Categories: Food & Recipes

A Guide to Kimbap + a Review of Trader Joes Kimbap · i am a food blog | Selfimprovementblogs

I was perusing the frozen section at Trader Joe’s last week, as one does, and I noticed that they had frozen kimbap.

Of course we had to try it! I didn’t even know frozen kimbap was a thing, bit apparently it’s super common in Korea and at Korean grocery stores.

What is kimbap

If you’re reading all this and wondering, what is kimbap, I got you! Kimbap (or gimbap) is a Korean roll similar to a maki sushi roll with rice, seaweed, vegetables and cooked protein. The name kimbap 김밥 comes from kim/gim which means seaweed and bap, which means rice. Unlike Japanese norimaki sushi rolls, kimbap is always made with cooked protein and finished with a brush of toasted sesame oil. Kimbap is for snacking, picnics, lunch boxes, and takeout. Its convenient portability and deliciousness makes it a perfect food.


The thing is, between the first time of me spotting the rolls, tasting the rolls, and deciding that I wanted more of the rolls, Trader Joe’s kimbap went viral on Tiktok. There were a bunch of Tiktok taste test videos, ranging from high praise to don’t waste your money. That was more than enough to cause massive interest. A casual google search led to reddit threads where people reported customers buying up to 15 rolls in one shopping trip. Add to that many people saying that kimbap is easy to make and readily available at Korean grocery stores and you have yourself a full blown kimbap controversy.

Trader Joe’s kimbap review

Spoiler alert: I liked them! Enough to want to buy them again! Mike wasn’t particularly invested, but after tasting it, we both agreed it was pretty good. We bought one roll to try the first time and I like it so much that the next time we went to Trader Joe’s we bought two rolls. I promptly ate both of them by myself and experienced major disappointment when they were sold out on our next TJ’s run. Apparently they’re having some supply chain issues – they didn’t expect it to become such a popular item and now won’t have any more available until November. Tragedy!

How to eat frozen kimbap

Having never seen frozen kimbap, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work. Kimbap is almost always freshly made then served the same day, mostly due to the rice. Cold rice, as I’m sure you know, doesn’t retain the same softness and moisture as fresh rice. For the Trader Joe’s kimbap, the instructions have you microwave it for two minutes then let it rest for one. After resting, you just eat it! You don’t need any dipping sauces because unlike with sushi, Kimbap is meant to be perfectly seasoned as-is.

When will Trader Joe’s have more kimbap?

They’re saying a restock will happen in November but some Trader Joe’s still have a lot of rolls, so maybe they’ll move them around to stores that have demand. The kimbap comes from Korea and the factory there needs time to produce more.

Where else can I find frozen kimbap?

If you live near a Korean or Asian grocery store, check the frozen aisle, you might find a variety of frozen kimbap there. There are multiple imported Korean brands that make frozen kimbap.

Where can I find it fresh?

Korean grocery stores sell fresh kimpab in with they’re ready to eat offerings. You can also order kimbap from a Korean restaurant. If you live in a city with a large Korean population, you should be able to find at least one dedicated kimbap restaurant.

Can you make it at home?

Definitely! It’s something that all Koreans enjoy at home. It takes a bit of time to make all the components but the process of cooking the components and assembly of the rolls is simple.

The most common fillings are: pickled radish, carrots, cucumber, egg, spinach, imitation crab meat, burdock, fish cake, bulgogi, tuna salad, and kimchi. A mix and match of these ingredients is what you’ll find in most kimbap.

How to make kimbap

  1. Make and season the rice: Sprinkle salt and toasted sesame oil over warm rice, mixing in gently.
  2. Prep the beef: marinate thinly sliced beef with soy sauce, sugar, and toasted sesame oil. Fry it over medium high heat until it’s cooked through, then set aside.
  3. Prep the spinach: blanch the spinach, then squeeze out all of the water. Season with salt and a bit of toasted sesame oil.
  4. Prep the carrots: massage the carrots with a bit of salt and let them soften. Squeeze out any excess water then gently fry in toasted sesame oil and let cool.
  5. Prep the daikon: Trim the daikon radish into the right length spears so it fits neatly onto the seaweed sheet.
  6. Roll: Place a sheet of seaweed, shiny side down on a rolling mat. Evenly spread rice onto the seaweed, leaving a slight gap at the top. Place the fillings in the middle of the rice covered seaweed sheet, then use the mat to tightly roll the rice and seaweed over the fillings. Repeat as needed.
  7. Slice: Slice the kimbap into 1/4 inch slices and arrange onto a plate.
  8. Enjoy: Dig in and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Kimbap ingredients

For this kimbap we’re going to go with a classic mix of pickled daikon, carrot, spinach, and beef.

