This kimchi grilled cheese sandwich is an example of East meets West fusion done right. The classic American grilled cheese sandwich is a comfort food staple that’s getting a Korean-inspired makeover with the addition of kimchi. What you’re left with is explosive flavors that might have you add this into your new regular lunchtime rotation.
Why you’ll love this recipe
If you haven’t already seen this viral sandwich across social media by now, you might be wondering – why would anyone put kimchi inside a grilled cheese sandwich!? Well, for one – it’s a life-changing experience.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of grilled cheese sandwiches but THIS, I could have any day. The combination of the rich ooey-gooey melted cheese with the sweet and salty kimchi (more on this later) sandwiched in between two buttered toasts creates the most delectable flavor and texture.
Now the key player here is the kimchi. It’s sauteed in brown butter and then slowly cooked with sugar followed by a touch of sesame oil. The result? A spicy, sweet, and savory chunky jam-like spread.
It’s an irresistible marriage between comfort and bold flavors that’ll give your standard grilled cheese sandwich a run for its money.
How do I prepare Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich?
Step 1: Caramelize the kimchi
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Once the butter has browned, add kimchi and sugar.
Saute until caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drizzle sesame oil on top and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Step 2: Toast the bread
Smear butter on one side of each piece of bread. In a clean pan over medium-low heat, place one piece of bread butter side down.
Step 3: Assemble the sandwich
Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of cheese on top of the bread. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of kimchi jam right on top. Then top it off with 2 to 3 more tablespoons of cheese. Place another piece of bread on top, buttered side up.
Gently press the sandwich down with a spatula to compact it down. Once the bottom piece of bread has been toasted to a golden brown color, carefully flip the sandwich and toast the other side of the bread.
Step 4: Serve and enjoy!
Transfer to a serving plate. Enjoy!
Kimchi Grilled Cheese Ingredients & Substitutions
Milk bread: In my opinion, milk bread is the way to go for this recipe. Its soft and fluffy texture along with its incredibly creamy and rich flavor makes this a superior option. Milk bread can be found at any Asian bakery or in the bakery section in H Mart. It can be substituted with regular white bread or brioche bread.
Unsalted butter: the butter is used to toast the milk bread, giving it a nice crunch and buttery taste. While I’ve never tried this myself, I’ve seen other recipes use mayo instead of butter.
Mozzarella cheese: to achieve the most epic cheese pull, I highly recommend grating a block of mozzarella with a cheese grater. Pre-shredded cheese typically contains ingredients like cornstarch which prevents the cheese from sticking together and melting thoroughly.
Chunky Kimchi Jam
Kimchi: for the best tasting result, be sure to use extra fermented or extra sour kimchi.
Unsalted butter: the butter is first browned and then used to caramelize the kimchi. The kimchi x brown butter combination is top-tier and absolutely delicious so I don’t really recommend substituting it. However, if absolutely necessary, you can also use neutral oil.
Sugar: the sugar is cooked down into the kimchi, making it sweet, sticky, and almost jam-like.
Sesame oil: a little sesame goes a long way. It adds a subtle nutty flavor which helps round out the savory and sweetness.
Cooking Tips for Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- The bread is just as important as the filling for a sandwich of this caliber. I highly recommend using milk bread – it’s soft, fluffy, creamy, and richer than typical white bread. Milk bread can be found at any Asian bakery or the bakery section of H Mart!
- I used mozzarella cheese for this recipe because it has a fairly neutral flavor, which allows the kimchi to shine through. However, you can any type of cheese you prefer.
- Whenever possible, purchase a block of cheese and grate it yourself at home. Pre-shredded cheese has ingredients that prevent it from sticking together and melting thoroughly.
- Layering is key in preventing the sandwich from getting soggy. When assembling, add a layer of cheese on top of the bread followed by the kimchi and another layer of cheese on top.
- Keep the heat on medium-low to ensure the cheese melts without burning the bread.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does kimchi go well with cheese?
