Does kimchi go bad?
In this brief guide, we will address the question, “Does kimchi go bad?” as well as the shelf life of kimchi, risks associated with eating spoiled kimchi, and storage practices to prolong the shelf life of kimchi.
Does kimchi go bad?
Yes, Kimchi goes bad. The fermenting process in kimchi provides an acidic and salty environment that aids in the preservation of the vegetables and the development of their distinct flavors (1).
While kimchi has a longer shelf life than many other foods, it is nevertheless susceptible to deterioration. Kimchi can spoil or go bad over time, especially if not stored properly.
However, if you take good care of it, it can last for months past the date on the label or even years. When prepared properly and refrigerated, it can last up to 6 months (1,6).
Nonetheless, you should never eat kimchi that smells off or has visible mold. If you’re ever unsure whether your dish is safe to eat, it’s best to toss it out.
How long does kimchi Last?
Kimchi is a fermented food product that can typically last for a week after opening. However, if you put that same kimchi in the refrigerator, it can last for much longer (1, 2).
If you leave it out at ambient temperature for 3–4 days or in the fridge for 2–3 weeks, it will ferment. It produces lactic acid bacteria and other helpful microorganisms.
When kimchi is refrigerated, it will gradually deteriorate and will start to turn sour. It is still perfectly safe to consume refrigerated kimchi within a period of 3-6 months, depending on the handling and storage practices.
In the refrigerator, it stays fresh much longer, for about 3–6 months, and continues to ferment, which may lead to a sour taste. Be sure to refrigerate your kimchi at or below 39°F (4°C), as warmer temperatures may accelerate spoilage. Kimchi may still be safe to eat for up to 3 more months as long as there’s no mold, which indicates spoilage (3,4).
When it comes to taste and texture, discarding after 3 months is a good rule of thumb. After this, it may taste different and become mushy.
How to tell if kimchi is still safe to eat?
Following are some situations when some people think kimchi has gone off, but it hasn’t:
Bubbly kimchi after opening is perfectly normal. It’s a living thing called probiotics that’s sometimes more active, hence more fizziness (5,7).
Kimchi that explodes upon opening is nothing unusual too. The gas buildup by the fermentation might cause the jar to overflow, just like champagne does. A bulging cap can happen every now and then for precisely the same reasons as above. If it does, make sure you take extra care when opening the jar (5).
Kimchi turns very sour if you keep it for an extended period at room temperature. It’s safe to eat, but you might prefer to add it to a soup, a stew, or add other veggies instead of eating it raw.
If you keep the kimchi stored for a long time, you might find that the cabbage has turned soft. It’s perfectly okay to consume, but if you don’t like your kimchi with wilted cabbage, try using it in a recipe.
How to know if kimchi has spoiled?
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. Similarly, any black staining means your kimchi is no longer edible.
So it’s normal if your kimchi smells sour or vinegary. If your kimchi smells bad, don’t eat it. Also, kimchi may grow overly fermented over time. If you take a mouthful of your kimchi and detest the sourness, don’t eat it (6,7).
What happens if you consume spoiled kimchi?
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 (6).
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. How to store kimchi?
So when it comes to unopened kimchi, the pantry and the fridge are both solid options, depending on your preferences and how long the jar will stay unopened. When in doubt, refrigerate it.
If you open it up and it’s not sour enough, leave it at room temperature for a day or even two until it reaches your desired taste. Once you open the jar, it’s usually best to store it in the fridge to keep the fermentation in check(1,5).
Even though the acidic environment makes it difficult for any bacteria (other than those that are already there) to grow in there, it is best not to take any chances. Therefore, ensure that all of its ingredients are entirely submerged in the brine.
This way, the top portion won’t dry out and possibly start to spoil. Keep the jar closed when not in use. Make sure to use clean utensils when scooping the vegetables, as it ensures that no contaminants enter the jar (7).
Always use a clean, sealed glass container to store kimchi. Before it ferments, seasoned kimchi is typically packed into a sterile, airtight jar and topped with brine. Some people may add a bit of rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
Proper sterilization is crucial for preventing the unwanted growth of pathogens that could cause food poisoning. Sterilization prevents E. coli, Salmonella, and other germs from growing and causing food poisoning.
Vinegar has antibacterial characteristics that can help inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms and increase the shelf life of kimchi. This is useful for individuals who like milder, less fermented kimchi or who want to keep it for extended lengths of time (5).
In this brief guide, we addressed the question, “Does kimchi go bad?” as well as the shelf life of kimchi, risks associated with eating spoiled kimchi, and storage practices to prolong the shelf life of kimchi.
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- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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).