Kimchi Is Too Salty (How to Fix, Causes, FAQs) – Ferment Makers (2023)

It is not uncommon for some of the first batches people make to end up a little too salty.

With time people will get a better feel for how much salt they should use.

However, in the beginning, mistakes can be made.

The neat thing is that, generally, this is not a huge problem. There are just a few things that should be mentioned and kept in mind, though.

Common causes

Over the years, making my fair share of mistakes and also talking to people about their mistakes, I have found a few common reasons why we can end up with very salty kimchi.

Not rinsing the cabbage

A common mistake leading to very salty kimchi is not rinsing the cabbage well or entirely skipping the rinsing part. After the cabbage has been salted, it is normally rinsed well before everything is packed into the fermentation container.

Rinsing the cabbage will remove much of the salt.

Using the brine

Also, the brine is typically not used. Using it can also lead to overly salted kimchi.

This is not an issue because, during the next couple of days, as the fermentation process really kicks in, the ingredients, including the cabbage, will release more water which will help keep everything submerged.

Short fermentation

Kimchi that seems too salty is associated with short fermentation times.

At the start, it is normal for the kimchi to feel a little saltier.

Over time as the kimchi continues to ferment, the saltiness will mellow out a bit.

Using too much salt

It is easy to oversalt kimchi.

The problem sometimes comes from some recipes not giving weight measurements and listing ingredients only by volume.

While that may work in many cases, it is an incredibly vague and inaccurate way to measure ingredients.

The same volume of salt (e.g., 1 tablespoon of salt) may weigh differently depending on the size of the salt crystals. And some recipes don’t mention the coarseness of the salt too. So even though you are following what the recipe says, your actual salt concentration may vary.

Kimchi Is Too Salty (How to Fix, Causes, FAQs) – Ferment Makers (1)

There are also some regional differences when it comes to kimchi preparation.

In addition, some regions (and, respectively, the kimchi recipes coming from there) tend to make saltier kimchi. So there are also some cultural a personal preferences mixed into all that.

The ingredients used can also add a lot of salt to kimchi.

For example, fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and salted shrimp, which are all typically added to kimchi, contain varying levels of salt.

Even though the amount of salt in them is fairly small, it may add up quickly.

Safety concerns

Adding too much salt can slow down the fermentation process and prevent it from starting in a reasonable and safe timeframe.

This is another reason why I don’t like many of the recipes I stumble upon, especially when even a 0.5% of salt difference has been shown to make a huge difference in the quality of the end product.

Adding too little salt, on the other hand, may lead to fermentation issues such as spoilage and mold development and poor quality end product.

Fixing salty kimchi

There are a few things that can be done to fix salty kimchi.

Use filler ingredients

Adding some chopped daikon radish can be helpful as it will tone down the saltiness.

In fact, this technique is being used by a lot of people to fix salty kimchi.

Adding other ingredients, such as a little bit of chopped pear, carrot, onion, or apple, may also work.

Longer fermentation

Let your kimchi ferment for a little bit longer.

Sometimes people ferment kimchi for just 1 or 2 days because they want it to be less sour, but this is when it will also feel noticeably more salty.

Give it at least 5 or 7 days. That said, many people ferment kimchi significantly longer than that.

There are also other benefits to slightly longer fermentation.

Often people are surprised at the levels of umami that can be achieved by slightly longer fermentation and that the sourness is not as overwhelming as they have previously expected.

A word on adding more water or sugar

Adding more water to kimchi is not recommended as it can throw off the salt balance and negatively impact the fermentation process and cause spoilage, especially if the fermentation has been going on for a while.

The same applies to sugar.

Adding sugar to kimchi is not necessary unless your goal is to speed up the fermentation process or make your kimchi sourer. Adding sugar will not make kimchi less salty.

How to prevent oversalting

There are some things that you can do to lower the odds of ending up with a very salty batch of kimchi.

Rinsing the salt off

Make sure to rinse the cabbage well.

You can wash and rinse it 3 or 4 times or even leave the cabbage under running water for a bit. This will reduce the salt content of your kimchi.

