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 homemade kimchi… it took me a while to develop a taste for it, enjoy it, and to want to eat it.
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 several batches of this kimchi, and people keep stealing it, so that’s a good sign. This stuff is addictive. Pretty soon your friends are going to steal your kimchi!
There are many 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. Bottom line is there is no right or wrong way to eat kimchi. Discover what you like best and enjoy it that way. 🙂
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!
A spicy and salty mix of cabbage, carrots, green onion, garlic and ginger. This Homemade Kimchi is super tasty and addicting!
- 2 heads of medium-sized Napa cabbage
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- 6 – 8 tablespoons coarse ground Korean red pepper
- 1 ¾ tablespoons gluten-free fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 -3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ½ bunches of scallions, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
- 3 to 4 large carrots, peeled and shredded
- Cut each cabbage in half lengthwise, and then roughly chop each half into 2-inch pieces. Discard the stem.
- 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 using your hands to squeeze and bruise the cabbage. This will help draw out the moisture from the cabbage (do not discard this liquid).
- Sprinkle in the Korean red pepper, fish sauce, fresh grated ginger, and minced garlic. Mix well.
- Stir in the scallions and shredded carrots.
- Divide the kimchi into two sterilized 4-quart glass jars. Using the back of a spoon, pack the kimchi into the jars, leaving about 2-inches of room at the top of each jar (you can use a 3rd jar if you need to). Make sure your kimchi has just enough liquid to be submerged. If the kimchi is not submerged, add just enough filtered water to cover it.
- Screw lids loosely on the jars and place 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. As the kimchi ferments, it will produce air bubbles and more moisture; the kimchi will separate from the liquid. Take the back of a spoon and push the kimchi down, all the way to the bottom of the jar. This will "burp" the air bubbles and mix the kimchi back into the liquid it has separated from. Try to keep the jars as clean as possible; use a clean cloth to wipe the jars if necessary. As the kimchi ferments, it will develop a tang, this is perfectly normal. It will also smell strong, like tangy/yeasty garlic and ginger, but should never smell rancid at any time. If for some reason yours smells rancid, throw it out. While I've never had a ferment go rancid, I've heard of it happening occasionally to other people; normally this happens because the jars were never properly sterilized.
- At the end of the fermentation, store the kimchi in the refrigerator. Consume within 3-5 months.
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Maria Fusco 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
Aili Galasyn says
Sounds good, but can I substitute anything for the carrots, which are a no no for me?
I’ve always wanted to make kimchi, but I always thought it was really complicated! I will have to give it a try! 🙂
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)!
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.
Carol, Simply Gluten-free says
I have always wanted to make Kimchi – you make it sound so easy! And it looks gorgeous!
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!
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!
Jacqueline @ deeprootsathome.com says
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!!
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)
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!
Catherine Neary says
thanks for the recipe! Sounds easy and i know someone who will really
Nancy Guppy 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?
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).
Abby J. 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?
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.
THANK YOU!!! This looks simple enough for even me to try!!! I”m just discovering the benefits of fermented foods.
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.
Yes, I think it’d be just fine. It’s such a small amount, anyways. 😉
dwight deer says
I am on a low salt diet and just start making water kefir could I us this as a fermenting agent and use less salt? thanks 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.
Megan, so the cabbage makes enough liquid to completely fill both jars and cover all the veggies??? Or do u add water?
Yes, the cabbage should produce enough liquid to fill both jars. Remember you’re packing the cabbage into the jars, so it doesn’t leave a bunch of space to fill. 😉
Marianne Austin says
This was delicious! My husband is a “kimchi critic” and loved it. Thanks!
🙂 Oh!! I’m so glad it lived up to his expectations! Yay!
Hi Megan I am eager to try your kimchi recipe ,it sounds great. In the comments their is mention of honey but I can’t see it listed in the ingredients. Is this only required in lieu of palm sugar? Thanks and greetings from Australia
This is an older recipe of mine. When I first published it, I wasn’t aware of coconut sugar being available. When I finally started using coconut sugar, I realized it was a better option in this recipe than the honey, so I updated the recipe. 😉
Why do you keep the liquid? My mother and grandmother never kept the liquid the cabbage soaked in.
When you ferment, the veggies (or whatever you’re fermenting) must be completely submerged, otherwise mold can grow on the top. This definitely isn’t an authentic way to make true Korean kimchi… 😉
This looks like such a great recipe! Do you have any recommendations for finding high quality korean pepper for making kimchi? I don’t want to skimp out on the ingredients if I do decide to make this at home.
Hi Billy, sorry for the delayed response. I buy my Korean red pepper from our local Asian store. The brand is Wang Korea and it’s very good! If the Asian store near you doesn’t carry that specific brand, I would ask one of the workers what they would recommend.
Hi, I love Kimchi and yours looks wonderful. In NYC I used to eat at a Korean restaurant that served what they called “Water Kimchi”. It was a gentler, milder, pickling of different types of vegetables, not unlike the daikon and carrot (sweet pickle) often found in buffets today, but water kimchi veggies were a savory pickle. Any idea on how to recreate those?
I’ve never heard of water kimchi before! I had to google it. Seems like it’s kimchi (jarred) with water added? Maybe give this recipe a try?
Thanks Megan. It’s taken a while to get back here. The recipe you’ve directed me to is spot on. Just what I was looking for. I haven’t had Water Kimchi since I left NYC. I can’t wait to make it. And thanks for directing me to a great Korean recipe site. Korean is my favorite food to eat and there are no restaurants in my neck of the woods. So your help gave me a double bonus!!
Oh yay! 🙂
Annette van der Merwe says
I am from South Africa. What can I substitute the Korean red pepper with. We do not have an Asian Supermarket in my area. Would Cayenne pepper do? Locally we often refer to it as red pepper and it only comes finely ground.
Cayenne pepper has a completely different type of flavor than Korean Red Pepper. I would definitely see if you can order some online.