Is Kimchi Vegan?
(Plus check out our favorite kimchi below) …
The answer is that sometimes kimchi is vegan and it depends on how it’s made! Kimchi is a Korean word that translates to submerged vegetable and most simply, cabbage or other vegetables are combined with salt and spices as a way of preservation. This creates a fermentation process that creates healthy microorganisms for your gut microbiome. Originally, kimchi was stored in containers underground during the cooler months (hence the translation), but of course today we can find kimchi in Asian supermarkets to your local store to Whole Foods (both in store and via delivery HERE).
The whether or not kimchi is vegan part depends on the spices used with the vegetable. Again, most of the time the vegetable it cabbage but it can also be cucumbers, carrots, spinach, tomato, onions, lotus root, mustard greens, celery, and many more vegetables commonly found in North and South Korea. But back to the spices…. so salt must be added to create the preservation and often it’s a larger, coarse salt (called brining salt) but spices are also added – making it quintessential kimchi instead of basic sauerkraut or something. These spices vary from kimchi to kimchi but can include many vegan spices like garlic, ginger, gochugaru (chili powder). However, it is very common (especially in South Korean cooking) to add salted seafood, salted anchovies, or raw seafood if near a coastal area. In Western culture, you’ll see kimchi with salt, garlic, and gochugaru a lot (which would make it a vegan kimchi) but you’ll also see a lot of commercially available kimchi with fish sauce (making it not vegan kimchi). So, it’s important to check the label of any commercially prepared kimchi for fish sauce, anchovies, or any non-vegan ingredient that you don’t want swimming around.
Kimchi can be such a great, healthy food packed with healthy microorganisms and it can add flair to your meal like a condiment, but it’s important to know your kimchi. If you’re interested in adding vegan kimchi to your plate and not sure where to start, here are some of our favorite commercially prepared kimchi varieties. And of course if you’re feeling extra saucy, you can create your own kimchi, but I think the commercially available ones provide authentic taste and are insanely convenient to regularly add on your plate – like the Koreans do (just about at every meal).
6 Best Vegan Kimchi Options
What We Love: Choi’s Kimchi provides you with a *giant* half gallon or 3.5lbs of fermented napa cabbage goodness if you know kimchi is your thing! Or perhaps you want to share with neighbors or friends/family or you’re having a Korean themed dinner party. Whatever your needs are for a massive bag of vegan kimchi, Choi’s Kimchi based in Portland, OR will hook you up! Find Choi Kimchi HERE.
Considerations: Obviously, what may be a benefit to some people may be a complete con to others…if you’re new to kimchi or you/your family doesn’t eat kimchi often, I would say it’s probably best not to start with a half gallon container. 😉
What We Love: This small, authentic operation out of Atlanta, GA creates some amazing kimchi! The combination of napa cabbage, red pepper flakes, apples, green onions, ginger, Asian chives (and a few other ingredients) is truly stupendous. This Simply Kimchi is a vegan kimchi you don’t want to miss.
Considerations: Because Simply Kimchi is a smaller operation, it sadly may not be available in your area – but if it is, this vegan authentic kimchi definitely worth checking out!
What We Love: Another favorite from Simply Kimchi is the Daikon Radish blend with daikon radishes (obviously) , salt, garlic, apples, green onions, ginger, sugar, and the delightful Korean malt syrup. If you don’t like the traditional texture of cabbage kimchi, the daikon radish has more of a bite/crunch to it and obviously isn’t in that wet noodle-y type of shape. It’s again a great combination of flavors and textures and Simply Kimchi is sure to add a flair to your next meal. Check out Simply Kimchi Daikon Radish HERE.
Considerations: Again, Simply Kimchi is a smaller operation and may not be available in your local area but if it is, check out this small Korean restaurant who also makes kimchi for sale.
What We Love: Wildbrine makes a variety of fermented vegetable based products including this Korean Style Kimchi with napa cabbage, sea vegetab;e, chili pepper, green onions, sea salt, sesame seeds, garlic, and ginger for a fresh tang to add to your plate. It’s zesty, tangy, and has just enough of a kick. Wildbrine has become a household name in terms of commercially available fermented foods. Find Wildbrine Korean Kimchi HERE.
Considerations: Wildbrine Korean Kimchi has smaller pieces of cabbage and vegetables and is more runny than some of the super chunky kimchi styles out there.
What We Love: With less than 10 ingredients, Sunja’s vegan kimchi is simple, straightforward, and strikingly authentic. With cabbage and carrots as the base and flavor tones including ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper, it’s a heavenly combination of sweet, fermented, and just a tad spicy. Sunja’s Kimchi has more carrots it seems than cabbage, which can provide a bit more texture and crunch than all cabbage based. Sunja’s is also lower in sodium than many with only 90mg of sodium compared to >200mg sodium in a similar serving size. It’s also sugar free and gluten free and made it a tucked away corner of Waterbury, VT. Sunja has been making healthy foods like kimchi since 1993 when she started her business. Support her and her company HERE by checking out Sunja’s Kimchi.
Considerations: This is a chunkier, heartier kimchi and not for those who prefer smaller diced vegetables with a watery consistency.
What We Love: This Wise Goats Organics is the only organic kimchi to make our list and while it’s the only organic option here, it certainly packs a lot of flavor, texture, and nutrition. Wise goats gets 99% of their ingredients within 10 miles of their kitchen factory, so it’s locally sourced. Wise Goats also ferments their kimchi for at least 6 weeks to ensure probiotic and enzymatic activity as well as depth of flavor. It’s sugar free, wheat free, and of course is 100% vegan. This crazy delicious and healthy kimchi from Wise Goats is available HERE.
Considerations: The only holdback here is why haven’t you tried this chunky, hearty, zippy, tasty **organic and vegan** kimchi from Wise Goats?!
There you have it….the answer to whether or not kimchi is vegan and the 6 best kimchi options. There are certainly many, many more than 6, so just be sure to check the label that there isn’t any fish/anchovies/other non-vegan ingredient and add kimchi to your diet regularly and often to increase the diversity in your gut microbiome and support your health!
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