Kimchi Grilled Cheese Recipe - Skillful Cook
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Kimchi Grilled Cheese

16 reviews / 5 average

Golden brown, pan-fried Kimchi Grilled Cheese is on the menu! Melty cheese with a caramelized kimchi and bacon filling sit between two thick slices of sourdough bread. Yum, friends. YUM!

We are nothing if not great adventurers and when it comes to “find more delicious things to put in grilled cheese”, well, friends...that is an adventure we're always willing to take.

Thick, crispy, golden brown pan-grilled slices of sourdough. The meltiest of melty cheeses, two kinds because we mean it. An exquisitely caramelized, smoky spicy-sweet, almost jammy kimchi and bacon filling. Lordy loo, an adventure awaits you too!

And if you're like, “you really missed an opportunity here not calling this “Grilled Kimchi-se”...you're not wrong.

But let's get this bad boy on your table, shall we?

Ingredients For This Grilled Cheese

The beauty of grilled cheese is definitely the whole “only takes bread/butter/cheese” thing, but when you want to glam up a sammy, we'll need just a few other things, but not many. Still pretty dang simple!

  • sourdough
  • American (so melty!) and gruyere cheeses
  • butter (or mayo if you go that route with your grilled cheese-ing)
  • kimchi
  • bacon
  • brown sugar

If you're not familiar with kimchi, it is a traditional Korean staple dish of spicy fermented cabbage and other vegetables. It has deep ancestral roots in Korean culture and originated thousands of years ago as a way to preserve vegetables during the cold winter months. The prep has changed over time and there are many varieties with different ingredients/flavors/spice level, depending on the region it is made in, but no matter what, it is found on nearly every table and remains to this day an important source of pride in Korean culture.

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Caramelized kimchi and bacon in a pan

Let's Make The Best Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Kimchi on its own will be a little watery, so the key here is to sauté it first with the bacon and a little brown sugar so it gets kind of caramelized and becomes sort of jammy. That's right, JAMMY. The spicy flavors of the kimchi mixed with the smoky bacon and the speckle of sweet from the brown sugar? So good. So perfect for sandwich filling.

Here's how we do it:

  1. Cook the bacon until it is crisp. Add the kimchi and brown sugar and let it pan fry, undisturbed, for a few minutes to help dry it out and become caramelized. Transfer that to a bowl.
  2. Get your sandwich stacks ready. Bread, gruyere, kimchi mixture, American cheese, bread. Butter (or mayo!) both sides to prepare for crisping.
  3. Heat that same pan over medium low. Lower and slower is better here for optimal cheese meltiness and golden brown perfection!
  4. Get ready to fall in love.

Let's Discuss The Cheese

Okay, cheese stuff. As you know, always an important topic. Now, before you dismiss it, we really do think American cheese is essential here for its highly distinguished melt factor. It's just classic grilled cheese 101, and we really don't want to mess with it. Gruyere also melts really well and for us, it was just another flavor we love. We also have done cheddar on this and it was great, too.

Honestly, we feel like you probably can’t go wrong, but we really really recommend keeping the American, regardless of what other kind of cheese you use, just so you get some of that dreamy silky meltiness.

Sides To Serve

If we're being honest here, we'd just serve it with a side of ANOTHER kimchi grilled cheese...but there are other things that would work great, too. You could do this simple green salad or maybe a smoother soup like this lush tomato soup or the bright, comforting and delicious golden soup.

But also, we're pretty serious about just a second sandwich as a side. What an absolute dream. Grilled Kimchi-se forever.

Kimchi Grilled Cheese: Frequently Asked Questions

Can I omit the bacon to make it vegetarian?

Absolutely!

Can I try other kinds of cheeses here?

You can kinda play around with what you like, but we recommend keeping at least one of the cheeses as American cheese for its meltiness.

What can I use my leftover kimchi for?

More sandwiches, of course! May we also suggest our Kimchi Fried Rice or piling high kimchi on these tacos?

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Kimchi grilled cheese on a plate

Kimchi Grilled Cheese


  • Author: Lindsay
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Golden brown, pan-fried Kimchi Grilled Cheese is on the menu! Melty cheese with a caramelized kimchi and bacon filling sit between two thick slices of sourdough bread. Yum, friends. YUM! 


Ingredients

Units Scale

Pan-Fried Kimchi:

  • 2 cups kimchi, chopped (personal preference - you can leave it unchopped too)
  • 6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • black pepper to taste

Grilled Cheese:

  • 8 pieces of sliced sourdough bread
  • 8 slices of American cheese
  • 8 slices of Gruyere cheese
  • 8 tablespoons (or 1 stick) butter or mayo

Instructions

  1. Cook the bacon in a large pan over medium high heat until crisped and fat is rendered. Add the kimchi to the pan with the brown sugar. Pan fry for a few minutes, leaving it undisturbed for a few minutes at a time so it dries out and gets a little bit caramelized. Season with black pepper. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the pan clean.
  2. Layer your sandwiches: a slice of sourdough, two slices gruyere cheese, kimchi mixture, two slices American cheese, and a second slice of sourdough. Spread butter or mayo over the top and bottom of the sandwich.
  3. Heat the same skillet to medium heat; add the sandwich and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown. Cut and serve. Magic.

