You may scoff at the question, “What is the difference between sauerkraut and kimchi?” but even if you could easily rattle off all the ways they’re not alike, have you ever considered how much they do have in common?
If you’re the type of person who has a kit on hand so you can pickle everything from green beans to eggplant to figs (or are just really into probiotics), then you’re likely familiar with the unique tangy and briny flavor that fermented foods can add to your meals. Two fermented foods—sauerkraut and kimchi—are especially good additions to your rotation that have plenty in common (though some easy to spot differences, too).
If you’ve gone to a ballpark before, you’ve likely come across sauerkraut, chopped or shredded cabbage that has been fermented and has a very specific sour flavor. (It literally means “sour cabbage” in German.) But it’s not just for hot dogs—sauerkraut is also a prominent side dish in Eastern European cuisine. Most often made from green cabbage, it is sometimes made from red cabbage as well.
The same fermentation process used to make sauerkraut—lactic acid fermentation—is also used to make kimchi, a dish made from fermented vegetables. In both instances, bacteria, which ferments the sugars in the vegetable, is a good thing—preserving it for long stretches and giving it its unique flavor. Despite their similarities, kimchi is distinct from sauerkraut in some key ways. The Korean dish typically contains Korean radishes in addition to Napa cabbage, as well as a number of seasonings like scallions, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and fish sauce—but kimchi can be made from pretty much any vegetables you like.
Though the two foods come from different parts of the globe and have identifying characteristics of their own, they both provide some health benefits that you’ll want to take advantage of. Fermented foods—including yogurt, kefir, and kombucha, which are also high in beneficial bacteria like lactobacillus—have been found to help improve gut health, which can improve your overall wellbeing.
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When you’re ready to give sauerkraut and kimchi a place at your table, here are some delicious ways to use both ingredients.
Chefs of all experience levels can give leftover kimchi a second life with this rice dish. The kimchi adds a bit of heat to this hearty one-pan meal. Get our Kimchi and Shrimp Fried Rice recipe.
You might not immediately put the words “sauerkraut” and “soup” together but sometimes the most unexpected combinations are the most delicious. With celery, carrots, and chicken broth in the mix, this spin on chicken soup is exactly the comfort food you’ve been craving. Get the Sauerkraut Soup recipe.
Toss that sad fast food burger and make your own instead. This recipe has a salty, tangy flavor far tastier than any drive-thru offering. Get our Kimchi Chicken Burger recipe.
It’s time to pull the slow cooker out of the back of your kitchen cabinet and dust it off for this recipe. This set-it-and-forget-it recipe is just the thing to satisfy beer aficionados and meat lovers alike. Get the Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Sauerkraut with Beer & Brown Sugar recipe.
Kimchi is great in almost anything, including grilled cheese sandwiches and potato salad, but a more classic Korean recipe to try is soondubu jjigae, a spicy soup with soft silken tofu and an egg cracked into the hot broth. Get our Korean Kimchi Tofu Soup (Soondubu Jjigae) recipe.
Transform any leftovers in your refrigerator into a completely new meal with this dish. It might not be exactly how your grandma used to make it, but trust us, this will be a dish you’ll want to pass down to the next generation. Get the Oma’s German Sauerkraut Casserole recipe.
This noodle-centric dish is what you need to liven up your typical pasta night. Feature it as a side dish or make it the main attraction with the addition of some kielbasa. Get the Polish Haluski recipe.
Kimchi is not always spicy; this baek kimchi (white kimchi) from chef and cookbook author Judy Joo is sweet and refreshing, with Asian pear joining the cabbage. Get the White Kimchi recipe.
Header images courtesy of Shutterstock and Chowhound.