Kimchi Grilled Cheese Sandwich
This kimchi grilled cheese sandwich is prepared with crispy sourdough bread, smoked gouda, tangy kimchi, and fig jam. The savory flavors from the kimchi and cheese are balanced out with the subtle sweetness of the fig jam. Even after the twist with Korean flavors, the sandwich is still delicious to enjoy with some warm tomato soup.
A grilled cheese sandwich is a simple sandwich made with melted cheese between two toasted slices of bread. This recipe is different from your classic grilled cheese sandwich; it has kimchi. It is quick and easy to make and uses simple ingredients.
Sourdough bread is a popular artisan bread used to make grilled cheese sandwiches. It is my bread of choice for this recipe because it is more flavorful than regular white bread, and also crisps better when toasted.
It has a subtle sweet and tangy flavor from the natural acids produced by the sourdough starter. The sourdough starter is made with just flour and water. However, as it ferments over several days a natural yeast and healthy bacteria (lactobacillus) grow over time.
The starter requires “feedings” of flour and water to help it grow. When ready to bake, you just add some of this starter to your bread dough to help it rise. When the sourdough is baked, the bread forms a crusty outside, and a soft, airy, and chewy inside.
Making my own sourdough bread is definitely on my to-do list. But for now, I like to buy Publican Quality Bread’s Pullman Sourdough Sandwich Loaf. It has just the right amount of tang and stays chewy and fresh for several days. Publican Quality Bread uses high quality ingredients and a long fermentation process to create their James Beard Award Winning Bread selection.
Which cheese to use for a grilled cheese sandwich
I like to use smoked gouda. The smokiness pairs well with the tangy and spicy kimchi in this particular grilled cheese sandwich. Gouda is a cow’s milk cheese that is semi-soft and somewhat creamy. It also tastes a bit salty and nutty.
Cheddar cheese is also a popular choice for cheese. It can have a sharper taste depending on how long it has been aged for. If you want a stringy cheese for that sought after “cheese pull”, I would recommend using some mozzarella, Monterey jack, and/or cheddar cheese.
If possible, I also recommend making your own cheese slices from a block of cheese instead of buying pre-sliced cheese. Pre-sliced cheese is coated with additives to help prevent the slices from sticking. As a result, you’ll find that fresh slices of cheese melt more smoothly. The taste and texture will also be better because it is fresher and doesn’t have preservatives.
Kimchi & Cheese
Kimchi and cheese might sound like an odd combination to some. However, it is pretty common to see spicy Korean flavors paired with cheese in Korean street food. Korean spicy rice cakes (dukbokki, 떡볶이), Korean spicy chicken stir fry (dakgalbi, 닭갈비), Korean spicy sausage stew (budae jjigae, 부대찌개)) are just a few examples of Korean dishes that incorporate cheese.
I like to add chopped, fresh kimchi to my grilled cheese sandwich. I thought about using sautéed kimchi for that charred taste and drier texture. However, I decided to leave it fresh so that the tangy juice could help cut some of the heaviness from the cheese. By using fresh kimchi, you’ll also reap some of its suggested health benefits (e.g., probiotics for gut health).
In Korea, I remember seeing street vendors selling grilled sandwiches with American cheese, ham, and strawberry jam. This simple sandwich is deliciously simple, sweet and savory. I tried to use strawberry jam in this recipe, but found it to be a bit too sweet.
Fig jam, on the other hand, works perfectly in this sandwich. It balances out the savory and salty flavors of this kimchi grilled cheese sandwich with a subtle sweetness. Fig jam also has a more complex flavor profile compared to other fruit jams. It has flavor notes of berries and honey. The fig seeds in the jam also add some nice texture.
Tips for making the perfect grilled cheese sandwich
- Make sure the bread thickness is just right. You don’t want it to be too thin or else it will get soggy. It should also not be too thick or else the cheese won’t melt as easily. I like to use slices that are a little more than a 1/2″ thick.
- Use mayonnaise to crisp and brown the bread. It works better than butter. The bread will turn more golden brown and crispy. It is also already soft and so easier to spread.
- Toast the bread over low heat. This gives it enough time for the cheese to melt while the bread is browning.
- Cover the skillet with a lid. This will trap the heat and steam, making the cheese melt faster.
Mise en place
If you make this Kimchi Grilled Cheese, I would love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment and/or recipe rating at the bottom of this page. And if you have a photo of your food, be sure to tag me on Instagram!
Kimchi Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices sourdough bread
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1½-2 tbsp fig jam
- gouda cheese, thinly sliced
- 2-3 tbsp kimchi, chopped
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.
- Slather one side of each slice of sourdough bread with mayonnaise.
- Slather the other side of one slice with fig jam.
- Place the bread slices mayonnaise side face down onto the skillet
- Place a layer of gouda cheese over the bread slice with the fig jam
- Add a layer of chopped kimchi over the cheese.
- Cover the skillet with a lid, and let it toast for about 3 minutes or until the bottom side of the bread slices become crisp and browned, and the cheese has melted.