grilled cheese sandwich on a plate
FOOD + DRINK

Why is Kimchi Grilled Cheese a Good Idea?


(Because Samin said so!)

I’ve been listening to the podcast Home Cooking hosted by Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway. If you haven’t given it a listen, please do! It will feed your inspiration and your soul. In fact, it’s this show that inspired me to make Kimchi Grilled Cheese!

To be honest, I’ve been terrified of kimchi for most of my life. (Just in case, kimchi is a Korean dish of salt and fermented vegetables, usually cabbage, seasoned with various spices and aromatics.) Growing up, my mom would make it at home and it would fill the house with a really strange smell. For a kid, it was off-putting. And if I remember correctly, mom made it spicy which I wasn’t into early on either. It’s still not a go-to condiment or side dish for me (yet!), but I bought a jar recently for these amazing Korean Beef Tacos.

So, I’m out walking the dog, listening to the podcast, when a caller asks for ways to incorporate kimchi into their cooking. Samin rattles off a handful of thoughts, then says she loves it in grilled cheese. Hold up a minute! I am all over this!

Kimchi in a jar
DECONSTRUCTING THE GRILLED CHEESE

There are a million and one ways to make a grilled cheese. The bread and cheese options alone are enough to make your head spin. Then there’s the additional goodies and condiments that can change simple grilled cheese into something…unto itself. 

Where to begin? I wanted to highlight the kimchi so tried to think of flavors that would serve well in supporting roles. The bread needs to be sturdy so you can really grab onto it when taking a bite. The cheese needs to get really melty, but have a mild enough flavor not to compete. I landed on sourdough, which is essentially a slow-fermented bread (hmm…synergy?), and a creamy havarti with just a slight tanginess that tastes great and melts well.

slices of sourdough bread
shredded cheese in a bowl

But, wait…grilled cheese needs soup! Maybe you’re not in that camp, but if I don’t serve soup alongside, my kid will throw his hands up. Traditional tomato wasn’t going to do. Staying on theme, I searched out Korean soup recipes and found this Doenjangguk with Bok Choy and Tofu by the effervescent Maangchi. It uses doenjang, a fermented soybean paste, that gives it a rich, deep golden color (not too far off from a tomato broth). 

(Try my Award Winning Chorizo + Black Bean Chili as an alternative cold weather, heart warming dish!)

HOW TO MAKE KIMCHI GRILLED CHEESE

Before you begin, set your butter out to soften a bit, shred the cheese on a box grater, and portion out some kimchi in a bowl and set it aside to take the chill off.

After buttering one side of the sourdough, place the slices in the hot pan buttered-side up to begin. I like to toast the ‘inside’ of the bread a little because I feel it prevents the sandwich from getting soggy, and facilities the cheese-melting process.

kimchi and cheese on top of bread

After toasted to your liking, flip the slices and add shredded cheese and kimchi to one side. Immediately top it with the other slice of bread. Once cooked golden on one side, carefully flip the sandwich over to finish cooking.

Remove it to a cutting board and cut in half. That’s it!

grilled cheese sandwich in a pan
kimchi grilled cheese sandwich in pan
DRINK PAIRING

We were enjoying this on Friday night, so I had to have the right cocktail to accompany this umami packed meal. The gals over at Spilling Tequila recommended a Pisco Sour. 

pisco sour next to a bowl of limes
pisco sour next to a bowl of limes

Both sweet + tart, this pisco sour balanced perfectly off the spicy, salty, tangy goodness of our dishes.

kimchi grilled cheese on a plate
dipping bread into a bowl of soup

Seriously…try kimchi on your next grilled cheese. You won’t be disappointed!

pin image for kimchi grilled cheese
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5 from 2 votes

KIMCHI GRILLED CHEESE

Add some fermented, spicy goodness to your next meatless meal with this kimchi grilled cheese. Crunchy, golden sourdough, creamy, tangy havarti and umami packed kimchi are a match made in heaven. Pair it with a bowl vegetarian Korean soup and it’s the perfect meal for a cold day.
Course Main Course, Sandwich
Cuisine American, Korean
Keyword Vegetarian
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter softened
  • 4 oz creamy havarti shredded on a box grater
  • ½ to 1 cup kimchi room temperature

Instructions

  • Heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat.
  • Butter one side of each slice of sourdough. Place the slices buttered-side up in the skillet to toast the 'insides' first. This should take just a minute or so.
  • Flip the bread over and top one slice with 1 oz of shredded havarti and 2 tablespoons (or more) of kimchi. Top with another slice of sourdough. Allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  • Carefully flip the sandwich over and cook another 2 minutes or until it's toasted to your liking. Remove to a cutting board and cut in half.

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