If properly stored, kimchi can last up to 6 months. However, there are many variables to consider in order to determine the shelf life of your kimchi, such as the storage conditions, the ingredients, and the number of times the kimchi jar has been aerated. We will teach you everything you need to know about the timing of your kimchi, including the ideal fermentation and how long it is generally safe to eat..
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Why Koreans made fermented vegetables with long shelf life
Kimchi has a rich and long history. While nowadays, people mostly appreciate its flavor, back in the 1st century BC, Koreans cherished it for its long shelf life. Korean winters back then were long and difficult. To get by through tough months, families used preservation methods to keep a constant supply of nutritious foods. Kimchi literally translates to “salted vegetables,” and that’s exactly what Koreans began doing when cabbage first arrived in Korea.
While kimchi already lasted for a long time, it was still very different from the kimchi we know today. That all changed in the 16th century when chilis were first imported from the American continent. The invention of the fridge and freezer have greatly improved our preservation abilities. However kimchi is still gaining lots of popularity in recent years.
Kimchi shelf life and fermentation time
There is no such thing as the perfect fermentation time. There are simply too many factors that affect the metabolic rate of the probiotic bacteria inside your kimchi. Additionally, fermented kimchi is purely a matter of taste. Some enjoy pungent, carbonated kimchi that has been fermenting for weeks. Others don’t go crazy over the taste of lactic prefer mild kimchi. While you probably already know your taste preference, you may not be aware of the various variables that can affect the rate of reaction inside your kimchi jar.
Factors influencing how long your kimchi will last
The salt content of your kimchi
Salt will slow down the rate at which your kimchi is fermenting, thus making it last longer. If you would like your kimchi to ferment faster, you can reduce the sodium content by scrubbing off excess salt after dehydrating your main vegetable (e.g., napa cabbage). Kimchi with a high-salt content of 7% stored at 5℃ seemingly lasts a lifetime since even 180 days of fermentation didn’t ripen it.
The ambient temperature is the second most decisive factor when it comes to how long your kimchi lasts. Kimchi can be fermented from 4℃ to 30℃. If you make kimchi frequently, it is essential that you ferment at a consistent temperature. This way, you have a controlled variable and continuously optimize from batch to batch until you have found the ideal recipe and fermentation time for you!
There are hundreds of types of kimchi, each with dozens of variations incorporating different fruits, vegetables, seasonings, and condiments. The table below shows some of the most popular sub-ingredients and whether they make your kimchi last longer or shorter.
|Ingredients that slow down fermentation||Ingredients that speed up fermentation|
|Garlic (the most common ingredient)||Proteins|
|Mustard||Starches (like glutinous rice flour)|
How tightly you screw the lid of your kimchi jar and how frequently you open it also affects how long your kimchi keeps. Sometimes pressure will build up in your jar, due to the carbonation caused by the lactobacillus producing CO². Aerating kimchi more frequently will make the kimchi taste less fizzy and boost the fermentation rate. An airlock jar will remove carbonation without necessarily speeding up fermentation.
How long to let kimchi ferment at room temperature
Kimchi at room temperature is typically fermented for 2-4 days. However, if you used a lot of sugar in your Kimchi recipe, you may decide to give it a little taste after 24 hours. Also, ensure that you let it ferment in a dark place to make it last longer. After you first open your jar, we generally recommend placing it in the fridge. However, if you don’t have space to refrigerate your bulky kimchi jar, you can keep it at room temperature for about a week.
How long does Kimchi last in the fridge?
If you want to avoid your kimchi going bad, you should place it in the refrigerator. Kimchi in the fridge won’t go bad for a few months. During these times, it will still ferment but at a much slower rate. If you prefer mild kimchi, made a big batch, or eat kimchi irregularly, we highly suggest refrigerating your kimchi right from the get-go to make it last the longest. It will still taste just as good as kimchi fermented at room temperature, but slowing down the fermentation rate.
Does kimchi go bad in the fridge?
People’s tastebuds vary, and so does their definition of “bad”. If you prefer crunchy kimchi that doesn’t taste too astringent, acidic, or fizzy, you should eat it within the first three months in the fridge. If the kimchi itself is too sour for you after three months, you may also decide to incorporate it into various heated dishes to mellow its taste.
