Does Kimchi Go Bad? Storage Tips You Need To Know

Written by: Mike Marshall
kimchi on a plate

Let’s say you’ve found an old jar of kimchi in your fridge. It smells a bit sour, but what does that mean? 

Does kimchi go bad?

If these questions are troubling you, you’ve come to the right place.

In this article I’ll talk about kimchi in detail. 

From its shelf life to storage and spoilage, I’ve got you covered. 

Let’s jump straight in!

How Long Does Kimchi Last?

Kimchi is made by fermentation of bacterial cultures that are already naturally found on vegetables. The process is pretty much the same as making sauerkraut, but it takes a much shorter time. 

In most cases, kimchi is sold as raw, unpasteurized. This means that billions of live probiotics are active in the packaging, and the fermentation is still happening. 

Because of that, its shelf life at room temperature is rather short. In most cases, kimchi will stay good for a week or so after being open in these conditions. 

Keeping kimchi in the fridge will extend its shelf life for quite some time. It will still continue to ferment, but the process is much slower at temperatures below 39° Fahrenheit. In that case, you can expect your kimchi to stay fresh for about six months or so.

Shelf LifePantryFridge
Kimchi (opened)~1 week~6 months

Since kimchi doesn’t usually go bad in a traditional sense of way, these numbers are more of a guideline than a strict expiration date. If you prefer your kimchi a bit sour, you can probably eat it even when the jar in your fridge is nine months old.

Like many other foods, store-bought kimchi usually contains some preservatives. These help in extending shelf life for this long. But that’s not something most people add to their homemade kimchi. For that reason, don’t expect your own creation to last more than a month, at most.

How To Tell If Kimchi Is Bad?

Given the fact that fresh kimchi is pungent and sour, describing a product that has gone bad is a bit tough. Your best bet is to pay attention to its smell, as well as mold growth.

It’s normal for kimchi to smell a bit vinegary. That’s to be expected given the fact that the fermentation process is ongoing. But in case the aroma is too strong and alcoholic, trust your nose and throw it away.

This is especially true if your kimchi contains any seafood. Eating spoiled seafood can lead to rather serious health conditions. For that reason, you should always throw away kimchi that smells “off.”

The same goes for any mold forming on the top. Fuzzy mas can occur on the top part of veggies that aren’t submerged in the kimchi juice. While it’s not common, mold is definitely something to keep an eye on. Eating moldy kimchi can lead to food poisoning and allergic reactions.

Finally, you might notice that kimchi has changed in flavor over time. But given the fact that the fermentation process never truly stops, this is not surprising. What’s more, kimchi becoming more sour doesn’t mean it’s spoiled.

But at some point, it will become too sour for your taste. And when that happens, throwing it away is the only thing left to do. 

How To Store Kimchi?

kimchi in a jar

Pasteurized kimchi was heat-treated to kill probiotic bacteria inside. This process stops fermentation, so kimchi can sit unopened in your pantry. However, most store-bought kimchi products aren’t pasteurized, meaning they aren’t shelf-stable.

Live cultures thrive when kept at room temperature. For that reason, kimchi goes from tasty to super sour within a week when stored that way. 

However, if you plan on eating the whole jar in the next few days, you can definitely keep it in your pantry or in the kitchen cabinet. One thing you need to make sure of is to keep it away from the stove and sunlight. 

If you want to extend the shelf life of kimchi, it’s best to store it in the fridge. Most store-bought kimchi products are stored at a constant temperature of 39° Fahrenheit, so you do that as well. At such a low temperature, the fermentation process will slow down drastically, so it’s possible for kimchi to be fresh for months to come.

In most cases, the jar kimchi comes in is good enough, so there’s no need to transfer it to another container. But what you do need to make sure is to keep it sealed whenever you’re not using it. 

Furthermore, all the veggies need to be submerged in kimchi sauce, otherwise, they will dry out at a faster rate. As a result, they will go bad. 

As we already mentioned, kimchi can become moldy. But that shouldn’t happen as long as you’re careful about hygiene. By this, I mean using clean utensils every time you want to take a bit of kimchi out of the container. Dirty spoons can easily contaminate the jar with unwanted bacteria, which will lead to spoilage.

Want to extend the kimchi shelf life for a little longer? Then your best bet is freezing it. By doing so, you can expect it to stay fresh for at least three months longer than usual. If you do it properly, freezing won’t cause any changes in texture.

One thing you should remember – don’t sore kimchi in its original packaging. In most cases, the jar it comes with is not freezer-safe, and the glass might burst at such low temperatures. 

Instead, use an airtight container to freeze kimchi. When you transfer the content, make sure to leave at least an inch of free space inside. As you know, the liquid inside will turn into ice once it reaches freezing point. And since ice expands, you’ll need that extra space – otherwise, the container will explode.

Alternatively, you can use a releasable bag to store kimchi. In that case, try to get out as much air as you can, to keep it fresh for longer. If you have a vacuum sealer, even better.

Final Thoughts

The ongoing fermentation process ultimately leads to kimchi becoming too sour to eat. 

When stored at room temperature, kimchi will stay fresh for a week or so. But if you keep it in a fridge, you can extend its shelf life tremendously. 

As long as you keep it sealed whenever not in use, there’s practically no chance your kimchi can go bad. But there’s no way you can completely stop it from fermenting. After half a year or so, it might become too sour to be edible.

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I’m not a pro chef by any means, but years of tinkering inside the kitchen have taught me a thing or two about preparing delicious, healthy food. So whether you’re interested in how to properly store food, figuring out side dishes for your main course, or even learning how to use a knife properly – I've got you covered.