Spicy and full-bodied this Easy Kimchi with Cabbage recipe is simple, vegan and delicious. It’s also fantastically cost-effective keeping you in fermented cabbage for weeks. All it requires is a pair of gloves and a little patience.
Updated with new recipe and instructional images 23 July 2020.
I eat kimchi with everything; on toast, with scrambled tofu, in pasta…you name it. I am officially addicted to the stuff and eat it everyday. Learning to make it at home was a no-brainer. Besides being incredibly good for you – it contains good bacteria and probiotics for overall wellness – making your own means you can make it the way you like it. And it’s cheap so…win!
What is Kimchi and Where Did it Come From?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean condiment made with salted and fermented vegetables most commonly Napa cabbage or Wombok if you are in Australia.
Records indicate this vegetable side has been around for some 3000 years with the first references being to salted cucumber.
Source: News H
These days kimchi sits among the ranks of the superfoods with its gut-busting goodness. Being the cool kid on the condiment block, kimchi can be expensive. Crazily, you can spend a small ransom for a jar at organics stores – and I have (dang that marketing!). However, making your own is really simple and less than half the price.
This kimchi recipe made with cabbage and spring onions (scallions) makes three 500ml jars and costs around $8. If you don’t have the ingredients, you’ll need to make the original investment for the chilli, soybean paste and vegan fish sauce but we’re not talking big bucks. You’ll get a few batches of kimchi from this buy too.
Are you ready to make your own kimchi? Let’s do this.
Salting the Cabbage
Salting or brining the cabbage inhibits bacterial growth and tenderises the vegetable. There are two ways to salt the cabbage; the first is to sprinkle dry salt on each leaf and sit it for 6 to 8 hours. The second way is to use a salt bath – that’s the method we’re using today.
I use a 10 per cent salt solution to make my kimchi. Meaning for every 10 cups of water, I use a single cup of fine sea salt. Traditionally, kimchi is made with a 12 to 15 per cent solution – I just prefer 10. Also, I cut my cabbage up into 1-inch pieces so I can sit the cabbage for less time, for me that’s around 3 hours.
It is a simple method – remove the cabbage’s outer leaves (set them aside for later use), chop them in to 1-inch pieces and pop them in large bowl or container. You can add the spring onions too. Cover them with water and add the salt. Smoosh and mix the cabbage and salt water until the salt is combined and the cabbage is submerged. Leave to sit and tenderise for 3 to 4 hours.
Drain the salt water from the cabbage and taste a leaf. If the leaf is too salty for you, give the batch a super quick rinse and taste again. You want it salty but not so much that you can’t eat it. I give my cabbage a 5-second rinse in a colander, no more.
Alrighty, let’s finish the recipe.
Blend the paste ingredients together in a food processor. Kimchi usually contains fish sauce and shrimp paste. To make vegan kimchi we are using vegan fish sauce and soybean paste.
I use glutinous rice flour (rice flour is different) to thicken my kimchi. It is optional. To use it, combine half a tablespoon of the flour with a third of a cup of water. Stirring constantly, heat them in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture thickens. It will look like smooth glue. Remove from the heat to cool. Blend it with the other ingredients.
Wearing disposable gloves, massage the paste in to the cabbage making sure every piece is coated.
Fill clean jars with your kimchi making sure to fill in any air holes. I poke a skewer in to my jar to make sure there are no gaps. Fill the jars, leaving a full inch between the kimchi and the jar’s opening. Fold one of the outer leaves you set aside over the top of the mixture to hold it down (to be honest I don’t always do this) and seal with a lid.
Leave your jars on the kitchen counter for a day (in warm weather) or up to 5 days in cooler climates to ferment. Store the kimchi in the fridge.
Alternatively, you can ferment your kimchi in the fridge – it will take 2 to 3 weeks. Kimchi will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months.
No 1. Holy Moly, if I can convince you of anything I hope it’s this – wear gloves when massaging the paste in to the cabbage and packing your jars. Trust me.
