How To Make Kimchi (Spicy Fermented Veggies)

April 2nd, 2013 - filed under: The Food » Recipes

You all know how much I adore fermented foods (remember – eat your beasties!), and that I make sure they’re a frequent player on my mealtime stage. And because I can be a bit … passionate … with my tastes, I tend to go through fermented food phases. Sometimes I’m all about yogurt, and other times I’m kombucha-crazed, and most recently it’s been kimchi!

Kimchi is like sauerkraut but BETTER, because it’s got extra veggies and just as much of a spicy kick as you like. It’s great on salads or on beans/greens/grain bowls, and I have to say, it pairs particularly smashingly with my super-amazing tahini sauce of awesome.

Kimchi (center) and sprouts over chickpeas and chard, with a side of tahini sauce.

The “recipe” I use is adapted from the fermenting genius himself, Sandor Ellix Katz, aka “Sandorkraut”. I put “recipe” in quotes because it’s just so very general. I mean, fermented veggies are fermented veggies and they all sort of follow the same basic principle. And the beauty of kimchi is that there’s no end to the combinations of vegetables you can come up with! So what follows is an outline, and really, play with it however you want.

2 medium heads of napa cabbage (traditional) or bok choi or green or red cabbage
Carrots (I use 3-4 large ones)
Onion (I use 1, red or white) or leeks or scallions or shallots or scapes or whateva
Garlic (I use 4 cloves)
Other veggies, like radishes, jicama, daikon, beets, burdock, turnips, seaweed, etc
Fresh grated ginger, a few tablespoons
Hot chilis or chili flakes, to taste. Traditional kimchi is spicy!
Sea salt

Begin by making a brine of about 4 tablespoons salt in 6 cups of water, stirring until the salt completely dissolves. Use a giant bowl.

Process all your veggies. Grating is best, especially for the harder stuff like carrots. Cabbage can just be rough chopped. Add all the veggies into the bowl of brine, mix them around well, and then cover with a plate or something to weight them down and keep them submerged. You want to leave them here for a few hours, until they’re nice and soft.

Mince the garlic, ginger, and chilis. Kimchi can take a whole lotta flavor, so don’t worry – err on the side of excess. (yay! how often do you hear that?) In a mortar and pestle or small bowl, mash/grind the spices into a paste.

Drain the brine from the veggies, but reserve it. Taste the veggies – they should be nice and salty, but not offensive. You can adjust at this point, by either adding more salt or rinsing the veggies under water. But again, err on the side of salty.

Mix the spice paste into the veggies using your bare hands. Get it all good and mixed. Then, stuff everything into a glass jar or ceramic crock. Use your fist to squish it down tight, so that the liquid squeezes out and covers the veggies. Pack it as tight as you can and if necessary, add a bit of the reserved brine. Weight the veggies down with a small plate or jar or a plastic bag filled with brine – whatever will best keep them submerged (you can see pics of this here). Cover the jar with a breathable rag (not lid) and rubber band.

Place in a warm clean place (I like the top of my fridge) and taste it every day as it matures. It will be ready in a week or so, at which point you can move it to the fridge, where it will keep indefinitely.

Put it on everything! Enjoy!

  • Lydia

    Thank you so much for this, Sayward!

    I just followed your sauerkraut instructions for the first time last night and am anxiously awaiting its culturing – gotta try the kimchi next, I love me some beasties!

    I’ve been wanting to ask you about food processing gear – what would you recommend for a poor 22-yr-old-tiny-kitchen-Brooklyn-inhabitant? I currently just have a little “magic bullet” contraption that only really does the job for small smoothies and things that can be made in small batches. I know that saving up for a real cuisinart is probably what I should do, but you have a processor that you love that maybe doesn’t take up so much counter space/money?

    Thank you for your thoughts!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    I love it when Sandorkraut-inspired “recipes” pop up! Kimchi’s good stuff, so thanks for showing us just how easy it is to make at home. The Sandor recipe that I can’t live without is uttapam batter – sometimes I load mine up with spices and veggies (much like pudla), sometimes just a handful of red onion and cilantro.

  • Andrea B

    Lydia, do you have a Goodwill or second-hand store near you? Wait for May-July. Every wedding season girls get kitchen equipment that looks too complicated to use, and they either consign them or give them away. I got my Cuisinart brand-new in the box for $40 from a bride who thought someone gave it to her to “force her to learn to cook” and she wasn’t about to do that! I also got a bread machine for $25 right after wedding season. Just a thought. Oh, another item that shows up often at our local second-hand shop in the summer are brand new Kitchen Aid mixers.

  • Lydia

    Brilliant advice! Thank you, Andrea!

  • erica

    i love Sandor “Clause” :) <3

  • Allison

    What did you use for the onion? Is that an apple peeler of some sort? I haven’t ever seen something like that.

  • angela wortley

    Thank you for this! I just saw a glass crock for fermenting veggies at an Asian market nearby and thought about getting it, but it looks like I could save some money and just buy a big glass jar like you use.

  • Charley

    Perfect timing post, thank you! Been making a lot of sauerkraut in mason jars but wanted something with more flavour, more scope and more fermentyness.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I totally agree! A food processor is key, but they are sooo expensive. hunt around the secondhand shops and you’ll be able to find something for totally reasonable. Good luck!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Ooh thanks, I’ll check that out!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    He’s the best!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    oh oops, I meant to caption that picture. It’s a spiralizer, which is totally not necessary but a really fun, not-too-expensive kitchen gadget. Great if you’re in a veggie rut!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Totally not necessary! Just use big jars, much cheaper. ;-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay! Kimchi is like sauerkraut on hallucinogens. <== That might be the weirdest thing I've ever written . . . but I totally think it's an appropriate metaphor!

  • skeptk_vegan

    Your timing is incredible. I just had someone asking me for advice on Kimchi and how to make it. I was hoping you had something.. and voila! Thank you!

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  • Vedged Out

    I only tried Kimchi for the first time a couple months ago and I couldn’t stop eating it! I totally HAVE to buy cabbage today! I want that spiralizer! :)

  • Sprout

    Traditional kimchi is made with a specific kind of coarse-ground chili powder that’s a bit sweeter and smokier than the usual kind. It’s also relatively less spicy, so you can add A LOT to get that bright red color. I encourage you/readers to try it out- it made my kimchi a whole lot better.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Mmm sounds great, do you know what it’s called?

  • Sonja

    I totally wanna try this! But I’m not sure if I should keep the small plate or jar which weighs the veggies down in the glas jar when I cover it. Any advise? Thanks so much!

  • Alanna

    I’m heading to the store! Can’t wait to try this.

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  • The Blushing Chef

    I just made some yesterday and already this morning, it’s beginning to taste mighty fine. :-)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Mmm I love that! Fermentation magic . . . <3

  • Christy Soulshine

    I never ever comment on your blog. Today. I am. I’ve read your blog for years now. I’ve followed along watching your life with all the other people who comment so much. I made kimchi from this recipe… and o.m.g. it is SO GOOD. I can’t even explain how much better my salad was just now. Mine is better than anyone else’s too because I got to control everything. Thanks Sayward. :)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yay, love to hear this! You’re Welcome!

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