Some people will even go as far as submerging it into water a couple of times to make sure the salt is properly washed away.

Go by taste.

If the cabbage is still too salty, rinse it some more.

Taste it

It is a good rule of thumb to taste the cabbage at each step of making your kimchi. The same applies to the kimchi when it starts to ferment.

This serves a few benefits to that.

First, you will be able to quickly find out if there is too much or too little salt.

Secondly, over time you will get a good feel of how salty kimchi should feel just by tasting it, allowing you to adjust accordingly at the time of preparation.

Make sure to note down how much salt you used and whether you were happy with the end results. That way, you will be able to adjust accordingly the next time you make kimchi.

Measure by weight

Traditionally, the cabbage is soaked in salt water for several hours.

The best way to prevent oversalting kimchi and to ensure consistent results is to measure everything by weight and then calculate the salt by the percentage of the ingredients’ weight.

The amount of salt used in many brine-based ferments is often between 2 to 5%, measured by the weight.

So this can be used as a good general guideline as to how much salt to use—especially if you want to follow other methods for making kimchi that align more with the traditional dry brining method and not rinsing the salt off.

What to do with salty kimchi

Don’t throw it away.

Salty kimchi can be used as an ingredient in order dishes. It can be used in soups or as a soup base, or as a flavoring for other dishes like fried rice and stews.

Some people like to blend kimchi and use it for chicken brine.

Salty kimchi can also be added to egg rolls, stir-fries, pancakes, sandwiches, and dips.

When added to other dishes as an ingredient, the saltiness will decrease. Of course, you may have to use less salt than the original recipe calls for to account for the extra salt in the kimchi.

There is another thing that should be mentioned.

Cooking will kill the good bacteria in kimchi, so if you still want to get some of the benefits from the kimchi, you can try adding it later to an undersalted dish.

For example, you can prepare a bit of unsalted boiled rice, to which you can then add your kimchi.

Key takeaways

Oversalting your kimchi is completely normal and can happen to anyone.

Since kimchi does not follow the traditional dry brining methods many lacto-ferments do, figuring out the right salt amount may seem a little tricky at first.

However, it is something that people get better at with time and experience.


How do you fix too salty kimchi? ›

For a quick fix, rinsing your salty kimchi with water can help to remove some of the excess salt. Start by draining the brine from the kimchi and gently rinsing the vegetables in cold water. After a thorough rinse, taste the kimchi and see if the saltiness has reduced to a more palatable level.

How salty should kimchi be before fermenting? ›

You'll know it's done when the leaves look slightly wilted. The amount of salt also varies depending on how much cabbage you're using, but Cho says you should use as little salt as you can while also allowing for safe fermentation — that's about 3 percent salt to water weight, similar to ocean water.

Why is kimchi salty? ›

The process of making kimchi involves brining (salting) the vegetables to draw out the water, which helps in preservation and allows the seasonings to penetrate the food over time; the final salt concentration ranges from 2-5%. Kimchi is typically fermented by 'wild cultures' naturally present on the vegetables.

Is it OK to add water to kimchi? ›

Only at the start of a ferment, though, never at the end. Agreed. If you add liquid, you should add a brine solution (preferably boiled and cooled). I typically open all my containers and press the kimchi back down before putting into cold storage.

How do you neutralize salty taste? ›

Squeeze some lemon juice or orange juice over your dish. The sour flavor provides a new layer of complexity to the meal and should mellow out the salt. Drizzle in a mild vinegar like all-purpose vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar to help mask the salt with acidity by distracting the taste buds.

How do you adjust if too salty? ›

Add an Acidic Ingredient

It won't reduce the sodium level of your dish, but adding an acidic ingredient, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or even a tomato product, can neutralize the saltiness of a dish. Start with a dash or a squeeze, stir well to combine, and give it a taste before adding any more.

Why is my ferment salty? ›

The salt helps to tamp down the formation of bad bacteria, enabling the good bacteria to take a foothold. The salt plays a role in keeping the vegetable crisp.