  • rice – short grain rice is what you need because it’s soft and slightly sticky.
  • seaweed – large sheets of roasted seaweed, just like the kind used for sushi.
  • danmuji – danmuji is bright yellow pickled daikon. They sell it at Korean grocery stores whole and you can cut it yourself OR you can make it at home with fresh daikon. If
  • you’re making danmuji at home, make sure you do it the day before because it needs to pickle for 24 hours.
  • carrot – matchstick carrots are a massaged with salt then gently cooked so they add a bright orange punch and crunchy texture.
  • spinach – blanched spinach seasoned with toasted sesame oil adds a hint of softness and color.
  • beef – thinly slice steak marinated with soy and a bit of sugar hints at a quick take on bulgogi.
  • toasted sesame oil – toasted sesame oil is key! It adds so much flavor to kimbap.

Have you tried the Trader Joe’s rolls? Will you be making your own (recipe coming soon!) or are you going to make your way to a Korean grocery store to grab some freshly made rolls? Either way, happy kimbap-ing!

xoxo steph


How to make the best kimbap

Serves 4

Prep Time 1 hour

Cook Time 0 minutes

Total Time 1 hour

  • 4 cups cooked rice short grain preferred
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
  • 4 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 lb steak of choice thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 8 oz spinach baby spinach preferred
  • 1 large carrot cut into small matchsticks
  • 4-8 strips danmuji see notes
  • 4 sheets seaweed
  • Place warm rice in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp toasted sesame oil. Fluff the rice, mixing the salt and and oil into the rice evenly. Let cool while you prep the other ingredients.

  • Marinate the thin slices of steak with 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp sugar, and 2 tsp toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

  • Quickly blanch the spinach in boiling hot water and cool immediately in ice water. Squeeze the water out of the spinach and mix with a sprinkle of salt and a 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil. Set aside.

  • Massage the carrots with a sprinkle of salt and let soften for 2-3 minutes then squeeze any excess water out of the carrots. Sauté the carrots in a non-stick frying pan over medium low heat with a 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil until slightly soft, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.

  • If needed, prep the danmuji by making sure it’s trimmed to fit the length of the seaweed sheets.

  • Fry the beef in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat stirring as needed until cooked through. Remove from the pan and let cool.

  • Place a sheet of seaweed, shiny side down, on a rolling mat. Evenly spread 1 cup of the prepared rice onto the seaweed, leaving 2 inches uncovered on the top portion of the seaweed. Place 1/4 of the beef, carrots, daikon, and spinach evenly in a neat row in the middle of the rice.

  • Use both hands and the mat to roll up the rice and seaweed tightly over the fillings until you reach the top of the seaweed where there is no rice. Let the kimbap sit, seam side down, while you repeat with the remaining ingredients.

  • Lightly brush the rolls with toasted sesame oil then slice into 1/2 inch bite size pieces and enjoy!

Quick pickled danmuji
makes 1 lb picked daikon
prep 10 minutes
pickle 24 hours

8 inch length daikon
1 cup water
1 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

Peel and cut the daikon into 4 inch long strips that are about 1/4 inch thick.
Combine the water, rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and turmeric in a small pot and bring to a simmer of medium heat, stirring, until the sugar and salt dissolves. Remove from the heat.
Place the daikon strips into an airtight container and carefully pour the pickling water over the daikon. Let cool, then cover, submerging the daikon in the pickling juice. Pickle for 24 hours minimum before enjoying!

Nutrition Facts


Amount Per Serving

Calories 401
Calories from Fat 65

% Daily Value*

Fat 7.2g11%

Saturated Fat 1.8g11%

Cholesterol 31mg10%

Sodium 269mg12%

Potassium 669mg19%

Carbohydrates 57.7g19%

Fiber 2.3g10%

Sugar 2.3g3%

Protein 23.4g47%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


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