How to store kimchi in the fridge
There is a major problem with conventional refrigerators that makes them less than ideal to make kimchi last. Virtually all standard refrigerators regulate temperature using an indirect cooler system. In other words: The back of the fridge provides the cooling effect. Thus fridges rely on air circulation to spread the cold air around the fridge. Unfortunately, fridges tend to have poor air flow by design. A single fridge can have a temperature gap of 10℃. This can cause the temperature inside your kimchi jar to fluctuate, which irritates the fermentation process. These irregularities mean that you can never assume that the kimchi inside your fridge will last more than a few months.
If you want your kimchi to last as long as possible, you should lower the temperature of your fridge (i.e., setting it to max performance). You can also free up some space in your fridge’s vegetable compartments and place the kimchi jar there. This section is usually isolated with glass walls, thus allowing for a more stable temperature. This is especially important if you open your fridge multiple times a day.
Kimchi refrigerators provide better temperature control
If you want to make kimchi slowly ferment and last for as long as possible, you may want to consider getting a kimchi fridge. These refrigerators focus on the preservation of fermented foods. They are typically equipped with multiple sensors to measure temperature, humidity, and the frequency of opening the door. This enables them to maintain optimal conditions to help make your kimchi last much longer. In addition, they also have fermentation functionalities, where you can raise the temperature to speed up the metabolism of lactic acid bacteria inside your kimchi jar. Another problem with mature kimchi is that it quickly stinks up your entire fridge. Some kimchi fridges have deodorization technology, which helps eliminate odors and germs.
|Kimchi type||Shelf life at room temperature||Shelf life inside the fridge||Shelf life inside kimchi fridge|
|Sweet kimchi (with lots of added sugar or fruits)||4-5 days||1-2 months||3 months|
|Salt-free kimchi||4 days||1-2 months||3 months|
|Traditional napa kimchi||7 days (maybe longer if unopened)||Around 3 months||6 months+|
|Kimchi with lots of salt and vinegar||7 days+||3 months+||Unknown|
|Low carb kimchi||7 days+||3 months+||Unknown|
How to avoid kimchi from going bad and how to spot bad kimchi?
Although it is quite rare, spoiled kimchi can develop mold. Mold contains various mycotoxins, which lead to severe illness. While mold is the most prominent danger, there are also plenty of others, such as botulism, salmonella, E. coli, or regular food poisoning. Nevertheless, these dangers should not deter you from making kimchi; just be sure to adhere to proper sterilization and storage tips.
Proper hygiene and preparation make kimchi last longer and reduces the risk of contamination.
Washing and sterilizing your jar
Before you begin making kimchi, you should first prepare your kimchi jar by thoroughly washing it with dish soap, rinsing it, and then sterilizing it. The easiest way to sterilize your kimchi jar is by filling it to the brim with boiling water. Although the lid should never touch your kimchi, you should still sterilize it as well.
Submerging kimchi in brine
When you fill your glass jar with kimchi, always make sure it is topped with your seasoned brine. Compress the kimchi towards the bottom of the jar using a spatula. If you don’t have enough brine to submerge all your vegetables in brine, you may want to consider adding some vinegar.
Using sterile utensils
Curiosity gets the better of you, and you want to take a peek and have a taste? No problem. Just make sure to use a sterile fork to have a bite and try to limit the frequency at which you open (and thus aerate) your kimchi jar to make it last longer.
How to spot bad kimchi
If you’ve made kimchi before, it will likely be easily noticeable if your kimchi is spoiled. You may want to dump your kimchi if it:
- … smells off. (not in the way pungent kimchi does, but even worse!)
- …has any fuzzy black, blue, white, or green masses on the surface, sides, and bottoms touching the glass or at the center
- …it is very dry
- …was made in a non-sterile container
- …was subjected to contaminated air
- …came in contact with contaminated cutlery
- …smells or tastes like alcohol
If you suspect that your kimchi is spoiled, please be careful and examine it thoroughly from all sides.
