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 your health. So we should eat things like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi for their probiotic benefits. Kimchi is one of the best of these fermented foods. I happen to love good kimchi…. By “good” I mean something that someone who grew up eating kimchi would say is good. I’m not Korean but my wife is and as someone who has Korean in-laws, and happens to love and have eaten a ton of Korean food over the years, I’ve had eaten a good deal of all kinds of Kimchi in restaurants and in homes. I’ve been schooled to recognize great kimchi from OK kimchi.

So I won’t tell you Trader Joe’s Kimchi is really good. However its OK. Its not really fresh crunchy green Napa Cabbage kimchi like you would find at a Korean supermarket. But its OK and it’s available and as far as we are concerned in our house it’s better having this in our fridge than no kimchi. Now Kimchi is tricky to make and sell commercially. It’s a specific Korean taste and preparation. Face it really really good kimchi would be some that was made by your Korean “Umma” (mother) or “Har Ma Ni” (Grandma) if you had one. So HOME MADE. 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 build up pressure as it sits in the fridge. We once bought a jar of an expensive brand at Whole Foods called “Mother In Law’s Kimchi” that exploded when we opened the jar like a shook up Coke! It made such a huge mess all over our kitchen, UGH! Plus I didn’t even find the brand was that good and it’s way overpriced.

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 sold kimchi in a plastic package (see link) and then in a glass jar. This is at leat the third incarnation/package. I have never been too impressed with TJ’s Kimchi usually giving it a “its OK”. My short review of this TJ’s latest kimchi attempt remains that: “well 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. Let’s be honest TJ’s kimchi is not close to those you will find at a Korean supermarket, like H-MART (wow, see how many kinds H-MART has?!)

On the plus side 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” like many authentic Korean kimchi’s though I imagine this is a highly personal opinion. One thing about this kimchi though to me it’s already what I would “old-ish kimchi” meaning kimchi we’ve had in the fridge for a few weeks. 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 say the kimchi is better used in cooking than eating fresh for “Soon Du Bu” (kimchi tofu stew) or Kimchi Fried Rice or Kimchi Pork. Let’s face it, this kimchi was shipped all the way from Korea and then it had to be distributed by truck I assume all over the US which took some time (week or more?) I am glad TJ’s is at least 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 really good Kimchi from a Korean store this TJ kimchi will suffice. Its certainly good for cooking. Make some Kimchi Fried rice with this and top it with a fried egg and you will enjoy this. TJ’s KIMCHI is $4.49 a jar (10 oz.) 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 some 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 as well as GOCHUJANG (red chili paste) It’s a must have ingredient to do Korean cooking. As well as Korean Red Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – needed for making kimchi

Good luck and Kamnisamnida! (thank you)

7 Comments (+add yours?)

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