How To Make Kimchi (My Mom’s Famous Spicy Kimchi Recipe)
Have you ever had kimchi? (Sometimes spelled Kimchee, too).
Today I’m going to teach you how to make kimchi. And not just any kimchi – my mom’s famous spicy kimchi! This stuff is the bomb!
Kimchi is a traditional fermented food and it’s even Korea’s national dish. Koreans generally eat a small amount of kimchi with every single meal. Kimchi is made with vegetables and spices and is lacto fermented. That means it’s jam packed with beneficial probiotics that help our immune health and digestion. In other words – it’s super, super good for you! Those smart Koreans definitely know what’s up 😉
Homemade fermented foods like kimchi contain 100 times more probiotics than a supplement. In fact, just one small spoonful of kimchi will give you more probiotics than an entire bottle of probiotics! (Source)
If you’ve never tasted kimchi, it’s like a flavor explosion in your mouth. It’s a delightful combination of crispy and bold and spicy and tangy. If you like sour foods like pickles and sauerkraut, I think you’ll really love kimchi, too.
Kimchi is awesome on wraps, sandwiches, on hamburgers or just eaten by the spoonful. But my very favorite way to eat kimchi is mixed with eggs for breakfast. So yummy!
My mom makes the best kimchi. I’ve had my fair share of kimchi and no one beats my mom’s kimchi. I spent a few days visiting with her last week and she taught me exactly how to make kimchi so I could share it with you all. And today I’m showing you how to make it based on my mom’s famous spicy Korean kimchi recipe. Enjoy!
If you are a regular eater of kimchi, leave me a comment and let me know what foods you like to pair with your kimchi 🙂
How To Make Kimchi
- 2 heads Napa cabbage (about 6 pounds total)
- 1 cup sea salt
- 2 cups spring or distilled water
- 1 large diakon radish (about 1½ pounds), peeled
- 4 large carrots (about ¾ pound total)
- 1 apple, peeled and core removed (don't leave the apple out! The apple provides sugar for the bacteria to eat so it can ferment properly)
- 2 bunches of scallions, chopped
- 1 whole head of garlic, peeled
- 4 ounces fresh ginger
- 1½ cups hot Korean chili flakes (found in Asian markets or online. I use THESE)
- optional: 1 teaspoon fish sauce (I use THIS)
- optional: pinch or two (or three!) of dried red pepper flakes. The more pinches, the spicier! I typically use 2 pinches - about 1 teaspoon.
- ⅓ cup additional distilled or spring water
- clean mason jars (I use 8 of THESE jars)
- Cut your cabbage in one inch (bite size) pieces and place it in 2 very large bowls.
- Add ½ cup sea salt and 1 cup of water to each bowl and toss with your hands to coat.
- Let the cabbage sit for one hour, tossing every 20 minutes. You'll start to see the cabbage releasing liquid and shrinking in size - that's exactly what we want!
- While the cabbage is sitting, shred your radish, carrots and apple in a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, you can chop them in small pieces. Set aside.
- In a food processor, process the garlic and ginger until smooth.
- Fold in your Korean hot chili flakes, red pepper flakes (if using) and fish sauce (if using) and ⅓ cup water. Stir until it becomes a paste. Set aside.
- After the cabbage has sat for 1 hour, rinse it very well with cold water and then strain the water. Rinse and strain for a total of 3 times. Rinsing and straining 3 times is important because you want to wash away most of the salt or it will be way too salty!
- Place your rinsed cabbage in one of your very large bowls (it should all fit in one bowl now).
- Add the radish, carrot, scallions and apple and your hot chili/garlic/ginger paste.
- With gloves on your hands (important!), toss everything together making sure that the paste coats all the veggies well.
- Add the kimchi to your mason jars packing it in tightly. Make sure to leave at least 2 inches of headroom (the kimchi will expand as it ferments). Close the lids to your jars. This recipe usually makes about 8-10 pint size jars.
- Close the lids on your jars and let them sit for 3-5 days.
- You must "burp" the jars once a day during these 3-5 days. You do that by quickly opening the jar and then closing it. You'll hear gas releasing - just like what it sounds like when you open a soda. That is normal and a good sign! You should see small bubbles in your jar, too. And if you hold the opened jar to your ears, you'll also hear it fizzing. That's like music to a fermenters ears 🙂
- After 3 days, give your kimchi a taste. If it tastes tangy and "fizzy", that means your kimchi is finished and you can move your jars to the fridge. They will last about a year in the fridge. If you don't taste that tanginess, let your kimchi sit for a few more days.
Pin How To Make Kimchi HERE:
Can bok choy be subbed for the napa cabbage? Only wondering because I have 3 heads of bok choy!
Yes for sure!
So excited to try this! I’ve been buying it from a local small company recently, which I love supporting, but this will def save me a lot of $$!
