Is Kimchi Vegetarian? A Deep Dive into the Vegan-Friendly Status of Kimchi

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Kimchi, a beloved Korean dish known for its bold and spicy flavors, has gained international popularity. As more people explore plant-based diets, the question arises: Is Kimchi vegetarian, or does it contain animal-derived ingredients? In this article, we’ll dissect the ingredients and preparation of traditional Kimchi to determine its vegan status.

Understanding Kimchi Ingredients

Traditional Kimchi primarily consists of vegetables, with Napa cabbage and Korean radish being the key components. Additional ingredients include garlic, ginger, and various spices. These vegetables undergo a slow fermentation process inside a sterilized container, resulting in the delicious Korean dish loved by many.

Is Kimchi Vegan or Not?

At first glance, the ingredient list of Kimchi appears to be plant-based, suggesting that it should be vegan-friendly. The preparation process also does not involve any animal-related elements. However, the reality is that Kimchi is not considered vegan.

Why Kimchi Isn’t Really Vegan

The complexity of Kimchi lies in its regional variations, with different recipes found throughout Korea. While vegetables are a staple in Kimchi, some traditional recipes incorporate non-vegan ingredients to enhance flavor. The two primary non-vegan components often used in Kimchi are shrimp paste and fish sauce. These ingredients contribute to the dish’s unique taste but are not part of a vegan diet.

Fish sauce, in particular, may seem like a minor flavoring component, but its source involves fish exploitation, making it incompatible with vegan principles. Consequently, traditional Kimchi recipes that include these seafood-based elements are not considered vegan.

Making Kimchi Vegan

Making Kimchi Vegan

The good news for those seeking a vegan alternative to traditional Kimchi is that it is entirely possible to prepare a plant-based version that is just as flavorful and satisfying. To make vegan Kimchi, you can replace non-vegan ingredients with plant-based alternatives.

Vegan Kimchi Recipe


  • 1 head Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • ⅓ Daikon Radish
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour (or rice flour for a gluten-free option)
  • ⅓ cup Gochugaru

For the paste:

  • ½ onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Large thumb of fresh ginger (30g / 1oz)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari for a gluten-free option)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 large sheet of nori

Additional items:

  • Airtight jars for storing
  • Gloves


  1. Add the salt to a large bowl and dissolve it in 1.5 liters (53 fl. oz) of water.
  2. Slice the cabbage into 2-inch pieces and soak it in the salted water for at least 12 hours.
  3. Prepare the sauce by cooking rice flour and water until it thickens and becomes translucent. Let it cool down.
  4. Prepare the paste ingredients and blend them until smooth, adding kosher salt for flavor. Combine this paste with the sauce in a mixing bowl, adding Gochugaru.
  5. Drain and wash the soaked cabbage thoroughly with cold water.
  6. Mix the cabbage with the paste, radish, carrots, and spring onions. Add seasonings and sugar according to your preference.
  7. Ensure the sauce and paste are evenly distributed among the vegetables by using gloves to mix.
  8. Place the mixture inside dry, airtight jars and leave them at room temperature for at least three days for fermentation.

This vegan Kimchi recipe eliminates non-vegan ingredients like shrimp paste and fish sauce while maintaining the delicious flavors of traditional Kimchi.

Top Vegan Kimchi Brands

For those who prefer ready-made options, several vegan Kimchi brands offer authentic and cruelty-free alternatives. Here are some top vegan Kimchi brands to explore:

  1. Mother in Law Kimchi: Known for its farm-produced, vegan Kimchi, this brand has been delighting Asian and non-Asian consumers since 1989.
  2. Lucky Store Kimchi: This family heirloom brand has been handcrafting vegan Kimchi for over 40 years, satisfying customers worldwide.
  3. Wise Goat Organics: Their Kimchi uses all-natural, locally farmed vegetables without fish sauce, offering a fresh and delectable vegan option.
  4. Madge’s Food: This Kimchi is fermented longer for a tangier flavor, increased nutrition, and health benefits. It incorporates a proprietary plant-based mixture of mushrooms and sea plants for added umami.
  5. Wang Store Canned Kimchi: Offering a gluten-free and all-natural vegan Kimchi, this product boasts a unique and spicy flavor profile.

FAQs about Kimchi

What’s the Difference Between Kimchi and Sauerkraut?

While both Kimchi and sauerkraut share a salty profile, they have distinct differences. Sauerkraut, a German dish, consists of fermented cabbage and salt. In contrast, Kimchi features a wide variety of vegetables, typically with spicy, sour, and salty flavors. Kimchi offers a more complex taste profile, often incorporating garlic, ginger, and Korean red pepper powder.

Does Kimchi Taste Like Pickles?

Kimchi’s flavor shares some similarities with pickles—it is tangy, spicy, and salty. However, Kimchi has a distinct complexity in its taste due to the use of various spices and ingredients, making it a unique and flavorful dish.

In conclusion, while traditional Kimchi recipes may not be vegan due to the inclusion of seafood-based ingredients, individuals can easily prepare or purchase vegan versions of this beloved Korean dish. As plant-based diets gain momentum, vegan Kimchi has become a delectable and accessible option for those seeking cruelty-free alternatives.

For more insights into plant-based living and culinary innovations, visit Crooked Beverage Co.

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