Skip to Content

Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae

Vegetarian Kimchi JjigaeMarked by a deep, red broth, our vegetarian kimchi jjigae is spicy and full of flavor! Thick cuts of firm tofu absorb the gochujang, gochugaru, and an umami-rich broth.

A single serving of vegetarian kimchi jjigae topped with scallions.

WHAT IS KIMCHI JJIGAE?

Kimchi jjigae is a classic Korean stew. Widely considered the ultimate comfort food, this dish is a staple found on dinner tables in Korean homes and restaurants.

WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE VEGETARIAN KIMCHI JJIGAE

For the Broth:

  • Fysh Sauce: Fysh sauce provides umami in place of traditional anchovy stock. I use a vegan fysh sauce made with seaweed, but you can also use marmite.
  • Better Than Bouillon: I use Mushroom Better Than Bouillon and water to flavor the stock. You can also use the roasted Vegetable version.
  • Soy Sauce: Soy sauce adds depth to the broth.
  • Gochujang: Korean pepper paste called gochujang is frequently used in Korean cuisine to add sweet heat to a recipe; this paste is made with red pepper flakes, sticky rice, fermented soybean paste, and salt.
  • Shiitake Mushrooms: Use fresh or dried shiitake mushrooms, whichever you prefer. I prefer to use dried mushrooms because they add nuttiness to the broth as they rehydrate.

For the Jjigae:

  • Onion: Use white or yellow onions.
  • Garlic: I suggest using three cloves, but don’t let my recipe tell you how much garlic to use – go for it.
  • Scallions: I use the white parts of the scallion to flavor the broth and the greens provide a nice peppery finish.
  • Sesame Oil: Sesame oil adds a silkiness to the broth.
  • Kimchi: Guess what? Kimchi isn’t just a side dish in banchan; it’s often the main ingredient for multiple recipes. When using kimchi to make stew, be sure it’s fermented and sour- the older, the better; this will increase the flavor of the jjigae. Also, be aware that some store-bought kimchi contains fish sauce, oysters, or shrimp, so be sure to inspect your kimchi before use. 
  • Extra-Firm Tofu: In traditional Korean cuisine, soondubu or soft tofu is favored, especially in soups and stews. However, large, rectangular slices of extra firm tofu are standard for kimchi jjigae.
  • Gochugaru: Adding heat and a slightly smoky fragrance, dried and deseeded chili peppers are the main ingredients in another Korean staple called gochugaru, or Korean chili flakes. Check the container for spice level; they come in mild, medium, or hot.

VARIATIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Use a combination of mushrooms. Enoki and oyster mushrooms would be a fantastic addition!
  • Include rice cakes.
  • Use vegetables, and add bok choy, carrots, edamame, napa cabbage, or bean sprouts.
  • Stir nutritional yeast into the broth for added flavor.
  • Ramyun or ramen is a tasty addition to the soup.

EXPERT TIPS

  • If you prefer more kimchi flavor, consider adding 1-2 tablespoons of the kimchi brine to the broth.
  • I learned from Hyosun over at Korean Bapsang that when using kimchi, older is better. I find this to be especially true of jjigae. 
  • If you end up low on broth, you may have set the heat too high (tell me how I know that). While simmering, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and not a boil. To recover the broth, add more water. Simmer until the water has taken on the flavor of the other ingredients.

SEARCHING FOR MORE LIKE THIS? 

If you love this recipe, try one of these dinner favorites!

A single serving of vegetarian kimchi jjigae topped with scallions.

WHAT TO DO WITH THE LEFTOVERS 

  • Refrigerate – Store leftovers in an airtight container; it will keep for 2-3 days.
  • Freeze – Before freezing, remove the tofu. It doesn’t reheat well once frozen. Then, transfer the rest of the stew to a freezer-safe container or bag. Vegetarian kimchi jjigae freezes for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw – Defrost the stew in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat  Warm leftovers on the stovetop, add fresh tofu to cook with it, and enjoy!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How do I create a more traditional broth?

Traditional Korean broth relies heavily on ingredients such as dried anchovy, kelp, and daikon radish to create a delicious base for kimchi stew. Maangchi instructs viewers in a more traditional preparation. Since these ingredients can be hard to find, I use vegetarian staples from my pantry instead. 

Can I sweeten the jjigae to balance the heat?

You sure can – add a pinch of sugar or honey to the broth! You can also stir in a teaspoon of homemade hoisin sauce.

Why is my broth coming out flat?

My guess? The kimchi wasn’t fermented enough; this one ingredient can completely alter the stew! But since you have already made it at this point, let’s do a little recon together. Consider adding salt, more fysh sauce, or a dash of soy sauce.

⭐️ Rate the Recipe 

Feedback is Valuable – It helps us improve and update our recipes, so we can provide delicious meals you love. Consider leaving a comment or rating below the recipe card, and feel free to share your adaptations or ask any questions. We cannot wait to hear about what you’ve made. 

A single serving of kimchi jjigae topped with scallions.

Vegetarian Kimchi Jjigae (Spicy Korean Tofu Stew)

Tressa Jamil
Marked by a red broth, vegetarian kimchi jjigae is spicy and full of flavor! Thick cuts of tofu absorb the Korean spices and the umami-rich broth.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Korean
Servings 2 Bowls
Calories 226 kcal
Ingredients
  

For the Broth:

For the Jjigae:

  • 1 small white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 scallions, whites, and greens separated, whites cut in 1-inch pieces, and greens thinly sliced
  • tablespoons sesame oil, divided
  • ½ cup kimchi, cabbage, and juice
  • ½ package extra-firm tofu, sliced into thick rectangles
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons gochugaru
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
Instructions
 
  • Combine water, fysh sauce, soy sauce, gochujang, and Better than Bouillon in a saucepan; if you’re using dried mushrooms, add them in. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes over medium heat, adjusting the temperature to maintain a gentle simmer. Set the broth aside.
  • While the broth cooks, make a paste using gochugaru, two teaspoons of sesame oil, and ground black pepper. Set it aside.
  • Saute the kimchi in a Dutch oven or earthenware pot until it softens. Set it aside.
  • Warm a tablespoon of sesame oil in the same pot over medium heat; then, add onion, garlic, and scallion whites. Cook until onions become translucent and soften for about 8 minutes.
  • Add the reserved stock. Cover and cook for 5-7 minutes. Next, open and stir in the reserved kimchi.
  • Add the tofu and simmer for a few minutes before gently stirring in the spice mixture- careful not to break up the tofu.
  • Garnish with scallions, serve with sticky rice, and enjoy!
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • If you prefer more kimchi flavor, consider adding 1-2 tablespoons of the kimchi brine to the broth.
  • I learned from Hyosun over at Korean Bapsang that when using kimchi, older is better. I find this to be especially true of jjigae. 
  • If you end up low on broth, you may have set the heat too high (tell me how I know that). While simmering, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and not a boil. To recover the broth, add more water. Simmer until the water has taken on the flavor of the other ingredients.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Bowl | Calories: 226 kcal | Carbohydrates: 24 g | Protein: 9 g | Fat: 11 g | Sodium: 3042 mg | Fiber: 15 g | Sugar: 7 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating