Can you eat kimchi by itself?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Can you eat kimchi by itself?” with an in-depth analysis of kimchi, the health benefits, risks, and storage of kimchi, and how to make kimchi at home. 

Can you eat kimchi by itself?

Yes, you can eat kimchi by itself. Kimchi is a versatile dish that can be eaten raw or used in cooking to flavor soups and noodles. Kimchi is commonly served as a side dish or snack in Korean cuisine. Some people even eat kimchi as a main course, either alone or with a bowl of rice. Kimchi is also used in a variety of Korean foods, including kimchi fried rice, kimchi jjigae (stew), and kimchi pancakes (1). 

What are the health benefits of eating kimchi itself?

The following are potential health benefits of eating kimchi(1).

Rich in nutrients 

Kimchi is full of nutrients with a low amount of calories. Kimchi is a low-calorie food high in vitamins and minerals. It is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. 

Vitamin K is essential for many body functions, for instance, metabolism and blood clotting, while riboflavin helps produce energy and also plays its role in cellular growth.

A one-cup serving of Napa cabbage kimchi provides(1);

  • Calories: 23
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Protein: 2 g
  • Fat: less than 1 g
  • Fibre: 2 g
  • Sodium: 747 mg
  • Vitamin B6: 19 percent of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 22 percent of the DV
  • Vitamin K: 55 percent of the DV
  • Folate: 20 percent of the DV
  • Iron: 21 percent of the DV
  • Niacin: 10 percent of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 24 percent of the DV

Provides probiotics

One of the most noticeable health benefits of kimchi is its probiotic action. Probiotics are living microbes and bacteria used in the fermentation of dairy, vegetable, and soy products.

 A Lacto-fermentation process occurs in kimchi that makes it unique, for instance, it gives it a long shelf life and an improved taste and aroma. In Lacto-fermentation, the Lactobacillus bacteria break down sugars into lactic acid, which provides kimchi with its unique sour taste (3).

The process of fermentation also enables other beneficial bacteria to survive and propagate. These include probiotics, which are live microorganisms that give many benefits when used in sufficient quantities.

Gut health

Kimchi contains probiotics which can improve the condition of our gut. These probiotics are useful to balance the bacteria in the gut, consequently easing the digestion process.

Studies reported that Napa cabbage, the main ingredient in kimchi, has been shown to be useful in reducing stomach cancer and colorectal carcinogenesis due to its high dietary fiber content (2).  

Weight management

Fresh and fermented kimchi are both low in calories and may boost weight loss. It can help reduce blood sugar and reduce weight. This is because it is high in fiber, more filling, and serves as a low-calorie snack.

A 4-week research of 22 overweight persons revealed that consuming fresh or fermented kimchi helped reduce body weight, BMI, and body fat. Furthermore, the fermented variant reduced blood sugar levels (4).

May support heart health

Kimchi has also been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It has been found that 15 to 210 g of kimchi every day reduces blood sugar, total cholesterol, and bad cholesterol levels to a great extent, all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (2).

Other potential benefits of kimchi 

  • The Lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi helps to boost immunity (1).
  • Probiotics present in kimchi may decrease inflammation.
  • Fresh and fermented kimchi both have low amounts of calories, which may help in weight loss.

Are there any potential side effects of eating kimchi itself?

Besides many health benefits, kimchi has been associated with some side effects(1,5,6).

If kimchi is consumed with mold on it, the deadly mycotoxins can induce food poisoning and symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, and food poisoning. This happens when kimchi is improperly stored, and contamination occurs during the packaging and storage processes(4). 

While most fermented foods are safe to consume, kimchi may become infected with bacteria such as E. Coli that are not friendly to the gut, resulting in severe food poisoning that can be fatal (5). 

Kimchi has a high salt content (128 mg in half a cup) and should be used in moderation if sodium intake is being controlled(1). 

Kimchi consumption may cause bloating in the short term. This occurs when the probiotics in kimchi destroy the bad bacteria in the gut, leading to the emission of excess gas. Some people may have extreme bloating, which can be unpleasant. 

