Does Freezing Kimchi Kill Probiotics? (Simple Answer)

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Quick answer: Freezing kimchi may slightly reduce probiotics, but it won’t kill them entirely. Lactobacillus, a key probiotic in kimchi, can survive cold temperatures. The preservation of other probiotics depends on factors like freezer temperature, duration of storage, and fluctuations.

While flash-freezing is best, you can freeze kimchi for up to six months with minimal probiotic loss. When thawed, the fermentation process may even boost probiotics. To maintain quality, freeze kimchi in smaller portions, and thaw it in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Can you name a food that’s been around for 1500 years, yet orbited the earth in 2013? How about a food that has an entire museum dedicated to it?

Did you guess kimchi? You are correct!

There is nothing in the world quite like kimchi. Tangy and satisfying, this fermented vegetable side dish is very versatile. It’s often eaten alone or used to dress up traditional fare such as rice, sandwich wraps, or salads.

Kimchi is generally eaten cold to receive the most nutritional value, though many people add it to cooked dishes like soups or casseroles.

My best friend makes her own kimchi in bulk, using garden-fresh cabbage, onions, and carrots. Having a stash of kimchi set aside in the dead of winter can be a delight!

But how best to store a large batch of kimchi? Can you freeze it?

Can you freeze kimchi without killing its natural probiotics?

The answer is a qualified yes. Read on to find out why.

What is kimchi?

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made from fermented cabbage. Some varieties include the addition of carrots, scallions, or radishes. The chopped vegetables ferment in a spicy brine containing red pepper, ginger, and garlic for several days. This process gives kimchi its zesty flavor and also allows probiotics to form.

Table 1: Kimchi Varieties and Ingredients

Kimchi VarietyKey Ingredients
Traditional KimchiCabbage, red pepper, ginger, garlic
Radish KimchiDaikon radish, green onions, ginger
Water KimchiCucumber, green chili, garlic
White KimchiNapa cabbage, Korean pear, chestnuts

What health benefits does kimchi offer?

Image credit: National Institute of Health

Besides containing probiotics that promote gut health, kimchi has several other nutritional benefits.

Table 2: Nutritional Content of Kimchi (per 100g)

Calories15 kcal
Dietary Fiber1.2g
Vitamin C18.8mg
Vitamin K43.9µg
Probiotics (CFU)Varies
  • Vitamin K – essential for bone and blood cell health
  • Choline – regulates mood, enhances memory
  • Cholesterol-lowering
  • Antioxidants such as beta-carotene
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Low calorie
  • A good source of calcium, folate, and potassium

What probiotics does kimchi contain?

Kimchi contains a wide range of probiotics, including lactobacillus, which is also found in yogurt. 

A study by Professor Brendan Chapman, PhD, concluded that kimchi contains 2.6 billion CFU per 1/2 cup serving. (CFU stands for “colony forming units” – a unit of measurement for probiotic levels in food.)

Does freezing kimchi kill the probiotics?

Table 3: Probiotic Levels in Frozen Kimchi Over Time

Storage TimeProbiotic Levels (CFU)
Fresh Kimchi2.6 billion CFU
After 3 months2.4 billion CFU
After 6 months2.2 billion CFU
After 9 months2.0 billion CFU

Although freezing may slightly reduce the probiotics in kimchi, all is not lost.The probiotic lactobacillus can survive cold temperatures. Freezing will not destroy it.[1]

The preservation of the other probiotics depends on three things:

  • The freezer’s temperature
  • The freezer’s power (length of time to freeze items)
  • The duration of storage

Fluctuations in temperature can lead to probiotic deterioration. So, the less time it takes for your kimchi to become fully frozen, the better.

Flash-freezing kimchi is the most effective way of maintaining the probiotic levels. Industrial kitchens often have this option, but most home kitchens do not.

Once fully frozen, it’s important that the kimchi’s temperature remains stable, and as close to 0 degrees F as possible.

Interestingly, when thawing kimchi, the fermentation process begins again. This may bump the strength of probiotics back up from what has been lost.

How long can you store kimchi in the freezer?

You can freeze kimchi for up to six months with little deterioration in probiotic levels. After six months, the probiotics may begin to wane.

Does freezing kimchi affect the taste and texture?

Have you frozen kimchi and found the crunchiness of the cabbage has diminished? That happened to me until I figured out why.

The “sogginess” is due to ice crystals forming during the freezing process. If kimchi can be flash frozen, there will be less damage from ice crystals.

And good news! The taste of kimchi improves after freezing and thawing. This is because fermentation happens faster when the cell structure of the cabbage is less firm. The zesty flavor of kimchi will be more noticeable.

What is the best way to freeze kimchi?

Freezing kimchi quickly is the goal. To do this, consider separating kimchi into smaller portions.

  • Use freezer zip-lock bags or small, sealed plastic containers. Plastic bags may be preferable, allowing you to squeeze out excess air. It is not advisable to freeze kimchi in glass containers because the brine will expand as it freezes.
  • Once portioned out, lay the bags on the freezer rack separate from each other (not stacked). This will allow cold air to circulate and freeze the bags more quickly.
  • Once fully frozen, you can stack the bags, or put them into a sealed large container for extra protection against freezer burn.

How to thaw frozen kimchi

Thawing kimchi correctly is the key. We all want to keep those probiotics, am I right?

Heat is the enemy of probiotics. Temperatures above 115 degrees F will cause probiotics to expire.

There are two options for thawing frozen kimchi.

  1. Place the sealed container or bag on the counter for a few hours
  2. Place the sealed container or bag in the refrigerator for 6 – 12 hours

Both times listed are dependent on the quantity of kimchi you are thawing out.

If you thaw kimchi at room temperature, you should refrigerate it soon after thawing. The fermentation process will begin again once the kimchi defrosts.

Can kimchi go bad?

Like all other foods, kimchi can go bad if stored improperly or for too long. Check for the following signs to see if your kimchi has spoiled.

  • A rancid or earthy smell
  • Mold or fuzzy spores
  • An off taste

If you suspect your kimchi has gone bad, discard it immediately.

Learn more: Can Kimchi Go Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Interesting facts about kimchi

  • Kimchi is the national food of South Korea
  • The history of kimchi spans 1500 years
  • There is a mention of kimchi in an ancient Korean book, “Samkuksaki,” published in 1145 A.D.
  • Kimchi was one of the official foods of the 1988 Olympics
  • In April 2008, kimchi went to outer space with South Korean astronaut Yi So Yeon
  • There is an entire museum dedicated to kimchi in Seoul, South Korea

So, Does Freezing Kimchi Kill Probiotics?

Kimchi is best eaten when freshly made, but you can freeze it with minimal effect on taste or nutritional value.

Follow these do’s and don’ts for the best success:

  • Do divide kimchi into smaller portions for quick freezing
  • Don’t freeze kimchi in glass containers which may crack when the brine expands
  • Do thaw kimchi in the refrigerator or at room temperature
  • Don’t thaw kimchi in the microwave
  • Don’t refreeze thawed kimchi

Have you ever made your own kimchi? Here’s a recipe shared by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2013 on Twitter.

Image shared by First Lady Michelle Obama on Twitter

We love to hear from our readers! What do you think about kimchi?

Do you like kimchi very spicy, or less so?

What vegetables do you like in your kimchi?

Have you ever frozen kimchi? What was your experience?

Please feel free to add your questions or comments below!

Thanks for reading… stay healthy!


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