How to make kimchi – a quick and easy recipe that only takes 30 minutes of hands-on-time before mother nature takes over! Full of healthy, gut-healing probiotics, the benefits of eating kimchi are endless. This authentic kimchi recipe is vegan adaptable, gluten-free and can be made as spicy or as mild as you like!
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.~Marcus Aurelius
Many years ago now, we catered a Korean wedding. I remember meeting with the bride and groom and listening very carefully about the importance of the kimchi being served. It had to be “just right”. Truth be told I was nervous, I had never made it back then, but the mother of the bride was kind enough to send me her personal kimchi recipe and thankfully I had time to practice it a few times before the big day.
In the end they were happy. And where ever they are now, I hope they are still. I’ve never counted the number of weddings we’ve catered, but every so often a couple pops into my mind, most often when I’m cooking, and I can’t help but give them a little nod and hope they’ve found the joy they were seeking.
Some of you may be still be unfamiliar with kimchi even though it’s become highly popular in the last 15 years here in the west. It’s basically spicy, fermented cabbage, kind of like the idea of sauerkraut, but with a Korean flavors – garlic, ginger & chilies. Kimchi is like the heart and soul of Korean cooking. And it’s tasty with so many things!
But the best thing about Kimchi? Kimchi is alive! Full of living, healthy good bacteria, or probiotics, that boost immunity, energize the body, and aid digestion, it is believed to fight cancer, lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar. Just google it and see for yourself.
Now if you are buying kimchi (which is totally fine!) just make sure it is in the refrigerated section of the grocery store (then you know it is alive) and check for msg, preservatives and especially nitrates- stay away from those. It is usually fine if it is refrigerated!
This easy kimchi recipe makes enough to fill a large two-quart mason jar (about 8 cups). It starts with one large Napa Cabbage. You’ll need ginger, garlic, scallions and most importantly Korean Chili Flakes called Gochugaru.
You can find Gochuguru at most Asian Markets or order online. You can add other veggies to the mix like matchstick daikon radish or carrots. Fish sauce adds depth but you can leave this out or use soy sauce, or vegan fish sauce. Sometimes, I’ll use miso paste to add depth if going vegan. If looking for a gluten-free version, liquid aminos work well too.
Like so many things, there are so many variations to kimchi, and people have their own personal preferences. I just wanted to provide you with a starting point, and I’m sure you will adapt to your own tastes!
And, to be clear this is not the exact recipe from the mother of the bride, but a little simplified. The ingredients are similar (except I believe she added dried shrimp) but I tried to make this as easy as possible. And guess what? It IS easy! And fun!
Save 1-2 outer leaves and place in a bag in the fridge ( you will use these later).
Cut the Napa cabbage into 1 inch cubes.
Place in a bowl and toss with 1/4 cup sea salt.
Fill bowl with water and stir, and soak cabbage for 6-8 hours.
Place plate over the cabbage to keep it submerged.
After 6- 8 hours, drain ( making sure to save the brine) and rinse, pressing the liquid out.
In this recipe I use Korean Chili Flakes called “Gochugaru” vs. the Korean fermented Chili Paste called “Gochujang”. Feel free to use Gochujang if you please. The reason I decided not to use the Gochujang, is Gochujang usually contains MSG and Nitrates, so I went a cleaner route today. Up to you.
In a food processor, make a paste with the garlic, ginger, shallot, chili flakes and optional fish sauce. If you want a mild version, use half the chili flakes. The fish sauce really adds a delicious complexity and depth, but you can of course keep it vegan.
Peel and cut the daikon radish ( or carrot) into match sticks, about 2-3 inches long. Cut the scallions.
Cut the scallions into 1-2 inch pieces.
Place the drained cabbage along with the daikon, scallions and chili paste into the bowl. Massage a bit with gloved hands.
This is a very mild version shown below, so not very red, ( 2 tablespoons chili flakes).
You can also add more chili flakes if you want it spicier – I normally add 4-6 tablespoons.
Pack this tightly into a large two quart mason jar or crock. (Or use two 4-cup mason jars.)
You want a good two inches of space at the top to catch the flavorful liquid that will release.
Pour a little of the brine into the jar, just to enough to cover the cabbage.
