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Fermented Cabbage: Kimchi vs. Sauerkraut

February 17, 2022

When you think of cabbage, you probably have a few different images that come to mind. For many people, coleslaw is perhaps the first thought to pop up, and for others, a Reuben sandwich slathered in sauerkraut might draw the first association. Cabbage features in a surprising number of dishes around the world, and two cabbage dishes, in particular, have grown to spectacular heights of popularity.

These two versions are the notorious Kimchi and Sauerkraut, heavyweight champions of the cabbage world. Both kimchi and sauerkraut are fermented cabbage dishes, traditional to a specific culture, and growing in popularity around the globe. One hails from the traditions of Korea, while the other made its name in Eastern Europe. If you wanted to, you could likely draw comparisons between the two for days!

So, what makes these two iconic foods unique from each other, and why does that matter? This article will explore the significant differences between kimchi and sauerkraut to help clear up any confusion between the two fermented foods! From their long histories to their shockingly similar preparation methods, we’ll get to the bottom of the fermented cabbage conundrum.

Grab a fork and knife, and let’s dive in!

What is Kimchi?

We’ll start with the basics, and that begins with a bit of backstory! Kimchi has been a cultural staple and dinner table mainstay in Korea for centuries. Originally, kimchi was developed as a way for Koreans to eat nutritious vegetables in the middle of winter before other food preservation techniques were available to them.

There is no single “correct” kimchi recipe, as it has grown and developed over many generations. Though cabbage will always be at the center of the dish, kimchi utilizes other vegetables and a plethora of spices to get its unique flavor.

Often, you will eat kimchi as a topping or accent to other foods, but you can also create dishes specifically for kimchi! Kimchi fried rice is an ever-popular recipe, and if you want to try an authentic Korean kimchi dish, look for Kimchi Jjigae, a typical kimchi-based stew.

cleveland kitchen classic Kimchi

Kimchi Benefits

As a fermented food (we’ll get to that in a minute), kimchi is incredibly nutritional. Eating kimchi regularly could help improve your digestive health, protect yourself from high cholesterol levels, boost your immune system, and possibly even reduce the risk of future heart disease!

What is Sauerkraut?

While we usually think of sauerkraut as a European invention, that’s only partly true! The name sauerkraut comes from Germany, and Germany is one of the central sauerkraut hubs of the world, but sauerkraut itself actually began in China before being brought over to Europe. However, the original sauerkraut looked different than the sauerkraut you would see today, as the original Chinese recipe used rice wine, which was eventually replaced by salt.

Most people probably associate sauerkraut with hotdogs and bratwurst, and while these are commonly paired together, sauerkraut can be enjoyed with a variety of foods! Even though sauerkraut starts with just shredded cabbage and salt, with experimentation of adding other veggies and spices the possibilities are endless.

cleveland kitchen classic caraway sauerkraut

Sauerkraut Benefits

Just like kimchi, thanks to its incredible fermented nutrition, sauerkraut is a certifiable superfood. The healthy bacteria that comes from fermentation makes sauerkraut a great source of probiotics, and cabbage itself provides fiber, potassium, and calcium, among other health-boosting vitamins. Just make sure you check the sauerkraut that you find in grocery stores because if it isn’t “raw,” it won’t have these benefits!

Fermentation

One aspect that both these delicacies share is their status as fermented foods! This “food group,” which includes several other foods like kefir and sourdough bread, is known for its health benefits, as fermented foods provide an amazing source of probiotics.

To become fermented, both kimchi and sauerkraut go through a similar fermentation process. The process, called lactic acid fermentation, is what gives kimchi and sauerkraut their nutritional superpowers.

This is the crucial difference between kimchi and sauerkraut; fermentation time. They both undergo lactic acid fermentation, but sauerkraut tends to ferment for a significantly longer period of time.

Cleveland Kitchen

Thankfully, with Cleveland Kitchen, you don’t have to choose between the two at all! Our Sauerkraut, and Kimchi are sure to knock your socks off. If you’re not ready to try either, you might want to check out our fermented dressings, the perfect complement to your next salad.

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