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Do You Eat Kimchi Hot or Cold?

Kimchi is the national food of South Korea. It's a traditional Korean dish that is on every Korean cuisine menu. Almost every household in Korea has this spicy fermented vegetable dish stored in their kitchens. It is becoming popular in the West and is now available in many American supermarkets. If you are new to kimchi, you may wonder if kimchi is better hot or cold.

You can eat kimchi either hot or cold. It depends on your taste and the dish you are making. But according to researchers, cold or slightly warm kimchi has great probiotic value. If you heat the dish too hot, it may kill the beneficial bacteria. 

In this article, I will talk about eating cold and hot kimchi, and about different ways to eat both. First, let’s learn how people usually eat this traditional food in Korea.

A hand holding some hot or cold kimchi.

How Kimchi Is Usually Eaten?

The people of South Korea have been eating kimchi for over two thousand years. The key ingredient of kimchi is traditionally cabbage, but people also prefer scallion and radishes. They mix the fish sauce with the brine and also add:

  • garlic
  • ginger
  • chili pepper

Finally, the brine full of vegetables is fermented at a cool temperature for a few days. This process helps to grow probiotics that have many health benefits. Moreover, fermented vegetables can be preserved for a long time like this. 

Therefore, South Koreans eat kimchi daily, not just for its spicy and crunchy taste but also for its health benefits. Koreans have at least five different dishes for every meal, and on special occasions, you will see at least ten dishes. They prefer spicy side dishes to add flavor to other dishes, and one is always kimchi!

Kimchi is a staple food of Korea, as it is always served with other dishes in almost every Korean household and restaurant. People also like to eat kimchi as a snack, but it is mostly served with rice. Kimchi’s tangy flavor can also enhance the taste of many other dishes, so people include it in making:

  • soups
  • porridge
  • pancakes
  • rice cakes
A jar of kimchi and a bowl of kimchi.
Kimchi enhances the flavor of anything you eat it with

What does kimchi taste like? 

Kimchi has a tangy, spicy, and crunchy taste. It's a unique flavor profile with a very pungent smell. It is made with fermented vegetables, and can vary in flavor depending on the type of vegetables used and the length of fermentation.

The most common ingredients are Chinese cabbage, radishes, garlic, ginger, fish sauce or shrimp paste, chili peppers, scallions, and salt. The spiciness from the chili peppers mixed with the sourness of the fermented cabbage give kimchi its unique flavor.

Kimchi also has a bit of sweetness from the added sugar during fermentation mixed with the kimchi liquid.

How do you store leftover kimchi? 

Homemade kimchi can be stored in an airtight container like a mason jar (we have our own kimchi jar used just for kimchi!) for up to a month in the refrigerator. It is best used fresh, but it can remain good for several weeks if stored properly.

To prevent spoilage, make sure the kimchi and its liquid are sealed tightly so that no air can enter the container. If you plan to store kimchi for longer than one month, freezing it is recommended.

When frozen, kimchi can last up to six months if kept sealed in a tightly sealed airtight container or freezer-safe storage bag.

Is Kimchi Better Hot or Cold?

As you can see, kimchi is a part of the everyday meal of South Korean people. Many people all over the world have also started to appreciate the unique spicy taste and health benefits of kimchi.

Kimchi is fermented at a cool temperature, and most people prefer eating it cold and do not want to put extra effort into heating it before every meal.

On the other hand, some people prefer to heat kimchi before meals. However, the health benefits and taste of kimchi can change when you heat it. So, let’s see the pros and cons of eating cold and hot kimchi. 

