Kimchi Soup

Kimchi Soup Recipe

There is a soup I've had stuck in my mind for the past couple of years. I encountered it at Namu Gaji, a lively, welcoming, neighborhood spot run by the three (Dennis, Daniel, and David) Lee Brothers. It is situated diagonally across from Dolores Park in San Francisco, and is the perfect place to settle in along the street-facing bank of windows to chat and people-watch over sizzling okonomiyaki or a fiery stonepot of market vegetables. I see the Namu Gaji crew often at the Saturday morning farmer's market, shopping for ingredients or feeding market-goers from their Namu stall. Lots of heart on all fronts. The soup - I don't remember it being on the menu, although it could have been. I simply remember chatting about soup with one of the waitstaff there, and this fire-brothed magic appeared. It was a cabbage soup, but feisty and invigorating with lots of spice. You could see the flecks of red throughout, and the broth had little pools of spicy goodness suspended on top. I remember thinking to myself, it was as if someone had brothed out some amazing kimchi and called it a day - deceptively simple, in the best way possible. This is what I was attempting to channel when I stepped into the kitchen to prepare today's recipe. I added mushrooms and tofu, broccoli, and some other tasty flare to make a substantial one-pot meal of it - feel free to use as many, or as few, of the suggested toppings as you like.

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Kimchi Soup

One of the toppings I used here was the last of the season's cherry tomatoes, roasted until caramelized. When I go to make it again, I'll reach for whatever is seasonal - now that we're deep into fall, with winter not far off, some roasted delicata squash would be great. Or, a tangle of intensely roasted leeks. On the kimchi front, if you're buying prepared kimchi and are vegan or vegetarian, have a quick scan of the ingredient list, you'll need to choose one based on your parameters.

3 tablespoons olive oil, ghee, or clarified butter
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
fine grain sea salt

1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon chile flakes
5 garlic cloves, transparently sliced
2/3 cup kimchi, drained with 2 tablespoons juice reserved
6 cups water
1 tablespoon honey or dark brown sugar
8 ounces broccoli florets
3 tablespoons miso paste, or to taste
shoyu or soy sauce, to taste
12 ounces extra firm tofu, (pan-fried / optional)

to serve: roasted tomatoes, shredded green onions, sesame seeds, shoyu, squeeze of lime or lemon

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, toss to coat, and arrange in a single layer. Cook until golden where the mushrooms meet the pan. Toss, and cook a couple more times, or until the mushrooms are deeply browned, five minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Using the same pan, stir in the onion, adding a bit more oil if needed. Sauté the onions, and after a few minutes, stir in the ginger, and chile flakes. After another minute or so, add the garlic, and the kimchi. Sauté until the garlic is deeply aromatic. Add the water, and the honey or sugar. If you taste things now, the broth is going to be bland and lack depth. That's ok, you'll season with miso later on, and retain the beneficial properties of the miso by not letting it simmer. At this point, stir in the broccoli, and simmer for a minute, or just until the broccoli becomes bright green. Remove the soup from heat. Place the miso in a small bowl and whisk a splash of broth into it, to thin it out. Stir the thinned miso, and the reserved kimchi juice into the soup. Taste. You really need to get the balance right here. If the broth tastes a bit flat, you might need more salt, or miso, or a splash of shoyu/soy sauce.

Just before serving, drizzle the tofu with a bit of shoyu/soy sauce. Serve the soup ladled into bowls, topped with the tofu, mushrooms, and as many of the suggested toppings as you can pull together. Pictured above, cherry tomatoes (roasted), shredded green onions, and sesame seeds. You might like to finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serves 4.

Prep time: 10 min - Cook time: 15 min

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As I usually cook Middle Eastern, Russian or European, kimchi is not a familiar recipe in my pantry. However, I love eating it in Korean restaurants, and I recently picked up a jar at a small neighbourhood market... only to discover I don't really like the flavours in this particular local brand! So this soup looks like a perfect way to transform what is currently just another jar of condiments languishing in my fridge into a full meal. Perfect!

November 11, 2015

Man this looks and sounds insanely good.

November 11, 2015

Oh, this looks so restorative and clean and bright. I never would have thought to make kimchi into a soup. What a brilliant idea.

November 11, 2015


This looks delicious! I love Korean food and I always love your take on Asian cuisine so I'm definitely going to try this. Very warming for the cold winter ahead.

November 11, 2015


This looks rich and full of flavor yet really good for you. The ginger and kimchi are good for digestion. Thank you for sharing this recipe treasure!

November 11, 2015

Such a beautiful colored broth chock full with gorgeous toppings. Looks so delicious!

November 11, 2015

I don't think I have words to describe how much I love the sounds of this recipe. Definitely making it once I'm back home. Beautiful picture of the mushrooms too.

November 11, 2015


That looks delicious and beautiful altogether! Thank you for sharing.

November 11, 2015


I've just had to go gluten free (have been vegan for years) and boy oh boy do I need some inspiring recipes to not make me feel deprived. This is just what the doctor ordered! Will make tomorrow. Lovely vegan kimchi available at my Whole Foods will be the base.

November 11, 2015

ohh i love Namu Gaji!!
this soup sounds amazing, thanks for the inspiration, looking forward to trying it.

jenn (Azulie)

November 11, 2015


Thanks for this inspiring post, can't wait to try it! I first thought of it as some delicious recipe inspired by a recent trip to Korea.. but no, the inspiration came from one of your local place. It made me think of what a guy from Delhi said to me once next to me on a plane.. He had recently moved to Tajikistan and had eaten there the best Indian food meal ever :-) not from a fancy place but from a local restaurant own by a cook who obviously loved what he was doing :-)

November 11, 2015


Love me some good kimchi soup!

