Kimchi vs. Sauerkraut: What’s the difference?

At YUMCHI taster sessions, we regularly get asked: what’s the difference between kimchi and sauerkraut? Aren’t they both just cabbage that has been fermented? 

We answer them, yes, both kimchi and sauerkraut are cabbage that has been preserved by the process of lacto-fermentation over a period of 2-4 weeks. But yet there are numerous differences between the two of them. 

In this post, YUMCHI founder - aka Kimchi Queen - Lily Hirasawa, will highlight the similarities and differences between these delicious and nutritious fermented foods.

Both kimchi and sauerkraut are fermented in a salt and water solution called brine. Within this microclimate, bacteria breaks down the naturally occuring sugars in the cabbage, resulting in lactic acid and that classic mouth-puckering tanginess. This bacteria is what makes kimchi and sauerkraut great for your gut, and offers kimchi and sauerkraut its rich and tangy flavour.

So, how are they different? Kimchi hails from Korea where it is a staple dish, and boasts a more pronounced pungency due to the addition of ginger, garlic and chilli. Sauerkraut has its roots in Central and Eastern Europe. And with less ingredients added to the fermentation process, it has a saltier, tart taste that comes from the brine. 

We think kimchi’s flavour makes it more palatable that sauerkraut, and restaurants agree. It can now be found in condiments, stews, soups and even cocktails in restaurants all over the UK and America.

Kimchi and other fermented foods are now so popular, that Upserve, a tech-based restaurant management platform, analysed data from across their customer base and found that consumption of fermented foods was up 149% in 2018 alone.

What is most interesting about their data, is the fact that sauerkraut is actually being ordered less in the restaurants surveyed, than it was in 2017. Diners are switching over from sauerkraut to kimchi, and we are not going to argue with that! 

So, for all you ‘kraut lovers, now is the time to try kimchi. And for you kimchi lovers, why not give sauerkraut a try? It goes great with hot dogs. Just don’t add it to your Asian stir-fry any time soon…

Lily Hirasawa