My family loves this easy green cabbage kimchi recipe. It’s spicy and crunchy and salty. This fermented 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 green cabbage (Napa cabbage is common) as the base, seasoned with chilis, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and salted for preservation.
Kimchi was not prominent in my life before moving to Hawai‘i but it’s abundant here and I love it. Of course, I had to figure out how to make it myself so I could enjoy it whenever I want!
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!
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Napa cabbage — This green cabbage is more “ruffly” than head cabbage and is what is commonly used to make kimchi.
Bok choy — This dark green veggie adds variety and a different texture to the mixture. If you’d prefer, you can substitute the bok choy with more green cabbage.
Carrots — Slice fresh carrots into a thin julienne, or matchsticks. You could also coarsely shred them.
Daikon radish — This large, white radish is commonly used in Asian cuisine. The flavor is milder than common radish.
Aromatics — This recipe uses both garlic and green onions. Finely chopped garlic adds that spicy zing we all love so much.
Ginger — Use fresh ginger, not powdered, for its spicy and robust flavor.
Salt — I use Hawaiian alaea salt, but you can use any non-iodized salt, such as sea salt or Himalayan salt.
Chili flakes — This is what brings the heat to the kimchi! If you like less spice, you can certainly reduce the amount called for in the recipe. Traditional kimchi recipes call for Korean chili flakes, aka gochugaru, but if you don’t have access to those, more common red chili pepper will work fine.
Note: Some people use a prepared kimchi paste 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.
Kimchi requires a lot of chopping and some patience. Some kimchi has quite large chunks of vegetables; I prefer mine a bit smaller. Chop the veggies for this easy kimchi recipe according to your preferences. If you like yours really fine, you can use a food processor to do the work of slicing the vegetables.
The Fermentation Process
Transfer the mixture to a half gallon jar or two quart jars, pushing the fresh produce down until it’s completely covered by the juices. It’s critical that the solids remain under the liquid.
Leave the jar(s) out at room temperature, checking the liquid level daily. The veggies need to remain completely submerged. Mix two teaspoons of salt into a cup of filtered water and use that salt water to top off the kimchi ferment if necessary.
As days pass, the kimchi will take on a slightly pickled odor, which is exactly what you want! You may see bubbles in the mixture as it ferments, but that’s not always true. Bubbling is fine, and just gives you a visual that the mixture is fermenting.
It’s a good idea to set the jar of kimchi on a tray to capture any potential overflow.
Once the kimchi is fermented, place the jars in the refrigerator or in a cool place, such as a basement or root cellar.
I use kimchi as a simple side dish, but it’s commonly used to make kimchi fried rice. You can stir the veggies into an assortment of meals, but heating the kimchi will kill off the probiotics.
Is kimchi vegan?
This is a fermented vegetable dish — why wouldn’t it be vegan?? Well, 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!
How long does kimchi take to ferment?
This kimchi takes several days, or as long as a week to fully ferment. This will depend on the temperature in your kitchen. Warmer days are conducive to faster fermentation.
How do you know if kimchi is fermented enough?
First, it’s totally fine to eat the kimchi fresh, before it’s completely fermented. But for the best flavor and probiotics, you’ll want it to ferment. It should take on a slight vinegar-y odor. The finished kimchi should taste delicious to you. If you prefer a more tangy kimchi, leave it on the counter for another day or two.
Consider picking up a pack of pH paper to test your products for acidity level when fermenting. A safe ferment will have a reading of 4.6 or lower.
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- 1 head green cabbage
- 3 small bunches bok choy
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 cup daikon, julienned or shredded
- 1 cup carrots, julienned or shredded
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt (non-iodized)
- 8-10 cloves garlic
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1-3 tablespoons red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, optional
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 with your hands. This step helps 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 (or two quart jars). Push the greens down until they’re covered by juices.
- 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. 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 or store in a cool, dry place.
It will not look like you have much juice, initially. When you press the ingredients for this kimchi recipe down into the jar, you’ll be surprised.
2 tablespoons of red pepper flakes makes a fairly spicy kimchi; 3 makes it fiery. Use more or less to taste.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 113Total Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 0gSodium: 420mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 9gSugar: 11gProtein: 8g