Can you use too much salt when fermenting? ›

Too much salt may kill off all the bacteria, thus preventing fermentation. Too little salt will allow bad bacteria to keep on living. Again, it is a fine balance.

How long should kimchi be salted? ›

We found Korean chili powder (medium or coarsely ground is best for kimchi) and Korean salted shrimp at H Mart in Falls Church. The vegetables need to soak in saltwater for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight. The kimchi can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days and is ready to eat after 2 to 3 days.

Does kimchi have too much salt? ›

The major risk factors traditionally associated with kimchi, specifically, are excessive levels of sodium as well as nitrate, which undergoes chemical reactions to form N-nitroso compounds, which are potent carcinogens (Song et al. 2015).

How does salt affect kimchi fermentation? ›

It was found that the higher salt concentration caused a significant decrease in the maximum value of fermentation rate and pH reduction. Ascorbic acid content was rapidly decreased initially, followed by increase to maximum and slowely decreased thereafter. This change was more apparent at higher salt concentration.

What is the best salt concentration for kimchi? ›

A satisfactory quality for kimchi can be obtained when the cabbage is salted for 3-6 hours using 15 to 20% salt solution.

Can you ferment kimchi wrong? ›

Glab says, "Over time, a fermented kimchi will lose its crunch, and flavors will dull, so there is a specific time frame within which kimchi is at its best." Kimchi will continue to naturally ferment even when properly stored, but the flavor can grow dull or even sour.

How do you know if kimchi is fermented enough? ›

If you see bubbles, that's a good thing! That means it's working. I would open the jar over the sink every few days to give it a sniff test and to stir the kimchi around a little bit. Make sure it is always submerged in the liquid.

Can you open kimchi while it's fermenting? ›

The simple art of fermenting kimchi

All you need to do it open the jar, set the lid loosely back on top, and then let the jar sit out on the counter for the rest of the day. Or rather in the sink, as the content of the jar can bubble out during fermentation, making a mess.

How do you flush salt out of your body overnight? ›

The best way to flush salt out of your body overnight is by drinking a glass of water with certain ingredients added. These include lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, green tea and baking soda. All of these have diuretic properties which will help reduce how much salt remains in the body after sleeping.

What balances salt in the body? ›

The kidneys balance the amount of sodium in the body. When sodium is low, the kidneys hold on to it. When sodium is high, the kidneys release some in urine. If the kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, it builds up in the blood.

How long does it take to adjust to less salt? ›

It takes about 6-8 weeks to get used to eating food with much lower quantities of salt, but once it's done, it's actually difficult to eat foods like potato chips because they taste way too salty.

Does too much salt affect taste? ›

The researchers found out why: too much salt activates the cells that sense sourness and bitterness, sending unpleasant signals to the brain and transforming a tasty bite into a turn-off.

Does salt affect yeast fermentation? ›

Salt has a retarding effect on the activity of the yeast.

In the presence of salt, the yeast releases some of its water to the salt by osmosis, and this in turn slows the yeast's fermentation or reproductive activities.

Why are my fermented pickles salty? ›

You don't want to end up with too much or too little liquid in the end, and using too much salt can make your pickles taste too salty. To create the right balance of water, salt and vinegar, use measuring cups and spoons, and weigh the salt if you're substituting a different variety.

What is the white film on my Kimchi? ›

The white spots are yeast, not mould

According to a study by the World Institute of Kimchi (yes there is!!!) and published in the Journal of Microbiology, those white colonies are actually yeast that's not known to be toxic. It's however recommended that you remove the whites, wash and cook the kimchi before consuming.

What ratio of salt for fermentation? ›

Generally, we recommend using 2% of the weight or volume of the ingredients in salt in your lacto-fermentations. (See How to Choose Between Brining and Dry Salting to find out whether you should calculate from weight or volume). To remember: The less salt (1 to 2% salt), the faster the fermentation.

Does salt increase or decrease fermentation? ›

Salt is also responsible for fermentation control and texture in yeast-raised breads. In the mass production of bread, salt levels are used as a tool to control yeast activity. Salt reduces yeast activity by reducing water activity and damaging the membrane of the yeast cells.

