Kimchi Not Fermenting : Reasons and Solutions

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Kimchi is not all about fermented, spicy, shredded cabbage! It’s a Koren delicacy that adds extra flavor and edge to traditional Korean cuisine.

Making kimchi is not complicated at all. All you need is to ferment the cabbages. However, you may find that the process is not going ok.

So, why kimchi is not fermenting?

Three things can make kimchi not ferment. Air will prevent the fermentation process unless the kimchi is kept in an airtight jar. Too cold temperatures can also make the fermentation slow. And lastly, too less salt in the brine solution can also halt the fermentation process.

You will find a complete and comprehensive guide on kimchi fermentation issues here. And, of course, we have rounded up the solutions to that you can enjoy this Korean delicacy without any bubble trouble.

Signs of Kimchi Fermentation

Signs of Kimchi Fermentation

Without proper fermentation, your favorite veggies will not turn into kimchi. Instead, they will rot very soon. So, the fermentation process is crucial here.

Some people wonder how long does it take kimchi to ferment? Well, it depends on factors like air, salt content, and temperature. 

Bubbles are a good sign that your kimchi is fermenting. If you see bubbles forming at the top of the jar, it is ongoing. The common question is, “When should my kimchi start bubbling?”

It depends on the temperature and the amount of salt used. If it is stored at average room temperature with an adequate amount of salt, you should see bubbles forming within 4 days. 

However, storing it at a lower temperature would slow down the fermentation process. So if you keep it in the fridge, expect to see bubbles after one month. 

Why Is My Kimchi Not Bubbling? – Most Possible Reasons

Kimchi Not Fermenting: Why?

kimchi not fermenting

Preparing kimchi is not that difficult. That being said, there can be problems with fermentation. Many people complain that their kimchi is not fermenting. There are several reasons behind this.

  • Not enough salt has been added to the brine
  • The vegetable is not entirely submerged in the brine
  • The jar is not airtight 
  • Not enough time has passed for the fermentation process to take place
  • The brine is kept at a very low temperature

Either one or more can make fermentation not go according to expectations.

Solutions to Kimchi Not Fermenting

Solutions to Kimchi Not Fermenting

Don’t worry. You can follow some simple steps to ensure that your kimchi ferments appropriately. 

  • Check for molds

First of all, as stated before, once fermentation starts, you will see bubbles forming at the top of the jar. However, if you don’t see any bubbles, you should look for molds.

If molds form and the kimchi smells too bitter, then throw away the kimchi as it has already rotten without fermentation. 

  • Have patience

If your kimchi is still fine, but you don’t see any bubbles yet, it might simply mean you haven’t given it enough time.

So, take a breath and just have patience. If you have been keeping the kimchi in the fridge, you can take it out and keep it at room temperature, which will quicken the fermentation process.

  • Add more salt to the brine

In addition, consider adding more salt. The appropriate amount of salt is 5-8 grams in 100 ml of water. So, if you feel like you did not include the proper amount of salt the first time, then add some now. This also will increase the fermentation rate.

Do these, and you will see improvement in your kimchi.

Expired Kimchi

Expired Kimchi

Kimchi started its journey as a means of preserving vegetables. So, the good news is kimchi does not get spoiled quickly. If you keep it in the fridge, you can keep it for a long time.

Temperature is a critical factor in determining how long the kimchi will remain good. If you store it at room temperature, your kimchi will stay good for a week.

However, refrigerating it at 4° C will technically still be safe to eat for 6 months. However, by this time, the kimchi will become pretty sour.

Now how to know if your kimchi has gone wrong?

Check for molds in your kimchi. If you see any mold forming in the top portion of your kimchi-it’s gone. Simply throw it away. 

Fermentation Process of Kimchi

Fermentation Process of Kimchi

Kimchi is simply fermented veggies. But, if you just leave the vegetables in an open space, they will not ferment (duh!). It will just get rotten.

So, how is kimchi fermented?

The vegetables, especially cabbages,  are submerged in a liquid solution called brine in the first place. Brine is a mixture of salt and water. When the vegetable is immersed in the brine, the jar is tightly sealed to become air-tight. This is when the proper fermentation process starts.

So what happens inside the air-tight jar to trigger this fermentation process?

It might sound strange, but we owe the fermentation process to bacteria – specifically to Lactic Acid Bacteria for kimchi fermentation.

The vegetables contain carbohydrates – food for such Lactic Acid Bacteria. When the bacteria contact those carbohydrates, they turn carbohydrates into lactic acid. And this is all about fermentation.

As the amount of lactic acid increases in the jar, the pH of the brine solution goes down from 7. This acid gives the kimchi its unique sour taste. Plus, acidity also ensures that harmful microbes (like molds) are dead. 

So, the good Lactic Acid Bacteria trigger the fermentation process. However, it is important to submerge the vegetables in a salty brine solution for the proper fermentation process and then close the jar tightly.

Salt facilitates natural fermentation, and making it airtight ensures that no harmful bacteria can be present.

Types of Kimchi

Types of Kimchi

There are so many varieties of kimchi. And almost it is impossible to talk about every single one of them. In fact, it is said that each household has different kimchi. This is no fixed set of ingredients in the dish.

Yes, of course, kimchi originally started with napa cabbages. Napa cabbage kimchi is still by far the most popular. But with it, you can also include any vegetable of your choice to give it a unique taste. 

For example, kimchi is made of radish, mustard leaf, cucumber, and whatnot. So, it is really up to you to decide what kind of kimchi you want to make.

Whatever vegetable you decide to make kimchi, you will probably make it in one of the two ways – by fermenting or using the raw vegetable. Using raw and fresh vegetables to make kimchi, known as fresh kimchi, is like making a salad.

The most common type of kimchi is fermented kimchi. Fermentation keeps it good to consume for many days and gives it the unique taste we love.


  • How Much Salt Should I Add to Create the Brine for the Kimchi?

To an extent, it depends on how much saltier you would want your vegetable to be. However, adding too little salt might hamper the fermentation process. So, generally, when it comes to making brine, a rule of thumb is to add 5 to 8 grams of Coarse Salt for every 100 ml of lukewarm water. 

  • Can I Eat Kimchi Without Fermenting?

Yes, you can eat some types of kimchi without fermenting. Fresh kimchi, which is more like salad, is eaten without fermentation. 

Fresh kimchi, which you can eat without fermentation, needs to be eaten right away. So if you decide to put the vegetable in brine, don’t go halfway. Properly ferment it, and then eat the kimchi. Otherwise, it will lose its crunchiness and taste and will get spoiled.

  • Can I Add Sugar to Kimchi?

Yes, you can add sugar to your kimchi. Many recipes recommend adding sugar to balance out the bland and sometimes bitter taste of fermenting the vegetable. However, you should note that sugar is by no means an essential ingredient of kimchi.

If you are not a fan of adding sugar to your kimchi but still want to sweeten it up, there is still a way for you. You can add sweet apples to the kimchi. If you’re going to make it sweeter, you can always add honey.


We believe now you know all that you need to know to answer, “Why is my Kimchi not Fermenting?” If you have done everything according to the steps described in this article, then there is no need to worry.

Just have patience. With time, it will ferment. The wait is worth the delicious taste of kimchi.

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