to make some sacrifices!

How is kimchi traditionally served?

Kimchi has a rich history and a lot has changed since Korean first began fermenting cabbage in onggi jars and burying them over the winter. We now prepare kimchi in different ways, use a wider variety of ingredients and incorporate it into many dishes.

In Korea, kimchi was historically served as a separate side dish. So while it was eaten together with other foods, it was usually served in a separate small bowl. When we look at the last few decades, however, several Korean dishes, that use kimchi as the basis, have been gaining popularity, such as:

  • Kimchi stew
  • Kimchi soup
  • Kimchi pancake
  • And of course… kimchi-fried rice!

Can Kimchi be heated?

Yes kimchi can be heated and as mentioned above, even Koreans do it, so you’re not committing a culinary crime that’s gonna bar you from ever visiting Korea again! While hot kimchi can add fantastic contrast when incorporated in hearty dishes, there are two sacrifices you will have to make:

  1. Heated kimchi does not taste as “fresh”

Kimchi is a tangy, acidic pickled dish, just like other pickled vegetables. Pickled food has a refreshing taste when eaten cold, so when by heating up kimchi, you lose some of that freshness. Heating up kimchi also removes some of the crunchiness. For people that are sensitive to the acidity and the pungent smell of cold kimchi, taking the edge off the kimchi by heating it may be a good thing!

  1. Kimchi will lose some of its probiotic benefits when cooked

As a fermented food, one of the unique perks of kimchi is the probiotics it contains. However, these bacteria are relatively fragile and can die when you heat your kimchi above 115 °F. This won’t necessarily weaken the taste of your kimchi, but it will reduce some of the health benefits. To preserve at least some bacteria, you may want to consider adding the kimchi towards the end of the cooking process. For example, when stirring up some kimchi-fried rice, add your kimchi at the very end after already turning off your oven. This way, your kimchi will remain crunchy, fresh, and full of lively probiotics!

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