Kimchi Soup Recipe

A Kimchi Soup inspired by a bowl of fiesty, fiery, brothy cabbage soup I had years ago at Namu Gaji in San Francisco.

Kimchi Soup

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.

Kimchi Soup RecipeKimchi Soup RecipeKimchi Soup Recipe

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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 minutes - Cook time: 15 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

Post Your Comment


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

Delices d'Annie

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!


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


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!


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.

Gloria of Veghead, Etc.

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.

Andrew Stone

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

Sarah | Well and Full

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.

Zoe @ Fantastic Kitchen Cleaners Archway

Love me some good kimchi soup!


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 :-)


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


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.


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


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.

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

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

Amy @ parsley in my teeth

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!


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.


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


Man this looks and sounds insanely good.


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!

Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table

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