Eating Cold Kimchi 

Kimchi is a dish that is full of:

  • minerals
  • vitamins
  • antioxidants

It is also rich in vitamin C and K, which helps blood circulation and keeps bones healthy. All these health elements are intact in cold kimchi, and it is full of healthy bacteria or probiotics

Also, the taste of cold kimchi is actually its true flavor. It has a tangy and spicy taste, which goes well with other dishes. Here are the benefits of eating cold kimchi:

  1. The fermentation process of kimchi grows probiotics, which are good for our digestive system. We know the lactobacilli bacteria in kimchi as good bacteria, that ensure healthy digestion.
  2. The healthy bacteria of cold kimchi reduce gastrointestinal problems and can help colon inflammation and irritable bowel syndrome. 
  3. Eating cold kimchi can also improve your immune system. The healthy bacteria of the kimchi minimize inflammation caused by various diseases. 
  4. Probiotics in cold kimchi are great for boosting immunity to ward off common viruses.
  5. Cold kimchi has a sour and spicy flavor, and it is crunchy. Hence, many people love to eat it this way

There are not actually any cons to eating cold kimchi. However, some people might find the taste of cold kimchi too sharp. So, they heat it to reduce the pungent taste

Eating cold kimchi is a great way to get alllll of the benefits from your fantastic kimchi.

Eating Hot Kimchi

Many people prefer eating kimchi hot. The good bacteria will die if you heat kimchi for too long, but it will still have nutritious value. 

Here are some reasons to eat hot kimchi: 

  1. Many people do not like to eat cold foods and kimchi is no exception.
  2. If you dislike the sharp taste of cold kimchi, you can heat it or microwave it to reduce the sharp taste
  3. You can add hot kimchi to different foods to add a smokey or barbeque flavor
Kimchi in a bowl of bright orange soup with tofu topped with green onions.
Kimchi is delicious warmed in soup

As you can see, eating hot kimchi is all about changing the taste. It does not contain the full health benefits of cold kimchi. Cooking kimchi will kill the bacteria, so there will be no probiotics. Also, do not go over 70 degrees while cooking kimchi because it will impact the taste. 

Although you can lessen the sharp taste of kimchi by heating it, the smell gets stronger. Once kimchi is heated, it needs to be eaten within a few days. Reheating hot kimchi will also destroy the unique flavor. So, heat kimchi in small portions and eat it as soon as possible.

If you compare the nutritional value of cold and hot kimchi, you see that eating cold kimchi is better than eating hot kimchi. If you prefer to eat kimchi for its health benefits, then eat it cold. Otherwise, you can eat it hot.  

Tips for Eating Cold and Hot Kimchi

There are many dishes for which you have to heat kimchi with other ingredients, and there are many dishes where cold kimchi is a perfect fit. Here are a few tips for eating cold, and hot kimchi with different dishes to get the best taste:

  • Mix kimchi with soup and cook it. Or you can eat it cold with soup. 
  • Eat cold kimchi with rice to get great taste and probiotic benefits.
  • To make fusion dishes add cold kimchi to a salad.
  • Kimchi kimbap tastes better with slightly warm kimchi.
  • Cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, and onion kimchi can be eaten hot or cold. But you cannot heat cucumber kimchi, it will destroy the taste.
  • Adding fried and hot kimchi to tofu adds a smoky flavor. You can also put hot kimchi in a burger for the same taste.
  • The bibimbap rice dish is a famous Korean dish, and only cold kimchi goes well with this dish. On the other hand, hot kimchi also goes well with dolsot bibimbap. 

For a unique and different kimchi experience, try out kimchi jjigae. This is a stew-like dish which combines pork belly or beef with vegetables and kimchi for a slightly spicy yet savory flavor. 

Kimchi can also be used as pizza topping for an interesting taste. Kimchi pancake is another popular choice, it is a savory pancake filled with kimchi, green onions and other vegetables. Finally, Kimchi fried rice is also an easy to make meal that will surely satisfy your cravings for something spicy. 

Enjoy the various dishes you can make with kimchi! Try out new things to find what works best for your taste.

A bowl of rice and kimchi.
Kimchi has more health benefits when eaten cold

Conclusion  

Is kimchi better hot or cold? People eat kimchi not just for its flavor-enhancing power, but for its nutritional value and gut health benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to eat kimchi cold or barely warm to get the probiotic benefits. The best way to eat kimchi is HOWEVER you prefer the sour flavor and delicious fermented food. With so many delicious ways to enjoy this versatile dish, you'll be dazzling those taste buds with your own kimchi any time you want it. 

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