My family loves this easy kimchi recipe. It’s spicy and crunchy and salty. This vegan kimchi is a great side dish for those nights you don’t have time to make a salad, so having a jar of this fermented goodness in the fridge is a timesaver for busy nights!
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Naturally fermented kimchi is full of friendly bacteria and enzymes. And it’s easy to make!
First, what IS kimchi?
Kimchi is fermented cabbage, served as a side dish. It’s a staple in Korean cuisine. It’s made with cabbage (Napa cabbage is common) as the base, seasoned with chilis, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and salted for preservation.
Kimchi is abundant here in Hawai‘i and I’ve learned to make it this way over the years. But I am not Korean and I wouldn’t consider this to be a traditional Korean kimchi recipe. I considered calling it fermented cabbage, but that’s sauerkraut, right? This easy kimchi recipe is a much spicier alternative!
Vegan kimchi recipe
This is a fermented vegetable dish — why wouldn’t it be vegan?? Some kimchi recipes call for shrimp or fish sauce. I wasn’t trying to create a vegan kimchi recipe, but since we don’t use those fishy ingredients in this recipe, it turns out it is!
Easy kimchi recipe – how to make kimchi at home
Kimchi requires a lot of chopping and some patience. No cooking. This easy recipe starts with cabbage — I like to use what’s readily available locally, but many people opt for Napa cabbage. Bok choy adds a dark green to the mix. Carrots, daikon, and green onions round out the veggies. Some kimchi has quite large chunks of vegetables; I prefer mine a bit smaller. Chop the veggies for this easy (vegan) kimchi recipe according to your preferences. If you like yours fine, you can use a food processor to do the work of slicing the vegetables.
Some people use a prepared kimchi seasoning that is available on the island. I like the flavor of it, but I don’t like that it has MSG, so I don’t use it. Instead I use fresh ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes to season this ferment. Again, it’s a vegan kimchi recipe since I don’t use shrimp sauce or fish sauce.
The fermentation process takes several days, or as long as a week. This will depend on the temperature in your kitchen. Warmer days are conducive to faster fermentation. It’s a good idea to set the jar of kimchi on a tray to capture any potential overflow. If the jar overflows a lot, keep an eye on the level of the liquid. The veggies need to remain completely submerged. Add a splash of filtered water to top it off if you see the brine level drop too low.
Related: Spicy Pickled Snap Peas
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Easy Kimchi Recipe
My family loves this kimchi recipe. It’s spicy and crunchy and salty. Kimchi is a great side dish for those nights you don’t have time to make a salad. This is a vegan kimchi recipe, too.
- 1 head cabbage (I use what’s available locally)
- 3 small bunches bok choy
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 cup daikon, shredded (I use my awesome veggie peeler)
- 1 cup carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 1/2 T. Hawaiian salt or Himalayan sea salt
- 8-10 cloves garlic
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1-2 T. red pepper flakes (2 tablespoons makes a fairly spicy kimchi; use more or less to taste. Kimchi color will vary depending on how much you use.)
Prepare the kimchi
- Reserve one outer leaf of cabbage. Chop the remaining cabbage, bok choy, and green onions coarsely and put in large bowl. Mix in daikon, carrot, and salt. Work the ingredients, pressing and smashing with the end of a rolling pin or back of a wooden spoon. This step will help the cabbage release its juices. The bulk of the greens will reduce by about half as you work it.
- Set greens aside; mince the garlic and ginger and stir into the cabbage along with the pepper flakes. Transfer mixture to a half gallon jar. Push the greens down until they’re covered by juices. (It will not look like you have much juice. When you smash the ingredients for this kimchi recipe down into the jar, you’ll be surprised.)
- Place the retained cabbage leaf over the top of the kimchi to help keep the small bits under liquid. Place one or two glass weights on top of cabbage. (I use the weights that came with my Fermentools kit.) If the solid ingredients are not entirely covered by juices, top it off with a bit of filtered water.
- It’s essential that the ingredients for this kimchi recipe are completely submerged.
Fermenting the kimchi recipe
- Let sit at room temperature for a several days or a week, then refrigerate. (Swap the Fermentools airlock system for a regular canning lid during storage.)
The only failed product I’ve had was due to improvised weights and the batch went moldy. That hasn’t happened with the glass weights — I can add several to the jar to hold down the cabbage mixture. Lesson learned!
Originally published in January 2015; this post has been updated.