Kimchi Stew with Chicken Legs

Yesterday I found some old kimchi at the back of my fridge and prepared this delicious chicken stew. When I say “old”, I mean at least several months old. If kept refrigerated, in an airtight container, Napa (aka Chinese) cabbage kimchi will keep for long months and even a year (from my experience, but one day I plan to go further with my experiments). With time it becomes more sour, slightly stronger, but I don’t expect a shock wile opening a jar or container with several months’ old kimchi. While fresh kimchi is served as a snack or side dish, the older, ripe kimchi is perfect cooked (actually young kimchi isn’t that good when cooked; I have tested it several times). I have already posted several ripe kimchi recipes and all of them had one common quality (apart from being delicious): they didn’t need any seasoning because old kimchi is so armatic, so packed with flavours, one doesn’t require even soy sauce.

This stew could be made with kimchi only, but I decided to add the gochujang sauce to make the flavours hotter and richer. I have also added some more garlic (kimchi contains garlic) because one can never have too much garlic! It was a fantastic healthy winter stew and I’m already looking forward for my new batch of kimchi to ripen and make another stew! I added some cooked potatoes at the end to make this an easy one-pot dish (it was very good reheated in my office microwave!). Even with some potatoes this stew remains healthy, low calorie and low-fat, but still filling and rich. This recipes is a very loose interpretation of a kimchi stew from  Food and Cooking of Korea by Young Jin Song, a fascinating source of both more popular and rare Korean recipes I keep on going back to for inspiration.

If you have never tasted kimchi (김치), it is a Korean preparation of seasoned fermented vegetables, the most popular being Napa (Chinese) cabbage and daikon (white long radish). Apart from the fiery kimchi there is also a mild, chilli-free version, which is however less popular. I have been making kimchi for several years now and – since I prepare the “lazy”, easier version – I consider it one of the easiest things in the world. I no longer weigh or count the ingredients, adding them at random and the result is always delicious, the best flavours being obtained with very fresh and firm vegetables. Here you can see my adventures with Kkakdugi 깍두기, or Cubed Radish Kimchi and Mak Kimchi, or Easy Chinese Cabbage Kimchi)In this dish Napa/Chinese cabbage kimchi should be used (I have no idea what results would, for example, radish kimchi give).

You might also like these ripe kimchi recipes:

Kimchi Stew with Canned Tuna and Tofu
Savoury Egg Custard (Chawan Mushi) with Kimchi
Kimchi Stew with Chicken, Konnyaku Noodles and Poached Egg
Korean Mung Bean Pancake with Kimchi and Ground Meat

TIPS: Gochujang is a Korean chilli paste. It is smooth, sticky and slightly sweet and cannot be substituted with anything else. You can buy it in Korean and Japanese grocery shops (and often in more general Asian shops). It is east to recognise because most brands sell it in plastic red rectangle-shaped boxes. If you cannot get it, add more chilli powder and 2 tablespoons of a syrup (for ex. agave syrup). The result will not be the same, but the stew will still be delicious. (Don’t bother buying other chilli pastes; nothing is similar to gochujang). If you don’t have kimchi, you can try this Gochujang and Chicken Stew which is equally delicious.

Korean chilli powder should rather be called “chilli flakes” because it’s the exact form the dried chilli takes. If you use powder, the spice will be there, but the sweetness of Korean chilli flakes will be absent and the texture will be different. In stews there is not a big difference, but I don’t advise it in kimchi or cold dishes.

You can serve this stew with rice or, like I did, add potatoes (if you add raw potatoes, you must do it at the same time you add the chicken and probably add some soy sauce or salt because potatoes absorb salt when they cook). It’s also perfect simply with some bread.

Preparation: 1-2 hours depending on how quickly the meat softens 

Ingredients (serves two):

1 tablespoon oil

2 small or medium chicken legs cut in two pieces (or two big upper parts, i.e. thighs)

1 medium onion or 2 medium shallots, sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

10-15 heaped tablespoons of old (very sour) Napa/Chinese cabbage kimchi, cut into pieces

some kimchi juice (depends on how hot you want your stew)

Gochujang sauce:

2 heaped tablespoons gochujang

1 flat tablespoon medium hot Korean chilli flakes (gochujaru)

1 big garlic clove, crushed

1 cm grated fresh ginger

3 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce (or 1/2 the amount of standard soy sauce)

1 tablespoon honey or syrup of your choice

2 tablespoons sake (you can use Korean alcohol instead… I got used to sake in both Korean and Japanese recipes)

(1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds)

green onions or chives, chopped

Heat the oil in your bowl or casserole.

Stir-fry the chicken pieces until they are slightly browned.

Lower the heat and add the onions.

Stir fry at low heat for several minutes.

Add the kimchi, about 1/2 litre water, the gochujang sauce and the garlic. Cover and let the stew simmer for one to two hours, adding water if necessary. It’s ready when the meat falls off the bones.


Sprinkle with chives or green onion before serving. I like adding also toasted sesame seeds and a splash of sesame oil.

12 Replies to “Kimchi Stew with Chicken Legs”

  1. Hi, as I don’t like tofu, I have been substituting it with cubed kohlrabi in the original (porky) kimchi yigae. I imagine it would be nice in this dish too replacing the potatoes if you wanted to make it even lighter. The kohlrabi flavour is amazing with the kimchi. Will make some this week, thank you for the inspiration!

    1. I must say I don’t like cooked kohlrabi… I’d probably substitute tofu with potatoes… or maybe other vegetables. Though I love kohlrabi kimchi (it’s still raw!)

  2. Only YOU would add gochujang to make a kimchi dish hotter and richer. 🙂 Well, you taught me something about kimchi …again. Did not know that it just got better with age and that you could keep it for so long in the refrigerator. From now on, I’ll totally ignore the “best by date” because I threw a jar out a while back that was expired by a few months. Silly me!!! It would have been great in this recipe. Which BTW, looks wonderful and already has my mouth burning in a nice way. Just thinking of that spicy braised chicken makes me hungry again. That’s a long braise for so little chicken, it has to just melt in your mouth. GREAT dish Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. Kimchi ages very well, indeed. Yes, you should ignore the date…. unless it’s been pasteurised or any preservatives have been added of course.

  3. Hi There, Your posts are amazing and so much inspiring.

    Loved all your ideas and will try to incorporate it in my future recipes.

    Thanks for sharing your lovely inputs and insights. Much Love.

  4. I think I would love this. It is an unusual idea for me cooking with kimchi, but why not, I bet it is great! And you mentioning the meat falling off the bone, makes this dish even more desirable. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Adina. Actually I have several warm kimchi recipes and kimchi stews are very popular in Korea!

  5. I just love that you introduce me to new things with each blog post. I have recently fallen in love with Korean food, mainly Bulgogi and Bibimbap (to be honest, it is the caramelized rice that is the addictive ingredient for me). Although at the present time, I am unable to eat hot (spicy) foods, I make these delicacies at home so adding this interesting recipe to our repertoire is perfect. A friend gave me Kimchi as a Christmas gift and I was hoping to be inspired by a recipe and your recipe did exactly that.

    1. Hi, Eva. Thank you so much for the kind words! Oh, yes the caramelised rice… I know what you mean! I hope you will like cooked kimchi too.

Comments are closed.