Are you a vegetarian who’s tired of having the same old veggie stew for dinner every night? Do you feel like you’ll never find a quick and easy vegetarian stew recipe that has the perfect balance between spicy, sour, sweet, and savory?
Well then, today is your lucky day! This vegetarian kimchi jjigae recipe has everything you’re looking for – and more. So, without further ado, let’s head straight to the kitchen.
The Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae Formula
Vegetarian kimchi jjigae (Korean for stew) is an iconic Korean stew made of kimchi and a few assorted vegetables. You can add mushrooms, tofu, and any combination of vegetables your taste palate desires.
The vegetarian kimchi jjigae formula is fairly straightforward. You get lots of kimchi, add fermented sauces to boost the taste, mix in the vegetables you want, and balance the flavor with the broth.
That said, there are a few notes to take on the four cornerstones of the vegetarian kimchi jjigae. These include:
1. The Vegetarian Kimchi
Kimchi is fermented cabbage.
You wouldn’t think eating cabbage would go against the vegetarian code, but here’s the issue. Almost all of the commercially produced kimchi is processed using shrimp and fish ingredients. You’ll need to specifically look for vegan kimchi, or consider making it at home for your peace of mind.
2. The Flavor
Although kimchi has a strong flavor on its own, you’ll need to add more fermented sauces to boost the stew’s flavor. The best two fermented sauces you can use are:
- Gochujang – a sweet and spicy fermented paste of chile pepper and rice.
- Doenjang – an intense fermented soybean paste that adds umami and intensifies the kimchi’s garlic taste.
You can also sprinkle some Gochugaru on top, which is red chile flakes or powder to increase the spiciness and add some extra redness for color.
3. The Vegetables
In this recipe, we work with mushrooms, tofu, and some vegetables. However, one of the greatest things about the kimchi jjigae is that you can add any combination of vegetables to mix and match the flavor you’re craving. Here are a few more vegetable ideas:
- Mushrooms: white, brown, beech, shiitake, wood ear, oyster, enoki
- Assorted tofu or soy products: fried tofu, mock meat, tofu skin, tempeh
- Greens: kale, green cabbage, bok choy, chard
- Root vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, daikon radish
- Grains: noodles, Korean rice cakes, dumplings
Keep in mind that root vegetables require more simmering time, so start cooking them alongside the broth.
4. The Broth
The kimchi jjigae will only turn out as good as you flavor your broth. For this recipe, we add some kombu seaweed and dried shiitake mushrooms to add more depth to the regular vegetable stock.
Once the broth simmers for 10 to 15 minutes, taste it to make the necessary adjustments. Here’s what you can do:
- If the soup is too sour: add more sweetener
- If you want it spicier: sprinkle more chili powder
- If it’s salty enough: splash some soy sauce
Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae Recipe
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the recipe.
These ingredients will make around 4 pounds of kimchi.
- 3 lb napa cabbage
- 2 ounces carrot matchsticks
- 1 medium-sized chunked onion
- 6 diagonally sliced green onions
- 6 ounces of Korean radish or daikon matchsticks
- 3 ounces of chopped garlic chives (buchu)
- 1 cup Korean hot pepper flakes (gochu-garu)
- 9 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp sweet rice flour (chapssalgaru)
- 1⅓ cup vegetable stock
- 9 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ tbsp sugar
- 1 ts grounded ginger
- 1 lb or 3 cups drained and bite-sized vegetarian kimchi
- 1 cup chopped white onion
- 3 diagonally sliced green onions
- 2 ts toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- ½ tbsp doenjang
- 1 ts gochugaru
- 2 dried shiitake mushroom caps
- ½ lb sliced mushrooms
- ½ pack thick bite-sized sliced medium-firm tofu
- 1 dried kombu seaweed
- 1 cup sliced zucchini (remove seeds)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- ¼ cup kimchi brine
- 2 ts maple syrup
- 1 finely chopped green onion
- Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae Instructions
The vegetarian kimchi jjigae is fairly simple and will only take you 30 minutes to prepare. Making vegetarian kimchi at home, however, that’s a little more troublesome.
The Vegetarian Kimchi
If you decide to make your own vegetarian kimchi, here’s what you’re going to do.
Step 1: Salt the Cabbage
- Cut the cabbage into quarters and remove the corners.
- Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces (1 – 1 ½ inches).
- Transfer into a large bowl, then add 6 tbsp of salt and 1 cup of water.
- Leave for 2 hours while consistently tossing the cabbage to salt evenly.
Step 2: Make Kimchi Paste
- In a saucepan over medium-high heat, add rice flour to 1 cup of vegetable stock. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbles form.
- Add 1 tbsp of sugar, mix for 2 to 3 minutes until it’s translucent, then remove from heat and let it cool.
- In a food processor, add the cooled porridge, garlic, ginger, onion, and the remaining vegetable stock, salt, and sugar. Process into a puree.
- Transfer to a medium bowl, add the hot pepper flakes, and mix well.
Step 3: Wash and Mix
- Rinse the cabbage in cold running water for 3 to 4 minutes to remove excess salt and dirt, then drain well.
- Into a well-dried large bowl, mix the cabbage, green onions, carrot, chives, radish, and kimchi paste.
- Transfer into a glass jar or airtight container, and make sure to pack it tightly so no air gets inside.
Step 4: Ferment the Kimchi
You can serve the kimchi right away, but fermenting it will increase the flavor intensity. If you decide to ferment it, store it in the fridge for 2 weeks or, for faster fermentation, at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
You’ll know it’s ready when it tastes and smells sour. Afterward, store in the fridge for however long it takes to run out – it can never go bad at this point.
The Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 35 mins
- Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Side, Soup
- Cuisine: Korean
- Servings: 2
Step 1: Saute
- Heat the sesame oil in a large pot over medium heat.
- Add the kimchi, onion, and green onion.
- Stir for 5 minutes until translucent.
- Add gochujang, doenjang, and gochugaru.
- Stir for 2 minutes until it’s well combined.
Step 2: Simmer
- Add the vegetable stock, kimchi brine, dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, and maple syrup, then stir.
- Reduce to low heat when it boils, then cover and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes.
- When it’s 10 minutes before serving time, add the mushrooms, zucchini, and tofu.
- Cover and leave it to simmer for 10 minutes until the zucchini and mushrooms are cooked.
Step 3: Garnish
- Serve on plates and garnish with chopped green onions and sesame (optional).
Kimchi Jjigae and Side Dishes
You can serve the kimchi jjigae on its own, but Koreans normally serve it with steamed rice. That said, you can serve it with any side dish you’ll like. Here are a few ideas:
- Brown rice
- Chinese stir-fried mushroom
- Asian pear salad
- Mushroom dumplings
- Spicy edamame
- Japanese potato salad
Jal Meokkessumnida! (Bon Appetit!)
You can never go wrong with this vegetarian Korean kimchi jjigae. It’s the perfect stew for when your taste buds are screaming for a savory, spicy, sweet, and sour dinner. You can serve it with any variety of side dishes to complete your meal, and all it takes is 35 minutes to make. So, dig in!