Spicy Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae or Kimchichigae)

Spicy kimchi stew in a bowl with chopsticks

​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings

Korea’s national dish, kimchi, is a spicy, pickled cabbage that is served as a condiment with almost every meal. Kimchi stew (kimchi jjigae or kimchichigae) combines kimchi with other ingredients such as beef, onions, garlic, and tofu. It is meant to be eaten slowly, and it's served bubbling hot.

Fiery, hearty, and full of flavor, kimchi jjigae (pronounced kim-chee GEE-jig-ee) is great for cold winter days, but Koreans can eat it anytime, anywhere. It's one of the most popular stews in Korea and is featured at many meals and in traditional restaurants. There's just one thing to keep in mind when you're planning to make kimchi jjigae—it is spicy. Really, really spicy. That's why it's served with a lot of white rice, to help balance out all that heat.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound beef, such as sirloin (thinly sliced)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (divided)
  • 2 cups kimchi (preferably with napa cabbage), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • 1 tablespoon gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 (14-ounce) block firm tofu (cubed)
  • 2 scallions (chopped)
  • Optional: steamed rice (for serving)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for kimchi stew
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  2. Sauté the beef in 1/2 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a soup pot for a few minutes.

    Beef in a pot sautéing in sesame oil
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Add kimchi to the pot and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

    Kimchi is added to the pot and mixed with a wooden spoon
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Add remaining oil, onion, garlic, gochujang, gochugaru, and soy sauce, mixing to combine. Pour the water into the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.

    Water is poured into the pot of kimchi stew
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  5. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes to concentrate the flavors, adding the tofu after the first 10 minutes.

    Tofu is added to the kimchi stew
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  6. Add the scallions at the very end.

    Scallions are added to the kimchi stew
    ​The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  7. Serve this stew immediately after cooking, accompanied by steamed white rice.

    Serve stew with white rice
    ​The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

Tips

  • When choosing beef for this recipe, tenderloin is best, but you also can use tougher cuts like stew beef and simmer the stew longer.
  • Try to use leftover or older kimchi because it will have a more pungent, richer flavor. Younger kimchi may not, although some may prefer it.
  • Expect to sweat a bit—make plenty of extra rice to counteract the heat factor. spicy kimchi stew is intended to be eaten slowly, with lots of rice as an accompaniment.

Recipe Variations

  • Common vegetable additions include potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms.
  • You can use bean paste, or doenjang, instead of gochujang.
  • If you want a little extra bulk, consider adding glass noodles.
  • This recipe calls for using beef, but you can also incorporate pork or canned tuna. The types of pork that work best are bacon, pork belly, or Spam—just halve or omit the oil. If you're using canned tuna, add it along with the onion and garlic.

How Should I Store Spicy Kimchi Stew?

  • Kimchi stew keeps well in the fridge, covered, for at least a week.
  • To freeze, transfer to airtight containers or freezer bags and freeze for 2 to 3 months.
  • Note: If you intend to freeze leftovers of this stew, omit the tofu altogether or simply remove it before freezing, as it won't reheat well.

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