Kimchi stew with pork belly

Kimchi Stew (Jjigae/Chigae)

Kimchi Stew (Jjigae/Chigae)

I still remember the very first time I made Kimchi Jjigae all by myself – it was when I was visiting my brother in Virginia. The winter snow storm that year (1984? 1985?) was so bad that we were stuck in his apartment for almost a week with no means of getting to a store. The first time I stepped outside,  the snow had accumulated up to my thigh level! We were running out of things to eat and we were really getting tired of eating pastrami sandwiches and chips…And then we found some old kimchi in the fridge! My kimchi jjigae turned out surprisingly delicious (it could have been that we were both pretty desperate for some real food) and so I have been a fan of Kimchi Jjigae ever since.

Kimchi Jjigae is very simple to make. As long as you use a good quality, well ripe (VERY IMPORTANT!) kimchi, it is really hard to mess things up. However, there are some ways to make a better tasting kimchi jjigae so hopefully this post will help you make some amazing kimchi stew!

For more discussions about Kimchi (the history and how to ripen them), please read my previous post – No Crazy Kimchi.

The recipe below is for Pork Kimchi Jjigae which is the “standard.” Restaurants serve this variation the most – probably because pork and kimchi are just magical together. I do have issues with many restaurant jjigaes though – they often use kimchi that is not sour enough and also not enough of it. It produces jjigae that really does not have much depth of flavor.


Servings: 2-3         Prep Time:  10 min   Cooking Time: 30      Diffculty: easy

Ingredients for Pork Kimchi Jjigae (돼지고기 김치찌게 Dwejikogi Kimchi Jjigae)

  • 3 -4 C (7 to 8 oz) chopped sour kimchi (신김치 shin kimchi) or aged kimchi (묵은지 Moogeunji)
  • 8 oz pork belly or shoulder (should have some fat)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped or crushed)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 packet of anchovy stock or 5 large anchovies for stock
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 3 C water

    • 1 T mirin (rice wine)
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/2 onion, sliced
    • 1/4 tsp gook kanjang
    • 1 tsp sesame oil


You need kimchi that is overly ripe and sour. You really cannot make good kimchi jjigae if the kimchi is not sour enough. You can also use aged kimchi (kimchi that has been fermenting for 30+ days). This will produce a very sour jjigae that some people just love. I prefer my kimchi jjigae to be not too sour, so I usually just save leftover kimchi from the table (you should never put leftover kimchi from the table back into the original jar) and keep in the fridge for 2 weeks or so (less than 30 days) and use in my stew.

aged kimchi vs ripe kimchi

aged (sour) kimchi vs ripe kimchi

If you look at the image above, you can see how kimchi looks very different based on how ripe they are. The kimchi on the left is quite old, overly ripe, sour and has almost a translucent look to it. The color is also no longer white but more yellowish brown. The kimchi on the right is perfectly ripe, very slightly sour and is about 2 weeks old. The color is white and opaque. The kimchi on the right is probably not overly ripe enough to make good jjigae (I just put in this picture to give a comparison). Use kimchi that is more close to the left picture.

1. If you have a whole cabbage kimchi, cut into smaller pieces.

2. Cut pork against the grain into bite size pieces.

cut pork into small pieces

cut pork into small pieces (pork should have some fat)

3. Heat oil in a pot and saute the pork on medium high heat until slightly cooked.

sauteeing pork for kimchi jjigae

sauteeing pork for kimchi jjigae

4. Add the kimchi and sauté for another 7 – 8 min.

sauteeing kimchi and pork

sauteeing kimchi and pork

5. Add water, rice wine, chopped garlic, garlic powder and the dried anchovies (or anchovy stock packet).  Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min. Halfway through the simmer (15 min), taste the soup. If you think it could use some additional seasoning, add the red chili powder and gook kanjang. You can also add some the of the kimchi juice if you feel it is tasting a bit bland. I usually find that it turns out too spicy and salty if I add the juice but it all depends on how spicy and salty your kimchi is. So taste it along the way and adjust the seasonings.

kimchi jjigae before

kimchi jjigae before it’s fully cooked

simply delicious kimchi jjigae

simply delicious kimchi jjigae

It is ready! Just serve with some rice and with some meat or fish. Since kimchi jjigae is quite salty and spicy, it goes really well with heavier dishes such as grilled meats (kalbi, bulgogi, pork belly) . Try Kimchi Jjigae cold (room temp) with some hot rice – the contrast in temperature somehow makes it really taste good.


If your kimchi is too sour, try adding a tsp or two of sugar. If your kimchi is not sour enough and you are really desperate for some good kimchi jjigae, try adding some vinegar or sauerkraut in addition to your kimchi.


  • Plain Kimchi Jjigae – This has become my favorite. I love the clean taste of this jjigae. Just sauté the kimchi and onions in 2 T oil, add water, garlic powder and dried anchovies.
  • Tofu Kimchi Jjigae – Add tofu to the plain version or to any other type of kimchi jjigae.
  • Tuna Kimchi Jjigae – Add tuna to the plain version.
  • Beef Kimchi Jjigae – Substitute beef for pork.
  • Spike Mackerel Kimchi Jjigae – Add a can of spike mackerel. Add some gochujang in addition to the plain version.
  • Combo Kimchi Jjigae –  Mix different kinds of kimchi-including radish kimchis such as young radish kimchi (총각김치 chonggak kimchi) or cubed radish kimchi (깍두기 kkakttooki) which is one of my favorite. Radishes add another dimension of taste and texture- so try it!


Kimchi Jjigae will keep in room temperature for 2-3 days because it is so salty. Remember to reheat once a day. Many people say that it actually tastes better the next day when you reheat it, and I completely agree. When you reheat it, add 1 T of water to prevent it from getting too salty. Keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.


  1. says

    I’ve had some really good jjigae at the restaurants near here (I always bring home leftovers and it is sooooo good the next day) but the last time I ordered it the kimchi was quite obviously too fresh. So disappointing.

  2. says

    We love kimchi jiggae and enjoyed reading your post! It is so good on its own but you have great ideas for variations too! Now we don’t know which to try first, the tuna, beef, or mackerel one :) Suggestion?

    • says

      Hi!! Thanks so much! Well, if you are a meat eater and you like Pork, then I have to say pork belly or neck meat is the first one you should try. Some Koreans will refuse to eat Kimchi Jjigae that does not have pork in it. I just learned to also enjoy the clean taste without it. Then, unless you are a real fish person, I would say try the tuna first. That one is pretty mild in terms of taste. Mackerel is great if you are a Mackerel lover but otherwise you may find that it’s a bit fishy – although Kimchi covers every kind of unwanted flavor.
      So glad you asked me – I LOVE answering questions! Take care and happy cooking!

      • says

        Thanks, yes we like pork belly the best and make our own kimchi jiggae from time to time. Ok so maybe we will try tuna next time, thanks for the suggestion! You seem very knowledgable, we have to hit you up again for other Korean cooking questions. Thanks so much :)


Would LOVE to hear from you!