How to Make Kimchi

How to make kimchi
I think it’s time that we talked about fermentation, and specifically, kimchi.  Kimchi is a spicy and tangy fermented Korean food.  In Korea it is typically eaten with each meal and making it is a day-long family affair.  I really enjoy it as a digestive aid before dinner and it’s great in fried rice and even spicy kimchi soup!  If you have never tried fermented foods before, this is the perfect time to start.

Fermented foods are a really important part of our diet and have been used in many cultures as a way to preserve foods and make them more digestible.  Why are fermented foods important?  Here’s the deal.  We all have microflora (bacteria) in our intestine which is absolutely necessary to keep us healthy.  In the body, there is “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria and it’s important to keep the “good” bacteria thriving. Fermented foods contain populations of the “good” bacteria that help to keep the microflora balanced.  This is necessary because antibiotics are so prevalent in our world (especially in modern agriculture production) and they kill the bacteria in your body, regardless of whether it is “good” or “bad.”

You still with me?  Good.  I think it’s also important to note here that fermented foods (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut) are slightly different from cultured foods because they ferment with the bacteria that are naturally present in the food, rather than adding bacteria.  Cultured foods (e.g. yogurt, tempeh) add certain bacteria and require a starter to make.  Both fermented and cultured foods add “good” bacteria to your digestive system; they simply are made using different processes.

For a long time, I was very wary of making my own kimchi because I was convinced that I was going to do something wrong and poison myself.  If you have this same fear I completely understand.  However, making fermented vegetables is completely safe – as long as you follow the proper procedures.  Over the past year, I’ve done a ton of research on fermentation, attended two classes on vegetable fermenting, and have made quite a few batches of kimchi and sauerkraut on my own.  If you are new to the process of fermentation, I highly recommend that you take a class because it will help you to learn the proper methods and dispel any fears about hurting yourself.

If you are unable to attend a class, then I definitely recommend reading Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz

This book is a wealth of information about the fermentation process and the basics of vegetable ferments.  The following method that I demonstrate is based on Katz’s book.  Once you get the hang of making fermented foods, you’ll realize how easy and fun it is. So, let’s jump right in to this step-by-step tutorial and I’ll show you how to make kimchi at home!






How to make kimchi

How to Make Kimchi
  • 4 Tablespoons of sea salt or kosher salt
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1.5 pounds Napa cabbage
  • 1 daikon radish, thinly sliced in half moons
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2-inch knob of ginger
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  1. Mix a brine from the sea salt and water. Stir well to thoroughly dissolve salt.
  2. Coarsely chop cabbage, slice radish and carrots and let vegetables soak in brine, covered by a plate or other weight to keep the vegetables submerged. Soak for at least 5 hours, and up to 24 hours.
  3. Prepare spices: dice the onion and garlic. Use a food processor to process onion, garlic, and ginger into a paste. Mix in the gochugaru and green onions.
  4. Drain brine off of vegetables, reserving brine. Taste vegetables for saltiness. You want them to taste decidedly salt, but not surprisingly so. If they are too salty, rinse them with water. If you cannot taste salt, sprinkle the vegetables with a couple of teaspoons of salt and mix.
  5. Mix the vegetables throughly with the spice paste. Pack them tightly into a clean jar, pressing down until the brine rises. If necessary, add a little of the reserved vegetable-soaking brine to submerge the vegetables. Weight the vegetables down with a smaller jar if necessary (fill the smaller jar with liquid to keep everything weighted down). Cover the jar with a towel to keep flies and dust out.
  6. Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day and check it to make sure it is still submerged under the brine. Depending on your tastes and the temperature of where it is stored, the kimchi can be ready in as soon as a few days or a few weeks. The fermentation process generally takes longer in cool weather and shorter in warm weather. When your kimchi tastes ripe (sour and tangy), move it to the refrigerator. It can last for several months, if not longer, in the fridge as long as it still has some brine in the jar.
VERY important! :)
Be sure to ferment your kimchi in a glass jar or glazed ceramic crock. Since the brine and vegetables are heavily salted, it is important to avoid using metal or plastic.

