Trader Joe’s KIMCHI

Trader Joe’s KIMCHI (Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage) Ingredients: Napa Cabbage, Radish, Onion, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Garlic, Vinegar, Lactic Acid (“Made in Korea”)

Rated “meh” (5/10)

We know eating fermented food is good for you, right? So we should eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and of course kimchi on a daily basis for their probiotic benefits. Kimchi is one of the best of these fermented foods. It’s really good for your system. I happen to love good kimchi…. Meaning kimchi that any Korean tasting it, would say it’s good. As someone who has Korean in-laws, happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food, I have had the chance to eat a good deal of all kinds of excellent varieties of Kimchi, in restaurants and in homes, and they have schooled me in what is good kimchi, from just OK. So I have to tell you Trader Joe’s Kimchi is just OK. No where near great but it is kimchi and it’s better than no kimchi.

Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a very specific Korean taste and preparation and let’s face it, the really best stuff is made at home by your Korean “Umma” (mother) if you have one. For commercially made Kimchi to be good, they must get everything right in manufacturing it in bulk, plus it’s a tricky food to distribute as it keeps fermenting. It can even build up pressure as it sits on the shelves. We once bought a jar of a really expensive brand at Whole Foods called Mother In Laws Kimchi that practically exploded when we opened it up like a shook up Coke and made a huge mess all over our kitchen! I didn’t even think that brand was that good. Historically Trader Joe’s has tried their hand with Kimchi a few times and in different packages. Over the last few years, I would notice a Kimchi at TJ’s… then it would seem to vanish for a while..? Either they discontinued it for a spell or maybe they were finding other vendors, and changing the packaging, or all of the above. Before TJ’s current version sold in this red plastic jar, they carried kimchi in a soft plastic bag (see link) and also in a glass jar.

I have never been impressed with TJ’s Kimchi usually saying “its OK”. My short review of this TJ’s latest kimchi attempt remains that: “it’s OK”. Its better than nothing. Having some kimchi is always better than no Kimchi. If you can’t find kimchi from a Korean grocery somewhere where you live for example. This TJ one is not even close to ones that you would find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (wow, see how many kinds H-MART has?!) So on the plus side this latest Trader Joe’s Spicy Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi does have a tangy kimchi fermented taste (from lactic acid, which interestingly is listed on the label as an ingredient?) It doesn’t list any fish products which many Korean kimchi has for umami (oyster sauce or squid…). So this is a VEGETARIAN KIMCHI.

I don’t find it “spicy though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though. By the time we get it, to me it’s already what I would call a bit on the what I would call “old-ish kimchi” meaning kimchi we’ve had in the fridge for a few weeks. So to me, the TJ kimchi tastes like kimchi that’s been around maybe 3 or 4 weeks? As kimchi ages it gets more fermented, and the taste gets more sour and the cabbage starts to get softer. In our household when it gets like this we use say this is good kimchi for cooking, say “Soon Du Bu” (kimchi tofu stew). Let’s face it, this kimchi shipped all the way from Korea and then it had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US.

I am glad TJ’s is at least trying by selling Kimchi and Korean foods in general like the new TTeok Bok Ki. And JapChae (both are not bad). So to sum up if you can’t get a better Kimchi anywhere else this TJ kimchi will have to do, its “not bad” and it is good for cooking. Make some Kimchi Fried rice with this!

This is about $4.50 for a 10 oz. jar. Maybe eventually TJ’s will find a terrific Korean kimchi vendor. Definitely try cooking something with this Kimchi. Try making kimchi fried rice, which is yummy, especially with a fried egg on top.

Eat some kimchi with your Pot Stickers. That is a great combo with a little rice.

or Stir Fried Pork with Kimchi –

(recipe here:

You could make a Kimchi Jigae (stew) with pork, tofu, and kimchi.

Tip: you can use TJ’s pork tenderloin


DIY Kimchi! No, seriously! There are easy kimchi versions that are not terribly to hard to make. If you buy a few ingredients at a Korean grocer (like Kochugaru, Korean ground red pepper) you can make your own cabbage kimchi and I bet the result will be better than TJ’s kimchi not too mention you will feel like a star when you impress people casually tossing out “You like it? I made this kimchi myself”. Aaron & Claire on YouTube have a great “easy kimchi” recipe using regular cabbage (it’s a kind of “summer kimchi”). I made it and my (Korean-Japanese) wife who has always said the TJ kimchi is no good told me the cabbage kimchi I made based on Aaron& Claire’s recipe was the most amazing kimchi she had in the U.S. It’s great one day later and will be improve more and more, tasting pretty amazing in a week or two as it ferments in the fridge. Seriously, if you want good kimchi, you will be surprised that you can make really good stuff on you own! Thanks Aaron & Claire for a super recipe.

You can find toasted Sesame Oil at Trader Joe’s. If you can’t find Korean GOCHUJANG (red chili paste) easily where you live, you can at least find it on AMAZON :

It’s a must have ingredient to do any Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

Good luck! Kamnisamnida! (thank you)

5 Comments (+add yours?)

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