Everyday Eats & Sweets / Recipes

When Your Kimchi’s Turned Too Sour: Make Kimchi Jjigae

Homemade kimchi jjigae

Remember the kimchi we made last month? If you still have that last jar sitting around and notice that it’s starting to get pretty ripe (as in overly fermented), here’s an easy peasy recipe to put the rest of that kimchi to use.

In fact, I love to make extra jars of kimchi just for this reason! I’ll stash a jar in the back of the fridge, forget about it for a month, and then one day when I’m famished and digging through the kitchen, I’ll spot the long-forgotten jar and have an a-ha! moment.

Over-fermented kimchi

Kimchi jjigae is my go-to meal when I’m feeling lazy but want a substantial dinner. Jjigae is Korean for stew, and it’s a common Korean comfort dish that’s served in most restaurants. But homemade kimchi jjigae is much better than what you’ll find eating out, because it’s not as salty and you can mix it up however you’d like. Sometimes I’ll add mushrooms (enoki is a favorite) and sometimes I’ll add extra spice with chiles. But the basic recipe is a one-pot wonder that just requires you to give a stir every so often, and you can go about your business while it simmers on the stove.

The stew gets thicker and tastier the longer you let it simmer, so I let mine cook for an hour (though it could be done in less time if you’re too hungry to wait!). It’s even better reheated the next day.

One thing to keep in mind is that gochujang is not simply the paste version of gochugaru (the red pepper powder you used to make kimchi). They are not interchangeable. Gochujang is a paste made from red pepper powder, fermented soybeans, and glutinous rice. It has a sweeter flavor than gochugaru coming from the soybeans, and makes a delicious marinade or sauce. In kimchi jjigae, it helps to thicken the stew and flavor the broth.

Tub of gochujang

You could also add gochugaru to the stew if you’d like, but I find that there’s plenty of spice from the gochugaru already in the kimchi. Pour in all of that kimchi juice for an extra kick!

Kimchi Jjigae

Makes 4 servings


1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound pork belly (or pork shoulder), cubed
3 cups overly sour kimchi with juice
1/2 onion, sliced
4 green onions, sliced
4 cups water
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
8 ounces medium or firm tofu
4 eggs
Sliced green onions (optional, for garnish)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)


In a large pot over high heat, combine all the ingredients (except the tofu, eggs, and garnishes) and bring to a boil. (Quick tip: Use the mason jar to measure out 4 cups of water after emptying the kimchi.)

Sliced onions

Combine everything into a pot

Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 45 minutes.

Give a stir every so often. The stew should thicken up nicely and the pork should be so tender that it pulls apart easily. This is meant to be a stew, but if you like yours a bit soupy, feel free to add more water.

Simmer until pork is tender

Use a large spoon to scoop irregular chunks of tofu from the package (8 ounces is approximately half the package, though you can use more or less). Since this is a lazy stew, it’s my lazy way of adding the tofu without cubing it. I also like how rustic it looks.

Scoop out tofu with a large spoon

Into the pot goes the tofu. Crack the eggs into the stew, re-cover (leaving the lid ajar) and simmer for another 15 minutes. You don’t need to stir the eggs into the stew as this will scramble them; just let them poach until the whites are set.

Add spoonfuls of tofu to the stew

Crack eggs into the pot and cook until the whites are set

Divide the eggs evenly among your bowls and serve the stew over a bed of rice. Garnish with sliced green onions and sesame seeds… they do make it better!

Homemade kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew)

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring—all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • trza
    December 1, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Found your recipe looking for something to do with my old kimchi. Turns out I had some gochujang living in the cabinet for quite some time. I received it as a gift, and had no idea what it was or how to use it. Since I didn’t have any pork belly or boston butt available, I subbed some bacon and chicken thighs. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Linda Ly
      December 2, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      You’re welcome, I hope you enjoyed it! It’s one of my favorite comfort dishes.

  • Rin
    September 27, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    I wasn’t able to find pork belly at my supermarket, so I substituted some pork tenderloin instead. This turned out AMAZING. Very filling!


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