Kimchi Smell: The Surprising Truth Behind Its Controversy

Why does kimchi smell so strong?

Why does kimchi smell so strong?

As an avid kimchi enthusiast, I often find myself captivated by the strong and distinct Kimchi smell that emanates from this traditional Korean dish. The pungent aroma of kimchi is a result of various factors, including the fermentation process, the ingredients used, and the spices and seasonings added to enhance its flavor.

Fermentation process

The fermentation process is a crucial step in the preparation of kimchi. During fermentation, the natural sugars present in the vegetables, such as cabbage and radishes, are broken down by lactic acid bacteria.

This process produces carbon dioxide, which creates bubbles and gives kimchi its characteristic tangy taste and strong smell. The longer the fermentation period, the stronger the smell becomes.

Ingredients used

Kimchi is made using a variety of ingredients, with napa cabbage being the most common base. Other vegetables like radishes, carrots, and onions are also added to enhance the flavor and texture.

These vegetables release volatile compounds during fermentation, contributing to the strong smell. Additionally, the use of seafood-based ingredients, such as fish sauce or shrimp paste, adds an umami richness to the dish, further intensifying its aroma.

Spices and seasonings

Kimchi is known for its bold and spicy flavor, which is achieved through the use of various spices and seasonings.

Red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, and scallions are commonly used to add heat and depth to the dish. These aromatic ingredients release volatile compounds that contribute to the strong smell.

The combination of these spices and seasonings creates a symphony of flavors and scents that make kimchi a truly unique culinary experience.

Is the smell of kimchi normal?

Is the smell of kimchi normal?

From a cultural perspective, the strong smell of kimchi is considered normal and even desirable in Korean cuisine.

Kimchi has been a staple in Korean households for centuries, and its distinct aroma is deeply ingrained in the cultural identity of the country. The smell of kimchi is often associated with home-cooked meals and family gatherings, evoking a sense of nostalgia and comfort.

However, personal preference plays a significant role in how individuals perceive the smell of kimchi. Some people may find the strong odor overpowering or unpleasant, while others embrace it as an integral part of the kimchi experience.

It is important to respect individual preferences and be mindful of the environment when consuming or preparing kimchi in shared spaces.

How to reduce the smell of kimchi

How to reduce the smell of kimchi

If you find the smell of kimchi too strong for your liking, there are several steps you can take to minimize its impact:

Proper storage

Storing kimchi in airtight containers can help contain the smell and prevent it from permeating other foods in your refrigerator. It is also advisable to keep kimchi in a separate compartment or drawer to further minimize odor transfer.

Using airtight containers

When preparing kimchi at home, using airtight containers during the fermentation process can help contain the smell. This prevents the odor from spreading throughout your kitchen and living spaces.


Refrigerating kimchi can help reduce its smell. The cold temperature slows down the fermentation process, which in turn reduces the release of volatile compounds responsible for the strong odor. However, keep in mind that refrigeration may alter the texture and taste of kimchi over time.

Embracing the smell

Kimchi Smell

While some may find the smell of kimchi overpowering, it is important to recognize the numerous benefits and unique qualities that make kimchi a beloved dish:

Benefits of kimchi

Kimchi is not only a flavorful addition to meals but also a nutritional powerhouse. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and beneficial bacteria that promote gut health. The strong smell of kimchi is a testament to its fermentation process, which enhances its probiotic content and aids digestion.

Appreciating the unique aroma

Instead of shying away from the strong smell of kimchi, try embracing it as part of the overall experience. The aroma of kimchi is a sensory journey that complements its complex flavors. By appreciating the unique aroma, you can fully immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage and culinary traditions of Korea.


The strong smell of kimchi is a result of its fermentation process, the ingredients used, and the spices and seasonings added. While the smell may be overpowering for some, it is deeply rooted in Korean culture and cherished by many.

By understanding the factors that contribute to the smell and taking steps to minimize its impact, we can fully enjoy the benefits and unique qualities of kimchi. So, let’s embrace the kimchi smell and savor the flavors it brings to our plates.


  • Does kimchi have an odor?

    Kimchi does have an odor. As the vegetables ferment, they release gases into the container that need to be released every so often or the top will pop. People have related the smell to food waste, but this is due to the fermentation process.

  • How do you deal with the smell?

    Here are our favorites:
    1. Mask the kimchi stink and other weird smells with cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract, shoved in a shot glass, and pushed to the back of a fridge.
    2. Soak a piece of white bread in white vinegar and leave it on the counter for anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days.

  • Why does my breath smell after eating kimchi?

    Kimchi is fermented food with a lot of garlic and ginger, so it can cause bad breath.

  • What is the chemical smell in kimchi?

    The most intense odorants in kimchi include dimethyl trisulfide, diallyl disulfide isomers, diallyl trisulfide, methylallyl disulfide, and an unknown compound that smells like garlic salt and/or mustard.

Originally posted 2023-11-05 02:37:02.

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