If you are looking for the best substitutes for Korean radish when making kimchi, you should consider trying out these seven options. They all have a similar texture and flavor compared to Korean radish, making them good substitutes.
What is Korean radish?
Korean radish is an oval shaped root vegetable with a mild flavor and crunchy texture. It has a pale beige shade on half of its body and a pale green shade on the rest. From the top sprouts leafy green sprouts which look similar to kale.
It’s a common ingredient in kimchi and enjoyed all over the world, but especially in Korea. Every part of the Korean radish is used, the radish greens and the body of the radish. It can be used to make several varieties of kimchi including dongchimi, kkakdugi and nabak-kimchi.
Origins of Korean radish
Korean radishes are native to Korea and have roots going back to 57 BCE. They have traditionally been fermented to extend their shelf life in preparations like kimchi. Today, Korean radishes are one of the most produced crops in Korea, though they are grown all over the world. This radish plays a huge role in Korean cuisine and is widely beloved.
Where to find Korean radish
You can find Korean radishes at most Asian markets and may even be available at your local grocery store. If you are unable to find Korean radish near you, you can always try one of the alternatives below or order Korean radish online to be shipped to you. You can also purchase Korean radish seeds and grow them yourself at home.
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a delicious Korean side dish made from napa cabbage, Korean radish, spices and fermented shrimp or fish. It is fermented, so it can last for a long time before going bad, though it does have a rather strong flavor. Because it’s fermented it contains probiotics and prebiotics, which can have various health benefits including improved digestive health.
It is a common dish in Asian cuisine and its history goes back thousands of years. Traditionally, it was used to preserve vegetables throughout the winter to prevent starvation and vitamin C deficiency or scurvy. It is still a staple in Korean diets and is widely consumed across the world in various countries.
How to make kimchi
There are various ways to make kimchi, but personally I love following Maangchi’s recipe. To begin, salt over napa cabbage to draw out extra moisture. After a few hours, wash the salt off the cabbage. Then you can make your porridge.
Combine water and sweet rice flour in a small pot over medium heat for about ten minutes, then add sugar and stir in. Add the porridge to a mixing bowl along with garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp and gochugaru. Mix well.
Add sliced Korean radish, carrot and green onion. Mix well. Spread this kimchi paste all over the napa cabbage, making sure to get into all the crevices and fully coat the kimchi.
You can eat the kimchi right away or store in an airtight container to ferment for several days on the counter before moving to the refrigerator.
7 Substitutes for Korean Radish
If you are making kimchi or using Korean radish for another recipe, here are a few alternatives that can be a good substitute.
#1: Daikon radishes
Daikon radishes are going to be the best option when looking for a Korean radish substitute. They are a Japanese radish with a similar flavor and a similar texture compared to Korean radish. They are a bit longer and paler than Korean radish, but are almost indistinguishable by taste. Plus, they are more widely available at the grocery store. I’ve been able to find them at Whole Foods and Sprouts as well as Asian markets and farmer’s markets.
#2: Cabbage hearts
Cabbage hearts are the hard inner section of the cabbage once you’ve removed the leaves. They can be a great substitute for Korean radish because you likely already have cabbage on hand if you are making kimchi. Cabbage is a versatile vegetable and while the leafy parts any great for absorbing all the flavor of the kimchi paste, the hearts add a great bite and crunchiness that adds to the texture of the dish.
#3: Red radishes
Red radishes are a type of radish that can be an excellent substitute for Korean radish. They are probably the kind of radish you picture when you hear the word “radish”. These radishes are round and red on the outside with a white interior. They have a crispy texture and a mild bitter taste to them. They can do a great job replacing the flavor and texture of Korean radish in kimchi though they are a bit laborious to slice since they are small.
#4: White turnips
White turnips look like the white version of a red radish. They are white both on the inside and the outside and have a sweet but earthy flavor. They taste more similar to a carrot than a radish, but still have a crispy texture which is why they work great in kimchi. Plus the white color mimics the white color of Korean radishes so you may not even be able to tell the difference in the final dish.
#5: Horseradish root
Horseradish root can be another good alternative to Korean radish. It has a unique flavor compared to the other options on this list, so it will add a strong spicy flavor to your kimchi. This being said, it has a crunchy texture and looks very similar to Korean radish once sliced up or grated. I recommend trying out a little bit of horseradish root before adding it to your kimchi because the flavor can be a hit or miss.
#6: Water chestnuts
Water chestnuts are quite common in Asian dishes and can work as a good replacement for Korean radish. They have a milder flavor compared to the other options on this list, so if you are looking for something that won’t overpower the kimchi, this may be the way to go. They have a bit of a nutty flavor as well which is pleasant. This being said, they are small and can be difficult to cut into uniform slices.
#7: White carrot
White carrot is another great substitute for Korean radish in kimchi. It’s a very versatile root vegetable and has a slightly sweet taste, similar to white turnips. To add it to kimchi, take a large white carrot, wash it thoroughly, peel the outside and cut into long slivers or grate, whatever the recipe calls for. White carrot has a similar crunchiness as Korean radish, giving the final product a similar texture.
Where to find these alternatives
Some of these alternatives should be available at your local grocery store, especially cabbage hearts and red radishes. For the others, you may need to go to a more specialized store such as Whole Foods or Sprouts. You also may be able to luck out and find some of these options at your local Farmer’s Market. Shopping local is a great way to support your community as well as the environment so it’s worth the try.
If you try making kimchi with any of these alternatives, be sure to leave a comment down below saying how it turned out. Until then, be sure to follow me on social media. I’m @tasteitwithtia on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and @tasteit_withtia on Pinterest. Have a wonderful day!