how to make kimchi

Kimchi (or Kimchee) has become one of those uber-trendy “foodie” foods in the past few years, even though it’s been around for centuries. Have I mentioned how much I dislike the term “foodie” yet? This seems to have become a term that simply means someone who likes to eat, regardless of their knowledge of food or the preparation of it. Rant: over.

Kimchi bases its roots in Korea, where this fermented food has hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of it. There are sweet variations and savory variations, spicy variations and mild variations…they really seem endless if you do your research.

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The basis of all Kimchi is that it’s fermented, which is foreign to many while continuing to be a staple in Korean dishes. If you look at the Asian diet as a whole, you’ll see there are many foods, fermented and raw, that have been shown to contribute to their longevity. Our Western diet, full of saturated fats, sugars and processed foods, is a glaring juxtaposition to the foods of our Eastern counterparts, who consume a diet mostly based on raw or slightly-cooked vegetables, fermented foods, fish and lean meats.

I’ve made a ton of sauerkraut at this point and will continue to do so. There’s just nothing easier to make, as far as fermented foods go. The beauty of kimchi – at least the kind I make – is that the wait time is shorter than sauerkraut; I let mine ferment for just about a week. Again, there are a ton of variations on kimchi, so feel free to adjust this to your taste. Also, the daikon radish is the type of radish typically used in kimchi, but those aren’t so easy to come by in my area (and so far have not had much luck growing them) so I use regular old radishes, which I peel. No, you don’t have to peel them – this is more of an aesthetics thing for me but it’s not necessary. Just be aware that the color from the red radish skins will most likely add a pinkish tinge to your finished kimchi.

To make my kimchi, I use a fermenting crock and weights that I bought on Amazon, but you can do this in glass canning jars with a shoulder instead – the shoulder helps keep your veggies submerged in the brine. For more on fermenting, see my post on how to make basic sauerkraut.

homemade kimchi recipe

  • Water, for soaking cabbage
  • 1/4 cup, scant, kosher salt
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, root end removed, sliced 2-3 times lengthwise and then chopped into chunks
  • 1 inch chunk of peeled ginger, crushed and minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • dried chili peppers, finely chopped, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality fish sauce (I like Red Boat)
  • 10 red radishes, peeled, sliced and then cut into small matchstick size pieces (about a cup of finished radishes)
  • 3 scallions, white and tender green, sliced thin

Fill a large bowl with water, add salt and stir to dissolve. Add cabbage and gently stir with a spoon or your hands, until the cabbage is wet and submerged. You may have a few leaves that sit at the surface, but that’s okay. Let sit for 30 minutes. Drain cabbage in a colander. Rinse well and squeeze excess moisture out with your hands. Leave in colander for the time being.

In your bowl, place ginger, garlic, peppers, sugar and fish sauce. Using a fork, mash everything together well, to create a paste. (If you have a mortar and pestle, use that instead) Add cabbage, radish and scallions and mix everything together with a large spoon or your hands, making sure the cabbage is well coated.

Transfer the kimchi into a small crock or canning jars with shoulders, packing down as you go, so that everything is submerged in the brine. I use a small 1 pound crock with weights, but either method is fine.

Cover crock or jars with cheesecloth or towel and secure it with twine. Let set on your kitchen counter.

Check your kimchi daily, to assure that all of your veggies are still covered with brine. I like to stir mine up every other day and then pack it back down.

Let kimchi ferment for 7 days and refrigerate in canning jars with lids or a similar glass container.

We enjoy kimchi as a side accompaniment to a number of dishes, especially grilled chicken and meats. I also use it as a condiment when I make pork burgers and this is the way we love it most.

Here a few of the photos of my process.

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Happy fermenting everyone!

10 thoughts on “how to make kimchi

  1. A friend of mine gave me a fermenting crock for Christmas. While I have been dying to try it, I’ve been simultaneously intimidated by the idea of fermentation. Thanks for your easy and straightforward recipe. =) Will give this a shot very soon! (Also I totally hate the word foodie too — it’s just needs to go away)

    • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

      Sauerkraut is seriously the easiest but Kimchi is pretty easy too – just more ingredients. I hope you get to ferment something soon – it’s so much fun, not to mention a fun conversation to have with people. “yeah, that’s right…I eat food that’s been sitting out on my counter for weeks.” 🙂 And thanks for the “No more foodie” support!

  2. Great easy to follow recipe! I’ve seen some versions that add raw oysters to the ferment… I haven’t tried it myself but I have added dried shrimp which was nice. It’s funny, my wife and I both make pretty decent Kimchi but my Sauerkraut has never turned out well 🙁

    • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

      I’m glad it was easy to follow – thanks for that! I was worried about over-complicating it because it really is easy. It’s the fermenting portion that tends to scare people. I have to admit I’m not brave enough for the oyster addition, though I love them most other ways. I bet your kimchi is amazing and cannot believe your sauerkraut is not. 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have been itching to make my own kimchi ever since watching this cooking show that taught me that many Koreans have a seperate fridgde just to store their kimchi which they make in large batches a few times a year. But I was a bit daunted by the whole process. Thank you for breaking it down into these really clear steps!

    • Lesley at Lola Rugula says:

      It’s so much fun to make and play around with – I’m glad you found my recipe easy! Don’t be daunted – it’s worth the effort. 🙂 Thanks!

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