How to know if kimchi has spoiled?

Characteristics like bubbling, swelling, a sour flavor, and a softening of the cabbage are absolutely normal for kimchi. But, if you notice a bad smell or any signs of mold growth, such as a white film on top of the food, it indicates that the kimchi has gone bad and should be discarded (6,7).

How to store kimchi?

So, depending on your preferences and how long the jar will remain unopened, the pantry and the fridge are both good places to store unopened kimchi. When in doubt, place it in the refrigerator. After around 1-2 weeks, the kimchi begins to ferment. Always use a clean, sealed glass container to store kimchi(1,7). 

If you open it and it’s not sour enough, leave it at room temperature for a day or two until it’s to your taste. Once you’ve opened the jar, it’s preferable to keep it in the fridge to keep the fermentation under control. 

Make sure all the ingredients are completely submerged in the brine. This prevents the top part from drying out and spoiling. Close the jar when not in use. When scooping the veggies, use clean equipment to ensure that no contaminants reach the container. 

Can you make kimchi at home?

Yes, you can make kimchi at home. It is very simple if you adhere to the following steps (1):

Select ingredients of your preference. You can add cabbage and other fresh vegetables such as carrot, radish, and onion, along with ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, rice flour, chili oil, chili powder or pepper flakes, fish sauce, and fermented shrimp.

Chop and rinse the fresh vegetables along with the ginger and garlic. Spread salt among the layers of cabbage leaves and allow it to sit for 2 to 3 hours. Turn the cabbage every thirty minutes to uniformly distribute the salt. 

Use a ratio of half-cup of salt to every 2.7 kilograms of cabbage. To remove the excess salt, wash the cabbage with water and drain it in a strainer. Mix the rice flour, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili oil, pepper flakes, fish sauce, and fermented shrimp into a paste, adding water if required. 

You can adjust the quantity of these ingredients based on how you want your kimchi to taste. Toss the fresh vegetables, along with the cabbage, into the paste till all of the vegetables are thoroughly coated.

Store the mixture in a wide container or jar, and make sure to seal it correctly. Let the kimchi ferment for almost three days at room temperature or up to three weeks at 39 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will know that it is ready to eat once it starts to smell and taste sour or when small bubbles begin to move through the jar. After fermentation, you can refrigerate your kimchi for up to one year. It will resume fermenting but at a slower rate due to the cold temperature.


In this brief guide, we have answered the query, “Can you eat kimchi by itself?” with an in-depth analysis of kimchi, the health benefits, risks, and storage of kimchi, and how to make kimchi at home. 


  1. Hongu N, Kim AS, Suzuki A, Wilson H, Tsui KC, Park S. Korean kimchi: promoting healthy meals through cultural tradition. Journal of Ethnic Foods. 2017;4(3).
  1. Kim HJ, Noh JS, Song YO. Beneficial effects of kimchi, a Korean fermented vegetable food, on pathophysiological factors related to atherosclerosis. J Med Food. 2018;21(2).  
  1. Cha J, Kim YB, Park SE, Lee SH, Roh SW, Son HS. Does kimchi deserve the status of a probiotic food? Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2023. 
  1. Kim EK, An SY, Lee MS, Kim TH, Lee HK, Hwang WS. Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients. Nutrition Research. 2011;31(6).  
  1. Hwang IM, Ha JH. Human health risk assessment of toxic elements in South Korean cabbage, Kimchi, using Monte Carlo simulations. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. 2021;102.  

  1. Choi Y, Kang J, Lee Y, Seo Y, Lee H, Kim S. Quantitative microbial risk assessment for Clostridium perfringens foodborne illness following consumption of kimchi in South Korea. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2020;29(8).  
  1. Nam GW, Jeong M, Heo EJ, Chang OK, Kim MG, Kwak HS. Quantitative microbial risk assessment of pathogenic Escherichia coli in commercial kimchi in South Korea. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2021;30(11).