Cover with the cabbage leaf you saved, and press down. The leaf will help keep the cabbage submerged. Add a fermentation weight to keep cabbage submerged. Cover with a lid ( do not screw on tight) and place on a rimmed pan or bowl ( to collect any overflow) and set on the counter or basement for 3 days.
After 3 days, refrigerate! Your kimchi is done at this point and is OK to eat now, but it will continue to ferment and develop more flavor and complexity over the next two weeks in the fridge. It will keep for months on end in the fridge when the kimchi is submerged below the brine….getting better and more flavorful with time!
Store the kimchi in the fridge- covered, in the jar you made it in, or in a covered ceramic crock. This beautiful vintage crock is available at our Bowl and Pitcher Store)
You’ll find a many uses for kimchi at home.
A huge flavor booster!
So healthy and delicious!
How to Make Kimchi
A quick and easy recipe for authentic Kimchi, full of healthy probiotics that will keep for months in the fridge. Easy, flavorful and adaptable! Vegan adaptable!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 days
- Total Time: 72 hours 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 cups 1x
- Category: fermented, sides, preserved
- Method: fermented
- Cuisine: Korean
- 2 pounds napa cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces (one large cabbage)
- ¼ cup sea salt
- 2 cups daikon radish, cut into matchstick strips (optional, or use carrots)
- 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced ( 2-3 disks, peels ok)
- 6 cloves garlic, whole
- 1 shallot, quartered (optional)
- 2–6 tablespoons Korean-style red pepper flakes (gochugaru) See notes!
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce ( or use vegan fish sauce, miso, or soy sauce), more to taste
- 2 teaspoons sugar ( or alternative)
- OPTIONAL :1 tablespoon glutenous rice powder ( see notes)
- Reserve 1-2 outer leaves of the napa cabbage and refrigerate for later use (wrap in plastic). Cut remaining cabbage and place it in a bowl with the salt and toss. Add enough cool water to cover the cabbage and stir until salt is dissolved. Keep the cabbage submerged with a plate over the bowl and let stand at room temperature 6-8 hours (giving a stir midway through if possible) or overnight.
- Drain the cabbage, saving the brine. Rinse cabbage, drain, squeeze out any excess water and place it back in the bowl, adding the daikon radish and scallions.
- Place the ginger, garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes, fish sauce ( or alternatives) and sugar in your food processor. Process until well combined, pulsing, until it becomes a paste. Scoop over the cabbage and using tongs or gloves, mix and massage the vegetables and the red pepper mixture together really well, until well coated. Pack the cabbage into a large two quart glass jar (or two, 1 quart jars) or a crock, leaving 1-2 inches room at the top for juices to release. Add a little of the reserved brine to just cover the vegetables, pressing them down a bit. Place the whole cabbage leaf over top, pressing down- this should help keep the kimchi submerged under the brine. You can also use a fermentation weight placed over top the whole leaf to keep it submerged.
- Cover loosely with a lid ( allowing air to escape) and place the jar in a baking dish ( or big bowl) to collect any juices that may escape. (The idea though, is to keep as much of the flavorful juice in the jar, so don’t over fill)
- Leave on the counter for 3 days, then store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator where it will continue to ferment. You can press down on the kimchi daily with the back of a wooden spoon to keep it submerged.
- After 3 days, the kimchi is ready, but won’t achieve its full flavor and complexity, until about 2 weeks ( in the fridge) slowly fermenting. The longer you ferment, the more complex and sour the taste.
- This will keep for months on end in the fridge ( as long as it is submerged in the brine) and will continue to ferment very slowly, getting more and more flavorful.
- To serve it in a bowl as a side dish, scoop out using a slotted spoon, drizzle with sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds, fresh scallions.
For milder kimchi, start with 2 tablespoons Korean chili flakes ( you can always stir in more). I like a spicy version with 6 tablespoons. 4 tablespoons is medium spicy.
If you like your kimchi, thick, and less watery, you can use sweet rice powder (also called glutinous rice powder ) to thicken. Cook 1 tablespoon glutenous rice powder with ½ cup water, in a small pot over medium heat, stirring constantly until it boils. Let cool, still whisking occasionally. Add to the chili paste in the food processor. Continue with recipe.
- Calories: 115
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