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Kimchi isn’t only famous in Korea, but it’s also widely embraced worldwide.
Once kimchi hits your palate, it’s a burst of contradicting flavors that complement one another in your mouth.
You get the sour, sweet, and spicy taste from well-fermented kimchi.
Besides the flavors, kimchi is also a versatile dish that you can eat as a condiment, side dish, ingredient, or an entire meal if you love veggies.
The fermentation process of kimchi is quite interesting.
Some let it ferment for months and cover it in big jars for that excellent outcome.
But does kimchi go bad?
We’ll finally answer that for you in this article!
With over 180 varieties, kimchi is a superfood considered Korea’s traditional dish.
Without a doubt, kimchi is a staple food in the country, and because it’s so easy to prepare.
Many people globally are creating this dish for personal consumption or commercialization.
Kimchi involves various vegetables to start with.
Common ones used in kimchi are cabbage, scallion, and radish, mixed with other ingredients like ginger, garlic, chilis, etc.
You may also add other vegetables like cucumber and carrots, although cabbage is the main ingredient in kimchi.
In Korea, they rub various spices on every leaf of the green vegetables up and down.
Then they set it aside in massive jars to ferment for months, similar to wine.
Some let it ferment for a few days.
However, if you want that tangy and crunchy flavor, some allow it to ferment for a few months.
It may take a while to prepare kimchi.
But the method is pretty easy.
There is not much work needed because all the flavors and nutritional profiles are developed.
However, be patient when waiting for the kimchi to ferment.
What does kimchi taste like?
Kimchi’s flavors will depend on the recipe and some other factors.
For example, it will depend on the type of vegetable you use.
It will also vary on how much sugar and salt you put in.
Finally, the length of fermentation will have a significant impact on the flavor of kimchi.
As for the ingredients, the flavor will also depend on what spices you use or if you’ve incorporated fish sauce that gives it that umami flavor.
But the overall taste of most homemade and commercialized kimchi is a tangy and intense flavor.
There is also a hint of spiciness, sweetness, and sourness.
Due to the bacteria production from the lactic acid, the fermentation process contributes to a taste similar to sauerkraut.
Does kimchi go bad?
Kimchi doesn’t go bad quickly, especially if you haven’t opened it.
But kimchi does go bad once you’ve opened it and stored it improperly.
In the fridge, kimchi can be stored for months.
In the pantry, you can store unopened kimchi longer.
If the kimchi doesn’t have that overly sour or “off” smell, you’re good to go.
However, if you suspect there might be something off in the smell, it’s better to throw away the kimchi.
Kimchi continues to ferment fast at warm temperatures.
So if you’ve opened kimchi, avoid storing it in the pantry as this will continue the fermentation process.
Another thing to check if kimchi has gone bad is the formulation of mold.
If you see little spots in green, blue, or black color, then thrash the kimchi right away.
Ingesting mold is detrimental because it can amass bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions or food poisoning.
Overall, it’s safer not to store kimchi for more than three months.
How long does opened kimchi last?
For opened kimchi, it’s best to store it in the fridge as it lasts longer.
The cold temperature will bog down the fermentation process.
Make sure it’s in an air-tight container for best results.
But a few factors also impact this such as the type and size of the container, and how often you take the kimchi out to eat it.
Remember that kimchi ferments faster at room temperature.
On the other hand, it can ferment very slowly in the refrigerator, making it last for 6 months.
If you keep kimchi at room temperature, it may only last for 7 days after opening.
Storing kimchi in the refrigerator means it will continue to ferment, so expect a more sour taste from your kimchi the longer you let it stay in the fridge.
The most recommended kimchi storage in the refrigerator is up to 6 months.
You’ll notice that your kimchi will have a distinctly sour taste at this stage.
How long does unopened kimchi last?
If your kimchi is unopened, you don’t have to store it in a refrigerator.
Unopened kimchi is safe to keep in a pantry and will last for years.
However, if you decide to store it in the freezer, it will last for 7 years!
