Asian Recipes/ Condiments and Sauces/ Recipes/ Side Dish/ Super Simple

Easy Korean Kimchi – Fermented Spicy Cabbage

20/11/2020

Seasoned and fermented to perfection, this easy Korean Kimchi is one very versatile dish. Eat it by itself or add to a myriad of meals including Korean Army Stew and Pajeon Kimchi Seafood Pancakes.

Jar of fresh Korean kimchi.

Why We Love This

Delicious Korean kimchi is so easy to make at home. Eat it the next day or wait after a week or two of fermentation for extra flavour. It’s perfect to have as a side dish to your favourite Korean meal or spice up a stir fry.

Bowl of fermented napa cabbage.

What is Kimchi? 

Kimchi has to be one of the most well-known Korean foods, but did you know that there used to be around 200 different kinds? Today around 30 variations remain.

Although the flavour of fermented kimchi seems like it must contain vinegar, that’s actually not the case at all; the recipe calls for salted shrimp and fish sauce to give it a real umami kick.

Mixed with the sweetness of freshly squeezed pear juice, garlic and chilli, kimchi can be eaten shortly after preparation or left to ferment for a few weeks for added depth of flavour.

Our style of kimchi is known as mak kimchi – the shortcut version. Traditionally, the cabbage is kept whole, halved or quartered, but we love working with the smaller pieces so it’s easier to prepare and eat!

Where We Learnt This Recipe

Through our travels in Seoul, we came across the awesome F&C Korean Food & Culture Academy, who taught us this amazing recipe during a fun and informative cooking class. We also learnt to cook bulgogi and pajeon.

What You’ll Need

  • Napa Cabbage – Also known as Baechu in Korean, or sometimes referred to as Chinese/ Asian cabbage or wombok. This is the traditional cabbage used for kimchi. It has the perfect texture of crunchy stems and soft leaves, and contains less water than other varieties for a better texture in Kimchi. You can substitute if necessary, but you’ll need to adjust your fermentation time to account for the difference in texture of other cabbage varieties.
  • Coarse Salt (Sea Salt) – This is used to soak and soften the cabbage because it melts slower and so absorbs into the leaves more gradually. We don’t recommend using fine salt or regular table salt as this can affect the fermentation process.
  • Korean Hot Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – These chilli flakes are milder than regular chilli flakes. The chillies are deseeded before processing, giving them the classic bright red colour. Substitute with Korean red pepper paste / gochujang in a pinch.
  • Salted Shrimp – This is the key ingredient to a traditional kimchi seasoning. If you can’t track it down, you can substitute with miso paste (red in the first instance, or white), or with fish sauce. Otherwise, use soy sauce for the substitute here as well for the vegan version.
  • Fish sauce (Korean style) – Substitute with soy sauce for the vegan variant.
  • Pear juice – Substitute with apple juice.
  • Dashi stock – Korean fish and seaweed stock is made with soaked kelp and dried pollack, but you can substitute if required with powdered seaweed stock for a vegan version. We usually use our Japanese dashi stock that we already have on hand, which is very similar.

In addition to the above, you’ll also need sugar, garlic and spring onion (green onion) for the spice paste.

Ingredients laid out to make Korean kimchi.

How to make Homemade Kimchi:

  1. Chop cabbage into large chunks and sprinkle with the salt. Mix it through all the leaves. Add 6 cups (1.5 quart / 1.5 litres) of cold water and mix the cabbage again. Pop a heavy plate on top, to keep the cabbage under water.
  2. Soak the salted cabbage in the salt water for 4 – 6 hours, turning over the cabbage pieces every 2 hours. Humidity will play a role here, so the higher the humidity in your environment the less time you’ll need to soak and vice versa. In Australia, it’s recommended to soak around 4 hours.
  3. While the cabbage is soaking, it’s time to mix the seasoning. In a small bowl, add the Korean chilli flakes, garlic, salted shrimp (or miso), fish sauce, sugar, pear juice (or apple), dashi stock and chopped spring onion.
  4. After soaking the cabbage, rinse the cabbage two or three times under fresh water to remove the salt. We find a colander works well for this step. The cabbage should now have a flexible texture.
  1. Transfer the rinsed cabbage to a large bowl and add the kimchi seasoning. (We recommend gloves for this next step.) Using your hands, work the seasoning through the cabbage, making sure everything is very well coated. You can have a taste here and see if your kimchi needs any more chilli or salt to your preference.
  2. Next it’s time to store the kimchi in a large jar. We recommend lining the top of the jar with cling wrap, then poking a hole to fill it, that way the the top of the jar will stay clean. Pop in all the kimchi, then press it down firmly so it’s all compacted. This is important to get out air bubbles and help the fermentation process.
  3. Leave on the bench for 24 hours to kick off the fermentation, then transfer to the fridge and eat whenever you like.

What To Do With Your Fresh Homemade Kimchi:

Wandercook’s Tips

  • Don’t Seal Tightly – Since kimchi is a fermented food, gasses can build as part of the fermentation process. It’s best not to seal the jar or container too tightly, otherwise it could potentially explode!
  • Fresh vs Aged Kimchi – Fresh kimchi (anything under 2 weeks old) is great to eat alone or as a spicy side dish. Aged kimchi is much more sour and better to use as a flavour enhancer in other dishes.

FAQs

How spicy is kimchi?

Homemade kimchi can be as spicy as you like. Traditional is quite hot and uses a lot of chilli flakes. This recipe is quite mild to start, but you can double or triple the amount of chilli flakes to suite your taste.

How long does it last? Can it go bad?

