Can I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi? We describe how to prepare kimchi with soy sauce step by step. 

Can I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi?

You can use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi. Many recipes do not even include fish sauce in the ingredient list. If you are vegan or if you are looking for an alternative, soy sauce is perhaps the best option. 

Both soy sauce and fish sauce contain high amounts of sodium. In the U.S., more than 90% of adults consume more than the tolerable upper intake level of 2300 mg/day. Over 75% of U.S. sodium intake comes from commercially processed and restaurant foods to which sodium/salt has been added prior to consumer purchase (1).

Kimchi, often spelled “gimchi”, “kimchee” or “kimchee”, is a type of traditional Korean pickle, generally spicy and salty, made from a wide variety of vegetables seasoned and flavored with spices and condiments.

There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, but the most popular of them use as main ingredients Chinese cabbage (napa type), radish, green onion, and cucumber. 

Kimchi is the most popular “banchan” in Korea, meaning garnish; it is eaten with virtually any preparation. But kimchi is also the main ingredient in many traditional Korean dishes, such as “kimchi jiggae” (kimchi stew), “kimchiguk” (kimchi soup), and “kimchi bokkeumbap” (kimchi fried rice).

Codex Alimentarius defines kimchi as a product with the following three processing conditions. First, baechu (vegetable, such as radish, cabbage, and cucumber) of various varieties (Brassica pekinensis Pupr.) is soaked in salt, washed, dehydrated before use, or cut into an appropriate size. Second, the red chili pepper (Capsicum annuum L.), garlic, ginger, radish, and other ingredients are prepared in order to make the yangnyeom. Third, kimchi is a product as-is or by long period fermentation by aging at a low temperature to appropriately preserve the shelf life in order to produce lactic acid by mixing vegetables and yangnyeom (kimchi sauce or juice).

Kimchi juice used to make water kimchi consists of four components: liquid, flavoring, thickening, and seasoning. The key ingredients of the flavoring agents are red chili pepper powder, garlic, ginger, and jeotgal. Jeotgal is a fermented food made by salting various types of seafood products such as anchovies and shrimp (2).

How to cook kimchi with soy sauce instead of fish sauce

We are going to teach you how to make homemade Chinese cabbage kimchi easily and practically that is not originally from Korea but is very similar, although in reality, they say that each person does it in their own way and they are all different. 

All the oriental ingredients can be obtained in specialized Chinese product stores without any problem. So giving it our particular touch, this time you will learn the Korean kimchi recipe. 


  •  1 Chinese cabbage
  •  100 grams of rice flour
  •  4 garlic cloves
  •  1 piece of ginger
  •  2 tablespoons sugar
  •  2 liters of water
  •  3 tablespoons soybean paste
  •  250 grams of coarse salt
  •  4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  •  1 tablespoon of hot paprika or chili powder
  •  1 teaspoon of sesame seeds.

Steps to follow to make this recipe:

  1.  The first thing we have to do to prepare this Korean kimchi is to separate the leaves from the stem of the Chinese cabbage, cut them into pieces, and cut the stem into large pieces as well.

Chinese cabbage kimchi can also be made by grating it into fine pieces like a carrot or leaving the cabbage whole, it all depends on our tastes.

  1. Next, in a large container, we add the water and the coarse salt, we mix it well so that the salt dissolves and thus obtains a brine. Now we put the cut Chinese cabbage and leave it in this brine for about 12 hours.
  2. Next, we have to prepare the spicy Korean sauce. To do this, we peel the ginger piece and put it in a mortar together with the peeled garlic, and we crush it all together until we obtain a garlic and ginger paste.
  3. Next, we mix the rice flour with the chili powder or hot paprika, add a bit of cold water and stir well until we get a kind of pickle for the Korean kimchi. Then we add the garlic and ginger paste, the soybean paste, the soy sauce, the sesame seeds, and the sugar, and mix everything well again. We keep this marinade in the fridge.
  4. Once the Chinese cabbage has rested for all the corresponding hours in the brine, we drain it well and put it in the previous preparation, stirring and letting it soak well. 

Then we pour all the Korean kimchi into a container, jar, or jar with a hermetic lid, and let it ferment in the fridge for at least 8 days so that it has that characteristic acidic, salty and spicy flavor, although you can also eat it a few days before it won’t have that remarkable flavor yet.

Tip: If you leave the Chinese cabbage kimchi to ferment out of the fridge at room temperature, it should not exceed 20º C but it will help it to ferment earlier and in about 3 days you will obtain its characteristic flavor.

  1. Once you have the Korean kimchi fermented to your liking, you can keep it in the fridge for months as it will hold perfectly, and use it when it suits you best.

In Korea, kimchi was traditionally used to accompany meat, fish, or rice dishes such as fried rice with kimchi or bokkeumbap, etc … since it combines with a multitude of flavors and preparations, but currently it can be considered as a starter or main dish in itself.

Even today, kimchi pizzas or broths are made with the kimchi sauce, with the marinade or marinade in which it is fermented and which provides an acid, salty and spicy flavor to any preparation.

Final thoughts

In this article, we answered the following question: Can I use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi? We described how to prepare kimchi with soy sauce step by step. 

You can use soy sauce instead of fish sauce in kimchi, and to be honest, you will barely notice the difference. 

Kimchi is a great source of vitamins A, C, B1, and B2, carotenes, calcium, protein, and carbohydrates, as well as a great antioxidant since most of its ingredients such as garlic, ginger, Chinese cabbage, turnips, paprika, or chili powder, etc … fight free radicals (3,4). 

Also, it is considered that this fermented product prevents cholesterol, health care of our arteries, and prevents cancer, especially due to the beneficial properties of garlic and ginger.

Kimchi can be considered a vegetable probiotic food that contributes health benefits in a similar manner as yogurt as a dairy probiotic food and the fermentative byproducts from the functional ingredients significantly boost its functionality. Health functionality of kimchi, based upon research, includes anticancer, antiobesity, cholesterol reduction, antioxidative, brain health promotion, immune promotion, and skin health promotion (4).

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know.


  1. Ahuja, Jaspreet KC, et al. Sodium content of popular commercially processed and restaurant foods in the United States. Prevent med rep, 2015, 2, 962-967.
  2. Lee, Chang Hyeon, and Young Ju Ko. A new process on the basic formula of kimchi: derived kimchi from a combination of yangnyeom (kimchi sauce) and vegetables. J Ethnic Foods, 2021, 8, 1-12.
  3. Thilakarathna, WPD Wass, Cindy HJ Yu, and HP Vasantha Rupasinghe. Variations in nutritional and microbial composition of napa cabbage kimchi during refrigerated storage. J Food Process Preserv, 2021, 45, e16065.
  4. Park, Kun-Young, et al. Health benefits of kimchi (Korean fermented vegetables) as a probiotic food. J med food, 2014, 17, 6-20.

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