The world has become incredibly enamored with the ingredient kimchi. It is a very well-known food for gut health because it is adaptable in flavor and application, has a ton of nutritional advantages from fermentation, and is also delicious!
However, popularity also brings a shortage. Recently, we’ve observed that many suppliers run out almost immediately after a new batch is delivered. Many people choose to make their own kimchi at home, but who really has the time?
So, what would be the best kimchi substitute? The best option involves making your own kimchi, but there are drawbacks. You can also use other fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables (ex. tempeh). These won’t be like kimchi in terms of texture, consistency, or flavor.
Today’s lengthy article will examine a number of kimchi alternatives that are all fairly simple to locate. We will examine how their textures, flavors, and (of course) availability and cost compare!
What Is Kimchi?
You’ve probably heard of kimchi if you’re a foodie, chef, or have any kind of food knowledge. However, many people have no idea what this dish is other than “it’s salty cabbage.” It’s a shame because kimchi is so much more!
This traditional Korean dish is a favorite in many households, not only because it’s nutritious and tasty, but also because of its adaptability. Kimchi actually refers to hundreds of different recipes that all share two characteristics.
The first is that they are all vegetable-based. Kimchi can be made from a single vegetable (usually cabbage or radish) or a combination of several. The second difference is that they have been salted and fermented.
You can also add a variety of spices and herbs to enhance the flavor. Chili powder, spring onions, ginger, turmeric, garlic, and fennel are all popular additions.
As you can see, there are numerous variables that can have a significant impact on the flavor and texture of the dish, as well as the nutritional benefits it may provide.
In the West, the most common type of kimchi is made from salted and fermented Napa cabbage. Spicy ingredients such as fresh chili peppers, cayenne pepper, chili flakes, or chili powder are also included in this version.
How To Make Kimchi
Once an ideal recipe is discovered, the process of making kimchi is relatively easy. The vegetables are prepared first. They are thinly sliced into uniform pieces to facilitate their uniform transformation. The vegetables are then salted for 12 hours at a salinity of 5 to 7%, followed by 3 to 7 hours at a salinity of 15%.
This process helps to remove moisture from vegetables. Additionally, it creates an almost inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow while preserving the vegetable slices. The vegetables are then drained of excess liquid. After they have slightly dried, additional seasonings are added.
The seasoned (and definitely salty) vegetables are then placed in a canning jar and left to ferment at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours.
During this time, the vegetables ferment and release a great deal of carbon dioxide (carbon dioxide). To prevent the jars from exploding, they must be burped.
As mentioned, making kimchi is a relatively simple process. And there are a plethora of kimchi specialists who can advise you on how to achieve the best results with the tools at your disposal.
Characteristics Of Kimchi
There’s a wide range of kimchi styles and ingredients. The tastes and textures can be altered to some degree. All the ingredients in this dish, however, should be relatively crunchy and have a crisp texture if they are to achieve the dish’s full potential. They won’t be nearly as desirable if they are soft.
Additionally, their flavor should feature a nice harmony between sweetness, sourness (from the fermentation), and saltiness. Spicy kimchi shouldn’t just burn your mouth; it should also have a lot of flavor.
How To Choose A Substitute For Kimchi
Choosing a substitute for kimchi is not particularly challenging. You must decide precisely why you are substituting it! If you’re looking for an alternative side dish with a similar flavor profile, then it should be slightly sour, sweet, and possibly spicy. It does not have to be fermented unless that is the desired flavor.
If you enjoy the texture of kimchi and don’t care about the flavor, any tender and crisp side dish will do. If you want the substitute to be slightly crunchy and soft, it may be simpler if it does not require cooking, such as tempeh. If you simply want to add crunch to a sandwich or texture to a simple salad, then any pickled ingredient will suffice!
And if you are looking for a substitute for the nutritional benefits that kimchi provides, you can consider any fermented food with comparable properties. All the options under consideration today have been fermented or pickled.
Best Substitutes For Kimchi
All of these have a fermented flavor, but the texture and accompanying flavors vary. If any of these options appeals to you but you still have questions, there are a plethora of articles on our website that you can read. So, without further ado, here are our favorite kimchi substitutes!
1. Bavarian Wine Sauerkraut
Red or green cabbage that has been thinly sliced is used to make the traditional German side dish known as sauerkraut. This ingredient is a salted and fermented variety as well. It is essentially the same dish, just prepared in a different way.
Why then do they not have the same flavor?
In terms of recipe versatility, sauerkraut is a less flexible dish. Unlike kimchi, which is made with Napa cabbage, it is made with either red or green cabbage. Additionally, there aren’t many additional flavorings in sauerkraut.
As we have already mentioned, there are numerous variations of kimchi. Additionally, a variety of vegetables are used as the foundation when making it.
Kimchi frequently has a milder sweetness and tang. With the use of sauerkraut, that is easily adjustable. You can easily increase the amount of sugar in the dish and add vinegar or lemon juice.
Finding and making sauerkraut is simple, inexpensive, and adaptable. It has a flavor that is remarkably similar and even textures that are similar.
