Kimchi is one of those dishes that tends to get pigeonholed. The boldly-flavored, spicy-tangy-sour fermented condiment is an iconic staple of Korean cuisine. It’s the ever-present star of any banchan spread—the selection of small side dishes that accompany rice ahead of the main course of a traditional Korean meal. Its prized, signature funk is used to add complexity to any number of stews, rice and noodle dishes, and savory snacks.
So maybe I should qualify my opening statement. It’s not that the kimchi is thought of as a one-trick pony in terms of its culinary applications, but rather that folks rarely think of any type of kimchi beyond the most popular Napa cabbage version. It’s a great baseline, to be sure, but as these recipes prove, it’s not the only vegetable or fruit that plays well in the kimchi club (and even good old cabbage can be turned into a cooling white kimchi that’s not the spicy standard you might expect).
No matter what you want to use as your main ingredient, get a lesson in making your own kimchi from Atoboy‘s chef de cuisine YeongSoo Lee:
What You Need to Make Kimchi
The only special equipment you need that you might not already have is a large, airtight jar for storing and fermenting your kimchi.
3 Easy Fermenter Wide Mouth Lids and Pump, $25.99 from Amazon
These lids are specially designed for making fermented foods that won't mold or require burping, and they'll fit any standard wide-mouth jar (but note that those are not included).
Gloves are also good for digging in and making sure every bit of vegetable is covered in the seasoning.
Check out seven favorite kimchi variations below—plus a classic cabbage recipe if you want to go with what you know:
If you’re tired of the plain old carrot snack routine, try spicing it up (literally) with this creative take on kimchi. Here, small, peeled carrots spend two days fermenting in a mixture of rice flour, ginger, garlic, scallion, Korean red pepper flakes, and brown sugar to create a flavorful, crunchy condiment that’s equally delicious on its own or mixed into a hearty salad. (Or, better yet, how about as an outside-the-box Bloody Mary garnish?). The batch will be good up to a month, but chances are they won’t last that long. Get the Carrot Kimchi recipe.
In this popular style of traditional kimchi, Korean white radish—a.k.a. daikon—is cut into large cubes and quick-cured with a pungent seasoning blend of Korean red chili pepper flakes, minced salted shrimp, fresh shrimp, fish sauce, garlic, and ginger. Get the Radish Kichi recipe.
Just when you thought kale couldn’t get any better for you, it goes and gets a kimchi makeover that allows it to add the good-for-you benefits of fermentation (a happier, healthier gut; immune system boost, etc.) to its resume. Get the Kale Kimchi recipe.
The naturally refreshing profile of cool, crunchy cucumber is a perfect complement to the bold flavor and heat of kimchi seasoning. A couple words of advice, though: Regular garden cucumbers won’t work well here, rather you’ll want to reach for a smaller-seeded variety like Korean (ideally), Kirby, or Persian. Whichever kind you find, make sure you don’t peel the cukes beforehand. This quick and easy recipe comes together in about 36 hours, but just be mindful that this style of kimchi won’t last as long as the traditional cabbage—after more than a couple weeks the cucumbers will turn too soft and mushy. Get the Cucumber Kimchi recipe.
Related Reading: 18 Cool Cucumber Recipes to Beat the Heat This Summer
Adding strips of crispy bacon isn’t the only way to up the appeal of this love-it-or-hate-it veggie—the kimchi treatment gives this otherwise bitter, bland ingredient the punchy flavor it needs to stand out in a crowd. Get the Brussels Sprouts Kimchi recipe.
If you dig those deliciously addictive pickled string beans known as Dilly Beans, you’re going to go gaga for this similarly appealing green bean kimchi. Aside from being a great standalone snack, they also make a cool, unexpected addition to a cheese and charcuterie board. Get the Green Bean Kimchi recipe.
If you tend to find the loud, in-your-face flavor of traditional kimchi to be a bit much for you, this milder Asian pear and mixed veggie kimchi riff is likely to be right up your alley. Instead of the typical chili pepper flakes and fish sauce, this bright medley of fermented pear, cabbage, bell pepper, broccoli, and daikon is seasoned with ginger, ground coriander, ground fennel, and jalapeño. Enjoy it on its own as a light, tangy warm weather salad. Get the White Pear Kimchi recipe.
Related Video: How to Make Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi
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