Kimchi Me Crazy (dairy free/Paleo & GAPS friendly)

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My best friend is half Korean. When I was 8 or 9 years old I remember sitting at her kitchen table while her mom served us lunch. I was mortified when I discovered there was seaweed in my won ton soup. My friend recognized the look of horror on my face and said, “Eat it. It’s good!” I ate it, but it took a few times for me to really develop a taste for it.

Same goes for kimchi… it took me a while to develop a taste for it, enjoy it, and to want to eat it (I only started making it a few weeks ago). My brother bought some homemade kimchi from a local Asian store, and it was phenomenal. I couldn’t stop eating it. It was a perfect balance of spicy, sweet, tangy, salty, and then you have the back note flavors of ginger and garlic. I loved it so much I had to figure out how to make it myself, just a bit healthier than some of the other recipes I’ve come across (that contain cane sugar and plenty of sweet rice flour).

My best friend recently returned from a trip to Korea and sent me some authentic Korean red pepper. You know you’re a crazy foodie when something as simple as fresh ground red pepper makes your day (but it came all the way from Korea!).  :)

I’ve made at least 3 batches of this kimchi, and people keep stealing it, so I think that’s a good sign. This stuff is addictive. Pretty soon your friends are going to steal your kimchi!

Kimchi (Medium)

There are a lot of different ways to eat kimchi. Some people enjoy eating it by itself and others with rice and meat. I’ve even heard of people making sandwiches using kimchi as the filling (which is definitely NOT my choice way of eating it). Bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to eat kimchi. Discover what you like best and enjoy it that way. :)

This recipe is linked to the GFE Gluten Free Virtual Support Group, EOA Link Up, Allergy Free Wednesdays, the Gluten Free Homemaker, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, and Fat Tuesday.

Megan’s Kimchi Recipe:
Note: There are several types of ground red pepper, but make sure you use Korean red pepper in this recipe. You can buy Korean red pepper from your local Asian market.

2 heads of Napa cabbage (medium sized cabbages are best)
2 tablespoons sea salt
6 – 8 tablespoons Korean red pepper
1 3/4 tablespoons fish sauce (omit if vegan)
4 teaspoons runny honey (or coconut nectar for vegan)
1 tablespoon ginger, fresh grated
2 -3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 to 1 1/2 bunches of scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 to 4 carrots, peeled and shredded

  1. Remove outer leaves from the cabbages.
  2. Cut each cabbage in half lengthwise, trim the ends, and then roughly chop it into 2 to 3 inch pieces.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, layer the chopped cabbage with the sea salt. Allow the cabbage to sit with the sea salt for about an hour; stirring occasionally (This is a good time to get your hands dirty. Stir the cabbage using your hands and don’t be afraid to squeeze it. This will help the salt draw out the moisture from the cabbage, which is a very good thing. Do not discard this liquid).
  4. Sprinkle in the Korean red pepper, fish sauce, honey, ginger, and garlic. Mix well.
  5. Stir in the scallions and carrots.
  6. Divide the kimchi into two 4-quart glass jars. Using the back of a spoon, pack the kimchi into the jars, leaving about an inch of room at the top of each jar. Make sure your kimchi has just enough liquid to be submerged. (I generally have a 1/4 to a 1/2 cup of liquid left over after I pack my jars that I end up discarding. This is an incredibly messy process for me. I make a complete mess of the jars when I’m packing my kimchi, and if you do the same, it’s okay as long as you rinse the outside of the jars and wipe the inside and outside of the rim. When fermenting vegetables, you want your jar to be as clean as possible, otherwise it may mold.)
  7. Place the lids loosely on the jars and put the jars in a shallow baking dish (in case they overflow while fermenting). Place in a cool dark area and allow the kimchi to ferment for 2 to 5 days before storing in the refrigerator. (I found it helpful to take the back of a spoon and push down on the kimchi a few times during the day while it was fermenting. It prevented my kimchi from overflowing releasef the air that built up in the jar.)

This is my cabbage after I layered it with the sea salt in my mixing bowl:

The salt eventually broke down the cabbage and drew out the moisture. Now you are ready to add the rest of your ingredients and pack the kimchi into glass jars!



