Is Kimchi Vegetarian?
Short Answer: It depends.
Kimchi seems like it should be, pretty obviously, vegetarian. If you're not familiar with the delicious Korean staple, kimchi is made of fermented salted vegetables flavored with garlic, ginger, and other seasonings. The recipe changes depending on who's making it, but still—it's made of vegetables. Kimchi should be vegetarian, right?
But a press release from Nasoya Kimchi touting their new line of vegan kimchi got me thinking that, well, maybe most kimchi isn't actually vegan. And it turns out that if you're someone who avoids animal products, paying attention to the ingredients of kimchi is important becase, no, not all kimchi is strictly vegetarian or vegan.
Watch: How to Make Easy Kimchi
The trouble comes in with the flavoring components. While the basic ingredients of kimchi, like cabbage, radish, and scallions, are vegetarian-friendly, often fish sauce or shrimp paste are added to the mixture to up the umami and saltiness of the final product. That's perfectly fine if you eat fish, but if you don't, it's worth keeping an eye out.
There are definitely brands, like Nasoya, that don't include those ingredients in their kimchi and are thus vegan-frriendly. But you can also make kimchi at home pretty easily and adjust it to your taste, too.