For sure! Hope you love this version 🙂
I’d love to try this, I keep putting off fermenting foods even though everyone says they’re incredible for your gut!
Great recipe! Thanks for the helping of motivation!
Thanks, Mark! I spent some time on your site today – love it!!! New fan 🙂
Ooh thanks very much Kelly that’s so kind! I’m glad you liked it – you’re welcome at the castle any time!
M question is: If heating a fermented food destroys the good bacteria, are we supposed to eat sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. cold?
Yes, Michelle. Eating it cold or at room temperature is best because heating it will kill those beneficial bacteria.
I think I did something wrong. I see zero bubble and I do not hear any fizzing sounds. My house is cold. Is that the problem or do I wait a few more days? What can I do to correct this? I am on day 3.
Hi Amy! Yes, if your house is colder, it will take a bit longer – maybe even 2 weeks or longer. Thanks for bringing that up!
Thank you! Doing a happy dance.
love this! currently making it, i don’t have a food processor so i’m shredding all my veggies… my radishes have A LOT of water left over and i’m curious if i should drain it or leave it? thanks a bunch.. excited to see how its gonna turn out!
You are going to get an arm workout, girl!! 🙂 I’d drain the water. Hope you love it!
thanks for the fast response! my jars are done and sitting, already tasting fantastic.. super excited for the next few days, thanks for such an awesome recipe!! 🙂
I just wanted to tell you that I’ve made this a couple of times, and it is amazing! I love it. I’ve been eating it every day. Thanks for the recipe!
Awesome!! So glad to hear, Karen and thank you for leaving a comment 🙂
I had to come back and comment on this recipe. I had never eaten kimchi and was a little nervous about trying. I went for it, and I’m SO glad I did. This is delicious stuff! Thanks so much for sharing. My favorites so far are eggs with kimchi and avocado and kimchi on my burger. Yummy! Thanks again!
Awesome!! Thank you so much for coming back to comment – I love hearing that 🙂
Im a little worried about room in my fridge for all those jars – what would happen if I just put them in a cool cuboard somewhere?
That should be fine, Siobhan! My mom leaves hers in a cool cupboard for months!
Hi, can I substitute the Napa with regular green cabbage? Thanks!
Yes, for sure!
How I love to eat my kimchi….I make a slow cook chicken soup. When it’s time to eat I put a big spoonful of kimchi in my bowl with the soup. It is fabulous!
That sounds so good, Susan! What a great idea – can’t wait to try it next time I make chicken soup!
Thanks for the recipe, excited to try. Curious if I can sub red pepper flakes for the Korean chili flakes and if so, how much should I use?
I am not sure, Mary! I just always use the recipe as is, so I’m not really sure. I’d love for anyone else to chime in if they’ve tried that.
Hi, I’m getting ready to make Kimchi and I was wondering if I had to sterilize the mason jars.
Hi Caroline! I don’t formally sterilize them, but I do make sure they are clean.
This kimchi is absolutely fabulous!!! I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! Thank you so much for providing not only a delicious recipe, but an easy to follow step by step guide. P.S. I love that your recipe called for an apple instead of regular sugar. So many other recipes I came across listed sugar as an ingredient, using the apple made it more natural. Didn’t even taste it in there. Can’t wait to make this again!!
Makes me so happy, Kelli! Thank you for your encouraging comment <3
This recipe just randomly came up on pinterest the other day and I just kept going back to it and reading it, each time with more intrigue. I love kimchi, but many of the commercial brands are made with shrimp paste, which I can’t have due to a shellfish allergy, so when I saw this one I was super excited. I bit the bullet and I’m going for it now. I went to our Asian market but was confused on which pepper flakes were the right one, so I found a specific Korean market that the lady who owns it pointed me in the right direction. I made mine with the fish sauce cause I do like that extra funky flavor. Currently on day 2 of fermentation and I can’t wait until it’s completely done. This stuff smells AMAZING!! Is it sad to say that my wife and I look forward to burping the jars because it smells so good? I already have friends requesting one of the jars once it’s ready. Thank you so much for this recipe!
Pete, this makes me so happy to hear!!! You and your wife are totally not weird about getting excited to burp your jars because of the smell hahaha – I am the same way – or maybe that makes me weird, too 🙂 I’m especially happy that you get to finally enjoy some awesome homemade Kimchi with your shellfish allergy. Enjoy!!
Glass is better, you don’t want the plastic leaching into your food.
Can I use plastic reusable tupperware or is glass a must?
You can use plastic, Katie.
Are you supposed to rinse the cabbage with the distilled water or just tap water?
Hi Lauren, we’ve always just rinse it with tap water and have never had any problems.
Hi Kelly. I’m super excited to make my first kimchi. Can I used ginger and garlic paste instead of fresh ones?
