Kimchi Jjigae

How Spicy Should Kimchi Be? A Simple Answer

Kimchi is a delicious Korean side dish and ingredient, perfect for many meals. You can cook kimchi in different ways with varying ingredients, but how spicy should it be? 

Kimchi should be spicy enough that you can feel it but not spicy enough that it’s unenjoyable to eat. Someone who doesn’t tolerate spicy foods well shouldn’t experience any issues with kimchi. However, the spiciness often depends on how it was made and the specific ingredients. 

The rest of this article will discuss how spicy kimchi should be in greater detail. Be sure to read on if you want to learn more about this delicious Korean dish! 

What Makes Kimchi Spicy?

Chili flakes are the main ingredients that make kimchi spicy. Red pepper flakes are another ingredient that can make kimchi spicy, but there is generally only one or the other in one recipe. A kimchi recipe doesn’t always have chili flakes and red pepper flakes, but it is possible. 

red pepper flakes

The amount of chili or red pepper flakes in a recipe will determine how spicy it will be. In most authentic Korean kimchi dishes, gochu (Korean red pepper) is used. It’s important to note that this pepper is not extremely spicy, so many kimchi dishes are not unbearably spicy. 

In general, it’s down to personal preference, so you should experiment with different store-bought kimchi and different kimchi recipes until you find the spice level that suits you. 

Does Kimchi Need To Be Spicy?

Kimchi doesn’t need to be spicy. Some people prefer it hot, whereas others prefer it milder. Generally, there is supposed to be at least some spice, but it’s perfectly acceptable to keep the spice to a minimum. It’s also acceptable to make kimchi super hot if you prefer. 

That is one of the most significant advantages of creating kimchi on your own. You can add the ingredients you want and make it as spicy (or tame) as possible. 

How Do I Make Kimchi Less Spicy?

Kimchi preparing

To make kimchi less spicy, you should add less chili and red pepper flakes. Instead of these spicy ingredients, you can focus on the other essential ingredients, such as honey, garlic, salt, carrots, and spring onions. Kimchi can still be delicious if it’s not spicy. 

But if you’re highly concerned with spice, you should use less garlic. This is because garlic is highly pungent and can add some spice to the dish, which you want to avoid. 

However, it’s still important to incorporate a little bit of garlic because it adds much-needed flavor. For example, if the recipe calls for one clove of garlic, you should try to use half a clove instead. 

And the same goes for the chili or red pepper flakes. If the recipe calls for a certain amount, use less than that. You could avoid adding the chili and red pepper flakes altogether, but this might negatively affect the flavor. 

The best thing to do is experiment with the ingredients until you find a recipe with the perfect spiciness for you. 

How Do I Make Kimchi Spicier?

To make kimchi spicier, you should add more red pepper and chili flakes. If the recipe calls for a certain amount, you should add more than that (unless the recipe is already spicy enough). You can also use some chili paste for some added spiciness. 

Additionally, you could add some more garlic if you like. Since garlic adds an extra layer of spice, putting more of it into your kimchi should help kick it up a notch. 

If you’ve already made the kimchi and it’s not spicy enough for you, you could add some extra chili flakes and eat it right away. Or, if you haven’t made it yet but want to ensure it’s spicier than your last one before preparing it, add the extra chili flakes in at the beginning to let the flavors develop. 

How Can I Give Kimchi More Sweetness?

Kimchi is supposed to have some sweetness, but you may want it to be sweeter than usual. But because it is tart and sour, it can be hard to achieve a decent level of sweetness. 

Spoonful of honey

To give kimchi more sweetness, you can add ingredients like sugar or honey. These ingredients can help cancel out some of the sour and tart flavors, which are common in kimchi due to the fermentation of the cabbage. 

You can also use some water to help with the sourness, as this prevents fermentation. All you need to do is wash or soak the kimchi in water. Since fermentation causes the sour flavor, preventing it will make your kimchi seem sweeter. 

Another way to slow down fermentation is to keep your kimchi in the refrigerator. Although the sour flavor will continue to develop, it won’t develop as fast as it would at a higher temperature. This doesn’t necessarily add sweetness to the recipe, but it quickly stops it from getting sour and tart. 

Was Kimchi Always Supposed To Be Spicy?

Kimchi technically wasn’t always supposed to be spicy. When it was first invented, Koreans would ferment vegetables to make them last longer to avoid starvation. Eventually, it developed into what it is today and is generally known for its tangy and spicy flavors. 

So, although the history of kimchi indicates it wasn’t originally intended to be spicy, it is generally supposed to have some level of spice today. But it’s also important to note that there are many different types of kimchi globally, and their spiciness levels vary. 

Here are some common types of kimchi (spicy and non-spicy types): 

  • Napa cabbage kimchi: This is arguably the most popular type of kimchi and generally consists of pepper flakes, cabbage, onion, garlic, and some other ingredients. Due to the pepper flakes, this kimchi is usually spicy. 
  • Korean diced radish kimchi: This kimchi consists of radish and different kinds of fruits and vegetables. It’s in the shape of cubes and tends to be spicy. 
  • White kimchi: If you want to avoid spices altogether, white kimchi is one of the best options because it doesn’t contain chili or pepper flakes. Some ingredients include garlic, cabbage, and fruit. 

There are many more types out there, but the above are some of the most common. You should research some different types of kimchi to get an idea of which one will suit your spice preference the most. 

Can I Add jalapeño to Kimchi?

You can add jalapeño to kimchi to make it spicier, but it isn’t a standard ingredient. Some Latino-style kimchi recipes incorporate jalapeños for an added kick, so it’s a good option if you’re looking for a new way to spice up your kimchi recipe. 

Can I Add Sriracha to Kimchi?

You can add sriracha to kimchi, and it’s an excellent way to give the dish some more spice. However, the sauce isn’t highly spicy. So, you can add sriracha to the kimchi with other spices, including garlic and red pepper flakes. Many modern kimchi recipes use sriracha as an ingredient. 


Standard kimchi should always have some spice, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. However, there are many variants of the dish, and each type can have different spice levels. 

White kimchi is an example of a spice-free type of kimchi. If you want to make spicy kimchi, add more spices like pepper and chili flakes. Avoid using so many spices if you want it to be less spicy. 

In general, kimchi spiciness varies, and it’s up to you to decide what you prefer. 


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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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