Kimchi Jjigae Korean Kimchi Stew
Kimchi Jjigae Korean Kimchi Stew

This Kimchi Jjigae is a classic Korean kimchi stew made with a generous amount of pork belly. This recipe balances spicy, savory, and sweet flavors, making it the perfect weeknight dinner when you’re craving comfort and warmth.

In this recipe

  • Well-fermented kimchi is key
  • Working with Pork Belly
  • The best tofu for kimchi jjigae
  • How to serve Kimchi Jjigae
  • A note on cooking rice
  • Exchange and substitution of ingredients
  • Fish or vegetable variations
  • How to store kimchi jjigae
  • More delicious Korean recipes

Ideal for a rainy day, an easy weeknight dinner, or as a classic Korean cure for a hangover, Kimchi Jjigae is a deep red, rich, and flavorful stew made with pork belly, kimchi, and tofu.

Kimchi jjigae means kimchi stew in Korean. It is a dish prepared in Korean homes and restaurants to use up excess kimchi. While the stew can be made bland, it’s meant to be just as spicy as it is bright red.

Some like to toss all the ingredients in a saucepan at once, cover and let it cook, but I prefer to build up the flavors by adding the ingredients gradually. It takes a little longer but I think it’s worth it.

Although I’d eaten kimchi stew countless times, it wasn’t until I started working on my boyfriend’s cookbook that Judy Joo’s Korean food made easythat I did it alone. I’ve tweaked it over the years to a version that my family likes best.

Well-fermented kimchi is key

The best kimchi for this stew is a bok choy kimchi—one that’s been in the fridge for a while. It should be nice and sour, funky and sometimes even sparkling. Both the green napa leaves and the red chilli powder have darkened.

Kimchi continues to ferment while it sits, and over time its flavor evolves into something significantly more complex. This fermented flavor is essential for kimchi jjigae.

Hopefully you still have enough kimchi brine in the jar to flavor the stew. Homemade or store-bought kimchi are both perfectly fine.

Working with Pork Belly

One trick for slicing the pork belly, which can feel slimy and sticky at room temperature, is to pop it in the freezer for about 20 minutes before slicing. It won’t freeze, but it will solidify, making it easier to handle.

If your pork belly is fatty, take a little extra time to render, which means cooking some fat from the meat before adding the rest of the ingredients. I recommend cooking it over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Don’t rush and cook the pork over high heat or it may become tough.

The best tofu for kimchi jjigae

Firm tofu is often used in kimchi jjigae because it doesn’t break apart as easily, although I used softer tofu.

I buy a Korean brand of organic tofu called Pulmuone that I’ve only seen in Korean markets. However, I see other brands of firm tofu available at my local supermarket these days. Feel free to use any brand you like.

How to serve Kimchi Jjigae

A bowl of hot rice is an essential part of kimchi stew. It is also common to serve this stew with a variety of Korean side dishes called banchan. I especially love pairing kimchi jjigae with this easy sigeumchi namul (spiced spinach), which is light and refreshing and makes a great contrast to the rich fatty meat and flavorful broth.

This recipe makes four servings of main course when served with just rice and banchan. It can serve six if served with another main dish in addition to rice and banchan.

A note on cooking rice

I grew up with a rice cooker, but with my small family, it’s just as easy and a little quicker to cook it on the stovetop.

My method: Place the rice in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Swirl the rice around with your hand until the water turns cloudy. Pour out the water carefully. Repeat this twice until the water isn’t so cloudy anymore.

Cover the rice with water and set the pot to medium-low heat, cover the pot with a lid and set the timer for 25 to 30 minutes. You need to keep an eye on the rice as it can overcook.

Exchange and substitution of ingredients

Kimchi jjigae is a flexible dish. You can use certain ingredients that are already in your pantry.

