Kimchi is a Korean food that’s served with most meals like fried rice, soup, noodles, dumplings and stir fry. Many people also eat it as a side dish.
Our authentic Kimchi recipe is easy to make and follows the traditional fermentation process.
The flavor of homemade kimchi is so much better than anything you can buy at the grocery store too.
Easy Kimchi Recipe
- 1 head Napa cabbage
- ¼ cup sea salt
- Filtered water
- ½ pound daikon radish - peeled and sliced into thin matchsticks
- 6 green onions - sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1-inch pieces
Chili Paste Ingredients
- 3 tablespoon garlic - minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger - grated
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ¼ cup filtered water
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons Korean Gochugaru Red Pepper Flakes - or more or less to your taste
- Cutting Board
- Large bowl
- Small bowl
- Spoon or whisk
- Plates or other weights
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Mason jars
- Quarter your Napa cabbage lengthwise, then remove the core if necessary. Slice each quarter into 2-inch strips. Place the chopped Napa cabbage leaves into big bowl.
- Sprinkle salt over the Napa cabbage, then massage it until it begins to soften.
- Once it starts softening, add just enough filtered water to cover the cabbage. Place something like a plate on top of the cabbage to weight it down. All of the cabbage needs to stay under the water, so make sure it’s weighted down well.
- Let the Napa cabbage soak in the salt water for about 6 hours, then pour the cabbage into a fine mesh strainer and run it under cold water for a few minutes. Leave the strainer in the sink to drain for about 20 minutes so all of the excess water can drain out.
- In a small bowl, combine the ginger, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, ¼ cup of filtered water and Gochugaru pepper. Stir until a chile paste forms. You can leave the garlic a bit chunkier like we like it, or you can make a smooth paste by running it through a food processor.
- Squeeze any excess water from your cabbage place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the Daikon radish, green onions and your paste.
- Carefully massage the Kimchi paste into the vegetables until everything is evenly coated. I highly recommend wearing food prep gloves as the Korean pepper can sting a bit.
- Once the veggies are evenly coated with the paste, transfer the mixture into a mason jar. You really want to pack it in there, so press down on it until the vegetables are covered by brine. I usually get 2-3 pints (1-1.5 quarts). Leave about an inch of headspace (it will expand a lot as it starts to ferment) and seal your mason jar with a lid and ring.
- Place your jar in a dark place on top of a towel (one you don’t mind if it gets stained) and let it sit for 2-6 days at room temperature. You’ll start to see bubbles in the mason jar and some of the brine may escape. The next day and every day after, open the jar to release the pressure and taste your kimchi. The kimchi may expand significantly when you open the jar, so you’ll want to press it back down under the brine before re-sealing your mason jar. Do this with a gloved hand, not a metal spoon (unless you know for certain it is pure stainless steel with no other metals mixed in).
- Once the kimchi tastes done to you, move the jar to the refrigerator for storage. Enjoy your fresh kimchi with your favorite Korean dishes – or all on its own!
Nutrition Information Per Serving
Tips for Homemade Kimchi
1. What does kimchi taste like?
If you’ve had traditionally fermented sauerkraut, Kimchi tastes somewhat similar. Imagine combining that with spicy Korean flavors. It’s so good! You just have to try it.
2. What is lacto-fermentation?
Kimchi is made through a process called lacto-fermentation, which is a traditional method for preserving foods, primarily vegetables. It’s also used to make real sauerkraut and things like my Spicy Carrots recipe and my Lacto-Fermented Orange Juice recipe.
All you need to make lacto-fermented foods like this Kimchi is the right balance of veggies, salt and water (and any spices you may want to add). The salt is a very important ingredient because it helps to kill the harmful bacteria and allow the “good” bacteria (Lactobacillus) to grow. The sugar helps this process along too.
You can also add a vegetable starter culture to boost your ferment, but it’s not always necessary. Cultures for Health is my favorite place for fermentation supplies – they have an awesome Fermented Veggie Starter Kit if you plan to make fermented foods regularly.
3. Why is there so much variation in fermentation time?
Like other cultured foods, Napa cabbage kimchi ferments at a pace that varies on a lot of factors like temperature, humidity, etc. Kimchi is one lacto-fermented food that can be made in areas with cooler temps as the ideal temperature for making kimchi is 68° F.
So if you’re used to making cultured foods that need warmer temperatures like Kombucha Tea, you’ll need to check your kimchi more often. I check mine 2-3 times a day. As soon as the flavors start to meld and the bubbling dies down, I transfer it to the fridge.
It’ll continue to ripen slowly in the fridge so it’s better to put it in the fridge too soon than too late. If you refrigerate it and realize it needs more time to ripen on the counter, just take it out and give it more time.
On the other hand, if you let it go too long, it can develop a sour flavor that you can’t reverse. It’s okay to eat kimchi that was fermented too long, but most people prefer to cook it at that point.
4. How to eat kimchi?
You can eat kimchi as a snack, condiment or side dish. We typically eat ours raw along with our meals, but it can be cooked in many recipes as well.
Here are some of the best recipes using Kimchi to try:
5. How to store kimchi?
Even though Kimchi is fermented at room temperature, it needs to be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Kimchi will typically last for at least a month in a properly cooled refrigerator. It may last more than 3 months in a fridge that’s very cold (near freezing temperature).
6. How to adjust the spiciness?
The recipe above calls for 3 tablespoons of Gochugaru, which will give you an authentic spicy kimchi flavor. If you don’t have a high heat tolerance, you can adjust the spicy level.
- Mild: 1 tablespoon
- Medium: 2 tablespoons
- Spicy: 3 tablespoons
- Extra spicy: ¼ cup
I find that as the kimchi goes through the fermentation process, the spice level mellows as bit well.
7. Can you make vegan kimchi?
If you’re looking for a vegan kimchi recipe, try substituting soy sauce for fish sauce. The flavor won’t be quite the same, but it’s still really good!
If you want to take some extra time to get a more similar flavor, you can also make your own vegan fish sauce.
8. Is it okay to substitute kosher salt?
Yes, if you don’t have sea salt, you can use kosher salt or any table salt in its place. Just make sure it’s not ionized or fluoridated as that may inhibit the fermentation process.
9. Where to get Korean Gochugaru Pepper?
Gochugaru is basically Korean chili powder, which you can get at most Asian markets and even many normal grocery stores. As far as buying it online, Cultures for Health carries it if you don’t have a Korean grocery market in your area.