Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon 1
Friends….so much to tell, not to mention this incredible fusion of Irish and Korean cuisine. Where to begin? Let’s start with my trip to Wisconsin last month to Sargento Cheese Headquarters where I found my inspiration for this amazing dish.

A while back Sargento Cheese began working with celebrity Chef Rick Bayless on a project to identify upcoming flavor and food trends for 2013. Sargento went on to hire food writers and recipe developers, myself included, to explore these trends and how they relate to cheese over the next year. 

It’s truly an exciting project and my time spent at Sargento was nothing less than amazing, enlightening and not to mention “cheesy” in the best way imaginable. 

Sargento Flavor Journey Correspondants 2013 with Rick Bayless
Here we are, the Sargento Flavor Journey Correspondents for 2013, (left) Bren, Bree, Chef Rick Bayless, Cara, Ann and me.

We are not just smiling because we have spent a wonderful afternoon with Rick Bayless but also indulging in the flavor trends Chef Bayless has identified. This was followed by cheese and wine tasting and dinner. Pure Wisconsin bliss with lots of new friends made. I could gush for hours about the hospitality there and the wonderful way we were received. 

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon cooking at Sargento in Wisconsin
Sargento culinary expert and executive chef, Ulrich Koberstein, was tasked with creating a menu to include the identified flavor trends. I tasted foods I had never experienced and other familiar tastes in ways I might have never put together on the same plate. 

What you see above are shrimp wrapped in Kataifi, deep fried and placed in a flour tortilla with Sargento cheese and topped with a ginger pesto. There were no words for the flavor explosion that occurred there. It was truly food nirvana!!
Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon Kimchi Fries
And then came the kimchi.

In all honesty I had never tried it, even though it’s been on my culinary bucket list for some time. Have you experienced it? Lucky for me Chef Bayless identified fermented food as “in demand” over the next year and it is one of the flavor trends I will personally be exploring. 

Pictured above are Kimchi Fries made for us by Chef Koberstein in the Sargento kitchen. Wow, I was in love…love…love with the melding of the sour taste of the kimchi and the affect it had on the fries seasoned with Chinese-Five Spice powder. Topped off with pulled pork and spicy sauce, it was foodie heaven. My brain never even considered these flavors playing together in one dish.

Right then I began imagining how kimchi and other fermented foods would welcome themselves into my cooking. 

Ironically, as a winemaker, managing fermentation is part of what I do. It’s the perfect food trend for me to explore in this culinary expedition. Fermentation is something I understand completely on the scientific level and am looking forward to creating and playing with its flavors in my kitchen.

What fascinates me most about fermented foods is the evolution in taste and flavor they produce over time. In no way are they static. Starting out as one taste and changing into something more complex and flavorful is an exciting result. It was the process of fermentation and its outcomes that propelled me towards winemaking as a career. Wine never tastes the same from year to year. It evolves. It’s alive. It’s fascinating.

And I must mention I grew up on fermented food. Heralding from 100% Polish descent, you can almost guarantee sauerkraut was in my baby bottle. My mom’s homemade sauerkraut is by far one of the biggest food pleasures in my life. Basically fermented food and I have a long history.

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon Kimchi I Used
As I mentioned before, my experience with kimchi is isolated, unlike Korean households who eat upwards of 40 pounds of kimchi per person every year. So before I attempt making it on my own I needed a better grasp of what it tasted like. The fermented cabbage is made with salt, vinegar, garlic, chili peppers and other spices. I have read about all kinds of ways to create it and different experiences people have had with it, good and bad. I look forward to trying some of those methods and settling on something for my palate.

However, this is the brand I have seen on my grocery shelf for ages, it’s refrigerated in the produce section of the market. While kimchi can be made with lots of different vegetables, napa cabbage is what we see most in the jars of the American grocery stores. Kimchi has lots of regional variation within Korea itself, affecting how it is seasoned with what’s available in those areas of the country.

We can also not discount the health benefits of fermented food in our diets, boasting “healthy bacteria” and vitamins in every serving.

However, the really strong aromas and taste of kimchi may be overwhelming for some and can really “get” to some people. Think of the foods or beverages you tried for the first time with a negative experience. Only to find you love them now. Like beer, ha-ha.  

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon Kimchi warming in pan
Why Colcannon and kimchi?

When I started food blogging over five years ago, I had no idea what Colcannon even was. Never heard of it and I’d been around the “food block” many times. But as I was reading other food blogs I noticed an explosion of Colcannon recipes on the web around St. Patrick’s Day. What was it?

It turns out Colcannon was just mashed potatoes, sauteed cabbage and sometimes bacon with the volume turned up on the butter and cream. I was a little shocked I had not been confronted with this dish in my life. Cabbage had worked itself into so many of my food experiences, why not potatoes, an obvious staple of my Eastern European heritage.

Luckily, I have been enjoying Colcannon ever since. And I couldn’t imagine a St. Patrick’s Day meal without it. 

So, when kimchi came into my world last month, my mind immediately went to Colcannon. It seemed natural to combine these two unlikely cultural food experiences. Hoping the result would be something bigger and bolder than the sum of their parts.

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon with Sargento Pepper Jack Cheese
However, I wasn’t done. Adding cheese to my Colcannon brought another layer of flavor and creaminess. Although cheese in Colcannon is not traditional, I have never been one to play by the rules.

While at Sargento, I learned why their pepper jack cheese had an edge above the rest. They add habanero chili to flavor their pepper jack cheese along with the usual jalapeno. The habanero’s spicy heat is easily balanced with the cheese, making it the perfect addition to my Kimchi Colcannon.