Kimchi will last one week out of the fridge at room temperature, as the fermentation process is sped up. However, it will last 3-6 months in the fridge. If it has any mould, smells alcoholic or ‘off’, then it should be discarded straight away.

What are the black spots on my cabbage?

Black spots on napa cabbage are totally fine. Known as ‘pepper spot’, it is usually found on the white part of the stem and is a cosmetic defect during growth. It will continue to get worse over time and travel to the green part of the leaves. It’s usually fine to eat, but if it looks quite severe, it may be best to discard and purchase a fresh cabbage.

Can I use regular chilli flakes?

No. This won’t give the same flavour or result as Korean red pepper flakes / gochugaru. If you must substitute, you can use gochujang, the fermented chilli paste.

Variations

  • Add Carrots and Daikon – You can grate or julienne carrot and daikon to add to your kimchi for an extra flavour hit.
Tightly packed strips of fermented napa cabbage in a jar.

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment & star rating below!

Fresh homemade kimchi in a bowl.

Easy Korean Kimchi – Fermented Spicy Cabbage

Seasoned and fermented to perfection, this easy Korean Kimchi is one very versatile dish. Eat it by itself or add to a myriad of meals including Korean Army Stew and Pajeon Kimchi Seafood Pancakes.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Soaking Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Course: Condiment, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Korean
Servings: 1 Jar
Calories: 229kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $7

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Chop cabbage into large chunks and sprinkle with the salt. Mix it through all the leaves. Add 6 cups (1.5 quart / 1.5 litres) of cold water and mix the cabbage again. Pop a heavy plate on top, to keep the cabbage under water.
  • Soak the salted cabbage in the salt water for 4 – 6 hours, turning over the cabbage pieces every 2 hours. Humidity will play a role here, so the higher the humidity in your environment the less time you'll need to soak and vice versa. In Australia, it's recommended to soak around 4 hours.
  • While the cabbage is soaking, it's time to mix the seasoning. In a small bowl, add the Korean chilli flakes, garlic, salted shrimp (or miso), fish sauce, sugar, pear juice (or apple), dashi stock and chopped spring onion.
  • After soaking the cabbage, rinse the cabbage two or three times under fresh water to remove the salt. We find a colander works well for this step. The cabbage should now have a flexible texture.
  • Transfer the rinsed cabbage to a large bowl and add the kimchi seasoning. (We recommend gloves for this next step.) Using your hands, work the seasoning through the cabbage, making sure everything is very well coated. You can have a taste here and see if your kimchi needs any more chilli or salt to your preference.
  • Next it’s time to store the kimchi in a large jar. We recommend lining the top of the jar with cling wrap, then poking a hole to fill it, that way the the top of the jar will stay clean. Pop in all the kimchi, then press it down firmly so it’s all compacted. This is important to get out air bubbles and help the fermentation process.
  • Leave on the bench for 24 hours to kick off the fermentation, then transfer to the fridge and eat whenever you like.

Video

Recipe Notes

  • Don’t Seal Tightly – Since kimchi is a fermented food, gasses can build as part of the fermentation process. It’s best not to seal the jar or container too tightly, otherwise it could potentially explode!
  • Storage – Kimchi will last one week out of the fridge at room temperature, as the fermentation process is sped up. However, it will last 3-6 months in the fridge. If it has any mould, smells alcoholic or ‘off’, then it should be discarded straight away.
  • Napa Cabbage – Also known as Baechu in Korean, or sometimes referred to as Chinese/ Asian cabbage or wombok. This is the traditional cabbage used for kimchi. It has the perfect texture of crunchy stems and soft leaves, and contains less water than other varieties for a better texture in Kimchi. You can substitute if necessary, but you’ll need to adjust your fermentation time to account for the difference in texture of other cabbage varieties.
  • Coarse Salt (Sea Salt) – This is used to soak and soften the cabbage because it melts slower and so absorbs into the leaves more gradually. We don’t recommend using fine salt or regular table salt as this can affect the fermentation process.
  • Korean Hot Pepper Flakes (Gochugaru) – These chilli flakes are milder than regular chilli flakes. The chillies are deseeded before processing, giving them the classic bright red colour. Substitute with Korean red pepper paste / gochujang in a pinch.
  • Salted Shrimp – Substitute with miso paste (red in the first instance, or white), or with fish sauce. Otherwise, use soy sauce for the vegan version.
  • Fish sauce (Korean style) – Substitute with soy sauce for the vegan variant.
  • Pear juice – Substitute with apple juice.
  • Dashi stock – Japanese or Korean dashi stock works. Substitute with 1/2 tsp fish sauce in a pinch.
  • Add Carrots and Daikon – You can grate or julienne carrot and daikon to add to your kimchi for an extra flavour hit.
Adapted from F&C Korean Food & Culture Academy.

Nutrition

Calories: 229kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 169mg | Sodium: 23248mg | Potassium: 816mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 5206IU | Vitamin C: 95mg | Calcium: 290mg | Iron: 5mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks
Easy Korean Kimchi - Fermented Spicy Cabbage

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Stephanie Soon
    24/04/2021 at 2:14 pm

    5 stars
    This recipe looks simple, shall go buy all the ingredients and give it a go. Thank you 😊

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      27/04/2021 at 10:51 am

      You’re welcome Stephanie! Have fun popping it together and let us know how you go!

  • Reply
    Adeline Lee
    29/10/2019 at 9:44 am

    This receipe looks simple and easy to follow. But I have one question. May I ask Korean seaweed and fish stock is it store bought ?

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      07/11/2019 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Adeline, when we originally made this recipe we used real stock made from seaweed and pollack (fish). But at home, we substitute with dried seaweed stock such as dashi. It saves time and is very convenient. 🙂

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