Is Kimchi Vegan?

Ever found yourself standing in the middle of a bustling grocery store, a jar of tantalizing kimchi in hand, pondering, “Is kimchi vegan?”? Well, you’re not alone! It’s a question that I’ve often wrestled with during my own culinary adventures. Let’s unpack this together.

What is Kimchi?

At its core, kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made primarily from fermented vegetables – typically napa cabbage and Korean radishes – mixed with a variety of seasonings.

  • Ingredients:
  • Napa cabbage or Korean radish
  • Salt
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Jeotgal (fermented seafood)

The Main Concern: Jeotgal

The trickster in the list of traditional kimchi ingredients is jeotgal, a kind of fermented seafood which often includes shrimp or fish sauce. This is where the vegan dilemma arises.

  • Types of Jeotgal:
  • Salted shrimp (saeujeot)
  • Fermented fish sauce
  • Other seafood variations

Vegan Alternatives

For those committed to a vegan lifestyle, fear not. Vegan kimchi does exist! Many modern brands and homemade recipes have emerged that substitute the jeotgal for vegan-friendly alternatives.

  • Substitutes for Jeotgal:
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso paste
  • Seaweed or kelp powder

I’ve tried a few of these alternatives and, let me tell you, they do a wonderful job of mimicking that deep umami flavor without any animal derivatives.

How to Shop for Vegan Kimchi

When shopping for vegan kimchi, it’s all about the label.

  1. Read the Ingredients: Always check the ingredients list for any mention of seafood or fish sauce.
  2. Look for Vegan Certifications: Many brands now label their products as vegan.
  3. Ask the Vendor: If you’re at a local farmer’s market or specialty store, don’t hesitate to ask the vendor about the ingredients.

Making Your Own Vegan Kimchi

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of crafting your own batch of kimchi at home. And the best part? You can ensure it’s 100% vegan.


  • Napa cabbage
  • Salt
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Soy sauce or miso paste (for that umami flavor)


  1. Chop the cabbage into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Salt the cabbage and let it sit to draw out moisture.
  3. Prepare the seasoning by mixing the chili powder, garlic, ginger, and your vegan umami source.
  4. Mix the cabbage with the seasoning.
  5. Pack the mixture into jars and let ferment.

Tip: Fermentation is key. The longer you let it sit, the more flavors will develop. I recommend at least a week for optimal taste.

The History of Kimchi and Veganism

Tracing back the roots of kimchi, we discover an interesting intersection of culinary history and dietary choices. Ancient kimchi recipes, prior to the introduction of chili peppers in the 17th century, likely lacked seafood components. As trade routes opened and ingredients diversified, jeotgal became a popular addition. Fast forward to today, and with the rise of veganism, there’s a beautiful return to seafood-free versions, albeit with a spicy kick.

Health Benefits of Kimchi

Whether you’re vegan or not, the health advantages of including kimchi in your diet are noteworthy:

  • Probiotic Powerhouse: Fermentation introduces beneficial bacteria, promoting gut health.
  • Rich in Vitamins: Kimchi is packed with vitamins A, B, and C.
  • Boosts Immunity: The combination of garlic, ginger, and fermented vegetables strengthens the immune system.
  • Aids in Digestion: The dietary fibers in cabbage and radish support healthy digestion.

Storing and Serving Vegan Kimchi

Once you’ve got your jar of vegan kimchi, how do you make the most of it?

  • Storing: Keep kimchi in a cool, dark place while fermenting. Once opened, refrigerate to slow down further fermentation.
  • Serving Ideas:
  • As a side dish
  • In vegan stir-fries
  • On top of vegan pizzas
  • Mixed into grain bowls

Pairing Vegan Kimchi with Dishes

The zesty, tangy flavor of kimchi can elevate various dishes. Here are some of my personal vegan favorites:

  • Tofu and Kimchi Stew: A warm, comforting soup for chilly nights.
  • Vegan Kimchi Pancakes: A crispy, flavorful treat perfect for brunch.
  • Kimchi Avocado Toast: Give your morning toast an unexpected twist.

Vegan Kimchi vs. Traditional Kimchi: A Taste Test

One might wonder: does the vegan version stand up to its traditional counterpart in terms of flavor? Organizing a taste test with friends can be a fun way to compare:

  1. Preparation: Gather a few different brands of both vegan and traditional kimchi. Don’t forget a homemade version if you’ve tried your hand at it!
  2. Blind Tasting: Label each sample with a number and let your friends note down their preferences without knowing which is which.
  3. Reveal & Discuss: After the tasting, discuss the flavors, textures, and favorites. It’s a fantastic way to introduce friends to vegan options they might not have considered before!

Expanding Your Vegan Fermented Foods Palette

Inspired by vegan kimchi? There’s a world of fermented vegan foods awaiting your discovery:

Remember, exploring the world of vegan foods can be an exciting journey, with every dish offering a blend of flavors, history, and tradition.

The Popularity Surge of Vegan Kimchi

With the global shift towards healthier and more ethical eating, veganism has taken center stage. Among the plethora of vegan options surfacing, vegan kimchi has uniquely charmed its way into the hearts (and stomachs) of many. Let’s explore the reasons behind its rising popularity.