Do NOT use iodized salt or any product with preservatives in your kimchi. Iodine is antimicrobial and will prevent the kimchi from fermenting.

You do NOT want air touching your vegetables. It is vital to keep everything submerged under the brine. As long as everything is submerged under liquid, mold will not develop.

After your vegetables have soaked in the brine, they will lose a lot of moisture and will decrease in volume. Depending on the size of your jar, some of the brine might flow over as the kimchi ferments so sometimes it's helpful to put a glass plate under the jar as it sits.

Gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes) can be found at any Asian grocery store or ordered online through Amazon.

This recipe yields about 40 oz.


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  1. says

    this is a great guide, thank you. actually, i’ve never had kimchi but i’m thinking about making some this weekend. are the chili pepper flakes necessary to make kimchi? i’m afraid i wouldn’t be able to handle that amount of heat :) btw, i’m a big fan of home made fermented cucumbers with dill, they totally mean summer to me.

    • says

      Oh I love cucumbers with dill! It’s completely fine to make the kimchi without the chili pepper flakes, the only mandatory part of the recipe is soaking everything in the brine (salt water) and keeping everything submerged under the liquid. As long as you do this it is safe to eat. Leaving out the pepper flakes will definitely alter the flavor, but I’ve never tried it so let me know how it goes. :)

    • says

      Good question! You could definitely use this recipe with other “hard” vegetables like radishes, turnips, burdock root, or other root veggies. I’m not sure about the cucumber though as I’ve never tried fermenting it. Let me know if you find more info on this! :)

    • Sam says

      The recipe for spicy cucumber kimchi (oi sobaegi) is similar. You have to “stuff” the cucumbers though. Cut the end off, stand it on one of it’s ends, cut down the middle, almost to the bottom and then do it perpendicular, so it makes an X. Then, stuff the mixture in the cucumbers.

    • says

      Kimchi does have a distinct odor and it will make your kitchen smell a little while it’s fermenting, but over time I’ve really grown to appreciate it. And the taste makes it worth it! :)

  2. sweet road says

    First off, your blog is great, I can’t believe I’m just finding it! Second, I have always wanted to make kimchi! Thanks for the recipe!

  3. The Pilot's Palate says

    I’m excited to try this but I’m afraid my wife might kill me if it stinks. I love the stuff but she doesn’t. Does it produce an odor in the kitchen as it ferments? I’m a food lover and I travel as an airline pilot so I’m always looking for new recipes which are out of the ordinary (well for an American), this is interesting. Great blog!

    • says

      It does have a bit of an odor as it ferments, but I’ve never found it strong enough to be bothersome. To help with the smell, you could put a plastic bag over the top instead of a towel. Happy travels! :)

  4. says

    Hi Sonnet,

    I just found you on Pinterest and I found your Kimchi recipe! I LOVE kimchi! You have an excellent recipe as well! You have a lovely blog to! Have a great weekend and St. Patties day! Cheers!

  5. says

    Thank you for this post! I’ve been wanting to make kimchi but I always hesitated for fear of messing it up – but this step by step tutorial is really helpful. This is probably a silly question but I wanted to clarify – so when the kimchi is fermenting in the container, it’s actually not covered by a lid but weighed down by another jar?


  6. says

    Not a silly question at all- I’m so glad you asked! Yes, you are exactly right: when fermenting, make sure that the vegetables are weighed down by a jar or another container. The key here is that everything needs to stay in the brine and avoid air. If you are using a larger crock, you can use a plate to keep everything weighted down. Happy fermenting!

    • says

      Absolutely! Fermented foods aid digestion, support our immune system, and help restore beneficial bacterial to our gut. Our gut is full of bacteria – both good and bad – and it’s important to include fermented foods and probiotics in our diet to keep the bacteria in balance.

  7. says

    May be, Kimchi ist getting a trend in the western world. By chance, I got to interest myself for this subject, having seen the traditional making of sauerkraut as a child, and therefore beeing able to compare one with another. With Kimchi, one has more possibilities to enhance the taste, or to use the ingediants you want.
    Sandor Katz can be found on YouTube too, with his explantion of fermentation. Meanwhile, I’m rather interested in the korean kitchen and “fusions”.
    Making Kimchi at home or yourself – some days ago I’d written about it in german:

  8. says

    I eat fermented vegetables every day and have my own recipe!! This among other remedies have helped me battle Crohn’s Disease. I am excited to try this kimchi recipe since I haven’t quite figured it out yet and my husband LOVES kimchi. However, I am having a hard time finding gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes). Can you substitute organic regular red pepper flakes instead?