Once you decide to open the kimchi, let it thaw first, and use a fresh utensil to take a heaping amount of kimchi.
Put it back into the freezer in a tightly sealed container, and your kimchi will last for up to three months.
The essential thing to take note of when you’re buying commercialized kimchi is that there will always be a date when the kimchi is good.
So you can take note of that date.
Another thing to remember, though, is never to put your unopened kimchi around heat elements.
Since warmer temperatures expedite the fermentation process, this will make your kimchi go bad very quickly.
So remember to avoid putting it near the stove in the kitchen or in windows that invite direct sunlight.
Keep your unopened kimchi in dark areas like a cupboard until you want to take some out to eat.
How long does homemade kimchi last?
Homemade kimchi is different from store-bought kimchi as the former doesn’t contain preservatives.
Preservatives such as sorbic acid will make the kimchi last longer.
This means you can store, store-bought kimchi in cool and dry places that don’t receive sunlight for many months without worrying it will go bad.
When it comes to homemade kimchi, taking note of storage and fermentation is crucial because of the lack of preservatives.
You can let your kimchi ferment in the refrigerator for a week to a month.
Ensure that you put the kimchi in air-tight containers or glass jars for the best results.
Depending on the sourness level you want your kimchi to be, you can let it ferment in the fridge for about a few weeks if you want it less sour and crunchy.
However, if you want more sourness in the kimchi, you can let it ferment in the fridge for up to three months.
Remember that it will become sourer after three months and might even develop a weird smell if it’s not stored correctly.
Also, if you let it ferment for more than three months, you will lose the crunchiness of the vegetables.
While some people prefer mushy kimchi, some don’t.
So it’s entirely up to you how you want the texture to be.
Does kimchi go bad in the refrigerator?
Most of the kimchi sold in stores is unpasteurized.
This means that the active bacteria will continue to ferment the kimchi.
Due to this, it will make your kimchi go bad quickly, especially if you’re not mindful of proper storage.
The refrigerator is undeniably the best place to store the kimchi, which slows down the fermentation process, enabling your kimchi to last longer.
Unopened kimchi stored in the refrigerator will last years, when—of course—stored correctly.
On the other hand, opened kimchi will only last for up to 3 months.
After that, the kimchi gets very tart, which might not suit some consumers.
A few reminders are that unpasteurized kimchi is best before one month, while pasteurized and unopened kimchi is best consumed within 1 to 3 months.
Finally, pasteurized and opened kimchi must be consumed within 1 to 3 months.
Can kimchi get moldy?
As long as kimchi is stored in an air-tight container, no air can make your kimchi stale.
However, if your container has holes in which air can enter, then your kimchi can dry out and grow molds in days or weeks.
How do I know if kimchi has gone bad?
You can take note of three things to know if kimchi has gone bad.
One is if you see mold, which results when the vegetables aren’t fully submerged in liquid.
Secondly, you’ll notice a smell that’s a bit “off” from the typical sour smell.
Finally, the taste is too strong for your palate.
What is the best way to store kimchi?
The best way to store opened kimchi is in an air-tight container or glass jar in the refrigerator.
It’s also best to consume it within 1 to 3 months.
Meanwhile, unopened kimchi should be stored in a cool, dry, and dark place to ensure steady fermentation.
Finally, for homemade kimchi, ensure that you use sterilized jars to eliminate the growth of bacteria.
Also, keep the vegetables submerged in water and let the kimchi ferment in the fridge.
The bottom line
Storing kimchi is the key to enjoying the best kimchi with that perfect blend of sourness, sweetness, spiciness, and crunchiness.
Whether you’re storing unopened, opened, or homemade kimchi, remember that it will go bad depending on your storage procedures.
Follow these steps to ensure you’re not wasting away excellent effort and delicious vegetables during the fermentation process.
Get more interesting facts about kimchi in this FAQ guide!
- Sealed glass jar
- Place kimchi in a sealed, clean glass jar, ensuring all the ingredients are submerged in the brine.
- Store kimchi in your refrigerator for up to six months.