Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Kimchi grilled cheese on a cutting board with knife

My first taste of kimchi was in the back of the food shop where I worked in as a teenager. There, I’d spend my the lunch break with the Korean family who’d recently bought the place. Everyday, the family’s matriarch would pull out Tupperware containers of foods I’d never seen before. She was as generous with her cooking as I was curious to try everything. I eagerly dug into tender dumplings and savory rice dishes, but was less sure of the homemade kimchi that appeared at every meal. Fast forward to today and kimchi has become a staple of our refrigerator. I’ve come to embrace it alongside traditional Korean dishes, as well as conventional American ones, such as these crazy good Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

kimchi grilled cheese in a small skillet

Why Put Kimchi on Grilled Cheese?

Some would say a simple grilled cheese is a perfect food, so why mess with it? Fermented foods can add heat, salt, tang, and interest to sandwiches and play deliciously off the richness of melted cheese. I’ve been tucking pickled jalapeños and other fermented goodies into my sandwiches for years, so adding kimchi was a natural progression. I thought I was the first to the table with the idea, but Google turned up plenty of other recipes. My spin on the subject includes the addition of spinach, a little less cheese than some, whole-grain bread if you can get a good loaf, and olive oil instead of butter for browning the sandwiches. Regardless of these nutrition upgrades, the whole thing is darn delicious and super satisfying.

jar of mother in laws kimchi

About Kimchi

If kimchi is as new to you as it was to me as a teenager, let me fill you in. It’s a staple of the Korean table made by fermenting vegetables, often with chiles, garlic, scallions, and ginger. Kimchi is most commonly made from Napa cabbage and has a fiery, funky, complex flavor. That said, kimchi can be made from myriad other vegetables and isn’t always spicy. Radish kimchi is a variety I’ve found at a number of my local markets. You can learn more about kimchi and find a recipe for making it at home by heading here.

Is Kimchi Healthy?

Yes! Kimchi is rich in probiotics, those “good” bacteria that promote healthy digestion. Probiotic-rich fermented foods can help build a healthy gut, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits, along with a slew of other potential upsides (learn more about diet and gut health in this post ). Interestingly, the bacteria in fermented foods like kimchi can boost the level of vitamin B-12, a nutrient that can be hard to come by, particularly for folks eating a plant-based diet.

Where to Buy Kimchi

You’ll find Kimchi in the refrigerated section of the market. This is key, because those good-for-you bacteria must be live and active to provide health benefits. Shelf-stable fermented foods have been heat treated, which kills the bacteria. Availability of kimchi varies depending on where you live, but I’m seeing it more and more places, from mainstream supermarkets to Asian specialty stores. Two common brands where I live include Mother-in-Law’s and Sinto Gourmet.

kimchi grilled cheese sandwich on wax paper

Alternatives to Kimchi for these Sandwiches

If you haven’t quite jumped on the kimchi train, I have options for you. Here are a few swaps you can make to give this sandwich a spicy or briny kick:

  • Use tamed jalapeño peppers
  • Swap in a few tablespoons of pickled cabbage/sauerkraut
  • Tuck thinly sliced cornichons beneath the layers of cheese
  • Spread a thin layer of olive tapenade on one slice of bread
  • Swipe your bread with gochujang, an umami-rich Korean spice paste
  • Chop up giardinara, escabeche, pickled peppers, or other pickled vegetables

If you Like Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, try:

Waffle Iron Grilled Cheese

Rotisserie Chicken Sandwiches with Spicy Muhammara

Hanoi Chicken Banh Mi

Waffle Iron Ham, Cheese, and Spinach Panini

Roast Turkey Reuben with Kimchi by Closet Cooking

kimchi grilled cheese sandwich on wax paper
5 from 6 votes
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Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Kimchi gives a flavorful and nutritious upgrade to an ordinary grilled cheese sandwich. Add a tidy pile of spinach and you've got a satisfying and terrifically tasty meal on your plate.

Course Salad, lunch, dinner
Cuisine American, korean
Keyword kimchi grilled cheese
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 6 minutes
Servings 2 sandwiches
Calories 450 kcal
Author katiemorford

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Kimchi (I use cabbage kimchi)
  • 4 slices Sandwich bread (I like levain, ideally with some whole-grain flour)
  • Sharp Cheddar, enough for 2 thin layers on each sandwich (about 3 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup Baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Lay the kimchi on a cutting board and use a chef's knife to roughly chop.

  2. Lay thin slices of cheese to cover 2 slices of bread. Lay the spinach evenly over the cheese followed by the kimchi. Cover with the remaining cheese and remaining bread slices.

  3. Heat a large skillet (I use cast iron) over medium. Add the olive oil and when hot, swirl to coat the bottom and lay the sandwiches in the skillet. Cook until golden brown, flip, and cook the second side until the bread is golden and the cheese is melted.

  4. Cut in half and eat while warm.

Comments

02.15.2022 at11:42 AM #

4waystoyummy

Sounds wonderful and I have everything to make this for lunch today! I rarely indulge in grilled cheese but adding these beautiful veggies makes it feel healthy. Life’s a balance, right? I was surprised the spinach didn’t get a quick sauté, I guess it cooks up on the grill. Thank you!

02.15.2022 at11:42 AM #

katiemorford

It’s baby spinach, so it wilts by the time the sandwich is done. You could add more if you like!

02.17.2022 at11:36 AM #

Marie

Sort of like the start of an extra special Reuben! Yum!

02.17.2022 at11:57 AM #

Melisa

I’ve never had kimchi but cheese makes everything better and that bread looks amazing is it the brand you mentioned or something else

02.17.2022 at12:01 PM #

Megan

I may or may not have already picked up some kimchi for the express purpose of trying this sandwich. (Spoiler: I totally did!) Sounds delicious

02.17.2022 at12:17 PM #

Marilyn Yon

I need to try this.

02.17.2022 at12:22 PM #

Patty

I Just had this for lunch and it was delicious! Thank you so much for sharing your healthy ideas and recipes.

02.17.2022 at12:44 PM #

marianne o'grady

Oh wow that is a great idea and will be tonight’s dinner with a fresh tomato soup. Wouldn’t have thought of including. Thanks for the tip.

02.17.2022 at12:44 PM #

katiemorford

Sounds perfect!

02.17.2022 at1:25 PM #

Verne

Have been trying several of the Wild Brine fermented vegetable offerings at Whole Foods, Kimchee being one of them. The red beet and cabbage (kraut) was my entry level attempt so now will move on to Kimchee to make this fabulous sounding sandwich

02.17.2022 at1:25 PM #

katiemorford

I love that Wild Brine beet/cabbage kraut.

02.17.2022 at1:27 PM #

Asli Faber

I love Kimchi! Gotta try it soon!

02.17.2022 at2:10 PM #

Louise

OMG- I made this the other day as soon as I read your post. I had most of the ingredients (used 1slice Colby & 1 slice Swiss) . I also used a cast iron pan with olive oil- it was scrumptious! Thanks for coming up with a creative way to eat kimchi:-)

02.17.2022 at2:10 PM #

katiemorford

Yay! Next try adding chopped kimchi to your scrambled eggs. Delish!

02.17.2022 at3:24 PM #

Sue Corrigan

Definitely going to try this!! 😋

02.18.2022 at9:44 AM #

Kate Strickland

I LOVE this recipe! I am always looking for ways to use kimchi. Thank you!

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