No 2. Use iodine-free salt which, can inhibit fermentation.
No 3. The saltier the kimchi the faster the fermentation process.
No 4. You can add other ingredients to your kimchi like sliced daikon radish, Asian pear even regular pear. This recipe is a basic starting point.
No 5. You can buy vegan fish sauce at health food stores and some supermarkets or Asian grocers. Soybean paste is available at most supermarkets and Asian grocers.
No 6. If you cover your kimchi with a folded cabbage leaf and it goes a little funky, just get rid of it. Wipe out the rim of the jar as best you can, and replace it with a fresh one. If cabbage touches air here, it will mold so press it down. Your kimchi should be fine underneath.
No 7. You can eat your kimchi straight away! It’s perfectly safe and delicious. Fermenting gives a fuller-bodied umami flavour. I start eating one jar pretty much right away and leave the others to ferment.
Once you’ve made your own kimchi, you’ll never go back -it is so easy and tastes A-mazing. Also, it adaptable! You can tweak it to suit your taste, After you’ve mixed the paste in to the vegetables have a little taste. Need more sugar? Add a little? More salt? Have at it!
Making it at home means you make it the way you like. Enjoy, x.
You can use your homemade kimchi in these recipes:
Vegan Kimchi Crispy Mushroom Burgers and on top of my
Inspired Soft Scrambled Tofu (it’s so good!)
Easy Kimchi with Cabbage
- a large bowl or container to hold the cabbage
- food processor
- 1 Wombok (Napa) cabbage outer leaves removed (and set aside) and remaining cabbage cut in to inch-size pieces
- 6 spring onions cut in to 1-inch batons
- 1 cup fine salt not iodonised salt
- 10 cups cold water
- ½ tbsp glutinous rice flour (optional)
- ⅓ cup cold water (optional)
- 1 tbsp soybean paste
- ¼ cup vegan fish sauce
- ½ cup Korean chilli powder gochugaru
- ¼ onion peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp ginger around a 1-inch piece, peeled and sliced
- ¼ cup raw caster sugar or plain sugar
- Remove the outer leaves of the cabbage and set aside. Chop the remaining cabbage in to 1-inch pieces.
- Transfer the cabbage to a large bowl or container (large enough to hold the cabbage) and add enough water to just cover. I find 10 cups is usually enough. Add 1 cup (10 per cent) of fine salt and stir the mixture well with your hands until the water is salty and the leaves are covered. Add the spring onions to the mixture. Set aside, covered, for 3 to 4 hours or until the cabbage is tender.
- Meanwhile make the kimchi paste. Combine the glutinous rice flour and the ⅓ of a cup of water in a saucepan and heat it over low to medium heat, stirring constantly. Heat until the mixture thickens to a smooth paste. It will look like thick glue. Remove from the heat to cool.
- Add the rice flour paste and the remaining kimchi paste ingredients to a processor and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
- After the cabbage has been salted and is tender, drain it. Taste a cabbage leaf and if it is too salty give the cabbage a super quick rinse (don't wash away all the salt!) and drain well.
- Put on a pair of disposable kitchen gloves.
- Transfer the cabbage and spring onions back to the bowl and add the kimchi paste. Massage the paste in to the vegetables really well making sure they are all well coated.
- Still wearing gloves transfer the kimchi in to clean jars making sure to fill in any gaps or air bubbles. Press down as you go. Leave a 1-inch headspace between the kimchi and the jar's opening. Fold one of the outer cabbage leaves we set aside earlier over the top of the kimchi to hold it down and seal with a lid.
- Place the sealed jars on your kitchen counter away from direct light for 3 to 5 days to ferment. If the weather is hot only ferment for 1 to 2 days. Store in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 months. You can ferment your kimchi in the fridge rather than on the counter. Simply pop the prepared jars in the fridge to ferment for 2 to 3 weeks.