Jeotgal is mainly used as a condiment in pickling kimchi and as a dipping sauce for pig's feet (jokbal) and blood/noodle sausage (sundae). Sometimes jeotgal, commonly saeujeot, is added to Korean style stews (jjigae) and soups (guk and tang), for flavor instead of using salt or soy sauce (ganjang).
The types of jeotgal vary depending on main ingredients, regions, and family and personal preferences. In past times, due to the limited transportation, regions near seas had more types of jeot compared to the inland areas.
The Erya (爾雅), a Chinese dictionary written in the 3rd-5th centuries BC, contains a record about ji (鮨), the origin of jeotgal. Ji indicates jeotgal, food made with fish and is the oldest documents mentioning this food in the historical records.