2. NOH Korean Kim Chee Base
This is not going to be a quick fix. It is also more difficult than simply purchasing an alternative. It is, however, an excellent opportunity to experiment with making your own kimchi at home and is a perfect substitute for store-bought kimchi.
You can customize the exact texture of the ingredients, the overall flavor of the kimchi, and the type of vegetable you use with homemade kimchi. You have complete artistic freedom!
The best part is that making your own kimchi will save you a lot of money. Because kimchi takes a few days to make, manufacturers mark up the price significantly. You end up paying 1000% more than the cost of production. You can check out the section “How To Make Kimchi” to see if it will work for you. Then look for more detailed recipes!
3. Rick’s Picks Phat Beets
If you don’t like spicy foods, you can substitute pickled beets for kimchi. These beets are typically only sweet and sour, lacking a fermented or spicy flavor. They retain the extremely crunchy texture and earthy flavor of cabbage.
The type of pickled beets you choose is an important consideration. There are many flavor options available. Nevertheless, even “plain” options are varied!
We enjoy “sweet and tangy” pickled beets because they share a sweetness with kimchi that is absent in plain “pickled beets.” The majority of pickling liquids are vinegar-based. Consequently, the tartness will be comparable to that of kimchi.
4. Miko – Awase Miso Soyabean Paste
Japanese cuisine frequently makes use of miso paste, which is made from fermented soybeans. This component is available exclusively in paste form, as the name implies. To what extent does it mimic the texture of kimchi’s signature crunch?
Only if you’re looking for a similarly fermented salty flavor will this be a viable option. It won’t improve the meal’s texture, volume, or nutrition.
However, the tastes are remarkably similar! Soybeans are fermented into miso paste. It has savory, sour, salty, and occasionally sweet flavors due to its natural composition. Additionally, hot miso paste will be available.
Miso paste is easy to find and works great as an addition to soups, stews, sandwiches, and spreads. However, it will not improve the texture.
5. Sinto Gourmet Spicy Radish Kimchi
This is a very common substitute and the second most popular variety of kimchi, after cabbage. The main reason it is not higher on our list is because it is difficult to locate in Western countries. However, we have had great success at Asian supermarkets! You can even order some from online vendors.
Similarly crunchy to cabbage, radish kimchi is less stringy than cabbage. Common flavoring additions include chili powder, spring onions, garlic, and ginger. It is essentially made in the same manner as traditional kimchi.
The two-week fermentation period for this kimchi is a drawback; consequently, the price will be slightly higher. Nonetheless, we enjoy radish kimchi as a substitute because it has a similar sweet, spicy, sour, and crunchy flavor profile.
6. Other Pickled Vegetables
If you can’t decide or are short on time, you can use any other type of pickled vegetable, particularly cucumbers. Not all of them will work equally well with the dish you’re making, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.
Make sure that any vegetables you do use are pickled in a vinegar-based solution. They will work as an acceptable substitute as long as they are all crunchy, tangy, and possibly a little sweet.
It’s also beneficial if they’re lightly sweetened and flavored with spices and herbs. If the pickles are spicy, it will help to disguise the differences.
Pickles are usually very cheap and easy to find — you probably already have some in your pantry! We like pickled onions and gherkins because they have distinct flavors that don’t overpower the main course. However, we believe that buying pickled strawberries or olives is a bit strange.
7. LARGE BEAN ORGANIC NATTO
Natto is made from fermented soybeans, but unlike miso paste, the beans are still whole in natto. They won’t necessarily add a lot of texture, but they will undoubtedly do so more so than miso paste. These beans typically have less sweetness but are just as tart.
They have a slimy and sticky texture, but if you use them in recipes as opposed to serving them as a side dish, you won’t even notice. The drawbacks include the fact that they can be hard to find (even at Asian supermarkets) and expensive in some locations.
8. BOStempeh – Fresh Tempeh
Tempeh has grown in popularity as an Indonesian vegan ingredient, and it is now relatively easy to find in stores. It can, however, be quite expensive. This is another fermented soybean product, but the soybeans have been formed into cakes this time. The flavor isn’t as tangy as miso paste or natto, but it’s still very savory and salty.
This ingredient must be cooked before serving. This is typically accomplished by deep-frying or pan-frying. While it is an additional step, it does result in more crunchy textures in your food. And who doesn’t appreciate that?
Another advantage of using tempeh is that you can cut it into whatever size you want. So, if you want a fine, barely discernible texture, chop it up finely. But if you want tempeh chunks, you can make those as well.
9. Fermented Drinks (Kefir Or Kombucha)
Lastly, if you have no other options and are only looking to add a similar fermented flavor, any fermented beverage will suffice. Both kefir and kombucha are two of our favorites. They are accessible and reasonably priced.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that adds a creamy texture to soups and stews. You can also find water kefir, but we find this alternative to be superior. Second fermented fruit tea, probiotic food, is Kombucha. Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea that can also be used to enhance recipes.
It will help your dish develop a more complex flavor. Additionally, there is a vast selection of flavored kombucha beverages.
They are not ideal alternatives because they are beverages and not actual food ingredients. However, if you simply desire a tart flavor for juicy recipes, they will suffice. Sima, Bouza, and traditional ginger beer are additional options you may wish to consider.