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Does Kimchi Go Bad?

Does Kimchi Go Bad?

Kimchi is a world-famous dish coming to us from Korea. It’s fairly popular in Korea, but it’s got a lot of love in the US. So many people enjoy eating kimchi on the regular outside the country of origin.

What is so great about kimchi is that you don’t have to eat out to have kimchi – or order takeout. You can even buy pre-made kimchi in a jar or a bag in your local supermarket. How cool!

So, you adore kimchi – and who doesn’t? You catch yourself always looking at the aisles with kimchi when you’re out grocery shopping. Today, you notice some on sale… and you’re thinking about buying at least a few packs. But, there are a few questions.

First, does kimchi go bad? How much time do you have to eat it up before you have to toss it out? How to store it and how to check it out? For all the answers, read our article!

What Is Kimchi?

Before we begin talking about kimchi’s shelf life, let’s talk about what kimchi really is. 

Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish. It’s made with salted or fermented vegetables – mostly napa cabbage and Korean radish (this type of kimchi is most popular in the US). Kimchi can also be made with spring onions, garlic, jeotgal (salted seafood), and gochugaru (chili pepper).

Kimchi is a fiber-rich meal that is not only tasty, it’s also good for you. Let’s check out the nutritional value for 1 cup of kimchi:

NutrientValueDaily Value In %*
Total Fat 0.8g1%
Total Carbohydrate3.6g1%
Dietary Fiber2.4g10%
Total Sugars1.6g/
Vitamin A1659IU130%
Vitamin C39.8mg67%
*Daily value is based on a 2.000 calorie diet

In the table above, we can see that kimchi has some nutrients important for your health, and all that is packed in just 23 calories. How great!

Kimchi has a lot of benefits to your health, like:

Helps with digestionKimchi contains probiotics, which aid digestion
Boosts the immune systemThis dish has a lot of good bacteria and vitamins
Reduces inflammationCompounds in fermented foods help with inflammation
Aids weight lossProbiotics and fiber help boost the metabolism
Reduces risk of heart diseaseKimchi lowers the cholesterol levels

Does Kimchi Go Bad?

Kimchi may be beneficial to your health, but it’s important to know is there a life span for those jars in the pantry. So, does kimchi go bad?

We’ve got some bad news – kimchi can go bad! Thankfully, your jar of kimchi is safe for quite some while. Why?

Fermented vegetables have a much longer shelf life because the liquid (alcoholic vinegar) they’re kept in (fermented with) acts as a preservative. Since kimchi is mostly made from these foods, it has quite a while before it expires.

What can you do? Well, always store kimchi according to the guidelines on the label, and your kimchi will always be fresh when you need it!

The Shelf Life Of Kimchi

It’s crucial to know how long kimchi lasts. If you have this information, you can plan your meals accordingly. So, how much time do you have to finish your stock of kimchi?

Well, we already said that kimchi has a fairly long shelf life. Well, that depends on the type – whether it’s pasteurized or not.

Pasteurization is a process of partial sterilization to remove pathogens – to prolong the shelf life. Consequently, pasteurized kimchi has a longer shelf life than the other.

Both pasteurized and unpasteurized kimchi has a best-by date printed on the label. A best-by date is a manufacturer’s guarantee that the food in question will retain the same quality up to that date. So, the food in question will not go bad after that date, but it might lose some quality over time.

So, kimchi is probably fine for a while after that date. But, the fermentation process doesn’t stop once kimchi is packed – and at some point, kimchi will become too sour for your liking. Our advice is to abide by the best-before date, give or take a few weeks.

The pasteurized kimchi will be fine for around one to three months past the printed date. Opened or unopened – doesn’t matter. Read our article to find out if canola oil goes bad.

Unpasteurized kimchi has to be stored according to the label or it will go bad in a matter of weeks. If stored correctly, you have around a month past the best-by date to use it up, which is more than plenty of time.

Storage Tips

We cannot put an accent on how important storage is. It saves you money because you don’t throw out food that is spoiled before its time.

Storing kimchi is fairly easy. For pasteurized jars, you can store them in the fridge, or the pantry – all is good. Storing it in the fridge won’t prolong the shelf life, though. If you opt for the pantry, make sure to store the jars away from the window or any sources of heat. 

Unpasteurized jars should always be placed in the fridge. They will spoil too soon at room temperature because it’s fermented. The fermentation process is continued until the food finally spoils, and that happens faster in a warmer environment.

Every opened jar of kimchi should be stored in the fridge. Make sure to close the lid tightly, and if that’s not an option – transfer the leftovers into an airtight container or a ziplock bag.

Fun fact: over two million tons of kimchi are consumed annually in Korea – that’s around 13 whole cabbages per capita!

How To Check If The Kimchi Spoiled

You have a jar of kimchi in the fridge that’s been around…forever, it seems. You want to eat it but you’re not quite sure if it’s still good. Lucky for you, we’ll teach you how to check the state of your kimchi.

First of all, open the jar or package and examine the appearance of the vegetables. It’s not likely, but if you can see discolorations or worse, mold, the kimchi has gone bad. If it’s stored incorrectly, or some vegetables were not soaked fully in the liquid, mold can develop. If it happens, your best bet is to throw it out.

If it looks a-okay, smell the kimchi. If it doesn’t smell as usual, and it smells off instead, toss the jar out.

Next, if it looks and smells fine, do a little taste test. Kimchi is a fermented food, and the fermentation process doesn’t stop once it’s packed and shipped off. So, the longer you wait, the kimchi is fermented more and more, which results in it tasting very sour.

Very sour-tasting kimchi is still perfectly safe for human consumption, we assure you. If it’s too sour for your liking, you can add it to a meal or discard it – whatever floats your boat. Also, if it tastes bitter or unpleasant, it’s most likely spoiled – the safest thing to do is to discard it!

One more thing that can happen is that the napa cabbage can soften over time. Kimchi may not be as appetizing without the crunch, but it’s still good to eat. If it’s not good enough for a side dish this way, you can make a delicious kimchi soup with it!

Does Kimchi Go Bad? – Conclusion

To conclude, this nutritious, healthy food can be eaten alone, as a side dish, or added to meals – the options are limitless. Sadly, kimchi can go bad. Thanks to the fermentation, it won’t go bad too soon, and you have quite some time to finish the entire jar.

As previously mentioned, pasteurization is a heating process used to prolong shelf life. So, pasteurized kimchi has a longer shelf life – you can safely consume it in three months past the best-by date, and unpasteurized should be finished in no more than a month past the date on the label.

It’s never a bad idea to store kimchi in the fridge! But, unopened jars of pasteurized kimchi can be kept in the pantry, as long as you don’t keep them near a window.

Before you eat a somewhat old jar of kimchi, take a few moments beforehand to check it out. Look at it, smell it and lastly, do a small taste test. If everything is up to par – bon appetit!