While Korean barbecue may be having a moment stateside, soup is what truly lies at the heart of Korean diets. If a trek to Seoul won’t fit into your schedule, never fear. You can make a bowl of one of Korea’s most popular recipes right at home and in under 30 minutes.
Kimchi soup (kimchi jjigae) is a staple in Korea. It’s a dish you’ll find served just about everywhere—out at restaurants and in the home. Using aged (or “ripe”) kimchi, rather than freshly made, gives the soup a stronger, deeper flavor. As a fermented food, the aged kimchi contains “good” bacteria similar to those found in yogurt, making it an excellent probiotic that may improve digestion and boost immunity.
Beyond its great taste and health benefits, kimchi soup is easy to make and comes together in a single pot. Don’t be scared off by the ingredients. Everything can be found at most local supermarkets. Amazon is also a great resource for specialty kimchi ($8).
How to Make Kimchi Soup (Kimchi Jjigae)
- 1 pound pork belly, sliced 1/2 thick pieces
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup kimchi (aged, if possible)
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced thin
- 1 baby bok choy, quartered
- 8 ounces firm tofu, cut into large 1/4-inch thick slices
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup kimchi juice
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (gochujang)
- 1 tablespoon Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
- Cooked white or brown rice, for serving
Step 1: Marinate the Pork Belly
Marinating the pork belly for a few minutes is the secret to adding an extra tasty layer to this hearty kimchi soup. Begin by combining the sliced pork belly in a large bowl with the rice vinegar, sesame oil, grated ginger, minced garlic and black pepper. Set aside for at least 10-15 minutes.
Step 2: Saute the Kimchi and Onions
In a large stockpot or wok, cook the kimchi over medium heat until tender. Then add the sliced onions and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.
Step 3: Cook the Pork Belly
Next, add the marinaded pork belly (with the juices) to the stockpot. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until almost cooked through.
Step 4: Add Remaining Ingredients
Add the sliced mushrooms, vegetable broth and kimchi juice to the pot. Give everything a stir and then add the fish sauce, soy sauce, gochujang and gochugaru to the soup. Stir and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the soup to a simmer and add the tofu and bok choy. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until bok choy is tender and tofu is warmed through.
Step 5: Garnish and Serve
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with sliced green onions. Serve with your favorite cooked white or brown rice and other Korean side dishes. We recommend these tasty kimchi pancakes!
Editor’s Note: Did you know kimchi soup is often served communally in Korea? For a fun family-style dinner, serve this soup from one large bowl or pot right in the center of the table. Give everyone a spoon and a side of rice and slurp away.
Lauren Habermehl for Taste of Home
Can you Freeze Kimchi Soup?
Tofu is one of those foods that doesn’t freeze well in all dishes. In this soup, its texture and consistency get a bit mushy once thawed and reheated. If you want to freeze this soup, we recommend freezing it prior to adding the sliced tofu and bok choy in step 4. When you’re ready to eat the soup, thaw it in a stockpot over medium heat. Bring the soup to a simmer, then add the tofu and bok choy and finish heating as before.
How to Make Kimchi Soup Less Spicy
If you love the flavors of Korean food but can’t handle the heat, you can easily adjust the level of spice to your taste. Simply reduce the amount of gochujang or gochugaru. You can also opt for mild kimchi, rather than spicy. If you love spicy food, just add extra gochujang or gochugaru to the soup or garnish your bowl with a few slices of your favorite hot peppers.