  • If pork belly isn’t available, use a cut of pork with some fat, like pork shoulder or pork loin. Some people even use spam or bacon.
  • If your kimchi doesn’t have a strong, strange smell when you open the jar, or if there isn’t enough kimchi brine left in the jar, add a little apple cider vinegar to make up for the lack of acidity.
  • While firm tofu is the standard for kimchi jjigae, you can use tofu with varying degrees of firmness, from silky to extra firm.
  • As an alternative to using water as a base, many Koreans make an anchovy broth by simmering dried anchovies and dried seaweed in water. The result is something similar to dashi, a Japanese broth used to make miso soup.
  • If your stew needs more salt, add soy sauce or fish sauce instead of salt, to taste.

Fish or vegetable variations

Because I have a teenager with a bottomless pit, if only for the foods he likes, I prefer to stuff my stew with way more pork belly than versions I’ve seen elsewhere.

My version is also brewier, so it can be stretched for a few quick and easy reheated meals. I have a Korean friend who shakes her head dismissively because my stew is a little sweeter than she thinks is really Korean. Here are some other Korean versions:

  • A classic twist that’s both easier and cheaper uses canned tuna instead of pork belly. Drain well and add to the stew at the end – cook just long enough to warm through.
  • Make your kimchi jjigae vegetarian by using a mixture of mushrooms and onions. First cook the vegetables with some canola oil. Then add the spices and liquids. Make sure the kimchi is vegetarian, too, as fish sauce, salted shrimp, and even oysters can be used to make kimchi.

How to store kimchi jjigae

Kimchi jjigae will keep in the fridge for three to four days. You can also freeze it but without the tofu as its texture will change as it freezes. You can add fresh tofu when reheating the stew in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-high heat.

More delicious Korean recipes

  • Korean Spicy Cold Noodles
  • Dwaeji Galbi (Korean BBQ Grilled Pork Ribs)
  • Kimchi Bokkeumbap (Fried Rice with Kimchi)
  • Mak Gimchi (Quick Kimchi)
  • Sigeumchi Namul (Spinach Banchan)

Kimchi Jjigae (Korean Kimchi Stew)

preparation time
15 minutes

cooking time
40 minutes

total time
55 minutes

up to 6 servings

Place the pork in the freezer for 20 minutes to make it easier to cut.


For the rice

  • 2 cups short or medium grain ricewashed and drained

  • 2 cups water

For the stew

  • 1 lb pork bellycut into 1 1/2 x 1/4 inch pieces

  • 2 cups kimchi

  • 1/3 Cup gochuyang

  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru

  • 2 teaspoon sugar

  • 4 1/2 cups water

  • soy sauce or fish sauce to taste

  • 1 (16Ounce) parcel company tofudrained and cut into 1 1/2 x 1/4 inch boards

For the set

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil (Optional)

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame (Optional)

  • 2 spring onionstrimmed and thinly sliced


  1. Prepare rice:

    In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the rice and water. Cover the pot and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. After about 10 minutes, check the pot to make sure it hasn’t boiled over. If so, reduce the heat and continue cooking.

    Turn off the heat and leave the lid on until ready to serve.

  2. Cook Pork:

    In a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to fatty, about 10 minutes. It should lose most of its pink color, but it shouldn’t turn brown. You can add a little oil to the pot to get it going, but I don’t find it necessary.

  3. Prepare kimchi:

    Using your hands, squeeze the liquid (brine) from the kimchi into a small bowl. You should have about 1/4 cup kimchi brine. If not, scoop some out of the kimchi jar. Set the brine aside.

    Cut the kimchi into bite-sized pieces.

  4. Add the spices:

    Add the minced kimchi, gochujang, gochugaru (add to taste if you prefer a less spicy stew) and sugar to the pork and mix well. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture looks shiny and juicy, about 3 minutes.

  5. Add liquids:

    Add the reserved kimchi brine and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

    Taste the stew and add a splash of soy sauce or fish sauce, if you like.

  6. Add tofu:

    Arrange the tofu lightly shingled on the stew. You can completely sink into the stew, but that’s okay. Let it heat for about 3 minutes.

  7. Garnish and serve the stew:

    If using, drizzle with sesame oil and garnish with sesame seeds and spring onions. Fluff the rice with a spoon or fork and serve alongside the stew.

nutritional information (per serving)
420 calories
21g Fat
31g carbohydrates
28g protein
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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!