Vegan Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae)

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Warm up, with this spicy vegan kimchi stew that’s made with with tender shiitake mushrooms and crispy pan-fried tofu! Easy, vegan, and packed with spicy flavor, this cozy stew is hearty enough to make a meal of and perfect on cold winter days.

Making kimchi is my own weird personal holiday tradition. I tried giving it out as holiday gifts a few years back, which was not the best idea. I have a few select people in my life who are very appreciative of homemade kimchi, but most folks seem to prefer cookies.

So I quit it with the kimchi gifting, but not before the kimchi holiday tradition became ingrained in my brain. It just doesn’t feel like Christmas if I’m not elbow deep in a bowl of napa cabbage and chili flakes.

Fortunately, I love kimchi and my husband and I are fine to devour a big batch over the course of January. Also fortunately, there are lots of warming wintry dishes I can put my homemade kimchi in, like bibimbap, kimchi fried rice, and this kimchi stew!

Kimchi stew is actually my favorite when it’s really cold outside. It’s flavorful and spicy, and if you serve it piping hot it’s sure to warm you up. 

Jump to:
  • What Is Kimchi?
  • Ingredients You’ll Need For the Stew
  • How It’s Made
  • More Vegan Kimchi Recipes
  • Vegan Kimchi Stew (Kimchi Jjigae)

What Is Kimchi?

Kimchi is a Korean dish that’s normally served as a side. Napa cabbage is the main ingredient in traditional kimchi, and in addition to that you’ll find other veggies like carrots, green onions, and daikon radishes.

Kimchi is fermented, so it’s sour, kind of like sauerkraut, but it’s also spicy, thanks to the addition of seasonings like gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) and gochujang (Korean chili paste).

Be careful if using store-bought kimchi, which may not be vegan, or even vegetarian for that matter. Most varieties include ingredients like shrimp paste and fish sauce. Check the ingredients, or try some homemade vegan kimchi.

Tip: You’ll find lots of variation in flavor among different batches and brands of kimchi. Some are spicier than others, some are more sour, some include different veggies. So be sure to adjust the seasonings in your stew to accommodate for this. Add a splash of rice vinegar, a dash of soy sauce, or a few extra spoonfuls of gochujang if needed.

Ingredients You’ll Need For the Stew

  • Canola oil. Just about any high heat oil can be substituted for this. Peanut oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, or avocado oil will all work.
  • Extra firm tofu. I prefer this variety in my vegan kimchi stew, but soft tofu or silken tofu can be used if that’s your preference. These varieties are more traditional and they don’t need to be pre-cooked, so you can skip steps 1 through 3 of the recipe.
  • Onion.
  • Garlic.
  • Napa cabbage kimchi. Read the section above if kimchi is a new ingredient to you. You can buy kimchi at many Asian markets, and these days it’s available at lots of regular supermarkets as well. Just check the ingredients to ensure that the one you buy is vegan.
  • Vegetable broth.
  • Fresh shiitake mushrooms. Feel free to use soaked dried shiitake mushrooms if preferred.
  • Gochujang. This fermented red pepper paste is an ingredient in kimchi, as mentioned above, but I like to add it to my kimchi stew for extra flavor. Look for it in the international section of your supermarket, at an Asian market, or on Amazon.
  • Soy sauce. Gluten-free tamari or liquid aminos can be substituted if needed.
  • Scallions. Also known as green onions.

Tip: There are a handful of other ingredients and garnishes you can add to your kimchi stew. Try rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha sauce (if not using gochujang), miso paste (another nice addition if you’re skipping the gochujang), or toasted sesame seeds.

How It’s Made

The following is a detailed photo tutorial on how to make this dish. Scroll all the way down if you’d like to skip right to the recipe!

  • Start by pan-frying some tofu in a bit of oil. Check out my guide here for tips on how to get your tofu perfectly crispy.
  • Transfer the tofu to a plate when it’s done.

Note: It’s important to cook your tofu on a good nonstick surface. If the pot that you plan to cook your stew in doesn’t have that, use a separate skillet to cook the tofu, like I’ve done in the photos.

  • Add some oil to the pot and cook an onion just until softened up, stirring frequently. Next, add some minced garlic to the pot.
  • Add your kimchi to the pot and sauté it for a minute or two.
  • Add some broth and shiitake mushrooms to the stew. If you’re using gochujang, add that at this point as well. Bring the liquid to a simmer and let the stew cook for a bit.
  • Stir your cooked tofu into the stew at the end.

Taste-test the stew and adjust any seasonings before serving. Add some salt or soy sauce if needed (kimchi is pretty salty though, so go easy) or extra gochujang.

Tip: Kimchi gets more and more sour as it ages. If your kimchi is relatively new, consider adding a dash of rice vinegar to add extra tang to your stew.

Grab a spoon and enjoy your vegan kimchi stew!

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