Light, delicious, umami-filled Tuna (Chamchi) Kimchi Fried Rice takes only 15 minutes from start to finish!
One of my favorite Korean food pairings is Kimchi + Tuna.
Yes, kimchi and tuna taste AMAZING together! All the bright acidity of kimchi. All the briny, umami-packed flavor of tuna. SO GOOD!
While I love Spam Kimchi Fried Rice, it’s better as a luxurious treat. For an everyday Kimchi Fried Rice recipe, I prefer canned tuna. A light, quick, and easy swap. But without all that saturated fat and heaviness.
Why canned Tuna?
Korea is a peninsula surrounded by water. Not surprisingly, fish is a staple part of the Korean diet. Canned tuna fish, called “Chamchi” in Korean, is much beloved as a Korean home cooking staple.
The benefits of canned tuna are many:
- high in protein
- full of healthy, omega-3 fatty acids
- low in calories + saturated fats
- easy to find at grocery stores
- lasts a long time in the pantry
One humble can of tuna transforms regular Kimchi Fried Rice into something very special!
Other Korean recipes starring canned tuna fish: Spicy Tuna Gimbap, Tuna Doepbap, Tuna Kimchi Pancakes, Tuna Kimchi Jjigae, Tuna Jumeokbap!
What kind of canned tuna should I use?
I’ve made Tuna (Chamchi) Kimchi Fried Rice with just about every kind of canned tuna. They are all good.
There are 4 kinds generally available in grocery stores:
- Korean Spicy Canned Tuna. At the Korean market, there are several varieties of spicy canned tuna. They contain gochujang, spicy oil/sauce, crab, kimchi, and even bits of cubed potato. My favorite tuna.
- Korean Non-Spicy Canned Tuna. Tastes the same as tuna packed in water.
- Tuna packed in oil. Even when drained well, the residual traces of oil adds richness and deep briny flavor. The oil doesn’t taste too heavy or fishy.
- Tuna packed in water. More light tasting than tuna packed in oil, it still adds flavor and heft.
Cooking Tip for Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice: Use a non-stick skillet!
A non-stick skillet is ideal. The ingredients tend to stick and burn in stainless steel pans. Non-stick surfaces also don’t require a lot of oil — too much can make this recipe overwhelmingly greasy.
A cast iron skillet or wok will also work. But make sure they are well seasoned and non-stick!
Note: Enameled cast iron (such as Le Creuset or Staub dutch ovens) do not work well with this recipe. Everything sticks and burns.
What’s in Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice? 6 pantry ingredients you may already have in your pantry:
- Kimchi. Use kimchi that’s very sour, ripe, and well fermented for best flavor. When cooked, old kimchi mellows out and takes on a deep intense flavor. New kimchi will not taste good.
- Canned Tuna. Any kind of canned tuna works!
- Leftover Rice. Cold, leftover rice that’s been in the fridge for a day or two works best. The hard rice grains are perfect for fried rice! Freshly cooked rice is too warm and soft; the final dish will be mushy.
- Sesame Oil. A little drizzle of sesame oil adds nutty fragrance.
- Green Onions. The aromatic that keeps things fresh!
- Fish Sauce. Sprinkle a little bit at the end for better flavor.
Optional but very delicious toppings:
- Furikake. A delicious layer of flavor!
- Sriracha. Adds that extra layer of spice and flavor! Drizzle as much as you like.
- Fried Egg. The Korean way to make a complete meal out of anything: top with a golden runny fried egg. Adds protein and that yolky goodness when it spills onto the rice — YUM!
Watch how to make Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice:
Easy Tuna Kimchi Fried Rice
- 1 150g/5.29oz can Tuna, packed in oil or water
- 1 1/2 cup kimchi + kimchi juice (old, well fermented kimchi preferred)
- 3 cups cold, leftover rice (cooked)
- 2 green onions, chopped
- fish sauce (light sprinkle, depending on taste)
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 2 Fried Eggs
- Furikake (optional)
- Sriracha (optional)
- In a small bowl, cut kimchi into bite-sized pieces with scissors. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium heat and add a little oil (1-2 tsp). Add kimchi and kimchi juice. Cook, mixing with wooden spoon, until golden orange, caramelized, and reduced in liquid. This process should take about 4-5 minutes.
- Add drained tuna and continue cooking, mixing well with the kimchi in the pan, about 2 minutes. Break up big chunks of tuna with a wooden spoon.
- Add cold rice, breaking up the big chunks that clump together with the back of the wooden spoon. Keep mixing and cooking until the ingredients are well distributed and the rice is heated through, about 4-6 minutes. Toss the rice a few times (if you are comfortable with this technique) to make sure it's evenly cooked. There should be no big chunks of white rice.
- NOTE: When using canned tuna packed in water, you may need to add 1-3 tsp of oil to the skillet at this point. This will prevent sticking and also help to fry up the rice. You should hear a sizzle!
- Taste and add a sprinkle of fish sauce, if needed. Drizzle with sesame oil. Add green onions. Cook for 1 minute longer, mixing well.
- Divide evenly between two bowls. Top with a fried egg, furikake, and a drizzle of sriracha, if using. Enjoy!