  9. says

    Hmmm… a comment seems to be suddenly missing. Jessica – you had a question about substituting organic regular red chili pepper flakes for the gochugaru. I’ve never tried this so I can’t give you a good answer on this. It will definitely alter the flavor and I’m not sure about the level of heat that you want so you might just want to start out with a little bit and then add more later if you want more spice. The pepper doesn’t impact the fermentation process so if you wanted to, you could leave it out, but then it wouldn’t have the spice that kimchi is known for. If you try it out with the chili pepper flakes, let me know how it goes. :)

  10. Anonymous says

    Awesome post! I am in the process of trying this and I have a question. My 4tbs salt and 4 cups of water doesn’t come close to covering the chopped veggies.It only fills about 1/4 of the jar and the veggies fill the whole jar. I know I need these to somehow be totally submerged…What am I missing??

    • says

      These are just guidelines so you can definitely add more water (and salt if needed) to make sure that the veggies are submerged. Making kimchi is a pretty flexible process so as long as everything is submerged it should be fine. Let me know if you have other questions! So excited for your kimchi! :)

    • Anonymous says

      I will have to look for a class locally, so that I can learn to do this on my own. I have purchased (commercial) raw (white) sauerkraut from my local co-op a few times now and enjoyed it. A few days ago, I purchased the same brand made with red cabbage, from a Whole Foods while out of town. Question: The jar was sealed tightly, but when opened there was one piece of red cabbage that was not submerged in the brine and it was black and there was a touch of black on the lid of the jar. I was unsure if it was mold or just that that unsubmerged cabbage had darked. Either way, I was unsure if it is safe to eat. Your thoughts? Sorry thi is so long. : (

    • says

      My understanding is that most of the commercial brands of fermented foods sold in stores are actually pasturized, but I can’t tell you for sure whether or not it’s safe to eat. My best advice is to be safe rather than sorry! :)

  11. says

    I’m currently making this, though with purple cabbage instead of napa and a yellow onion instead of green (because I was too lazy to go out and buy green onions). I have two questions. Did I understand correctly that you don’t rinse the veggies after soaking them in the brine, prior to combining them with the ginger-garlic mix? I saw other recipes online where rinsing followed the soak. Also, if you can’t use metal or plastic, how are you supposed to get the kimchi out of the jar? Or is it okay to use these once the kimchi has been capped and moved to the fridge? Thanks for your help! BTW, of all the new blogs I discovered last year, yours is my favorite!

  12. says

    I do not usually rinse the vegetables after soaking them. I did have to do that once because I had added way too much salt and the vegetables were too salty, but if you follow the proportions in the recipe you shouldn’t have to rinse it. You do not want to soak the vegetables in a metal or plastic container, but you can use metal or plastic utensils to get it out of the jar. Does that make sense?
    I’m so glad you found my blog and are enjoying it! Let me know how the kimchi turns out!

  13. says

    Sonnet where did you get that massive glass jar you used? Any recommendations where to look for a container? And also by ceramic cookware do you mean like the inside part of a crockpot for example?

    I am so excited to try this and your blog has been such an amazing inspiration I’ve made so many things and they are always fantastic! When broccoli is available at the market I make the broccoli tahini cashew salad at least once a week

    • says

      The funny thing is that I actually got my giant glass jar at IKEA! I would probably check your local health food store, any home container store (like a Target) or search online (this one from Amazon looks pretty good: The ceramic part of the crockpot will definitely work as well!

