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The 7 Best Substitutes For Kimchi

The 7 Best Substitutes For Kimchi

As a staple in Korean cuisine, kimchi brings a fiery, funky kick to any dish. But its strong flavor profile doesn’t work for all palates. And fresh, high-quality kimchi can be difficult to source depending on where you live.

Luckily, several tasty alternatives can mimic both the spicy bite and the tangy fermentation of authentic kimchi. Theseswap-ins also deliver probiotics and vitamins foroverall wellness perks similar to kimchi.

When selecting a kimchi stand-in, opt for fermented veggies with a strong dose of heat from peppers or other seasonings. Pickled products work nicely to emulate the sour creaminess of properly fermented kimchi too.

Based on flavor, texture, and health benefits, here are the 7 best substitutes for kimchi:

1. Curtido


A Salvadorian counterpart to kimchi, curtido utilizes cabbage along with carrots, onions, and chili peppers for its signature flavor profile. It forgoes tomatoes commonly found in Mexican curtido variations for a simpler approach.

The cabbage soaks up the brine as it ferments, gaining deep umami notes and pleasant pungency. Meanwhile, the chili peppers lend noticeable yet not overpowering heat. An acidity not unlike kimchi shines through from the natural fermentation process too.

For best results, look for curtido in the refrigerated section rather than cans, which don’t ferment as effectively. Curtido works wonderfully as kimchi swap-in for banchan, Korean barbecue, stews, rice bowls, and beyond.

2. Spicy Sauerkraut

Spicy Sauerkraut

Classic sauerkraut undergoes lactic acid fermentation giving it tart, salty qualities similar to kimchi minus the heat. But amped up spicy sauerkraut can make for an excellent stand-in thanks to its chili-fired zing.

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You may find spicy sauerkraut sold refrigerated or in cans/jars. Opt for fresh varieties when possible as the flavors tend to shine more. Mix up the classic combo by adding extra vegetables like shredded carrots for texture and sweetness to offset the heat.

Spicy kraut brings a comparable sour creaminess to dishes as kimchi. Use it atop Korean-style tacos, stir fries, noodles, and more. You can also mix plain sauerkraut with gochugaru chili flakes or sriracha for DIY spicy kimchi vibes.

3. Chinese Sichuan Pickles

Chinese Sichuan Pickles

Pickled veggies seasoned with tongue-tingling Sichuan peppercorns, chili oil, and chilies themselves, Chinese Sichuan pickles capture kimchi’s essence wonderfully. Cabbage leaves and carrots soaked in a fiery brine satisfy on multiple levels.

Beyond the overt spiciness, these pickles also proffer secondary fermented notes not unlike kimchi but perhaps more subtle. They lend well to various Asian-inspired dishes like dumplings, rice bowls and the like as a tasty kimchi replacement.

4. Mixed Pickled Vegetables

Mixed Pickled Vegetables

You can DIY mixed pickled vegetables at home for a custom kimchi substitute using your choice of fresh produce. Try jicama, radishes, pearl onions, bell peppers, green beans, cauliflower or other crunchy veggies either solo or in combination.

Create a fiery brine using salt, sugar, vinegar, garlic, ginger and copious amounts of chili flakes or paste. For best results, allow the containers to ferment 1-4 weeks for tangy, spicy pickled bits reminiscent of kimchi minus the cabbage.

5. Giardiniera


An Italian chopped veggie condiment, giardiniera offers another excellent kimchi alternative thanks to its spicy, garlicky pickle. Standard ingredients include cauliflower, carrots, celery, peppers, and olives soaked in a briny, chili-charged bath.

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You can find bottled giardiniera in oil or for a healthier option, water. Its pronounced acidity and lingering heat make it right at home atop Korean bibimbap bowls, bulgogi meats, banchan sides, and beyond in place of kimchi.

6. Peruvian Aji Verde

Peruvian Aji Verde

While not vinegar pickled, Peruvian aji verde bears a thick, sauce-like consistency packed with spicy, herbal notes you’ll love if a kimchi fanatic. The emerald green puree usually contains Peruvian ají peppers, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and spices.

Smear it onto proteins or grains like Korean gochujang chili paste. The brightness plays beautifully against rich meats like chicken, pork, and salmon. It also works nicely thinned with lime as a spicy salad dressing sub for kimchi-based ones.

7. Japanese Takuan

Japanese Takuan

A sunshiny yellow thanks to turmeric, Japanese takuan offers a crispy pickled daikon radish that makes for a milder kimchi cousin. Unlike kimchi and other fermented veggie alternatives, takuan doesn’t carry much heat. But it still imparts a signature tang and pleasant cronch.

Takuan is right at home alongside fatty proteins like pork and chicken. Its subtle acid and bitter notes contrast rich meats nicely. Try takuan to offset bibimbap, ramen, sushi rolls, and stir fries for a similar flavor as kimchi minus the fire.

Substitute Key Ingredients Texture Heat Level Fermented
Curtido Cabbage, carrots, onion, oregano Crunchy, juicy Medium Yes
Spicy sauerkraut Cabbage, salt, spices Soft, juicy Medium-high Yes
Sichuan pickles Cabbage, carrot, chili oil Crisp Very high Yes
Mixed veggies Assorted vegetables Crisp Customizable When fermented
Giardiniera Cauliflower, olives, peppers Crunchy, crispy Medium Yes
Aji verde Peppers, cilantro, garlic Smooth puree Medium-high No
Takuan Daikon radish Crispy None Yes
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When it comes to heat intensity, curtido, spicy kraut, Sichuan pickles, and aji verde bring the most comparable fire to authentic kimchi. Giardiniera and mixed veggie options offer lots of flexibility to amp up spices as desired.

For maximum authenticity, stick to fermented alternatives like curtido, spicy kraut, Sichuan pickles, and giardiniera. But non-fermented condiments work well too if you primarily want to emulate kimchi’s heat.

If you don’t always have access to quality kimchi or want to change things up at times, give one of these tasty swap-ins a try. Curtido, spicy sauerkraut, Sichuan pickles and beyond make excellent additions to Korean-style dishes for crave-worthy flavor minus the kimchi itself.

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