Kimchi Too Bitter? 6 Easy Fixes!

There are a few things that can make kimchi bitter, including using too much salt or not fermenting the kimchi properly. The fermentation process can sometimes produce a sour or bitter taste, depending on the ingredients used. In this article, we will tell you how much bitterness can still be considered normal, how to fix it, and when to discard your batch!

What causes bitter kimchi

There are surprisingly many potential causes for bitter kimchi. Fortunately, all of these can be prevented when making your next batch!:

You used bitter vegetables

The probiotic bacteria in Kimchi do not digest bitter compounds like they do with sugar. If you use bitter ingredients in your kimchi, it will also taste bitter. The best way to prevent this is to try each ingredient before making the kimchi. This means eating cabbage and radish, but it will be worth it in the end. Common mistakes here include:

  • using red radishes (which are a lot more bitter) instead o the white daikon radish typically used in cabbage
  • using dark green cabbage varieties instead of napa cabbage
  • using english cucumbers that weren’t peeled to make Oi Kimchi (Cucumber kimchi)

You added expired spices or stale gochugaru

If you’re using spices or salt that have been slowly expiring in your pantry, they may have become stale without you realizing it. This can make your kimchi taste bitter and impact its overall flavor. While it’s unlikely that eating stale ingredients will make you sick, it’s still best to use fresh ones whenever possible. Always taste every kimchi ingredient, before adding it to the mixture. 

Iodized salt

Iodized salt can cause bitterness in your final dish if there are still traces of bitter (magnesium chloride solution) in the salt. To avoid this, use sea salt or kosher salt instead. Also, make sure to rinse off the salt thoroughly from your cabbage before when preparing your kimchi.

Impatience

The most common cause of kimchi being too bitter, salty, sweet, fishy, or not sour enough is simply not allowing it to ferment for long enough. When first made or bought, kimchi can have an overly strong taste that gradually goes away after a few days in the fridge. Proper fermentation is key to achieving that perfect umami flavor and reducing the initial bitterness.

6 ways to fix kimchi that’s too bitter

If your kimchi is too bitter, there are a few things you can do to try and fix it. These include:

  1. Bulk up your kimchi with ingredients that are neutral tasting and not bitter at all such as fresh daikon radish, carrots, white cabbage, minced garlic, or ginger along with other ingredients like soy sauce or hot pepper flakes.
  2. Rinsing the bitter kimchi in cold water can help remove some of the excess bitterness.
  3. Get some storebought kimchi and mix it into your bitter kimchi
  4. Introduce some sweetness. This can be accomplished by adding a bit of sugar, honey, or even fruit juice. If your kimchi is still too sour after this, you can also try boiling it for a few minutes. This will help to mellow out the flavors.
  5. Place your kimchi in the fridge and simply leave it alone for a few days, then give it another try. If it’s getting slightly less bitter, just continue fermenting it, till it tastes the way you love it!
  6. Incorporate it into another dish. Another way to bulk up the bitter kimchi is to dilute it by adding it to stir-fries or soups, which will also dilute the bitterness and perhaps even complement the flavor of these savory dishes exceptionally well.

When to discard bitter kimchi?

If you’ve tried all of the above and your kimchi is still too bitter for your liking, then it’s probably best to discard it. There’s no sense in eating something that you don’t enjoy. You live, you learn and there’s always another chance to make a new, better batch!

Should I discard store-bought, bitter kimchi?

If store-bought kimchi tastes bitter, you should be on high alert. This is highly unusual and indicates, that mistakes were made during the preservation/canning process. In this case, you should discard or return the kimchi to the store and contact the manufacturer. Spoiled or contaminated probiotic foods can be a major health safety issue, and there may be other batches affected that need to be recalled by the company.

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