  1. says

    Hi Megan ~
    I’m also 1/2 Korean (other 1/2, French-Canadian) – and I read your recipe w/smile… looks good.
    For your readers, there are many ways to make kimchee, and you can also throw in what you like (sometimes we use radish, and I like the green stems :).

    We also threw out the salty water — what do you do with yours? Add to bottle after making?
    THANK YOU for nice story and recipe (I’ll make yours as we never used fish sauce, sometimes dried sardines, but I use fish sauce in Thai recipes all the time); so, I’m giving yours a try… but after I take off few pounds: I too LOVE it and rice and kimchee is something I would bring everywhere … you know the saying: “If you brought only 6 foods with you to an island… :).

    Thx Again ~ Maria

  2. says

    Hi Meg,

    Wow, I’ve never heard of this before! It looks amazing. Thanks for introducing me to this great recipe. :-)


    (P.S, So great to have you back posting again friend)!

  3. says

    What a wonderful recipe Megan! I have always wanted to make kimichi as the stuff in the store is sooo expensive. This looks incredibly flavorful and full of zest.

  4. easynaturalfood says

    Yummy, I love kimchi and so does my husband. In fact he won’t eat my sauerkraut but keeps asking me to make kimchi. I guess I should give it a go! Thanks for the great recipe!

  5. says

    I’ve never acquired a taste for kimchi, but I know its health benefits and, boy, does yours look amazing, Megan! Not all fish sauce is gluten free … is that right? Or is it oyster sauce that we have to be concerned about. Anyway, I’ll be sharing this recipe–thanks!


  6. says

    Dear Megan,
    Great post!
    I have always wanted to make Kimchi and now I think I can. We do our own sauerkraut. may I ask you a favor? Would you please link this post up on my “EOA” Wednesday link-up? I would like to feature this post next Wednesday with a photo and link back! I appreciate having healthy recipes, so your posts would always be welcome. Thank you so much!!

  7. says

    The first time I tried kimchi, I was visiting a friend at college. She and a roommate were involved with a Korean church so I went with them that week end. It happened to be some sort of holiday and there was a pot luck. I tried lots of different foods than I was used to and liked all of them. I may have had it one other time, but I have never forgotten that i liked it. I will have to try this recipe. Thanks for sharing!
    (visiting from Deep roots at home)

  8. says

    There are a few people in my house that LOVE Kimchi and we have always bought it at the asian store or health food stores that have it. If I can make it at home I’d much rather! :) Thanks for the recipe! I’ve got it bookmarked!

  9. says

    Really beautiful. Thank you so much. I am wondering if it will ferment properly if you omit the fish sauce for a vegan version? More salt. I am not vegan but was curious. Vegan tamari?

    • Megan says

      Thank you, Nancy! Yes, I think you’d be just fine leaving out the fish sauce. It’s added more for flavor than fermentation. I would just omit it and taste the mixture and see how you like it. Then add a small splash of tamari (only if you think it needs it). You can also substitute agave nectar or coconut nectar for the honey (to make it vegan).
      :) Megan

  10. says

    Man, this looks delicious. One question, though, I have always heard honey is an antimicrobial agent, and that most ferments don’t call for honey because it will kill the bacteria that do the work of the fermentation.

    Is this true of your kimchi? Does it ferment – create bubbles, get a little cloudy, etc?

    • Megan says

      Hi Abby,
      The amount of honey used in this recipe is very little, so it doesn’t affect the fermentation process. It does ferment, get fizzy in your mouth, etc, but if you didn’t want to use honey you could substitute with agave nectar or organic cane sugar.
      :) Megan

  11. Kristi says

    THANK YOU!!! This looks simple enough for even me to try!!! I”m just discovering the benefits of fermented foods.

  12. Katrina Sotomayor says

    Can you do this without the sweetener, ie, no sugar, honey or whatever?


    I’m getting desperate, I love kimchee, but my diet says no added sugars whatsoever.

    • Megan says

      Hi Dwight,
      I don’t think that would work. The salt acts as a preservative. If you cut it out, I think you’d be left with moldy veggies over time.


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