And it’s worth mentioning the habanero chili is another flavor trend Chef Bayless has identified. Many of our palates have evolved and welcomed the jalapeno and the chipotle into our meals. Now, we are looking ahead for the next level of spiciness and distinct taste. For many, that uniqueness and complexity has been discovered in the habanero chili. It’s definitely here to stay.

Print Recipe

Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon

Recipe from: Created by Cathy Pollak for | Serves: Serves 6-8


  • 4-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 jar (11 ounces) kimchi
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 4 cups shredded Sargento Pepper Jack Cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • chopped fresh parsley


  • Pour kimchi into a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. (use your exhaust fan) Warm kimchi through, cooking off some of the watery liquid in the pan; About 5 minutes.
  • Place potatoes in a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Continue cooking until potatoes are soft and can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain and place potatoes back in pot over low heat on the stove for 2 minutes while mashing with a potato masher (this helps remove the residual water from the cooking process). Turn off heat.
  • Add butter, cream and cheese into the hot potatoes and continue to mash to your desired consistency. Stir in warmed kimchi and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
Cheesy Kimchi Colcannon perfect for St  Patricks Day
This dish is great for anyone trying kimchi for the first time. It lets you ease into the flavors. For some, the taste of kimchi might be surprising and for others it will taste familiar and comforting. I loved it immediately and I can’t wait to experience it with other unlikely cuisine.

The kimchi does bring a lot of heat and spice, but it is calmed immediately by the potatoes and cheese in this flavorful dish.

Fun fact: I have read Korean’s do not say “cheese” when they take a picture, they say “kimchi”. Cute right?

Disclosure: I am currently working with Sargento Cheese over the next year as a Flavor Journey Correspondent. While I have been compensated for my time, as always, all opinions are my own.

One Year Ago: St. Patrick’s Day Recipes
Three Years Ago: Hilary’s Heavenly Eggs
Four Years Ago: Medley of Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic Glazed Onions
Five Years Ago: Filo Tomato Tart 

Post a Comment

18 Comments and 11 Replies

  1. Lacey 1

    Oh wow, I’ve been looking for a way to try kimchi and this seems very unique! I’ve heard so much about it. I think I need to take the plunge.

  2. Barb W 3

    So I love Colecannon and I’m into kimchi…it sounds like a great idea to me. Love the cheese addition to Colecannon.

    • Cathy 4

      Barb you will love the cheese in the Colecannon, it’s the perfect addition and the pepper jack gives it some spice.

  3. Jay 72 5

    Kimchi has been on my bucket list too. You have convinced me to try. Love Colecannon as well as a I grew up in an Irish home.

  4. Elaine Inaba 7

    I have begun to develop a taste for kimchee too.

    Here’s an easy and delicious dip recipe-
    a block of cream cheese
    1/2 cup of kimchee, chopped finely
    1-2 Tablespoons juice from kimchee
    Mix altogether.

    • Cathy 8

      Elaine that sounds great. I can see how the tang of the cream cheese would fit well with the kimchee. I bet a little shredded cheese would be good in there too.

  5. Rita Forrester 9

    Wow kimchi. There is a food truck in my area of Los Angeles that sells kimchi fries smothered in cheese and the line is always so long! I am dying to try them.

    This is a very creative recipe as I am also a lover of Colecannon. I can see how the cheese would fit in nicely here. I might just surprise my family with this. They are into all kinds of ethnic foods.

    • Cathy 10

      I have heard of the food trucks with the kimchi fries and their special sauces, I can’t wait to try them too. If you make this, let me know your thoughts.

  6. Melissa from Louisiana 11

    Hi Rick Bayless! I love you!

  7. leslie 12

    What a fun little trip!!!! I have never had kimchi…I know I know!

  8. Cara 13

    Love the write-up, Cathy, and the recipe!

  9. This looks amazing, Cath!! And how awesome that you met Rick Bayless, he’s one of my favorite chefs.

  10. This is a great idea for St Pat’s Day! I love using kimchi in corned beef and cabbage burritos and reuben sandwiches with my leftover St Pat’s Day corned beef leftovers.

  11. Maria in Oregon 19

    I’ll definitely try this! I grew up on “bubble and squeek,” which is the British version of colcannon, but my tastebuds have evolved to love spicy foods. What a great combination this is!

  12. I’m wary of foods I can’t pronounce but it does look really good.

  13. June g. 23

    I’ll love kimchi! My Japanese mom would make it when I was a little girl:) I’m part Irish too, so this is the best of both worlds!

  14. Lindsay 24

    I’m an English teacher living in Busan, South Korea and kimchi grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Saute the kimchi for a bit beforehand and it develops this wonderful, crispy, caramelized goodness that is too good for words. Throw it in between two pieces of buttered bread with some good, sharp cheddar (hard to find in Korea, but worth it!!), crisp it up in the frying pan and you are in culinary nirvana. I like to dip them into ketchup mixed with gochujang as well, to take it over the top. BEYOND YUM!! Darn it, now I’m hungry! ;)

  15. Wow…I love it!

    It kinda reminds me of Thanksgiving…we always had a huge spread of Korean dishes and then the obligatory turkey and sides! The kimchi was a nice accent to the turkey, potatoes, stuffing, and gravy. I’m drooling just thinking about it!

  16. It just doesn’t get any more comforting than this. Fabulous recipe…and thank you for sharing it!!

  17. Ann 28

    Great post, Cathy! I enjoyed reliving the deliciously fun experience we had in Wisconsin and your recipe looks incredible. Food nirvana, indeed!

  18. BigGuy 29

    When baking or cooking atop a stove or making mashed potatoes, evaporated milk is simpler and cheaper — and usually better — than heavy cream. Save some money and produce a better result using a can of evaporated milk instead of a cup of heavy cream.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.

You can click here to Subscribe without commenting