Can I use iodized salt for fermenting? ›

When choosing salt for fermenting vegetables, there are two very important things to avoid: anti-caking agents and added iodine. The addition of iodine can inhibit beneficial bacteria and disrupt fermentation. We, therefore, advise against using iodized salt for vegetable fermentation.

What is the salt ratio for kimchi? ›

When making kimchi, you want to end up with 2–3% salt content by weight. If you're a Korean grandma, you can eyeball it.

What is the ratio of salt to water for kimchi? ›

BRINE If you need or want to add more salt brine to the kimchi, to keep it submerged, mix water and salt at this ratio: 1 cup water and 1 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt. Stir it together first, pour over the kimchi.

Can you brine kimchi too long? ›

I tested different brining time and 6 hours turned out to be the sweet spot. If you pickle for too long, your kimchi will turn out to be very salty. If you pickle for a shorter time, kimchi can taste bland and it might not ferment well. It can even get mouldy quicker too.

Does kimchi raise blood pressure? ›

Finally, although people with high blood pressure may have concerns about this dish's high sodium content, a study in 114 people with this condition showed no significant relationship between kimchi intake and high blood pressure (61).

Why do you soak kimchi in salt water? ›

To make kimchi, begin first by soaking chopped cabbage in salt water. A few hours is sufficient, but if you have enough time to let it soak overnight, that's best. Soaking the cabbage in salt water allows helps to break down the cell walls, and gives it just the right amount of salinity for fermentation.

Is kimchi good for kidneys? ›

When it comes to kidney health, research has shown that beneficial microbes have the ability to break down and excrete uric acid, reducing the amount of acid that travels to your kidneys. Try to include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, kefir or yoghurt in your diet regularly.

What are the factors affecting kimchi fermentation? ›

Kimchi fermentation is influenced by the ingredients, fermentation temperature, salt concentration, oxygen availability, and pH, which determine the taste and quality of the final fermented product (Jung, Lee & Jeon, 2014).

Can I use pink Himalayan salt to make kimchi? ›

Salt: Use salt that is free of iodine and anti-caking agents, as this can prevent the fermentation process from occurring. A suggestion is using Celtic Sea Salt, Pink Himalayan Salt, or other unrefined mineral salts.

How long can you leave kimchi out to ferment? ›

It ferments in 3–4 days at room temperature or 2–3 weeks in the fridge. During this process, it develops lactic acid bacteria, as well as other beneficial bacteria ( 1 ). Kept at room temperature, kimchi lasts 1 week after opening.

Is there a difference between kimchi and fermented kimchi? ›

Fresh kimchi is more crunchy and less sour. On the other hand, fermented kimchi is less crunchy and it tends to be more floppy. Looking to try some fresh kimchi?

Is it OK if my kimchi is bubbling? ›

Fizzling Kimchi, similar to a can of carbonated soda, is perfectly normal. The fizzing sound and effervescent taste is a product of fermentation. This means your Kimchi is nicely fermented, enjoy!

Should I close the lid when fermenting kimchi? ›

You don't want too much air. It encourages the growth of acetic acid producing bacteria/yeast. That can give you very sour kimchi, without the goodness of kimchi-ee flavor. To prevent explosion, just screw the lids on loosely.

Why does my kimchi not taste good? ›

Kimchi should be stored in the fridge as chilling is the only thing that keeps its level of fermentation (i.e. the activity of those happy little probiotics) slowed down. If you leave kimchi outside of the fridge, over time it will become over-fermented and won't taste so great anymore.

What if kimchi is not enough brine? ›

Jarring Vegetables That Are Too Dry

In recipes such as sauerkraut or kimchi, it is the salt that soaks the vegetables. If the vegetables you are using are dry and do not create enough brine, simply add a little salted water to cover them properly (see Salt and Brine in Lacto-Fermentation: The Ultimate Guide).

