Did you know that kimchi is one of the healthiest foods in the world? (*)
Since it’s fermented, kimchi is packed with probiotics known for improving digestion. It’s also low in sugar and calories and high in fiber, making it extra filling and can help you lose weight. With all these fantastic benefits, kimchi is a must-have for your diet.
But what if you don’t like spicy food? Or you don’t have regular access to kimchi?
Good news: you can find plenty of side dish alternatives as nutritious and delicious as kimchi.
To know what the best kimchi substitute is, keep on reading!
Top 6 Best Kimchi Substitutes Revealed
Which kimchi substitute should you use? Here are your best options:
1. DIY Kimchi
And, of course, you always have the option to make your kimchi at home. The good news is it’s not as difficult as it seems. You need to salt, season, and ferment the cabbage.
Just make sure that you use the right type of cabbage—Napa cabbage.
You also need to have all the ingredients for your kimchi seasoning, including salted seafood (jeotgal), ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes.
Since it’s a fermented side dish, the best kimchi substitute should be fermented too, and it’s no other than sauerkraut.
Did You Know? Sauerkraut is one of Germany's most famous national dishes, but it originated in China around 2000 years ago. It was the go-to meals of the slaves building The Great Wall of China. (*)
Sauerkraut is also known as sour cabbage. It’s made of finely cut cabbage and salt. The mixture is pressed down to release water responsible for the fermentation process. It’s left to ferment for weeks, allowing the lactic acid produces its characteristic sour taste.
Due to its ingredients and preparation method, sauerkraut has the same crunchy texture and sour flavor as kimchi.
How to use: Just like kimchi, sauerkraut is best eaten raw. It’s best served with meals as is. You can also use it as a sandwich filling, dip, soup flavoring, casserole topping, and many more.
Pro Tip: You can tweak the flavor of your sauerkraut by adding apples and slices (for slight sweetness) or peppercorns and garlic (for a savory touch).
3. Pickled Beets
If you’re looking for a less spicy kimchi substitute, pickled beets are your best option. The good news is it shares the same crunchy texture as kimchi. Since it has garlic and ginger, its savory flavor is close to kimchi as well. Given that the beets are pickled, they also deliver the same sour flavor kimchi is known for.
How to Use: Same with kimchi, it’s used as a side dish. The good news is, that you can also add it to salads, sandwiches, and wraps.
4. Pickled Jalapeños
For those who love kimchi’s heat level, you should try out pickled jalapeños. Since these have undergone the pickling process, you get to enjoy the same sour flavor of kimchi as well.
You can find two types of pickled jalapeños—vinegar-pickled jalapeños and fermented Galapagos. Between the two, it’s the fermented Galapagos that closely resembles kimchi. This is because they are both fermented by the same type of Lactobacillus bacteria.
Heads up, though, pickled jalapeños may have the same heat and sourness, but it lacks kimchi’s umami.
How to Use: This works best as a side dish or toppings for barbecued meats, so it’s an excellent kimchi substitute for samgyupsal. You can also use this as an accouterment for your charcuterie board.
5. Radish Kimchi (Kkakdugi)
If you’re looking to add a touch of sweetness to your meals, go for radish kimchi. Similar to kimchi, this side dish also contains Napa Cabbage. But wait, there’s more. It also has garlic, scallions, ginger, and cubed radish, giving this side dish a slightly sweet taste.
All ingredients are added to a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and water, then left to ferment for a few weeks.
How to Use: This is also popular in Korean cuisine, so you can use it the same way you use kimchi—as a side dish or mixed in soups and stews.
Pro Tip: If you want to enjoy its sweet taste, you should consume it while it’s still in the early stage of the fermentation process. The longer it ferments, the sourer and less sweet it will be.
6. Miso Paste
For those simply looking to recreate the tangy taste of kimchi, miso paste is a great choice. Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and mixed with koji and salt.
But since it comes in paste form, it’s important to note that it won’t give you the same texture and heat as kimchi.
Did You Know? Miso paste is used to substitute for fish sauce when making vegan-friendly kimchi.
How to Use: You can mix it with your tofu dishes to make it more flavorful or add it to soups, ramen, and stews for added umami.
Pro Tip: There are three types of miso paste: white miso (mildest flavor), red miso (more pronounced flavor), and mixed miso (bolder flavor).
Bonus: 2 Tips for Making a More Flavorful Kimchi
To ensure that you’ll be able to make the tastiest kimchi ever, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Go seasonal.
For the best tasting kimchi, make sure that you use the vegetables in season. During the fall season, Napa cabbage is the way to go, while fresh greens are the best choices during the spring season.
2. Keep the temperature in mind.
When making kimchi, you always need to think about the current climate. The best time for fermentation would be during the fall and winter seasons since cooler temperatures can help preserve the vegetables. It can also prevent mold growth and give the kimchi a better texture.
The Bottom Line
There’s no denying that kimchi is the best Korean side dish out there. But, unfortunately, it’s not for everyone (case in point: people who aren’t fans of spicy food), or it’s not widely available at all times.
Because of these issues, you should look for the best kimchi substitute that will suit your taste and preferences. We hope that our list can give you the right alternative that you’re looking for.