November 12, 2015

Zoe @ Fantastic Kitchen Cleaners Archway

This soup brings so many memories from my childhood when I used to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. Looks really delicious and I will definitely try your recipe. I also must say that these photos are remarkable, the shot with only the mushrooms looks out of this world, great.

November 12, 2015

This is the kimchi soup of my dreams. You always arrange your plates so beautifully!

November 12, 2015

I make kimchi about once a month, varying the recipe with what is in the vegetable bin or when chinese cabbage shows up in my organic market or our garden. I'll try this as it will be a great, quick meal on a cool, fall night.

November 12, 2015

Wow! Your recipe came into my inbox just in time: I had some homemade daikon kimchi calling my name from the fridge, and I was trying to figure out another recipe for the broccoli shoots from last weekend's farmers' market. I used brown rice syrup as the sweetener, tamari for the soy sauce, and added sliced Anaheim and poblano chiles (along with the jalapeño) to the pot plus a splash of coconut aminos and toasted sesame oil to my bowl. Wow—your broth was so tasty that I enjoyed the soup for dinner last night ... and breakfast this morning! Thanks so much for taking me on your creative culinary journey.

November 12, 2015


I just de-crocked 5 jars of kimchi, and I will be picking up local mushrooms this weekend! Thank you for looking at my future-pantry and creating a recipe just for me!
Is there a reason you add the kimchi liquid before simmering rather than saving it until the end? I'd like to keep some of the probiotic benefits of a lacto-fermented product by not cooking it all, and wondered if I could put the juice in at the same time as the miso?

HS: Adding it with the miso would be brilliant. I'll actually tweak the recipe to reflect that. xo!

November 12, 2015

Wow! A real stunner Heidi. We are in full on soup weather here in Maine now, and this will be a most welcome addition our rotation. Can't wait for a taste. xo

November 12, 2015


I love using kimchee in unexpected ways, such as filing an omelette, chopped up in a hearty composed salad, or added to a roasted veg. sandwich. This looks equally divine!

November 12, 2015

Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe :) I hadn't prepared kimchi soup before but I'm going to work on it... Hope to succeed

November 13, 2015

This looks so good! Beautiful presentation as always :)

November 13, 2015

Hello Heidi!
This recipe sounds delicious.
Lately I was making a similar soup but it was missing the "twist", which I'm sure the kimchi gives!
I live in Italy and finding kimchi is pretty difficult -while I was living in Sydney it was definitely easier to find it!- . Do you (or someone between your readers!) have any recipe you would recommend to make it at home?
Thanks a lot for the time you'll spend answering to my question.
Have a lovely day.
Emanuela, The Raw Beet

November 14, 2015

What a beautiful soup. The restaurant you mentioned sounds so wonderful, I don't know anywhere as 'real' and authentic as that, I so wish I did! As ever your photos and food are just sublime xx

November 15, 2015

Oh man, I daydream about Namu Gaji's okonomiyaki on the regular. I love that place! The vibe, the food, the drink - all so good. This soup sounds to die for, and it's so pretty to boot.

November 15, 2015


If anyone is looking for an easy, vegetarian kimchi recipe, check out Linda Ziedrich's recipe in The Joy of Pickling (which also contains an amazing turnip kimchi). The Food in Jars blog also features a similar one. If you cannot get the Korean chile pepper, aleppo chile is a good substitute.
This soup is so gorgeous--I really appreciate how you give a framework but clearly describe how to make it seasonal and use what you have on hand.

November 17, 2015

I have a new fondness for kimchi and this soup sounds like a fantastic way to use it!! Plus it is now officially soup season and I am CRAVING that warm comfort!

November 17, 2015

Heather Hicks

Oh my goodness this looks delicious! Who would have thought to make soup from this, a great idea! I will definitely add this to our rotation especially on rainy days! I have been looking for some good Organic recipes, I found J Natalie Winch's book Ditching the Drive Thru, and her ideas and recipes from farm fresh foods are some of the best I have found. Her site for the book is it's worth a look. I need to go try this soup!!!

November 17, 2015


Just made this for dinner on a chilly fall night. I used a combo of crimini and portobello mushrooms, medium spice kimchi, and splash of soy sauce, and I doubled the broccoli. Such a flavorful and spicy soup! Never can figure out different ways to eat kimchi - this soup is a perfect way to do so!

November 18, 2015


I am a huge fans of mushrooms and spicy soup. I always feel like to try kimchi and so far havent try on it. The way you cook kimchi is different and sounds delicious! I appreciate on how you write this blog in so details and the photos used to illustrate your post. You deserve my like! Thanks for sharing

November 19, 2015


This soup is delicious! I made a pot this weekend and it's perfect to take to work, whereas I can't take straight Kimchi because my coworkers would protest! I will be making this again; it's that good!

November 23, 2015


Heidi, this was absolutely delicious! I used bok choi instead of broccoli, because it was in my fridge, and loved it.
Ema, I wish I knew exactly what recipe I used for the kimchi, but I don't! It was similar to this one My recent batch was my third, and definitely most successful. Ordering gochugaru was key to getting the right flavor.

November 24, 2015


This recipe has been the highlight of my winter, thank you so much for the inspiration! I normally don't prefer kimchi as much on its own or with rice but it's incredible in this soup! I added in some Bok Choy and topped it with roasted leeks. So yummy and nourishing :)

December 7, 2015


Fantastic recipe with a ton of depth! The miso paste smooths out the intensity of the kimchi but the spice still definitely comes through. This is a bowl of health and I love it!

February 26, 2016

Food For Thought

What an interesting take on a korean dish. Kimchi is not normally used to make soup, but to only lend its flavour. Gochujang or ssamjang is used normally. I like this twist. :)

February 29, 2016

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