Kimchi Mac And Cheese Recipe

There's no denying the sheer deliciousness of classic macaroni and cheese. From the tender elbow noodles to the ultra-rich and creamy cheese sauce, mac and cheese is a perfect dish, and there are very few ways to improve upon it. If there were one single way to somehow make classic mac and cheese even better, though, it would be to add an ingredient that provides a sharp, acidic contrast to all of that savory goodness ... something like kimchi.

As this recipe by Tanika Douglas proves, this extra ingredient turns out to offer quite an inspired pairing. "This recipe takes everyone's favorite comfort food up to a whole new level," Douglas describes, adding, "Classic mac and cheese and tangy kimchi are the most delicious combination!" So, what exactly is kimchi bringing to the table here? As Douglas explains, the fermented, boldly flavored Korean ingredient adds "the perfect balance of spice and acidity" to the otherwise decadent dish. If there is one thing that classic mac and cheese lacks, it's most definitely spice and acidity, so get ready to elevate the classic comfort dish that you didn't even realize needed elevating.

Gather the ingredients for kimchi mac and cheese

You'll find some typical mac and cheese suspects in this ingredients list, including macaroni or elbow pasta, olive oil, butter, minced garlic, onion, salt, pepper, vegetable stock, milk, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and some chives for garnish. The "irresistible" ingredient is, unsurprisingly, the kimchi. As Douglas notes, "Kimchi is often served cold as an accompaniment to a meal, but it is such versatile ingredient and can bring a real punch to any dish." In this recipe, you'll finely chop the fermented cabbage and incorporate it into the cheese sauce, so while this certainly isn't the most traditional way to eat kimchi, it's definitely an inventive one.

Cook the pasta and make a roux

Kick things off by preheating the oven to 380 F and boiling the pasta according to the instructions on the packaging. Be sure to drain the pasta once it reaches al dente, and at that point, you can set it aside while you focus on the sauce.

Anyone who has made mac and cheese before knows that the sauce almost always begins with a roux, and this one is no different. Well, technically you'll start by sautéing the aromatics — place a pot over medium heat and add in the olive oil, butter, minced garlic, and diced onion. Cook for a few minutes, or until the onion begins to turn translucent. Now you can sprinkle in the flour, salt, and pepper, whisking the flour thoroughly into the melted butter to create a roux. Allow your roux to cook for 2-3 minutes or until it becomes lightly golden.

Finish building the sauce

Gradually begin adding in the liquids — the vegetable stock and milk — and be sure to keep whisking constantly so the sauce remains smooth. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, whisking all the while, and keep working like this for 4-7 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick and there are no remaining lumps. Keep in mind that if you stop whisking, your sauce might burn or turn out lumpy, so know that the arm workout is well worth it. Now that the base is ready, you can go ahead and whisk in the cup of grated cheddar cheese and finely chopped kimchi.

Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish and layer on more cheese

Transfer the cooked pasta into the pot with the finished sauce and stir them to combine. Then, transfer the cheesy pasta to a large baking dish, and sprinkle both the remaining cheddar and the mozzarella on top. Place the cheesy dish into the preheated oven, allowing it to bake for 20-25 minutes. You'll know it's done once the cheese on top is bubbling and has turned golden brown.

Enjoy the kimchi mac and cheese

Scoop some kimchi mac and cheese out onto a plate, garnish with some fresh chopped chives, and enjoy this savory dish. "I adore serving hearty mac and cheese with a vibrant, fresh green salad drizzled with a balsamic Dijon dressing," Douglas says. "The freshness of the salad really helps to balance out the rich, decadent mac and cheese." She also notes that this would make for a great side dish at a family gathering.

Because this recipe yields a whole platter of pasta, you might have some leftovers. While you could reheat individual portions in the microwave, Douglas also notes, "If you would like to reheat the rest of the meal, simply cover the top with aluminum foil, and place it into a 350 F oven to reheat for 20-30 minutes."

The next time you or your family is craving mac and cheese, consider this kimchi-infused recipe that "flips the switch on an old classic," as Douglas puts it. "If you are a fan of fusing flavors, this dish does so in such a harmonious way," she adds as a final thought. "Kimchi and cheese may not sound like a perfect match flavor-wise, but they truly are the perfect pair."

Kimchi Mac And Cheese Recipe
5 from 33 ratings
Just when you thought mac and cheese couldn't get any better, this version is kicked up a notch with the bold, spicy, and perfectly acidic addition of kimchi.
Prep Time
Cook Time
mac and cheese in baking dish
Total time: 55 minutes
  • 1 pound macaroni pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ⅓ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 2 ½ cups full-fat milk
  • 2 cups cheddar, grated, divided
  • 1 cup kimchi, finely chopped
  • 1 cup mozzarella, grated, for finishing
  • 20 chives, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 380 F and bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
  2. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente. Drain, add back into the pot, and set aside.
  3. Place a medium-sized pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil, butter, minced garlic, and diced onion. Sauté until the onion is translucent and fragrant.
  4. Sprinkle the flour, salt, and pepper over the melted butter and whisk to form a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the roux turns a light golden color.
  5. Gradually pour in the vegetable stock and milk, whisking the whole time, to incorporate the liquids into the roux. Bring to a simmer and continue whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, becomes creamy, and has no lumps remaining. This should take about 4-7 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1 cup of the grated cheddar cheese and chopped kimchi until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce is smooth.
  7. Combine the cooked macaroni with the cheese sauce, stirring to coat the pasta evenly, then spoon the mixture into a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar and mozzarella cheeses over the top.
  8. Place the baking dish into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  9. Remove from the oven, garnish with chives, and serve warm.
Calories per Serving 684
Total Fat 31.7 g
Saturated Fat 16.1 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 78.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 70.4 g
Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
Total Sugars 8.7 g
Sodium 632.8 mg
Protein 28.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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