Add Kimchi To Mac And Cheese For A Tangy Twist

Sometimes even the creamiest bowl of mac can be basic, so it's important to know how to infuse this fan-favorite comfort food with even more flavor complexity. Kimchi is often touted as Korea's national dish, and it can be added to practically anything — soups, stews, sauces, or simply steamed rice. Depending on what kind you're buying, this salty, fermented cabbage can taste slightly sweet or douse your taste buds in spicy heat. When combined with the rich heaviness of mac and cheese, the kimchi's flavor has room to balance out the dish.

Mashed recipe developer Keith Kamikawa grew up eating kimchi and first experienced this hybrid dish in some "trendy restaurant," as he described to Mashed. The dish was so impactful that he created a homemade version of kimchi mac and cheese topped with a crunchy layer of breadcrumbs. As he explained, "One bite, and there was no going back." Whether you enjoy this dish as a classic side or a heaping main course is up to you — it's just that good.

Of course, you'll probably want to ditch the boxed stuff in favor of whipping up some baked mac and cheese that leans more toward gourmet home cooking. Bringing a batch to your next potluck or party feast is a surefire way to contribute something unique and memorable to any food-centric occasion.

Kimchi mac and cheese relies on one other special ingredient

When gathering all the ingredients for this recipe, you might already have some of the best cheeses to use in homemade mac and cheese on hand. Other common kitchen staples you might already have are garlic powder, green onions, and Dijon mustard. Besides these — and, of course, the star ingredient, kimchi — a Korean cooking staple called gochujang can add even more depth to your mac and cheese. Although this red chili sauce is known for adding a spicy kick to a meal, Kamikawa says the duo adds "a nice mellow heat and umami flavor." The gooey mac and cheese does a good job of hiding the spice levels while still retaining its added taste.

You can typically find kimchi in jars at most grocery chains, and gochujang can be found in similar stores, usually in a recognizable red container. If you want an array of options, your local Asian supermarket likely offers a variety of brands to choose from. This key flavor enhancer is boiled along with milk and heavy cream before transforming into a roux that's ready to meld with your favorite cheeses. Pair your specialty mac and cheese with a savory, finger-licking barbecue spread, and you can't go wrong. "A common, and awesome, addition to kimchi mac and cheese is adding Spam," Kamikawa added, explaining that it's yet "another cool American-Korean pantry staple!"