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Can You Freeze Kimchi?

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Kimchi, the traditional Korean condiment, is now going global. People living in different parts of the world are enjoying kimchi, whether it’s homemade or commercially manufactured.

But, not everyone knows what to do with leftover kimchi! 

Can you freeze kimchi? Yes, you can freeze kimchi. Kimchi freezes quite well and suffers very little textural changes if you freeze and defrost it properly. Storing kimchi in the freezer extends its shelf life for at least 3 months. 

Continue reading to learn step-by-step instructions for freezing and defrosting kimchi. We will also tell you how to detect bad kimchi if you are not sure whether it is still good for consumption or not. 

What Is Kimchi?  

Kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine. This is a condiment made of various vegetables although the most popular kimchi variety contains shredded cabbage.

Radish, carrots, cucumber, garlic, ginger, and other vegetables can also be used to make kimchi. 

To make kimchi, the vegetables are pickled and fermented. Once kimchi is fermented and ready, it can be used in a variety of dishes, including stews, hamburgers, sauces, rice, etc.

Kimchi is also eaten as is or served as a condiment with every meal, from breakfast to dinner. 

While you can make kimchi at home and wait for a few weeks for the vegetables to ferment, you can also buy kimchi at local supermarkets. This Korean condiment has become widely available and well-loved in many countries. 

Does Kimchi Freeze Well?

As kimchi is salt-brined, it has a quite long shelf life. But if you have made more kimchi than you can eat within a few weeks, it is best to store it in the freezer

Luckily, kimchi freezes quite well. The vegetables will lose their crispiness over time and the overall flavor will deteriorate the longer you keep the kimchi in the freezer.

However, before that happens, you can defrost and enjoy kimchi for 3 months instead of discarding a half-full jar full of pickled goodness. 

How To Freeze Kimchi

Not freezing kimchi properly may bring forth major texture and flavor changes. To avoid these, take your time to properly prepare the condiment for freezing. 

Whether you are freezing homemade or store-bought kimchi, the general rules are the same – freezing kimchi in an airtight container and in portions for easy thawing

Here are step-by-step instructions for freezing kimchi. 

Freezing Store-Bought Kimchi

Commercially manufactured kimchi usually comes in glass jars. Even if you haven’t opened the jar and it is tightly sealed, don’t store kimchi in the freezer in its original packaging.

Glass breaks and shatters in cold environments, damaging your freezer and the food you are keeping in it. Additionally, the Korean-style pickled vegetables will go to waste. 

Here’s how to freeze store-bought kimchi.

  1. Transfer the kimchi from the glass container into an airtight container or zip-top bag
  2. If you are using a container, make sure it is not too big for the amount of kimchi you are freezing so that the food is not in contact with too much air. With this said, leave an inch of space between the kimchi and the lid as the liquid in kimchi expands as it freezes. As for zip-top bags, push out as much air as you can to keep the kimchi fresh. Use a vacuum sealer if you have one at home.
  3. If you have a large amount of kimchi you are going to freeze, divide it into multiple portions
  4. Label the container or the bag with the date and put it in the freezer. 
  5. If you have multiple zip-top bags, flatten them and store them in the freezer. Storing flat-packed food is much easier and space-efficient. 

If your store-bought kimchi is in plastic packaging that is airtight and undamaged, there is no need to transfer the kimchi into another container. Freeze it as is if the portion size works for you. 

Freezing Homemade Kimchi 

Freeze homemade kimchi following the same principles as when freezing the commercially manufactured variety

If you have made a large batch of kimchi and know you won’t be eating all of it within the next few weeks, freeze the kimchi while it is still freshly brined

Follow these steps to freeze homemade kimchi. 

  1. Divide the homemade kimchi into portions
  2. Transfer the kimchi into airtight plastic containers or freezer bags
  3. If you are using freezer bags, make sure to push out the excess air from the bags to provide maximum freshness for the condiment. 
  4. Label the container or the freezer bag with the date and put them in the freezer. 

How Long Does Kimchi Last In The Freezer? 

It is best to eat kimchi stored in the freezer within 3 months for the best flavor and texture. Frozen kimchi will stay safe for consumption for much longer.

However, the longer it sits in the freezer the more its flavor and texture will deteriorate. 

How To Defrost Kimchi

If you want to avoid texture changes in kimchi, you need to defrost it in the fridge. Freezing affects the crispiness of the vegetables and defrosting them using the wrong method will further affect their texture. 

Don’t expose kimchi to drastic temperature changes. If you thaw kimchi at room temperature, the condiment will become too mushy.

To defrost kimchi, simply transfer it from the fridge into the freezer. Put the bag or container with kimchi on a plate to avoid water leaking in your fridge and wait for a few hours until kimchi is fully defrosted. 

How much time it will take for kimchi to thaw depends on the portion size.

However, as it usually takes a few hours for a portion of kimchi to fully defrost, remember to transfer it from the freezer into the fridge the night before you are planning to eat it

Tip: If you are going to add the kimchi into a stew, sauce, or any hot dish where the crispiness of kimchi is not of central importance, add the frozen kimchi right into the hot dish.

The heat from the hot stew or sauce will quickly thaw the brined vegetables and a few minutes of cooking will bring kimchi fully back to life and incorporate its flavor into the dish. 

Can You Refreeze Kimchi?

We recommend you never refreeze kimchi. Refreezing kimchi will heavily affect its flavor and texture. When you freeze food, its cells expand and burst.

Because of this, repeating the freezing process multiple times will make the shredded vegetables in kimchi overly mushy. The condiment will also become less flavorful as a result of refreezing. 

The only way to avoid refreezing kimchi is to freeze it in small portions. You will manage to eat all of the defrosted kimchi and won’t have leftovers that might need refreezing. 

What To Do With Defrosted Kimchi

If the texture of defrosted kimchi doesn’t satisfy you even when you follow all freezing and defrosting rules, we still recommend you freeze leftover kimchi. You can use kimchi not only fresh but in cooked dishes too. 

Here’s what you can make with defrosted kimchi.

  • Dumplings
  • Stews
  • Fried rice with kimchi
  • Sauces 
  • Fritters and pancakes, etc.

There is a lot you can do with kimchi. Save kimchi stored in the fridge for dishes where the crispiness of the shredded vegetables is required. For the rest of the cases, use kimchi from the freezer. 

Signs That Kimchi Has Gone Bad 

Some people say that kimchi doesn’t go bad, it only gets sourer. While this is true to a certain extent, there are a few signs that are a warning that you should discard the kimchi. 

There are also a few confusing signs that may make you wonder if kimchi is bad or is it simply too ripe. As kimchi ripens, it gets sourer.

This is completely normal and is not a sign of bad kimchi. While you may not be able to eat overly sour kimchi as is, you can use it in stews and fries. 

If you have had the same jar of kimchi for a few weeks and notice that the cabbage or the rest of the vegetables have become less crunchy, don’t discard the kimchi.

It is normal for the shredded vegetables to lose their crispiness with time

The signs that kimchi has gone bad and needs to be discarded are the following:

  • Off-putting smell. Kimchi usually smells sour. But when the smell gets so sour as to make the condiment smell like alcohol, it is time to discard the kimchi. 
  • Mold. Mold is the most obvious sign that you need to discard the kimchi. While mold usually grows on food stored in warm temperatures, refrigerated food isn’t guaranteed against mold either. If you notice any dots or fuzzy masses on the kimchi or in the container you are keeping it in, discard the kimchi

Always check the kimchi for any signs of spoilage before freezing and after thawing it. If you are not sure whether kimchi is good for consumption or not, err on the safe side and discard it. 

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