Kimchijeon, or kimchi pancake, is a popular Korean appetizer, side dish, and snack made with fermented kimchi. It's really flavorful, tangy with just enough heat and super crispy on the edges and tender at the center. This recipe is simple and super easy to make. You can also easily make it vegan by simply substituting with vegan kimchi!
If you're a fan of savory pancakes, you've got to try kimchijeon! It's super simple and easy to make and is such an addictive snack. These savory kimchi pancakes are great for anytime of the day, but the best with some Korean fermented rice beverage!
What is kimchijeon?
Kimchijeon (김치전), sometimes also called kimchi buchimgae (김치 부침개), is popularly known kimchi pancake. The main ingredients for this Korean savory pancake is fermented napa cabbage kimchi, wheat flour, a starch, and water. It's a very simple recipe that's easy to make and only requires some practice to master.
A proper kimchijeon is savory, tangy, full of flavor, yet balanced. The pancakes are thin, super crispy around the edges, and tender at the center. It's a great snack and appetizer for anytime of the day, but they're even better late night snacks with a bowl of makgeolli (Korean fermented rice beverage)!
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the ingredient quantities!
- Fermented kimchi - Always use well-fermented, sour kimchi for recipes that requires kimchi to be cooked. These kimchi will have more layers of flavor and tastes more savory. Feel free to make your own homemade napa cabbage kimchi and let it ferment or use your favorite store-bought kimchi.
- All-purpose flour and cornstarch - These two are the dry ingredients for our kimchi pancake batter. The all-purpose flour gives the kimchijeon structure and a little bit of cornstarch makes the pancakes extra crispy!
- Baking powder - We highly recommend using a small amount of baking powder in the batter to leaven the batter. This will make the batter a little airier and gives it a better crisp.
- Salt, sugar, and rice vinegar - For seasoning the kimchi pancake. The sugar helps to balance the acidity, while giving the pancake good color and caramelization. Regular rice vinegar is a great addition if the kimchi is not fermented (sour) enough.
- Cold water - We recommend using cold or cool water so that the batter doesn't develop too much gluten while being mixed.
- Green onion (optional) - Mostly for colors, but green onions will also add an extra layer of flavor to the pancakes.
- Oil - For cooking. Any neutral oil with a high smoke point will do (like vegetable, canola, grapeseed, etc).
How to make kimchijeon
Please scroll down to the recipe card for the full recipe and instructions!
1. Make the batter. Into a bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the kimchi pancakes and mix until just combined and no more dry flour is visible. DO NOT over-mix.
🌟 Pro tip: Cut the kimchi straight in the mixing bowl with a pair of kitchen shears. This will save you dishes and prevents your cutting board from getting stained by kimchi.
2. Pan fry the pancakes. Heat an 8 inch nonstick pan over medium to medium high heat with about 2 tablespoons of oil. Pour about 1 cup of batter into the pan and spread it out evenly. Pan fry the kimchi jeon until both sides are golden brown and crispy. Repeat with remaining batter.
🌟 Pro tip: Once the bottom of the pancake is set, swirl the pancake in the pan to help distribute the oil and make the pancakes crispy.
🚨 Caution! By the time you have to flip the pancake, there shouldn't be much oil left in the pan. If there is, make sure to soak up the extra oil before flipping the pancakes! This will prevent oil splatters so you don't burn yourself.
3. Cut and serve. Enjoy the kimchi pancakes while warm, but feel free to cut the pancakes into wedges or squares for easier eating.
- Be generous with the oil when pan frying. The best Korean savory pancakes are always ones pan fried with generous amount of oil! The oil is key to frying and making the pancake crispy and tasty.
- Don't over-mix the batter. Over-mixing any batter will result in tough, dry, and/or gummy final product. The same is for making kimchi pancakes. Mix the batter until just combined and no more dry flour is visible.
- Use fermented, sour kimchi for best flavor. The entire flavor of kimchijeon relies heavily on the flavor of the kimchi. It is best to use well-fermented kimchi so that the pancakes are flavorful. Freshly made kimchi is great eaten fresh and as a side dish, but lacks depth when used in cooking.
- Some seasoning adjustments may be necessary, depending on the kimchi used. Our recipe was created using a popular brand of store-bought kimchi as the base flavor reference. If you are using a different brand or homemade kimchi, you may need to adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Storage and reheating
Leftover kimchijeon can be stored in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. We recommend keeping the pancakes in an airtight container so that the kimchi does permeate your entire fridge. To reheat, simply microwave on a microwave safe plate or reheat on a nonstick pan over medium heat on the stovetop.
If you have leftover batter, cover it tightly and keep it refrigerated. It will stay good for 1 to 2 days. Before using, you'll want to stir up the batter to reincorporate any liquid that may have separated.
If you are allergic to cornstarch, you can substitute with potato starch instead. Use the same amount.
If you'd like to make this kimchijeon vegan, simply switch out the regular kimchi for vegan kimchi.
The two key points to make crispy kimchi pancakes are to have a loose, not over-mixed batter and to use generous amount of oil when pan frying.
If your kimchi is not sour enough, you have two options. First option is to let the kimchi sit out at room temperature overnight or for a couple of days to speed up the fermentation process, until desired tanginess is achieved. The second option is to use a little bit of rice vinegar to make up for the lack of tanginess. This option is great if you're in a pinch.
A proper kimchijeon batter should be on the looser side. This will ensure a crispier kimchi pancake that's not gummy. It should not be thick like pancake batter, but more similar to crêpe batter consistency.
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Kimchijeon (Kimchi Pancake)
- 2 cups fermented kimchi cut into small pieces
- 2 cups all-purpose flour fluffed, spooned, and leveled
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt or fine salt
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (if kimchi is not sour enough)
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 stalks green onion thinly sliced (optional)
- Oil as needed for cooking (any neutral oil will do)
- Into a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, EXCEPT the oil. Use a pair of chopsticks or a fork to mix everything together until just combined and no more dry flour is visible.
- Heat an 8 inch nonstick pan over medium to medium high heat with about 2 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, ladle about 1 cup of batter into the pan and spread it out evenly.
- Let the pancake pan fry until the bottom is set, then swirl the pancake occasionally to distribute the oil.
- When the bottom of the pancake is golden brown and crispy, flip the pancake. Continue cooking until the flipped side is golden brown and crispy.*If you prefer, you can use a spatula to help you flip the pancake. By the time you flip the pancake, there should not be much oil left in the pan. If there is still a lot of oil, use some paper towel to absorb the oil before flipping to prevent splatters.*
- Transfer the crispy kimchi pancake onto a plate and repeat the steps with the remaining batter.
- Serve the kimchi pancakes while they are warm. Cut the pancakes into wedges or squares for easier eating.
- Kimchi - The best kimchi jeon is made with good, fermented kimchi. Try making your own homemade napa cabbage kimchi! However, if you kimchi is not sour enough, we highly recommend adding some rice vinegar to give the pancakes the needed tanginess.