Kimchi Mac and Cheese– Say hello to your new favorite homemade mac and cheese recipe.
Don’t let the kimchi and gochujang scare you away. These ingredients are known for their spiciness, but they come through very mildly in this dish. Trust me, it’s delicious!
If you’ve never had these, kimchi is a Korean condiment (sold in a jar) that contains fermented vegetables, typically napa cabbage, carrot, and green onion. It is sweet, sour, spicy, salty, umami deliciousness.
Gochujang is a Korean red chili paste that is also fermented. It is super flavorful and packs a little bit of spice as well. But don’t worry, the amount used in this recipe mainly offers flavor, not spice.
These two Korean condiments combined in this dish with LOTS of cheese, noodles, and a crunchy panko topping create the most flavorful mac and cheese you’ve ever had.
What You’ll Need
Dried pasta: Whenever I make homemade mac and cheese, I almost always use rotini or fusilli. These are two very similar spiral shapes of pasta. They hold the cheese sauce really well in between the spirals. However, you could also use a traditional, elbow shaped pasta as well.
Kimchi: Like I said before, kimchi is a Korean condiment that contains spicy, crunchy, sweet, sour, fermented vegetables. This recipe calls for a cup of kimchi, which is then chopped and sautéed to bring out the flavor and soften it slightly. This amount gives the dish amazing flavor and texture without making it spicy.
Gochujang: Gochujang is also a spicy, fermented Korean condiment. And again, the small amount used in this recipe gives the mac and cheese great flavor, but does not make it spicy.
Cheese: This recipe uses a blend of three cheeses: gouda, mozzarella, and cheddar. And trust me, it is SO good. This combination produces a thick cheese sauce that’s perfectly melty, stretchy, and salty.
Heavy cream: Heavy cream helps give this mac and cheese it’s rich, creamy flavor and texture. You could substitute whole milk or half and half if needed, but just note that it will not be as rich.
Reserved pasta water: Using some of the pasta water in the dish helps the cheese sauce stick to the noodles and thicken slightly.
Butter: No explanation needed. Butter is essential for the perfect homemade mac and cheese.
Panko: Panko bread crumbs are crunchier and crispier than regular bread crumbs. They’re perfect for topping any mac and cheese, but especially so for this Kimchi Mac and Cheese.
How to Make Kimchi Mac and Cheese
Step 1: Prepare the kimchi. No need to drain. Finely chop the kimchi into more manageable-sized pieces.
Step 2: Cook the noodles. Just cook according to package directions. Make sure to reserve your pasta water before draining!
Step 3: Make the cheese sauce. Start by sautéing the kimchi and gochujang in butter, then by adding the cream, water, and cheese. It will melt into a smooth, thick cheese sauce.
Step 4: Combine the noodles and cheese sauce. Mix it all together and get it ready for the oven by transferring to an oven-safe dish.
Step 5: Top with buttery panko crumbs and broil. When the mac and cheese is golden brown on top, it’s ready to come out and be devoured. Enjoy!
Notes & Tips
- Kimchi Mac and Cheese goes well with a runny egg served on top. Or, use up some of those ingredients you may not otherwise use, like the gochujang and panko, and make this Easy Korean Meatballs Recipe to go with!
- If you are serving this Kimchi Mac and Cheese as a main dish, it can feed about six adults. However, if you would like to serve it alongside something else as a side dish, it serves about eight.
- To make this dish spicy, I’d recommend doubling or tripling the amount of gochujang listed, depending on your taste preferences.
- I recommend grating your own cheese (or using a food processor to shred it) as this will help the cheese melt more smoothly into the sauce as opposed to using pre-shredded, which the anti-caking agents can get in the way of this. Ultimately though, do whatever you prefer–it’s still going to taste great.
- If you’re having trouble finding ingredients… Kimchi is usually located in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store. Here is the kind I used: Lucky Foods Seoul Kimchi. You can usually find gochujang in the Asian food aisle. I used P.F. Changs Home Menu Korean Style Gochujang Hot Sauce.
Storage & Reheating
Kimchi Mac and Cheese is best eaten immediately. However, if you need to store and reheat, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. Microwave to reheat, heating in 30 second increments and stirring between each to make sure the sauce spreads and heats evenly.
Kimchi Mac and Cheese
- 1 lb dry pasta (like fusilli or rotini)
- 1 cup kimchi
- 4 oz smoked gouda cheese shredded
- 4 oz mozzarella cheese shredded
- 4 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tsp gochujang
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- chopped scallions (for garnish)
- Start by finely chopping the kimchi. Don't worry about draining it; some liquid is fine.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Make sure to reserve the ½ cup pasta water before draining.
- Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet or dutch-oven on medium-high heat, add 4 tablespoons butter. Once it begins to bubble, add the kimchi and gochujang. Sauté until the kimchi softens, about 3-5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the heavy cream, reserved pasta water, and cheese. Stir constantly to prevent the cheese from sticking and burning. Once the cheese has melted, add 2 tablespoons butter and stir until incorporated.
- Remove from heat and add the pasta. Make sure that the noodles are coated evenly in the cheese sauce.
- Transfer the mac and cheese to an oven safe dish (if not already using an oven-safe skillet or dutch oven) and spread out evenly.
- In a small bowl, melt 2 tablespoons butter in the microwave, then use a fork to combine well with the panko bread crumbs. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over top the mac and cheese evenly.
- In an oven, broil the mac and cheese on high for 2-3 minutes or until the bread crumbs turn golden brown.
- Sprinkle with chopped scallions before serving (optional).