How to Make Homemade Kimchi

We were sitting in a café chatting over coffee, when we started hatching our plans for the kimchi project.  I had seen a recipe that looked manageable, and that was all the inspiration we needed.  From there it turned into a flurry of emails and comparing schedules and watching an online tutorial and shopping, to culminate last Saturday morning in Operation Kimchi.

So Victoria, a friend and fellow food blogger, arrived at my house on a typically soggy Seattle morning, with all of the baggage that a good visiting cook requires.  In addition to a variety of kimchi related groceries, she also had a food processor and her own knife and cutting board.

I am here to tell you that Kimchi is not particularly difficult to make, especially with two cooks working in tandem.

We cut up the cabbage, salted it, and weighed it down before leaving it to sit for three hours.  Then we moved on to make the kimchi paste, and the kitchen filled with the scent of garlic and the sharp tang of red pepper.  After nibbling on a bit of the red pepper flakes, we agreed that they had a peppery burn, but were not especially fiery.  The paste was a deep red, a vermillion so intense that it seemed to glow with its own light.

While the cabbage and kimchi paste rested in their respective bowls, we had plenty of time for a coffee break, and to chop the rest of the vegetables, and we had some lunch.   Then it was time to massage the daikon radish slices with a mixture of salt and sugar, as the clock continued to tick down the three hours that the cabbage needed to sit.

One of the real pleasures of this kimchi project was the hands-on nature of the project.  Slicing, tossing, massaging, it was the sort of cooking that gets your hands dirty, in the best possible way.  All five senses were stimulated by the colors, scents, taste, feel, the rapid shooshing sound of knives on cutting boards.

When the daikon was sufficiently softened, the cabbage was rinsed and drained.  Everything was combined in a big bowl, and with four hands in the bowl, it was all coated with the kimchi paste.

And that was it, really.  We had made a double batch, so we each finished up with a gallon Ziploc full of fresh kimchi.  After that it was just a matter of letting it ferment.

There may be better ways to spend three hours on a rainy Saturday, but right now I can’t think of many.

The finished kimchi was soft and crunchy at the same time; tangy and peppery, but not overwhelmingly spicy.  Just right to serve with a meal of stir-fried vegetables and rice.

Not everyone likes kimchi–I get that.  But if you are a kimchi fan, this recipe is for you.


(adapted from Fine Cooking)

For the kimchi paste

  • 1 cup gochu garu (coarse Korean red pepper flakes)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp  salt
  • 1 medium apple, unpeeled, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled
  • 6 to 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 oz. (about 1 inch) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

For the kimchi

  • 1 (2-lb.) napa cabbage, trimmed, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (about 15 cups)
  • handful of salt
  • 3/4 lb. daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 10-15 scallions, halved lengthwise and then cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 medium cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 oz (about 2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

Preparing the Kimchi Paste:

In a medium bowl, combine the gochu garu with 1/2 cup water. Add the sugar and salt and mix well. Set aside.

In a food processor, purée the apple, onion, anchovies, garlic, and ginger until smooth. Add the purée to the red pepper paste and mix thoroughly. Let the paste sit for a few hours before using. It will keep for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.

Preparing the kimchi:

Put a third of the cabbage in an extra-large bowl. Sprinkle with a few teaspoons of salt. Top with another third of the cabbage and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining cabbage and salt. Put a piece of waxed paper directly on the cabbage and then weigh down with a plate topped with something heavy.   Let the cabbage rest at room temperature for 3 hours.

Remove the weight, transfer the cabbage to a colander, rinse, and let drain. Clean the bowl. Take handfuls of the cabbage, squeeze out any excess liquid, and put the squeezed cabbage in the bowl; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the daikon, the remaining 2 tsp. salt, and the sugar. Let rest for 15 minutes.

With your hands, rub the daikon strips until they’re soft and pliable. Drain the daikon in a colander. Wipe out the bowl. Gather the daikon into a ball and squeeze out any liquid; return to the bowl.

Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger to the daikon and toss to distribute. Add the daikon mixture to the cabbage and toss again.

Open a gallon-size-zip-top bag; set aside. Wearing disposable plastic gloves, use your hands to mix 1 cup of the kimchi paste with the cabbage mixture. Be sure the cabbage mixture is thoroughly coated with the kimchi paste; season to taste with salt (about ½ tsp should be enough).

Put the cabbage in the plastic bag. Remove and discard the gloves. Seal the bag three-quarters of the way.

Press as much air out of the bag as possible, then seal the bag completely. Let the kimchi ferment at room temperature for 24 hours.

Transfer the kimchi and its liquid to a sterile wide-mouth 1.5-liter (or half-gallon) glass jar and refrigerate. (The kimchi should be stored in one jar, not divided into multiple jars.) It will be ready after 24 hours, though some may prefer the more fermented taste the kimchi acquires after 2 to 3 days. Kimchi will last in the refrigerator for at least 4 weeks.

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9 thoughts on “How to Make Homemade Kimchi

  1. Unhygienix

    I tried making a more traditional recipe of kimchi over a month ago… I unfortunately didn’t understand what real gochugaru was and used hot chili pepper instead. I had a burning suspicion something was wrong, and only used half the amount the recipe called for of the gochugaru. Such a bummer. I still ate much of it but my wife was a little put off by how the house would fill with a distinctly asian food smell everytime I opened the container. It was an adventure, and I would love to try it again with the proper ingredients using your recipe.

    I tried to find the daikon radish around here and could not. Do you think carrots could be substituted?

    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      I don’t see why you couldn’t substitute carrots for daikon radish in kimchi. It wouldn’t taste the same, but the texture would be similar. Do you have an Asian grocery store near you? They would definitely have daikon if your regular store doesn’t.

      1. Unhygienix

        hey thanx for the reply. You know we do have an asian grocer here, but for some reason daikon is something they don’t carry. Gots all kinds of vegetables you don’t see at the super market but not daikon. Thanx again.

  2. Natalie

    This sounds really good. I can just imagine serving it with a lovely fresh grilled fish. It reminded me of a jar of Picallilli that I have in the back of the fridge – do you have picallilli in the states?

    Great post, as always x

    1. The Rowdy Chowgirl Post author

      I’m going to have to google picallilli! While we may well have it here, I’ve never seen it before. Now I will probably see it everywhere…


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