Notes

You usually don't want to use high heat here because the sandwich will burn while the cheese remains un-melted. Medium or low heat will allow the sandwich to stay on the heat longer, which will melt the cheese and give you a golden brown exterior.

I usually use about 1/4 cup of the kimchi mixture per sandwich. If you have some unused kimchi mixture, just store it in the fridge to add to sandwiches throughout the week.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Sandwich
  • Method: Pan Fry
  • Cuisine: Korean-Inspired

Keywords: kimchi grilled cheese, kimchi recipe, grilled cheese

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40 Comments

  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Do you drain off the bacon grease before adding the Kim chi and sugar, or leave it?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Great question! We’d recommend draining off some of the bacon grease if there seems to be a lot.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    I live in MN and I am new to kimchi – just recently tried it at a local Vietnamese restaurant. What is a good brand to try?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Nadine! We’re not loyal to any particular brand. Sometimes kimchi can be hard to come by in the grocery store, so whichever brand you can find would the one to try!

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    Extremely high in sodium – is that the kimchi?? maybe I will just use sauerkraut

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    Any substitutes for brown sugar? Can I use honey or maple syrup for the caramelization?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      We haven’t tried, but we think it’s worth a shot! Let us know how it goes.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      I seem to have success substituting coconut sugar when brown sugar is called for.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    Our local international market is owned by Koreans, so they have an entire aisle dedicated to kimchi. I always want to try some, but the choices are overwhelming. Any tips on how to tell the different kinds/which might be most appealing to my less adventurous family members?

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi! Great question. The kimchi that we use and are most familiar with is the traditional spicy napa cabbage kimchi found in most mainstream grocery stores. Maybe ask the store owners for guidance, especially if they offer many varieties. They might be able to help you find a milder version!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    I have never tried kimchi because it is too spicy…Is it possible to make a mild or medium kimchi. Suggest a
    recipe?

    Thanks
    gela

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Gela! If you can find a milder variety of kimchi at your grocery store, you can definitely use that in this recipe! Are you looking to make your own kimchi?

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    Oh my gosh, delicious, totally sinful, and decadent! Lol. Made this for lunch today for my husband and myself. Definitely a keeper. 😊

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was such an indulgent, delicious combination that I would’ve never thought to try!

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      Hi Amy! You can find kimchi in the produce section of most grocery stores. I usually find it by the eggroll or wonton wrappers and tofu.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    thank you for this, a great idea for someone like me trying to get kimchi and similar fermented ingredients into my diet for its health benefits but not necessarily for its taste, I have to work my way up to it in its raw form!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    This sandwich is incredible! The sweetness with the salty bacon and briny, crunchy, spicy kimchi is just out of this world. If you’re wondering what to do with leftover kimchi, throw it in a bowl of ramen

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    This is an amazing recipe! It was the same feeling when I copied the Mediterranean recipe in misspickle.com.au. I will be trying this recipe soon! Thanks for sharing this!

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was a total hit, even without bacon and just regular ol’ mild cheddar. Fun way to make grilled cheese a little fancy and it came together super quick.

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Sooo good and so easy! Combines my 3 favorite things for a comfort meal that feels like a hug ( bread, cheese, a little spicy).

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    Do yourself a favor and make this! Find your favorite kimchi and go for it!!

    Such a great sammy!!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    Sooo good! We have made this a few times. I am pescatarian and my husband is not, so we cook the bacon separately from the kimchi and still turns out great! Wonderful recipe for a cozy night in.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I don’t know who’s creative and crazy culinary tastebuds came up with this recipe, but I just finished devouring this indulgently fabulous sandwich. I made it exactly as stated in recipe… Magnificent, to say the least! Definitely a keeper.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    Such an easy meal with a great restaurant style taste. Not in our weekly rotation since it’s not very healthy but my fiancé and I love this on Friday night! We also make the sandwiches in the oven to get it nice and crispy

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    This was AMAZING. We used Munster and American cheese, since that’s what we had on hand, and I added a little gochujang to the kimchi/bacon mix. Definitely a ‘keeper’ recipe for this house – thank you!

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    Not that I am surprised in any way, but this was fantastic! I was looking for a grilled cheese to serve with a gochujang tomato soup recipe I found and this was PERFECT. We have yet to try one of your recipes that doesn’t become a staple in our house.

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    SO GOOD! Made this today exactly to the recipe and it was incredible. Dipped it in some tomato basil soup too!