Kimchi Mac and Cheese

Are you craving some pasta and gooey cheese? Why not give it a spicy and tangy twists? Try this stove-top kimchi mac and cheese that will put a whole new spin on comfort food.

Spooning the kimchi topping over a plateful of mac and cheese

As much as I have been trying to feed my family healthy food recently, sometimes you just want some comfort food. When it’s cold, I just want something rich and filling to keep me warm. And is there anything that meets that description better than homemade macaroni and cheese? 

This Korean mac and cheese make-over starts with a roux base for a thick and creamy cheese sauce. It doesn’t bake in the oven, making it a quick meal (once you have the kimchi topping prepared). In fact, you can even prepare most of the kimchi topping the day before, making this an easy meal to get on the table.

Kimchi topping for kimchi mac and cheese

Keep it healthy

Of course, it can’t be all cheese and noodle goodness. I always make sure we get plenty of vegetables along with our comforting pasta dishes. Lightly steamed broccoli or asparagus is always a popular choice in my house. For ease, you can just add your vegetables to the pot you cook your pasta in a minute or two before the pasta is done. There are fewer dishes that way (something I always aim for). 

Most of the time I would pick whole wheat pasta for a recipe like this, but I still had some regular macaroni and there was no sense in letting continue to sit in the cupboard. If you are looking to add more nutrients to this – let’s face it – not particularly healthy dish, I completely recommend a whole wheat macaroni for the extra fiber and vitamins. 

Plates of mac and cheese with kimchi topping

Health benefits of kimchi

Kimchi itself has a surprisingly high nutritional value. The base is cabbage – a vegetable known for being nutrient-rich with lots of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. And most kimchi recipes include radish and green onions or several other sorts of vegetables.  Plus, kimchi is fermented, meaning it contains probiotics for that extra healthy kick. Even though you are drying it out, it still retains all its nutritional value.

Unusual flavor pairings

I always like to mix things up in the kitchen. Why settle for a standard cheddar cheese and macaroni when you could have something that just pops in your mouth? You may think I’m weird for mixing kimchi with mac and cheese, but you would be surprised, the flavors really do work together. 

We love kimchi at our house. It’s a great addition to all kinds of dishes. And not just Asian inspired ones! Here, the acid and spice of kimchi cuts through the rich cheese sauce for a meal that feels more balanced and not as heavy. That’s why tomatoes go so well with lasagna and other cheesy pasta dishes like Bolognese.

A plate of Korean mac and cheese

A plateful of mac and cheese is so rewarding – especially when you know it’s made from scratch. And this one gets a spectacular upgrade from the kimchi, resulting in a flavor combination that makes you taste buds sing. I bet everyone in your family will be delighted with this kimchi mac and cheese.

Spooning the kimchi topping over a plateful of mac and cheese

Kimchi Mac and Cheese

This gooey macaroni cheese is spicy and tangy thanks to kimchi. It's rich, comforting and easy to make – perfect for family dinners!
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Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 731kcal
Author: Jovita | Yummy Addiction


For the topping:

  • 10 oz (280g) kimchi , drained and cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1/2 tbsp gochugaru , (korean red chilli powder), or regular chilli powder
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup (60g) fresh breadcrumbs

For the cheese sauce:

  • 2 tbsp (30g) butter
  • 2 tbsp (20g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk , plus extra if needed
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 pinch chilli powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 small clove garlic , minced

For the macaroni:

  • 11.5 oz (320g) whole-wheat elbow macaroni
  • 2 tbsp kimchi
  • 2 chives , finely sliced


For the topping:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°F (100°C). Arrange the kimchi pieces in one layer on a baking sheet. Put in the oven leave for 4-6 hours, or until dried out and crispy. Alternatively, you can do that in a dehydrator, if you have one.
  • Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to a blender along with the dried kimchi, gochugaru or chili powder, and garlic. Pulse until all the ingredients are finely chopped.
  • Return the skillet to the heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast, stirring, for 4–5 minutes until the breadcrumbs are completely dry. Mix with the other topping ingredients and set aside.

For the cheese sauce:

  • Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together until you get a smooth paste (roux). Continue to cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk, so it doesn’t become lumpy.
  • Stir in the grated cheddar and add the remaining ingredients. Cook for 2–3 minutes more, stirring, until all the cheese is melted. If the sauce is too thick to your liking, add a little more milk to thin it out.

For the macaroni:

  • Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the elbow macaroni, and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Mix in the cheese sauce, kimchi, and chives. Serve topped with a handful of the crispy topping.


Adapted from “K-Food: Korean Home Cooking and Street Food” by Da-Hae West and Gareth West.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 731kcal | Carbohydrates: 90.7g | Protein: 28.9g | Fat: 31g | Cholesterol: 67.9mg | Sodium: 942.5mg | Sugar: 7.8g
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, korean
Keyword: korean mac and cheese, macaroni cheese
Nutrition Facts
Kimchi Mac and Cheese
Amount Per Serving (1 g)
Calories 731 Calories from Fat 279
% Daily Value*
Fat 31g48%
Cholesterol 67.9mg23%
Sodium 942.5mg41%
Carbohydrates 90.7g30%
Sugar 7.8g9%
Protein 28.9g58%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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