Does kimchi need to ferment in the dark? ›

Stand it in a cool, dark place until it starts to ferment (48-72 hours), then refrigerate. Though the kimchi will be tasty after 24 hours, it will be better in a week and at its prime in 2 weeks and still good for up to a month, though it will become funkier as time passes.

Can I use a mason jar for kimchi? ›

All you need is a mason jar with a fermentation lid. You can either use an airlock device or low profile silicone lid to release the build-up of gases in the jar, and protect your fermentation from oxygen.

What to do if kimchi is too sour? ›

So for the next question, "what do you do with old kimchi that is just a little too sour to eat as it is?" There are multiple ways we use old kimchi in Korean food, but the most simple one is to stir-fry it with a little bit of oil. And if you happen to have some cold leftover rice from a takeout, throw that in too.

How do you neutralize kimchi? ›

Here are our favorites:
  1. "We mask kimchi stink and other weird smells with cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract, shoved in a shot glass, and pushed to the back of a fridge. ...
  2. "I soak a piece of white bread in white vinegar and leave it on the counter for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
Apr 24, 2014

How do you mellow out kimchi? ›

  1. Rinsing a small amount of kimchi with water to wash off some of the extra gochugaru, making it less spicy.
  2. Adding more ingredients to the dish, such as vegetables, proteins, or starches, to dilute the spiciness and lessen the intensity of the spicy element.
Apr 19, 2023

Is kimchi meant to taste salty? ›

Why does my Kimchi taste bitter/salty? Your Kimchi has probably not fermented enough. Freshly made Kimchi from Korea is known to be slightly bitter and more salty! But this will change overtime to a tangy and umami flavour as it ferments in the fridge.

How to sweeten kimchi? ›

Pears or apples, you want to make sure these are sweet. No tart fruits allowed here. Another sweetening agent I use is honey. You can also use sugar or corn syrup, but I like the healthier alternative (and taste) in honey.

Can kimchi be over fermented? ›

Kimchi should be stored in the fridge as chilling is the only thing that keeps its level of fermentation (i.e. the activity of those happy little probiotics) slowed down. If you leave kimchi outside of the fridge, over time it will become over-fermented and won't taste so great anymore.

What happens if you ferment kimchi for too long? ›

Glab says, "Over time, a fermented kimchi will lose its crunch, and flavors will dull, so there is a specific time frame within which kimchi is at its best." Kimchi will continue to naturally ferment even when properly stored, but the flavor can grow dull or even sour.

How to make kimchi tastier? ›

Finely chop kimchi and caramelize it in butter with gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) then pour in some of the spicy-tart juices from the kimchi jar, and you've got an umami-packed sauce you won't want to stop eating.

How do you get the bitter taste out of kimchi? ›

If you find that your Kimchi is too bitter, you can place it in the refrigerator for one to three more days* to allow the kimchi to ferment slightly more without having it go sour. You'll find that the bitter taste has dissipated.

What if fermented vegetables are too salty? ›

What to Do if My Fermented Vegetables Are Too Salty? Did you drop the salt shaker in your sauerkraut recipe (or any other fermentation)? The easiest way to remove it is to rinse immediately or add more vegetables until it tastes good. The level of salt does not decrease during fermentation.

Why is fermented food salty? ›

Salt in fermentation encourages the growth of healthy bacteria, while at the same time kills off bad bacteria.

Is kimchi bad for blood pressure? ›

Finally, although people with high blood pressure may have concerns about this dish's high sodium content, a study in 114 people with this condition showed no significant relationship between kimchi intake and high blood pressure (61). Kimchi has very few risks.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Rob Wisoky

Last Updated: 01/26/2024

Views: 6143

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Rob Wisoky

Birthday: 1994-09-30

Address: 5789 Michel Vista, West Domenic, OR 80464-9452

Phone: +97313824072371

Job: Education Orchestrator

Hobby: Lockpicking, Crocheting, Baton twirling, Video gaming, Jogging, Whittling, Model building

Introduction: My name is Rob Wisoky, I am a smiling, helpful, encouraging, zealous, energetic, faithful, fantastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.