Trend Analysis: Vegan Kimchi’s Rise

A simple online search or a scroll through your social media feeds will reveal:

  • Increased Search Volume: More and more people are looking up “vegan kimchi,” both for recipes and purchasing options.
  • Blog Features: Food bloggers, especially those focusing on vegan diets, are spotlighting vegan kimchi, attesting to its flavor and versatility.
  • Instagram Posts: Vibrant and mouth-watering images under #VeganKimchi offer a testament to its growing community of aficionados.

Vegan Influencers and Kimchi

The powerful voices of vegan influencers cannot be understated. Their endorsements often lead to viral food trends:

  • Cooking Tutorials: From short reels to extended videos, vegan influencers break down the art of making vegan kimchi, making it seem both fun and feasible for their audience.
  • Product Reviews: With an increasing number of brands venturing into vegan kimchi, these influencers play a pivotal role in reviewing and guiding their followers towards the best picks.
  • Collaborative Features: Engaging sessions with Korean culinary experts or vegan chefs deepen the understanding and appreciation of vegan kimchi, bridging traditional and modern culinary practices.

Keywords to Know for Vegan Kimchi Enthusiasts

Diving deeper into vegan kimchi? Here’s your SEO-friendly toolkit of terms to steer your quest:

  • Vegan Kimchi Benefits
  • Authentic Vegan Kimchi Recipe
  • Store-bought vs. Homemade Vegan Kimchi
  • Fermentation Tips for Vegan Kimchi
  • Vegan Kimchi Bowl Inspirations

By utilizing these phrases in search engines, you’ll unearth a world rich in knowledge, tips, and mouth-watering vegan kimchi content.

Pairing Vegan Kimchi with Vegan Wines

Imagine enjoying your spicy, tangy vegan kimchi with a glass of wine that perfectly complements its flavors. If that sounds divine, read on!

Why Vegan Wine?

Wine, though seemingly just fermented grapes, often involves animal-derived products in its refining process. Vegan wines, however, ensure a process free from any animal products.

Top Vegan Wines to Pair with Kimchi

  • Sparkling Wines: The bubbly nature of sparkling wines adds a delightful contrast to the fermented, spicy notes of kimchi.
  • Light Reds: Varieties like Pinot Noir, with their subtle flavors, can beautifully counterbalance the robustness of kimchi.
  • Rosé: A well-chilled Rosé offers a crisp palate cleanser against the rich textures and flavors of vegan kimchi.

Embarking on a journey of flavor pairings, especially with vegan kimchi and wine, is both an art and an adventure. Remember, the best pairing is what suits your unique palate. So, pour a glass, serve some kimchi, and toast to the fusion of traditions and tastes!


Is kimchi vegan? Traditional kimchi, with its jeotgal, typically isn’t. However, the evolving culinary landscape means vegan versions are abundant and just as delicious. Whether you choose to purchase a vegan-certified brand or embark on a homemade kimchi journey, you can indulge in this flavorful dish without compromising your vegan values. So, next time you’re in that grocery store, you’ll know exactly what to look for!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Vegan Kimchi

1. What exactly is kimchi?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish primarily made from fermented vegetables like napa cabbage and Korean radishes, combined with various seasonings.

2. Why isn’t traditional kimchi considered vegan?

The non-vegan ingredient in many traditional kimchi recipes is jeotgal, a type of fermented seafood. This often includes shrimp or fish sauce.

3. Are there any vegan substitutes for jeotgal in kimchi recipes?

Yes, popular vegan substitutes for jeotgal include soy sauce, miso paste, and seaweed or kelp powder.

4. Can I find vegan kimchi in regular grocery stores?

While specialized or health food stores are more likely to stock vegan kimchi, many regular grocery stores now carry it due to the rising popularity of vegan diets. Always check the label to be sure.

5. How can I differentiate between vegan and non-vegan kimchi when shopping?

Always read the ingredients. Avoid any mention of seafood, shrimp, or fish sauce. Many vegan kimchi products also display vegan certifications or labels.

6. Does vegan kimchi have the same health benefits as regular kimchi?

Yes, vegan kimchi offers many of the same health benefits such as promoting gut health, being rich in vitamins, boosting immunity, and aiding in digestion. The main difference lies in the absence of fermented seafood.

7. How long does vegan kimchi last?

When stored properly in a refrigerator, an opened jar of vegan kimchi can last several months. Fermentation will continue, so flavors might intensify over time.

8. Can I use vegan kimchi in any recipe that calls for regular kimchi?

Absolutely! Vegan kimchi can be an excellent substitute in any recipe that requires kimchi, offering a similar texture and flavor profile.

9. How does the taste of vegan kimchi compare to traditional kimchi?

While the fundamental flavors are quite similar, the absence of the umami taste from seafood can be noticeable to those familiar with traditional kimchi. However, vegan alternatives like soy sauce or miso paste do a great job replicating this depth of flavor.

10. Can I make vegan kimchi at home?

Yes! Making vegan kimchi at home is straightforward. You’ll need napa cabbage, salt, chili powder, garlic, ginger, and a vegan umami source like soy sauce or miso paste. Homemade kimchi also gives you the freedom to adjust flavors according to your preference.

11. Are there other fermented vegan dishes I can explore?

Certainly! Other popular fermented vegan foods include sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, vegan miso soup, and tempeh. Each offers unique flavors and health benefits.

Remember, the journey into vegan fermented foods is an exploration of taste and tradition. Whether you’re a committed vegan or just curious, there’s a delightful world of flavors waiting for you.