Differences Between Sauerkraut And Kimchi

Although they are dishes derived from the fermentation of cabbage and were created to have vegetables during the winter, sauerkraut, and kimchi differ in the type of cabbage, its origin, and its flavor. Discover more about the most popular fermented foods of German and Korean winters.

Korea, Germany, and Austria—among others—united through fermented cabbage. Sauerkraut and kimchi are two popular dishes in different parts of the world, and although they share some similarities due to their fermentation process, they also have significant differences regarding what type of ingredients are used, their flavor, and their origin. We review the history, curiosities, and recipes where you can enjoy these dishes that will take us to the most wintery recipe book.

What is sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is a food composed primarily of fermented cabbage. It is considered one of the gastronomic jewels of Germany and, more specifically, of the Bavarian area. It is a sublime example of how fermentation can transform and elevate the simplicity of ingredients.

Contains beneficial probiotics for our body. During the fermentation process, lactic acid bacteria, such as those of the Lactobacillus genus, break down the sugars present in cabbage and produce lactic acid. This acts as a natural preservative and creates an acidic environment in the sauerkraut that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria but beneficial to probiotic bacteria; a type of bacteria necessary to balance the intestinal microbiota and improve digestion.

Importantly, to get the benefits of probiotics in sauerkraut, it is important to consume it in its raw, unpasteurized form, as pasteurization can destroy beneficial bacteria .

What is kimchi

Kimchi is an emblematic dish of Korean cuisine that has become very famous in recent years due to the boom in the Asian country’s cuisine in the West. Made from fermented napa cabbage and seasoned with a mixture of spicy and aromatic ingredients, it is a gem that Koreans have exported and that has caught the attention of the most demanding palates who were looking for new recipes and flavors in Asian gastronomy.

Napa cabbage is characterized by its elongated and oblong shape. Unlike white cabbage, which tends to be round and compact, the cabbage used to make kimchi has long, loose leaves that overlap in layers. The color of its leaves can vary from light green to a darker shade, depending on the specific variety and its level of maturity.

Differences between sauerkraut and kimchi

Although they have in common that they are fermented cabbage-based dishes, sauerkraut and kimchi differ in their origin, the main ingredient, their preparation as well as their flavor.


Its origin is totally different. They are similar traditional recipes born in totally opposite territories. For one, sauerkraut has its roots in Germanic and Central European cultures, and its history dates back thousands of years. The ancient people of these regions were already fermenting cabbage and other vegetables long before the technique was perfected in medieval Germany. Fermentation allowed food to be preserved during the winter, an invaluable resource in cold climates.

In Korea, the home of kimchi, its roots stem from the need to preserve food during the harsh Korean winters. In an ancient and somewhat rudimentary way, Korean farmers developed fermentation techniques to preserve vegetables available in season and maintain a food supply throughout the winter. Over the years, this practice evolved and was refined, giving rise to kimchi as we know it today.

Ingredients used

Both sauerkraut and kimchi use cabbage as the main product but with nuances. On the one hand, the main ingredient in kimchi is napa cabbage, a specific type of long-leaf Chinese cabbage, but a variety of additional ingredients can be included depending on different regions of the Asian country, such as red pepper or green onions, making that acquires its characteristic spicy flavor.

On the other hand, sauerkraut is made mainly with white or green cabbage, which has a more compact texture and shorter leaves without the need to add other types of products that modify the German dish.

Preparation methods

To prepare sauerkraut, cabbage is cut finely, mixed with salt to form a brine, and placed in an airtight container. The salt draws water out of the cabbage, creating a salty medium in which lactic acid bacteria can thrive, generating the probiotics mentioned above. Sauerkraut, on the other hand, is usually seasoned in a simpler way, generally with salt and, occasionally, with some spices such as juniper—typical of German recipes.

The preparation of kimchi is not too different, since the process is similar but ingredients are used that enhance its flavor. Kimchi is seasoned with various seasonings and vegetables typical of Korean cuisine, such as red pepper powder ( gochugaru ), garlic, ginger, green onion, fermented fish ( jeotgal ), and other seasonings. These ingredients give kimchi its characteristic spicy and umami flavor.

We also found differences in preparation and conservation times. While kimchi is known for its long and continuous fermentation process, sauerkraut is fermented for a period of time that allows it to be consumed within a few weeks; To consume kimchi we must wait from days to months, taking into account that its fermentation does not completely complete despite being stored in airtight containers.


The color of sauerkraut varies from white to pale yellow, depending on the fermentation time and the variety of cabbage used. Its refreshing flavor, with sour notes and a salty touch that makes it an ideal complement to a wide variety of dishes from German recipes.

On the other hand, kimchi is known for its spicy flavor, the result of the mixture of red pepper powder, while garlic and ginger add highly characteristic aromatic notes. Visually, kimchi has a deep red color


While sauerkraut has a more sour flavor, kimchi stands out for its spicy tones, which can be mild or intense depending on the type of dressings and condiments included in the fermentation.

Ways to consume it and recipes

Kimchi is a versatile ingredient and is used in a wide variety of dishes in Korean cuisine, including kimchi Bokkeumbap — a fried rice dish with kimchi, garlic, and onion — kimchi Jjigae — a thick, comforting soup with kimchi, tofu, and often meat or seafood—or kimchi pancakes, which incorporate chopped kimchi into their dough. It is also popular and common to find the well-known kimchi sauce in the international sections of the main hypermarkets. It usually works as an accompaniment to dishes such as Korean bibimbap.

On the other hand, sauerkraut is one of the most consumed garnishes during the cold German and Austrian winters, highlighting its presence in celebrations as typical as the Oktoberfest. The pork, juicy and with smoky touches, combines perfectly with the sour punch that the sauerkraut has; hence it is popular to find it in recipes such as sausages, whether BratwurstWeisswurst or Frankfurters, which are served with a generous portion of sauerkraut.

Away from Bavaria, sauerkraut is also very popular. Examples are found in the Reuben sandwich – typical of American cuisine where pastrami is mixed with Swiss cheese and sauerkraut between two slices of rye bread -, the Polish bigos – which is combined with meat, bacon, and mushrooms – or the combination, always right, roast ribs with sauerkraut.

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