I don’t see why that would be a problem, Fahima! Go for it 🙂 Enjoy!!
Best kimchi. My wife makes large batches at a time so I don’t have to go without it. I’m totally addicted. It’s by far the best kimchi we’ve had or tried.
Thanks, Owen! I’m so happy to hear you both are loving it as much as I do! My mom will be excited to hear your kind words, too 🙂
Hi! Great recipe! Quick question! For mason jar use, do you put the lid and ring on tight or slack when fermenting and burping? What do you suggest? This is going to be my first adventure in fermentation.
See you all in the Emergency Room!! LOL
I put the lid on tight right after I make it and also when burping, William! GOOD LUCK!!! 🙂
Do you need a ferment weight?
Hi Eric, I have never used one for this particular recipe.
New to fermenting veggies (only made a batch of ginger carrots) aren’t you supposed to make sure everything is under the brine with a weight due to mold and oxygen? Or is this Recipe different? Just want to understand that why so I can learn. Thanks for your prompt comment 🙂
You are absolutely right – anything not under brine has the potential to mold. It’s harmless and can be skimmed off if it does. I always add a weight if I’m fermenting anything over a week. I’ve never had an issue with this recipe because of the shorter fermenting time.
I don’t think a weight is necessary with this recipe and my mom or I have never had mold (between the 2 of us, we’ve made this recipe probably over 100 times!), but you can always add a weight if you want 🙂 Hope you can make this, Eric – it’s really good! 🙂
I just made my first batch ever following your recipe, and I’m concerned that there isn’t any liquid. Does it make its ow? Or did I do something wrong?
It will make it’s own, Teanna!
If I want to halve the kimchee recipe then is it simply a matter of halving all the ingredients?
That’s what I do, Penny! Enjoy!
Well I made my first batch of kimchi on Weds and I’m not experiencing any gaseous releases from my jars yet. I’m in Tasmania so it is summer here and I have the jars in a cool dark corner of our house.
What I have noticed is in 2 jars there is a lot of liquid rising to the top. However as I said when I opened these jars on Thurs and today there was no gassy soda burp. The third jar has no liquid on top and I noticed today I didn’t pack this jar as tightly as I thought, so when I gave the jar a little jiggle there was a big shift of veges at the top of the jar. Interestingly this jar gave a tiny hiss when I opened it.
I haven’t tasted the kimchi yet. I will do this on Sat.
So, this is where I think I went wrong:
Rinsing the cabbage – I gave the cabbage a good old rinse. Long rinses. When I tasted at the end it was salty but not extreme. What I also did was gave the cabbage a good old squeeze before I placed it in the bowl with the rest of the veges.
I don’t think I should have been as caring with the cabbage.
Apple – I halved the recipe which meant I also used half an apple. Next time I will use a whole apple.
Packing the kimchi – this proved to be the trickiest thing to do. When I packed the kimchi into the jars I used the back of a spoon to press it in. Any tips?
That’s all I can think of in terms of where I ran foul of the kimchi path and like I said I haven’t tasted yet and it may all be good.
It will be interesting to hear your thoughts
Holy smokes this stuff is spicy! I used some asian red chili powder (~1/2C) I had from making Bulgogi, and half a jar of crushed red pepper, making it about 3/4C total…
This looks delicious! I love that you shared a recipe your mom has been making for you, it really adds a special touch to a recipe and makes me want to try it more! I really want to try making this at home, I will report back when I do and let you know how it went!
Enjoy, Billy! Thank you for your comment!
This is the best kimchi recipe I have made….now on my third batch (have given mason jars to my grown sons and their families and they absolutely love it)….they eat a lot of kimchi and say this the best they have every had! Believe me that is a compliment!
Lori, this makes me so happy to hear and I can’t wait to tell my mom! I’m so glad you all are enjoying it!! Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment 🙂
Hi this sounds like a lot of heat with all the chile. I like spicy things so I think it should be fine but how and why so much spice. Thsnks
It’s really not all that spicy, I promise!
I see in the stores canned kimchi is it possible to can this and store it for later use also. I just love the idea of having this all the time
Yes, Fredericka, it can be canned!
This looks so tasty!
Thank you for your notes about this recipe and generally about Kimchi. I used another recipe, but next time I will try this one. My concern is that the recipe I used did not seem to be fermenting properly and I could not find anything to guide me about how it should taste after two days on the counter. I loved that you described the fizzy tang you should experience and your advise to let it sit a few more days. Thank you so much I thought I had a disaster on my hands. Will try your Mom’s recipe next time.
You are welcome, Jan! I hope you enjoy your kimchi!
This my 3rd time making this. This time I doubled the batch. Growing up eating Kimchi I find myself craving it. Thanks You for this great recipe…it makes me sooo happy to be able to make my own! Great flavor too!