Store-bought kimchi that remains unopened can be kept at room temperature for 1-3 months. If you have store-bought kimchi that's been opened, it will be good for 3-4 days at room temperature and up to 6 months when refrigerated.How do you prolong kimchi shelf life? ›
It's best to keep kimchi in the fridge to prevent spoilage. To extend its shelf life, be sure that all its ingredients are submerged in brine, always handle it with clean utensils, and limit how often you open and close the container.How long does unopened kimchi last? ›
If your kimchi is unopened, you don't have to store it in a refrigerator. Unopened kimchi is safe to keep in a pantry and will last for years. However, if you decide to store it in the freezer, it will last for 7 years!How long does kimchi last in a Mason jar? ›
Kimchi technically doesn't really expire because it is already fermented. If it's properly fermented and refrigerated, it should be good up to 12 months or more from when it's jarred (or crock-potted).How long is kimchi shelf stable? ›
The shelf life of many store-bought kimchi brands is around eight months to a year. But, rely on your common sense. If you see any mold, toss it. If the smell changes from the usual expected sourness and pungency, to the point of being unpleasant, it may be time to get rid of it and buy more or start a new batch.What's the longest you can ferment kimchi? ›
The kimchi fermentation process is very short in comparison to making sauerkraut. Kimchi ferments at room temperature in only 1-2 days or more slowly in the refrigerator. For safety, kimchi should be stored refrigerated and is best eaten within 1 week, as the quality of kimchi deteriorates with longer fermentation.How do you store large amounts of kimchi? ›
The easiest way to keep kimchi from spoiling is to put it in your freezer. This will help to slow down the fermentation and keep out nasty bacteria. But this method ruins the texture of the cabbage, so it's better to simply keep it refrigerated.How do you store homemade kimchi? ›
To extend the shelf life, store the kimchi into a sterile, airtight jar. Make sure that all ingredients are submerged in brine before you reseal the kimchi. Always use clean utensils when you handle kimchi in its container, as used utensils may introduce unwanted bacteria that can cause spoilage.Is year old kimchi still good? ›
For long-term storage of kimchi, just keep the vegetables submerged in the brine, and watch out for visible fuzzy mold on top. So long as the surface of the kimchi isn't allowed to dry out and grow mold, kimchi does not go bad. In fact, I've aged my own homemade kimchi for two years and it only got better and better.Is it better to store kimchi in glass or plastic? ›
Look for containers made of non-reactive materials like glass or food-grade plastic. Avoid metal containers as they can react with the acidic nature of kimchi. Opt for a container with an airtight seal to prevent air exposure and maintain freshness.
Since kimchi continues to ferment in the fridge, you may find it unpleasantly sour and mushy after a few months — but if you prefer the pungent taste, that may not necessarily be a bad thing. Old kimchi can start to mold over time, though, so inspect your jar for mold and toss it if you notice anything off.How can you tell if kimchi has gone bad? ›
- Mold. You can find mold in the form of white film on the surface most often if the veggies weren't fully submerged in the liquid. ...
- An off smell. Kimchi smells sour, but if yours takes on a different aroma, it's likely no good.
- Bad taste.
The E-jen fermentation and storage container is widely loved in Korea as the best modern container for fermenting and storing kimchi and jang (Korean fermented sauces).What is the mold on top of my kimchi? ›
Ever thrown out a jar of kimchi because of those pesky white mold bubbles? Fear not – it's not mold, it's yeast! Researchers say just skim it off, rinse the veggie, heat it and it's totally safe to eat.What is the white stuff on my kimchi? ›
The white spots are yeast, not mould
According to a study by the World Institute of Kimchi (yes there is!!!) and published in the Journal of Microbiology, those white colonies are actually yeast that's not known to be toxic.
Fizzling Kimchi, similar to a can of carbonated soda, is perfectly normal. The fizzing sound and effervescent taste is a product of fermentation. This means your Kimchi is nicely fermented, enjoy!How long does kimchi last in the refrigerator? ›
Kimchi retains quality for about a week if you leave it at room temperature and for at last 3 to 6 months if you keep it refrigerated and the veggies submerged in brine. Store-bought kimchi usually comes with a best-before or use-by date.Can kimchi last a year in the fridge? ›
According to EatingWell, store-bought kimchi lasts around eight months to a year in the refrigerator before it starts to go off.How long to keep kimchi on counter? ›
TIP: If you exceed 12 hours of keeping your kimchi jar on the kitchen counter, you will force the fermentation process to rapidly over ripen the kimchi. Unless you are planning on consuming all kimchi within 3 days or so, do not over ferment the kimchi jar.Can you freeze kimchi? ›
Kimchi can last in the freezer for 12-18 months, but ideally eat kimchi which has been frozen within 3 months. This is because you want to eat the kimchi at the best possible quality. If you're planning to freeze kimchi when making it in a large batch for a future event, then make sure to factor this in.