Kimchi Meatball Soup

I love meatballs and I really love kimchi.  So it was only a matter of time that I combined the two into my ultimate favorite food… soup.

Well, I really like butter, too, and I kinda went through a whole kimchi butter phase. I even toyed with the idea of calling my blog: KIMCHI BUTTER!™ (I will sue you.)  So, maybe I’ll do a separate post on the wonders and gustatory delights of kimchi butter. I mean, it’s kinda self explanatory. But, I feel like it needs to be done, or at least mentioned on *My Blog*. One time I made a mushroom risotto with shrimp and topped it all off with a dollop of kimchi butter. That was pretty much the best thing I’ve ever done with my life. 

Kimchi Meatball Soup recipe

I digress.

Okay, back to my main point, which is the loveliness of a good meatball soup taken to the next level with the fermented goodness that is kimchi. It’s belly soothing food. I tend to make it when I have some vegetables that need to get used up, run out of ideas, or when my man-friend is feeling a bit under the weather. But whenever we eat it, I’m like damn, girl this is tasty. And I tell myself I must make it more often. I’m sharing that damn, girl moment with you all. 

Because I heart soup, I like to keep a continual supply of beef broth and chicken broth in my freezer at all times, as well as a few pounds of ground meat. I’ve made this with half pork and half beef. Mostly beef and a few ounces of ground beef heart. And a few permutations of all three. (The soup pictured was made with all beef.) 

I’ve thrown everything in it from tomatoes, spinach, leeks, broccoli, bok choy, beech mushrooms, bell peppers, etc. Anything works. I’ve made some suggestions in the recipe. Feel free to mix it up or use what you have on hand. But do not, and I repeat, do not go hog wild on the actual meatball recipe. That has been delicately crafted. Thanks for understanding. 

The only specialty item you need is some Korean red pepper powder: gochugaru. I prefer brands made in Korea; they have a better flavor than Chinese brands. It keeps well in the freezer in-between uses, and if you like to make your own kimchi, then this will work perfectly for that, too. Gochuharu is found at your local Asian grocery store, but if you can’t find it locally then you can purchase it online

This is the same exact brand I use and purchase at my local Asian store. It’s the good stuff. A word of warning: If you get the good stuff, this is the real deal and I recommend that you start with a teaspoon and add a little more, tasting as you go. One tablespoon is mild for me, but I have an unnatural spice addiction. You may be normal. (Join my spice cult … we have salsa)

Wait. Kimchi might be a specialty item too?

Pretty sure everyone is down with some kimchi, right?

I always have a jar in my fridge. If it’s not homemade, I get one of the awesome brands from my local farmers’ market or organic shop. Finding a decent kimchi at the Asian grocery store may be a bit of hassle. Try to find one made in-house and without MSG or high fructose corn syrup. If you’d like to tackle your own fermented adventure, then check out the links at the end of the post. 

I like to serve this soup with white rice, but in a pinch I’ve used rice noodles and even potatoes. This is an easy-going, adaptable recipe. Except for the meatballs. Do not change the meatballs! 

I think the title says it all, but if you’d like to know more, here is what I can tell you: You will be awesome after you eat this tasty soupy delight.

Kimchi Meatball Soup Recipe

Prep Time 15 min
Cook Time 30 min
Total Time 45 min

For the meatballs

  1. 2 pounds ground meat (pork, beef or combo)
  2. 1 egg
  3. 2/3 cup chopped kimchi
  4. 1 cup chopped shittake mushroom
  5. 1 chopped scallion
  6. 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  7. 1.5 tablespoons chopped garlic
  8. salt
  9. black pepper

For the soup

  1. 2.5 tablespoons fat. (*Please see Notes.) I used a combo of butter and lard. (beef tallow or coconut oil works as well)
  2. 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  3. 2/3 cup sliced celery
  4. 1 cup carrots sliced into coins
  5. 1 small clove of garlic finely chopped, about 1 teaspoon
  6. 8 cups warmed beef broth or chicken broth
  7. 2 cups loosely packed sliced shiitake mushrooms
  8. 6 cups loosely packed chopped kale (or any other greens)
  9. Korean red pepper powder 1-3 teaspoons
  10. Salt and black pepper to taste
  11. chopped scallions to garnish

To make meatballs

  1. Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl. Combine well with hands.
  2. Wet hands and form meatballs a little smaller than a tennis ball. You should get approximately 10 meatballs. Place meatballs in a dish and leave in the fridge while you start the soup.

To make the soup

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat your fat on medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and allow to become translucent – about 4 minutes. Add carrots and celery and allow to soften slightly – about 2 mins. Lower heat and add chopped garlic. Allow to become very fragrant while stirring for about 30 seconds.
  2. Add warmed broth, bring to slight boil then lower to a medium-lowish heat. Add sliced mushrooms and kale. Cover and cook, not allowing to boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Add Korean red pepper powder one teaspoon at a time until desired spiciness is achieved. I added 3 teaspoons. Keep in mind the soups will be served with starch, so that will help cut the spiciness. Add salt and pepper. Taste and adjust as needed. Add enough salt!
  4. Adjust heat to low. Remove meatballs from the fridge and gently add each one to your soup pot. Cover and allow the meatballs to cook undisturbed for 10-20 minutes. The meatballs will float when cooked through.
  5. Garnish soup with chopped scallions and serve with rice.


  1. *If using a fatty ground pork or beef use less fat ~ 1.5 tablespoons instead of 2.5

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