what does kimchi taste like?

Kimchi is a dish that hails from Korea, but its popularity is far more widespread than just this Asian country. However, while this may be a trendy dish that many modern foodies are enjoying getting their teeth into, there are still many people who are unfamiliar with what kimchi is, never mind what it tastes like.

If you are looking to expand your food repertoire and discover dishes from around the world then kimchi is likely high on your list. But be prepared, this Korean food has a very distinct taste that is known to be very pungent!

What Is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a dish that is usually served on the side of larger meals and originates from Korea. While it remained popular in this country for many years, it finally made its way to the west in the last 15 years and more and more people are falling in love with it.

However, one should keep in mind that owing to its pungency, kimchi is often a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of recipe.

Kimchi is essentially fermented vegetables, but there is a lot more to it than this. Typically it is made using various types of cabbages and radishes.

While these are the most popular veggies used in kimchi, hundreds of recipes exist using things like cucumber, scallions and many other plants. These are mixed with spices like garlic, ginger, chilli peppers and salt and finished off with a good dousing of fish sauce.

You can purchase kimchi in most food stores nowadays but if you are looking to make your own, it is relatively easy. What’s more, the longer you leave it, the more the flavours develop and this means that kimchi typically has an excellent shelf life.

What Does Kimchi Taste Like?

Kimchi is a spicy fermented vegetable dish that has a sour, spicy and salty taste.

Now, before we get into the nitty-gritty, we should point out that most people will either fall desperately in love with kimchi on their first try or never want it to pass their lips again.

That being said, with so many recipes, one person’s kimchi may taste vastly different to the next. So it can be worth trying a few different ones.

As a rule, however, kimchi has a sour or spicy flavour profile, although there are some that are much sweeter. However, the flavour of each individual kimchi will vary according to how long it has been fermented and the types of vegetables that have been used.

For the most part, you can expect kimchi to almost always have a sour edge to it. Again, the intensity of this will vary depending on the recipe. If you have added lots of garlic into the mix then this can make it significantly more intense.

There are kimchi recipes that do not include fish sauce. These are generally a lot less intense and are better suited to the delicate palette. In fact, when you compare this kimchi with others, you might find it much fresher.

What does kimchi smell like?

In addition to having a very unique and distinct taste, the smell of kimchi will also alert you to its presence. Since this is a fermented food, it does have that classic fermented aroma that is sour and spicy in nature.

But much like the taste, the way that you kimchi smells will depend on what is included in the recipe.

Why Does My Kimchi Smell So Bad?

If you are new to kimchi and open up a jar, the pungent aroma may hit you and indeed make your eyes water. But does that mean that it is bad? Probably not. Fermented foods naturally have a strong odour but there is a line.

While your kimchi should smell a little sour or spicy, and may easily clear a room when it is very well fermented, it should not smell alcoholic nor should it smell off. By ‘off’ we mean that the sour smell is overpowering and much more intense than you would expect it to be.

If you purchase a jar of kimchi, once you open it, you can expect it to stay good for around one week when it is kept at room temperature. However, if you keep it in the refrigerator, its shelf life may be extended to as long as six months.

Of course, always use your nose and your common sense and if the kimchi smells off, discard it.

Eating bad kimchi may make you susceptible to symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. People who have weakened immune systems may be more sensitive to the bacteria that is found in ‘off’ kimchi, so always err on the side of caution.

Can You Mess Up Kimchi?

In short, yes, you can mess up kimchi but part of the fun of making it is trying out new things and finding a recipe that suits you. So, if you mess up, don’t let it get you down.

One of the most common problems is that the kimchi turns out slimy, in this case it is to do with the micro organisms living within the kimchi. Often this problem can be avoided by adding more salt and including less sugar.

Is fizzy kimchi bad?

If you have made a batch of kimchi that has turned out fizzy then you’ll probably be wondering if you did something wrong. Actually, there are a lot of people who will purposefully make their kimchi fizzy as they like this taste quality.

Other people find that this is a little too much and if that is the case, don’t take it as failure, simply try again and experiment with a different kimchi recipe.

Furthermore, it may be possible to reduce the fizz by loosening the lid and leaving the jar in the fridge which should be enough to disperse those gases and bring the fizz down.


Kimchi is a Korean side dish that is used in many different ways, it can be eaten on its own or mixed with rice, noodles and meat. This is a mix of fermented vegetables and it has a very strong, sour taste.

That being said, there are some kimchi recipes which are much sweeter and fresher. Part of the wonder of kimchi is that there is so much room to experiment and develop a recipe that is unique to your tastes.