First Off, What Exactly is Kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean food and is used as a side for many dishes in Korean cuisine. In recent years it has become popular worldwide due to the health benefits of eating fermented foods rich in probiotics. Made of cabbage and other vegetables like garlic and onion, kimchi was historically made in large clay pots buried underground. Today, the methods that are used to make it are a bit more modern, but the same mix of crunch, spice, salt, and complex flavors remains vital to a good Kimchi.
The Best Kimchis Online
There are many Kimchi brands out there, and as with most foods, the very best ones are usually homemade or difficult to find. That being said, there are many excellent options out there, and a ton of delicious kimchis available online. Below are descriptions and breakdowns of some of the best kimchis you can have delivered right to your home.
Madge’s Food Company Kimchi
Madge’s makes one of the very best commercial kimchis out there, and not only that, they make it accessible to almost everyone. This kimchi is vegan (many kimchis use fish sauce or oysters to add umami flavor, while Madge’s use seaweed and mushrooms), but it still hits all of the important flavor and texture marks that it should. With a two-week natural culture fermentation, and made using traditional methods, this delicious kimchi is also available in either mild or spicy flavors depending on your preference. Note that it only comes in a 15 oz jar, which is the smallest size in this list.
Lucky Foods Seoul Kimchi
Inspired by a forty-year-old family recipe, this non-GMO certified kimchi is a beautiful balance of flavor and crunch. Because this kimchi is packed fresh, it allows you some control over the final product. Prefer less fermentation flavor? Open it as soon as it arrives, or stick it in the back of the fridge to let it get more punchy. This kimchi comes in a variety of flavors and with different spice levels, as well as a vegan option. The size it’s sold in is on the larger size, which is bad if you end up not liking it for some reason, but very convenient otherwise.
Jongga Mat Kimchi
Jongga kimchi is actually imported from Korea, which is always a good sign. Like other kimchis on this list, it is naturally fermented in a traditional manner. With good spice and crunch, this kimchi is suitable for almost any situation. This is considered by many as the most respected kimchi brand in the world and it’s easy to see why: it’s authentic, delicious, and readily available. It comes in a large variety of sizes so you can start with a smaller container, and then get the larger one when you fall in love with it. The hidden bonus to this kimchi? Try saying Jongga Chongga three times fast.
Sinto makes a mild white cabbage and spicy radish kimchi, but their spicy red Napa cabbage kimchi is probably the best and most authentic of their offerings. Sinto is verified GMO-free and also makes their kimchi vegan, MSG-free, and with no preservatives. This kimchi is lower in sodium than many other brands which helps to accentuate the fresh tingling of the fermentation. This kimchi comes in a mid-sized, heavy-duty resealable bag, which helps preserve freshness and makes it easy to take with you. Some people find the spiciness to be a bit more intense than they prefer, but most enjoy the kick that Sinto provides.
Mother in Law’s Kimchi
This delicious kimchi recipe originated in a California restaurant in 1989 and is packed with complex flavors. Made with long strips of cabbage, it uses shrimp, beef bone broth, and fish sauce to provide an intense umami background flavor. The cabbage is in long strips, which makes it a bit more difficult to eat than other brands, but the depth of flavor and lingering finish is definitely worth it. Mother In Law’s is not overly spicy and has a crisp crunch that makes it accessible to newer kimchi eaters. This product comes in a standard 16oz jar, so you might want to grab more than one depending on fast you eat up kimchi.
Mama Kim’s Kimchi
Mama Kim’s offers a spicy Napa cabbage kimchi. The coolest part about their product is that it’s made within three days of being shipped. That means you can choose to enjoy it fresh or allow it to ferment for a longer period of time. For the first 15 days it will become more acidic, then that sourness will mellow out as it becomes more complex and full-flavored. It has no preservatives, added MSG or gluten. Just by looking at Mama Kim’s website, you can tell it’s a smaller operation, and they really stress the hand-crafted aspect of their product.
Which One Should You Get?
There is quite a bit of flavor diversity across the kimchis above. Obviously, if you have dietary restrictions or allergies, some may not be an option for you. Everyone has a different preference for which combo of sourness, spice, and saltiness makes for the best kimchi. Then the fact that kimchi evolves as it ages complicates things further. I would recommend trying a few different brands at various stages of fermentation to see what you like best. Also check out your local Asian supermarket for even more choices, or consider making it yourself! If you’re interested in the latter, my introduction to fermentation is a good starting point.
If you have any questions or think I missed a great brand, let me know in the comments below!