At its simplest, Korean fried rice is stir-fried with robustly flavored ingredients—onions, garlic, kimchi, kimchi juice, and gochujang, which is Korean fermented chile paste.
My version is studded with some smoky bacon. Once plated, the rice is drizzled with sesame oil, then garnished with a fried egg, scallions, sesame seeds, and strips of roasted seaweed, making for a pungent and satisfyingly filling dish.
This slightly smoky, bacon-studded Korean fried rice is a simple dish to make for either a snack or light meal, especially if you have leftover rice on hand.
It’s a mouthful of flavors and textures— bits of crispy rice mixed in with soft rice grains are layered with spicy and slightly sour notes from the kimchi and then even more spice and sweetness from the Korean chili paste.
It’s an endlessly versatile dish you can personalize with leftovers, aromatics, and ingredients from your fridge.
All About Kimchi
The longer kimchi sits the more it ferments and the more sour it can become and that’s what you want for fried rice.
The best kimchi to use for cooking fried rice is one that’s been sitting around in the fridge for a while and has gotten sour and funky. You want to use kimchi that has a complex flavor that you won’t necessarily find from fresh kimchi. Homemade or store-bought kimchi are both perfectly fine to use.
We are partial to this homemade Quick Kimchi on our site. If you make it from scratch, you’ll want to wait at least three weeks to get the full flavor for this recipe.
How to Make Kimchi Fried Rice
Using leftover rice is usually the best way to make fried rice. Not only are you using up leftovers, but the slightly dried out rice results in a fried rice that is less sticky and requires less oil.
However, when a craving for it hits me and I don’t have any rice languishing, I have no issues making a fresh pot of rice and then spreading it out onto a baking sheet to cool and slightly dry out, which is what I have done for this recipe.
To get perfect Kimchi Fried rice every time follow these tips:
Squeeze out your kimchi! Really give it a good wringing. You’ll be surprised how much liquid you can yield. The reason to squeeze out as much liquid as possible is two-fold. First, you want to get some caramelization on the kimchi and you’re not going to succeed with soggy kimchi. Secondly, kimchi needs to be covered in its liquid when stored or it starts to go bad, so you want to keep as much liquid in the jar to keep your remaining kimchi submerged.
Use a short or medium-grain rice for kimchi fried rice. Please note that this is not short-grain rice like Arborio or bomba rice. Think more along the lines of sushi rice. I prefer a type of rice called haiga, which has the layer of bran removed, but the germ intact. It’s not as chewy as brown rice but has more chew than white rice. In a pinch, use long grain rice like jasmine rice.
Do not constantly stir the rice while frying. Let the rice to sit in the pan for a minute or two to form a crust at the bottom, stir it up, and then let it sit again. This way you’ll get some crispy bits throughout the finished dish.
Swaps, Substitutions, and Add-ons
This is a super simple dish that doesn't require much, but if you’re looking to pare it down, lose the seaweed garnish or the garlic and/or onions. For meat-free fried rice exclude the bacon from this dish. The fried egg over top the rice is optional, but the broken yolk lends a nice richness to the final dish.
Korean-fried rice can also be gussied up with SPAM, hot dogs, even canned tuna. Alternatively, you can throw in leftover bits of cooked meat, fresh vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, celery, peppers or frozen mixed vegetables like peas and carrots.
Whatever your add-ins remember to be judicious because the more loaded up you make your fried rice, the wetter and heavier it gets.
How to Serve Kimchi Fried Rice
I like my Korean fried rice with a fried egg with lots of crispy edges which gives the dish different textures, while the garnishes layer on even more flavor.
The rice can be served on its own or with banchan, which are side dishes that can include pickles or seasoned vegetables. Unlike some other Asian cultures, Korean fried rice is usually served with a long-handled spoon, although any spoon will do.
Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)
For this recipe I’m making fresh rice, but my preferred way is to use up leftover rice. You will need either 2 cups of uncooked rice or 6 to 7 cups of leftover rice to make this recipe to serve 4.
- 2 cups short or medium grain rice, washed and drained
- 1 1/2 cups kimchi, packed
- 1/2 pound thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 small onion, chopped, about 1/2 cup
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias, whites and green separated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon gochujang
- 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon canola or other mild cooking oil, or as needed
- 4 large eggs (optional)
- To garnish
- 1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
- Roasted seaweed snack, thinly sliced
Prepare the rice:
In a medium saucepan, combine the rice and 2 cups of water. Cover the pot with a lid and cook rice on medium-low to low heat, until rice grains are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Check the pot about 10 minutes in to make sure the pot isn’t spluttering. If so, lower the heat. The power of stoves varies from stove to stove and my medium-low heat can be your low heat.
Spread rice onto baking sheet:
You’ll know the rice is done when it is tender and has absorbed all of the water. When the rice is done cooking, gently spread it out onto a baking sheet in an even layer to let it cool and dry out slightly.
You should yield 6 1/2 to 7 cups of rice. If you’re working with leftover cooked rice, bring it to room temperature and break up any large clumps.
Squeeze kimchi dry:
While the rice is cooling, prepare your other ingredients. Squeeze the kimchi firmly over a bowl so the juices run out. Keep the juice. You will use it later on.
If you yield less than 1/4 cup of juice, spoon some juice out of the kimchi jar to yield a total of 1/4 cup of juice.
Coarsely chop the kimchi and set aside.
Cook the bacon:
Set a large cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders out and the bacon is lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain excess grease. Leave 3 tablespoons of bacon fat in the skillet and transfer the remaining bacon fat to a bowl; you may want to add a little more fat to the pan later.
Cook the aromatics and kimchi in bacon fat:
Add the onions and scallion whites to the bacon fat in the skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are slightly colored, about 3 minutes.
Add the kimchi and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kimchi is slightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the reserved kimchi juice, salt, garlic, and gochujang and stir-fry until the sauce darkens slightly, about 2 minutes.
Finish the fried rice:
Add 2 tablespoons of reserved bacon fat or oil, if needed. Add the rice in batches, tossing to combine and evenly coat the rice with the aromatics, kimchi, and sauce. Let the rice cook undisturbed until the bottom layer of rice gets a little toasty, 1 to 2 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt.
Add the cooked bacon into the rice and stir to combine. Let the rice sit undisturbed again, another 1 to 2 minutes, then stir again.
Drizzle rice with sesame oil:
Divide the rice between 4 bowls and drizzle each with some sesame oil.
If using eggs, wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. Crack and add the eggs individually and cook sunny-side up until the whites are set and the yolk is at your desired doneness, 3 to 5 minutes. Top the fried rice with the eggs.
Garnish rice and serve:
Garnish rice with the scallion greens, sesame seeds, and seaweed. Serve immediately.