Kimchi and cheese are like a match made in heaven. The spicy tanginess of the kimchi pairs deliciously with the rich creaminess of almost all cheeses. In Korea, cheese is commonly added to recipes that include kimchi like Kimchi Bokkeumbap (fried rice).
What kind of kimchi should I use?
I prefer using traditional napa cabbage kimchi however, you can use any type of kimchi as long as it’s extra fermented and sour. Try to stray away from fresh kimchi as it won’t be as flavorful however if that’s all you have, adding a teaspoon of white vinegar will mimic the tanginess of extra fermented kimchi.
Can I add other toppings?
Of course! Feel free to add any toppings that you like including scallions, onions, tomatoes – whatever your heart (and stomach) desires!
Can I make this vegan-friendly?
Yes, absolutely! To make this vegan-friendly just substitute the cheese with your choice of vegan cheese and use vegan butter or olive oil in place of regular butter.
Can I make this in the oven?
Yes! Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). After buttering the bread and assembling the sandwich, place it on a sheet tray and bake for 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip the sandwich and bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Baking times may vary so be sure to keep an eye on it. Once the sandwich is golden brown on both sides and the cheese has melted, it’s ready!
How do I store leftovers?
Grilled cheese is best enjoyed fresh. However, if you do have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, it’s best to use a pan or oven rather than a microwave to retain the sandwich’s crispy texture.
This kimchi grilled cheese sandwich is best enjoyed hot and fresh. However, any leftovers should be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for 1 to 2 days. Reheat the sandwich in a pan over medium-low heat until the cheese has melted thoroughly. I would advise against reheating it in the microwave because it’ll turn soggy.
Looking for more easy and delicious kimchi fusion recipes?
Here are my most popular recipes!
- Kimchi Nachos – nachos have to be one of my favorite snacks because of how versatile they can be! If you’ve never added kimchi to your nachos, this is your sign to do it!
- Kimchi Alfredo Pasta – I’ve combined some of my favorite ingredients and flavors in this super decadent, creamy, and indulgent pasta! The kimchi and cream sauce combo is absolutely delicious – if you’re looking to jazz up your pasta, give this recipe a try!
- Kimchi Breakfast Crunchwrap – this is my take on the popular breakfast crunchwrap! The complexity and marriage of all these flavors from the kimchi and sausage, creamy jalapeno sauce, and the parmesan crisp make this taste so gourmet!
- Loaded Kimchi Fries – these Loaded Kimchi Fries are STACKED with so many layers of flavor, and it’s the perfect ‘treat yourself’ snack! It’s layered with perfectly crisp fries, kimchi that’s been sauteed in butter, a creamy, delicious garlicky, spicy mayo sauce, aromatics for some freshness, and a runny egg.
- Kimchi Hot Dogs – if you’re craving something unique, exciting, and downright delicious for your next gathering or backyard BBQ – *enter the Kimchi Hot Dog*. The homemade kimchi chili is just filled with a medley of textures and complex flavors that complement the hot dog deliciously.
- Kimchi Spam Onigirazu – onigirazu is the perfect little lunch, dinner, or snack and for this recipe, I used a combination of all my favorite ingredients including kimchi, egg, and spam!
Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- 4 slices milk bread or your choice of bread
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup mozzrella cheese freshly grated
- 1 1/2 cups kimchi extra fermented
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Once the butter has browned, add kimchi and sugar. Saute until caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drizzle sesame oil on top and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Smear butter on one side of each piece of bread. In a clean pan over medium-low heat, place one piece of bread butter side down. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of cheese on top of the bread. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of kimchi jam right on top. Then top it off with 2 to 3 more tablespoons of cheese. Place another piece of bread on top, buttered side up.
- Gently press the sandwich down with a spatula to compact it down. Once the bottom piece of bread has been toasted to a golden brown color, carefully flip the sandwich and toast the other side of the bread.
- Transfer to a serving plate. Enjoy!