      Thanks so much, I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying the recipes! :)

    • Anonymous says

      I am so glad I came across your recipe for kimchi! This is very similar to the one I knew as a child. My best friend’s mother was from Korea, and made it without sugar (used carrot for sweet) and also did not rinse after salting. She squeezed the excess water out, and added a bit of fresh water to make the brine. I have been a little hesitant to make it this way, because I have seen so many recent recipes with added sugar, so thought that I was forgetting something. I now know that I was remembering correctly, and will follow your recipe – Thanks! Kathy

  14. Anonymous says

    Thank you so much for this kimchi recipe. Finally one that is straightforward and doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients that i can’t get where i live! Will try it, since it reminds me of sauerkraut a lot. That one has been a traditional food to make in the autumn for quite a few generations in my family.
    Thanks again, Emma.

  15. mccart says

    I really want to thank Dr Aluta for saving my marriage. My husband really treat me bad and left the home for almost 1 month i was sick because of this,i was not my self again, then i told my friend about my husband case then she told me to contact Dr Aluta that he will help me bring back my husband he told me that my husband is under a great spell of another woman. They cast a spell of return back of love on him. And he came back home for forgiveness and today we are happy again, i want you all who are having relationship, ex and even husband problem, and also getting back your wife to contact Wish you all success.

  16. Jen says

    Hi Sonnet,

    WoW your Kimchi looks great! I made some last month and a few jars have been sitting out as in not in the refrigerator. Are they going to be ok still? I should have done more research before making it. But the jar I opened a few days tasted great.

    Thank-you for your help,

    Next time I will try your recipe!

    • Sonnet says

      Hmm, I don’t have a good answer for you here. I have always made mine and then kept it in the fridge. It is a fermented food, but I am pretty sure it still requires refrigeration after it is initially fermented. Wish I had a better answer for you! :)

      • Jim says

        I asked a Korean lady “owner” of a local Asian Food Store a couple weeks ago if could keep Kimchi (store bought) out of the refrigerator… She told me NO. Because it would make it to “sour”. So it wouldn’t actually be unhealthy for you, but that the taste would not be pleasant after extended time left out in warmer temperatures. Homemade would be just the same I suppose. I’ve always purchased my kimchi -store bought- only cause I never took the time. That will change 😉

  17. Export Asia says

    I love fermented foods and have tried many fermented dishes throughout Asia. In my travels, I’ve learned that kimchi actually has origins outside of Korea. Kimchi descended from a Lao fermented dish called som phak that is a traditional food in the country Laos. The process of fermenting with rice or flour had spread from Laos to China and then eventually to Korea. I’ve learned to make both som phak and kimchi. They’re both very delicious. You should try making som phak too.

  18. Roda says

    great blog. I wanted to know if I can make kimchi without the daikon radish and carrots. I have allergies and can’t consume them. Do you have any other vegetable combos? or can I omit them and only use cabbage? I appreciate your response.

  19. Brigitte says

    So glad I found your post .. can’t wait to try the kimchi (and make it Xtra spicy!!) A n d … absolutely LUV your name. Looking forward to receiving my posts!

  20. 김주환(juhwankim) says

    허걱ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ 이게김치랜닼ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ

    I never seen before like this hahahaha (I’m korean)

    • Sonnet says

      This is a great question. I make kimchi frequently and will keep a big batch in the fridge as it lasts for quite some time. I’ve never pasteurized any food before so I don’t have any advice or suggestions on this. :)

  21. Rhiannon says


    This looks like a great recipe! I have just a couple of questions – I’m confused about step 5 when it says to pack the vegetables into the jar until the brine rises above the vegetables, what is the brine at this point, because I thought we already drained the salty brine? Is the brine now considered to be the spicy paste or do we add the salty brine back into the jar? If it’s the latter how much of the salty brine do I add?

    Also, is it possible to use standard red pepper flakes instead of gochugaru?


    • Sonnet says

      Good question. The cabbage will have absorbed the brine so when you pack it into the jar, you should have enough brine left over in the cabbage that it will rise above it. In step 4 it does say to reserve the brine so if there’s not enough liquid, you can add some of the reserved liquid at this point. You just want enough of the salty brine to cover the cabbage. Every batch of kimchi is a little different so don’t worry about exact measurements of the brine. As long as the cabbage is covered, you’re good. :) You can use red pepper flakes, but it will give it a different flavor. Feel free to experiment with it and see what you like best.
      Hope this helps!

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