Korean Spicy Pickled Cabbage

Kimchi is a spicy Korean pickle, made in a huge variety of styles.  It is prepared by fermenting cabbage, radishes or turnips, scallions, other vegetables and often seafood, with ginger, red chili pepper, garlic and often fish sauce.  However, the family recipe featured here is vegan and does not include any fish.

This recipe makes two quarts – if this is your first try at kimchee I recommend fermenting in a glass jar so you can watch the magic happen!




• 2 heads Napa cabbage, cut into quartered heads, top to bottom
• 3 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
• 2 cups bean sprouts
• 12 to 15 cloves garlic, minced
• 5 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
• 5 tablespoons sugar
• 1 cup daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
• 1 cup finely chopped green onion
• 4 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 cup mochiko
• 1 cup red chili flakes
• 2 tablespoons sake
• 1 cup finely chopped
  cilantro, leaf and stems
• 3 tablespoons sesame oil
• 2 tablespoons sesame chili oil
• 1 to 2 cups sea salt


Quarter the heads of cabbage. Rub the sea salt in between every leaf, paying special attention to working the salt into the base of the cabbage (near the heart). Place in a non-reactive bowl and cover with a plate. Weight the plate down so that as the cabbage releases water, it immerses the cabbage. Turn it every 30 minutes until all of the excess water is released; press for at least 1 hour, or as long as overnight.  

While waiting for the cabbage to yield its water, prepare your other veggies and mix the spices. After salting the cabbage there is no more addition of salt. The quantity varies based on the size of the cabbage, but what you use salting the cabbage is all you need. Combine the spices together and the veggies together (wet and dry separate), and then combine. The veggies, combined with the spices, will yield water that you will eventually spread on the cabbage leaves, like you spread the salt earlier.  

Once all the water is released from the Napa cabbage, rinse the cabbage at least 5 times to remove what is left of the salt. The salt that is absorbed by the cabbage is plenty to aid in fermentation. Squeeze the cabbage to remove excess water. 

Next, smear the paste into the individual cabbage leaves and put in a clean container. Once all your cabbage is processed, weigh down again in the fermentation receptacle and put a lid on it. Air should be able to escape, but you must make sure that nothing (like fruit flies, etc.) can get IN. After 24 hours, your mixture should yield enough additional liquid to completely submerge the kimchi.   

Ferment in your kitchen or other warm place. Taste the kimchi every day. After about a week of fermentation, when it tastes ripe, move it to the refrigerator.  An alternative and more traditional method is to ferment kimchi more slowly and with more salt in a cool spot, such as a hole in the ground or a cellar or other cool place.