This Instant Pot kimchi jjigae is an adaptation of the classic kimchi jjigae, which requires less cooking time but still tastes just as good, rich, and packed with flavor!
Kimchi jjigae (김치찌개), or kimchi stew, as the name suggests, is a classic stew usually comprised of kimchi, pork, and tofu. It is savory, rich, spicy, and the cure on a cold, dreary day.
Usually, kimchi jjigae is cooked slowly on the stove top until the pork is tender and the flavor is full.
But today, we wanted to share this unorthodox way of preparing kimchi jjigae using an Instant Pot. It's super easy to make, literally needing only 3 ingredients and requires minimal preparations and cooking. Because this recipe is so simple, it's a great base to build off of and customize.
What goes in kimchi jjigae?
Besides the basic preparation of kimchi jjigae with only kimchi, pork, and tofu, there are actually many additions you can make to customize your kimchi jjigae. For example, commonly, people like to add onion, green onion, and different varieties of mushrooms. Sometimes you might even find some people adding seafood such as shrimp or can tuna. It might sound odd, but it really add another depth of flavor to the kimchi jjigae. Now on another note, if you add too much of other ingredients to the kimchi jjigae, it can become a totally new jjigae. But at the end of the day, as long you like it and enjoy it, feel free to add and customize your kimchi jjigae to your own preference.
Instant pot kimchi jjigae vs. regular kimchi jjigae
Normally, we've always made kimchi jjigae the classic way, which is stewing it for a couple of hours over the stovetop. But....why not make it with a simpler method that tastes just as good?! The main difference between this Instant Pot kimchi jjigae and a classic kimchi jjigae is the time difference, the complete flavor penetration, and tenderness of the pork.
As with many pressure cooker recipe, one of the biggest pros are how much less time is required for cooking. Traditionally, it could take anything from 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the cut of pork and how the pork is cut. This leads to the next difference, the tenderness of the pork. We found that cooking fatty cuts of pork, like pork belly, cooks especially well in a pressure cook and have very little risk of becoming dry. It also breaks down chewy sinew and tougher parts of pork very well. You could do the same on the stovetop, but it'll require a much longer time via gentle simmering. Lastly and the major difference we noticed with making kimchi jjigae using our Instant Pot is that the flavor of the stew just tastes so much more well rounded, flavorful, and rich. We think it's the pressure, helping all the flavors meld together.
Good Kimchi = Good Kimchi Jjigae
You've probably heard this before if you've made some of our recipes that use very few ingredients: good ingredients make good food. Especially with a recipe that literally uses only 3 ingredients, all three ingredients should be as good in quality and flavor as possible. In this Instant Pot kimchi jjigae, the most prominent and powerful flavor is the kimchi. So, make sure your kimchi for this kimchi jjigae is a good one.
Now, good kimchi for kimchi jjigae is one that is well made and well fermented. The acid in the fermented kimchi is a very important flavor factor in kimchi jjigae. We have nothing against store bought kimchi, especially if you're in a pinch, but if you have the chance to make your own kimchi, it'll make your kimchi jjigae just that much better and flavorful.
Skin on or skin off pork belly
If you're making kimchi jjigae with a trusty pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot, you can totally leave your pork belly skin-on. With just 25 minutes of cooking, the skin on the pork belly becomes melt-in-your-mouth. So if you're a fan of the yummy, gelatinous skin, skin-on pork belly is definitely the way to go!
Pork belly substitution
Honestly, the pork in kimchi jjigae is probably one of the most flexible ingredient to substitute. We highly recommend using pork belly because it has a generous amount of fat, which is desirable in kimchi jjigae to balance the acidity from the fermented kimchi. But if you don't have access to a good slab of pork belly, don't fret! Our second favorite cut of pork for kimchi jjigae and very affordable as well, is pork country ribs. Although not as fatty, country ribs are really flavorful, especially the bone-on country ribs. Our last suggestion is to use a fatty blend of ground pork, no less than 30 percent fat. With ground pork, it will add another layer of flavor to the jjigae if you sauté it with a very small amount of oil until browned before stewing. But at the end of the day, any tasty cut of pork works for kimchi jjigae, as the pork is simply a complement to make the kimchi even tastier.
Adjust the flavor of kimchi jjigae
Sometimes you just don't have time to make kimchi and let it ferment or the supermarket kimchi just wasn't making the cut. In those situations, you can still make tasty kimchi jjigae! Proceed with cooking the kimchi and your desire cut of pork in the Instant Pot as directed. Sometimes if the kimchi wasn't made with good cabbage, there might not be a lot of kimchi juice, so add a small amount of water to compensate, up to ½ cup. If you want your kimchi to be spicier, add more gochugaru (aka Korean red pepper flakes).
Once the kimchi jjigae finishes its cooking in the pressure cooker, taste the soup. Adjust the jjigae to your taste by adding sugar if it's too tart, a bit of salt if it only tastes tangy but still bland, and sometimes you may have to cheat by using a small amount of chicken stock powder for extra umami missing from the kimchi. Bring your adjust kimchi jjigae to a boil along with your firm tofu and enjoy!
If you're looking for other easy Korean dishes, you may like these:
- Japchae: Korean Glass Noodle Stir-Fry
- Super Silky Steamed Egg (Gyeran Jjim)
- Korean Corn Ribs
Cook with love!
Instant Pot Kimchi Jjigae
- ½ slab pork belly , skin on or off (about 1½ lb.)
- 32 ounce fermented kimchi , cut into pieces
- 1 block firm tofu , sliced or large diced (or 14 oz)
- Dice the pork belly into 1 inch pieces. Place both the diced pork belly and fermented kimchi into the Instant Pot insert and give the mixture a stir.
- Place the lid on the Instant Pot and turn it to its lock position and make sure to switch the steam release valve to "SEALING". Select the pressure cook setting and adjust the time to 25 minutes on the normal setting and high pressure.
- Once the time is up, carefully switch the steam release valve to "VENTING." There will be a lot of pressure and steam so be very careful! Let the steam release completely and the floating valve drops before opening the lid.
- Transfer the kimchi jjigae into a pot or a large stone bowl (dolsot) and add the firm tofu. Bring everything to a boil.
- Enjoy the kimchi jjigae hot with steamed rice!
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