I find that store bought kim-chi is not very fermented. Real kim-chi, as I understand it, is pickled and then buried in the ground for a year.

Can I just bury store bought kim-chi in my back yard for a year to improve it, or will that not work? (Note that I live in a place with a climate similar to Korea)

3 Answers 3


First, as noted in Sneffel's answer, "real" kimchi is eaten at a variety of fermentation levels.

It is possible the fermentation would resume in store-bought kimchi, but only if it is raw and unpasteurized. A lot of store-bought kimchi is pasteurized (depending on where you buy it), which would kill off the bacteria that would typically be used for fermentation. Kimchi that is not pasteurized would typically be sold in a refrigerated section and would perhaps have a container/lid that would allow for gases to be released as fermentation continues. (The only real way to tell would be labeling or contacting a manufacturer.)

In general, I would not advise trying to resume fermentation on a store-bought product, as you don't really know the conditions it was made under or whether continued fermentation would proceed safely. (Chances are that commercial kimchi would be processed in a way to ensure its safety, even if stored at low but not refrigerated temperatures, but again, this is difficult to know.)

Kimchi isn't that hard to make to begin with, so if you can't find what you like in the store, I'd suggest just making it yourself and letting it ferment to the stage you prefer.

  • 1
    It turns acidic faster in summer than winter. I adjust my recipe accordingly. Apples and mangoes make a good replacement for that half cup of sugar many recipes call for; and Bok Choy makes a nice addition to Napa cabbage. Oct 15, 2019 at 23:51
  • Fermenting store-bought kimchi is fine. It's full of lactic acid; in a low-oxygen environment there's not much else it can turn into. (I've never seen shelf-stable kimchi... where have you seen it sold?)
    – Sneftel
    Oct 16, 2019 at 8:50
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    I’ve never seen non-stable kimchi. Everything you buy in the UK is a year or two shelf life, unrefrigerated until opened, then a week max in the fridge. Jarred or canned. I’d guess that’s ‘dead’.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 16, 2019 at 9:13
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    This boggles my mind... in the US and the ROI, I've never seen it outside the refrigerated section. (And in a sealed glass jar? yikes!) Maybe it's a matter of general supermarket versus Asian grocery store?
    – Sneftel
    Oct 16, 2019 at 9:32
  • @Sneftel - a couple things: just because it is refrigerated doesn't mean it hasn't been pasteurized. Pasteurized kimchi would not be safe to try to ferment further, as the "good bacteria" would be dead. And even "raw" kimchi could be prepared in such a way that the sold product doesn't contain sufficient salt, acidity, etc. to prevent growth of bad things. Or it could contain preservatives that would disrupt further proper fermentation. The risk is probably low, but we can't know without details on how exactly the commercial product was prepared.
    – Athanasius
    Oct 17, 2019 at 14:15

You don't need to bury it. Just leave it, sealed, on your counter for a few days.

A couple of notes: the kimchi you are getting is "real kimchi". Kimchi is eaten at a variety of maturity levels, anywhere from a few hours to a month or more. (A year would be entirely too long.) Some Korean families would make their own kimchi; others would buy it. And it wouldn't ordinarily be buried in a clay pot. In a glass jar in the cupboard would be more usual.


Not sour enough for you? Add in a Tbsp of sugar, tip and shake to dissolve. Then give it 3 days or so for beasties to convert to CO2 and acid. check daily for off-gassing then tamp down again to keep everything submerged.

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