This Easy Kimchi Recipe is Great for First Time Fermenters

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!

New to fermenting foods? Be sure to read this compilation of frequently asked questions before you get started!


Love fermenting? Check out these 50+ recipes for fermented foods.

vegan kimchi in a white spiral plate


Fermentools sent me a kit to experiment with. I’ve found them to be an excellent and easy way for me to start fermenting successfully. This is a sponsored post.

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!

There are hundreds of different ways to make kimchi. Check out this Instagrammer for Korean food inspiration.

cabbage, daikon, bok choy, garlic, carrots on a wood background

RelatedHomemade Sauerkraut Recipe – Delve Into Fermentation

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!

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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.

Municipal tap water contains chlorine, which can inhibit fermentation, so be sure to use filtered or distilled water instead. A Berkey water filter provides clean water that’s free of toxins. Great for making your drinking water free of chemicals, but perfect for fermentation, too.

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

easy kimchi recipe fermenting in a half-gallon glass jar

★ Did you make this easy kimchi recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

spicy kimchi in a white spiral plate

Easy Kimchi Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

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.



Prepare the kimchi

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. It’s essential that the ingredients for this kimchi recipe are completely submerged.

Fermenting the kimchi recipe

  1. 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!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 420mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 9gSugar: 11gProtein: 8g

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Originally published in January 2015; this post has been updated.

white swirl dish with kimchi recipe

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About the author: Kris Bordessa is an award-winning National Geographic author and a certified Master Food Preserver. If you want to send Kris a quick message, you can get in touch here.

12 comments… add one
  • Laura Feb 4, 2021 @ 10:07

    Hi! SOS, just made this and am new to fermenting. Stupid question, I had to improvise for weights inside jar that extend past top of jar…is the jar supposed to be sealed while sitting out?

    • Kris Bordessa Mar 11, 2021 @ 8:13

      Sorry, just getting to this! I hope it came out okay. You need to prevent bugs from getting in. Sealing a jar with a lid is okay IF you open it every day to release built up gasses.

  • Carol L Jan 3, 2021 @ 14:34

    My problem is the glass weights: they always fall to the side and slip to the bottom, leaving the blend uncovered by the liquid!!! This has happened every time I try fermenting kraut, or other fermented things. How do you keep the glass weights on TOP????

  • D K Nov 2, 2018 @ 11:00

    Kimchi is Korean. (Japanese people can enjoy it as an imported food of course, which they enjoy and call Kimuchi.)

    • Kris Bordessa Nov 2, 2018 @ 13:44

      Yes, which I’ve stated a number of times in the article itself. The little recipe card form I use doesn’t offer Korean as an option, though. 🙁

  • Michelle Mar 24, 2018 @ 19:37

    Sounds so good…

  • Marshall Reagan Dec 23, 2017 @ 12:06

    can you store this in your pantry like you can kraut? or do you need to do something different? I have started fermenting a few things ,so I need to know because I will not have enough refrigerator space .

    • Kris Bordessa Dec 28, 2017 @ 11:47

      You can store it in a *cool place, much like you would kraut.

  • Jonathan Feb 17, 2016 @ 14:55

    We made sour kraut for the first time a few weeks ago and it turned out awesome! We are currently stationed in Korea so off to the market I go to get the bounty to make, I plan to stop by and pick up a kimchi pot while we are at it… technique to ferment will be slightly different but hopefully the result will be the same! #excitedaboutkimchi

  • Jennifer Margulis Jan 16, 2013 @ 14:19

    It’s on my long term to do list — to make kim chee. Thanks for this recipe. I am eager to try it. (I’ve been saying that for awhile but I AM going to do it one of these days…)

  • Toni Oct 21, 2012 @ 9:33

    That sounds yummy… : )

  • Sonia (foodiesleuth) Oct 21, 2012 @ 7:30

    This is a much easier version than others I’ve seen…Mahalo, Kris!

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