Easy Kimchi Recipe
Learning to make kimchi at home was a necessity
Easy Kimchi Recipe was the best recipe I have ventured out to attempt to create in my entire life! To help you fully understand just know that it’s considered shameful or disgraceful to claim that you are Korean but you don’t know how to make a basic kimchi at home. It would be the equivalent of saying I am an American but I have no idea how to grill hamburgers and hotdogs.
Every good Korean knows how to make a basic kimchi and now thanks to the powers of YouTube and trial and error, I can save myself loads of money and have a never ending supply of kimchi in stock at home in my very own kimchi fridge!
Our “kimchi fridge” in the garage
Kimchi fridge? Oh yes honey, my husband insists that the smelly concoction of fermented goodness has to sit and stew in the garage, away from his not-so-discerning nose because the smell of the cabbage kimchi is offensive to him. He doesn’t mind if I eat it but he does insist that I keep the bowl of kimchi away from him while we ingest our meal. He bought me a brand new refrigerator this year and the old one went to the garage for stockpiling and we have lovingly nicknamed it the “kimchi fridge.”
There really is a such thing as an actual “kimchi fridge” and it’s built entirely for housing kimchi at the optimal temperature for perfect fermentation. There are also specialty containers to house your kimchi and keep the moisture and air content perfect! See it and/or buy it on Amazon here!
Pre-made versus homemade in terms of cost
I saved so much money by learning to make this kimchi at home. True story – a few months back my daughter and I went shopping at our local Asian Grocery Store called O-Mart. A gaggle of elderly ladies (not all Korean, there was a variety) stopped me while I was escorting my daughter to the restrooms in the back of the store.
I was carrying three small jars of kimchi (like the one above, far right) and they all stopped talking in unison and one lady asked me if I like kimchi. I answered back that I love kimchi and I am so glad it’s available at this store. She shook her head and told me that I should be making it at home, that I needed to Google search recipes and save myself so much money. Asian women are incredibly frugal and shrewd with money, in case you didn’t already know!
Probiotics, vitamins and calcium
She also went into great detail along with the others chiming in about the health benefits of kimchi and especially about the benefits of probiotics and cal-she-um and how it will keep my poop “regular!” They also told me how easy it was to make kimchi and that I really should learn to do it. So after stewing on the idea of trying it out, I watched youtube and made one batch that had to be thrown out because it was inedible.
I made the mistake of using fish sauce and I have now discovered that I hate fish sauce and would rather use the more authentic salted shrimp paste so my second batch, pictured above, is the recipe I am sharing today.
Keep in mind that kimchi does take some time to make but it is worth the effort since you won’t need to make another batch for at least 3-4 weeks unless you literally eat a pound of it a day! It takes a good 2 weeks to fully ferment and “ripen” so I will be making another batch shortly to ensure that I will always have a ripe and ready to eat batch on hand.
Mak Kimchi – translated
Mak kimchi literally translates to “Easy Kimchi” in Korean. The difference between Mak Kimchi and the traditional Baechu Kimchi is that Mak Kimchi is pre-cut cabbage and Baechu Kimchi is not cut.
For the traditional Baechu Kimchi you would quarter the head of nappa cabbage and leave the core intact. You would later cut the cabbage when ready to consume for a meal and many claim the difference is in taste.
I prefer Mak kimchi for the convenience of never needing to slice it and make a mess in my tiny kitchen because I can literally just scoop out the amount we will consume in a meal. My husband also appreciates having to smell the kimchi as little as possible so not needing to cut it up every time I eat it is a big huge perk for him!
Watch this short video about the ingredients you’ll need like Korean radish, hot pepper flakes and fermented salted shrimp and/or fish sauce.
Emily’s Easy Kimchi Recipe
Makes 0.5 gallons of kimchi, makes 20 (1/2 cup) servings
- 1 large head of nappa cabbage (try to find a 2 – 3 lb head of cabbage)
- 1/2 cup sea salt (use kosher salt if not available)
- 1/2 cup large onion, sliced into thin slices
- 1/2 cup carrot, julienned
- 1 cup Korean radish, julienned
- 1 cup buchu (Korean garlic chives) chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (optional)
- 4 stalks green onion, sliced
- 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 2 – inch knub of ginger, minced (2 tbsp)
- 1 medium gala apple, julienned
- 1/8 cup salted shrimp sauce (you can substitute fish sauce)
- 3/4 cup Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru)
- 2 tbsp glutinous rice flour (it is gluten free though it says “glutinous”)
- 1 cup water
- 1 large glass jar with a tight fitting lid or any airtight container for storage
***I am including some short video clips to show you some of the steps to making the kimchi. I am a visual learner so I make these with visual learning in mind!***
- Salt and pickle the cabbage. This is the most important step of the kimchi making process. If you don’t complete this step properly then your kimchi will ferment too quickly and will essentially “rot” or it will take forever to ferment. The salt is the key component to starting the fermentation process.
- Cut the head of cabbage in half. Then cut each half into halves lengthwise. Chop each quarter into 2 – 3 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. I go one extra step and separate the hard stalks from the leaves as they tend to wilt at different rates. The leaves will wilt faster and the stalks will take more time and more salt. This step is not mandatory but I prefer to eat “crispier and crunchier” leaves.
- Cover each bowl of cabbage leaves and stalks with water and add the sea salt. If you are using 2 separate bowls then add 1/8 of a cup of sea salt to the bowl with the leaves only and add the remaining sea salt to the bowl with the stalks. Use your hands to stir the cabbage and salt water so the salt dissolves and the cabbage is fully immersed.
- Allow to “wilt” 24 hours. Be sure to toss and stir the cabbage every few hours. I also use a weight to help hold the cabbage down in the water.
- If you prefer the “fast” method then wilt the cabbage in one bowl, adding the entire 1/2 cup of sea salt. Do not add water. Toss and rotate the cabbage in the salt brine (the sea salt will pull moisture from the cabbage and you will have salty water in the bottom of the bowl) every 30 minutes for a total of 4 hours.
- Do not rinse the cabbage after brining – no matter which method you use because the salt will be the key component to your kimchi!
- Prepare the kimchi porridge. Pour 2 cups of cold water into a saucepan and add 2 tbsp. glutinous rice flour and stir to break up large lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Be sure to stir the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Allow to cool completely.
- Prep your kimchi vegetables – Korean radish, green onions, onion, garlic, ginger, apple while brining and pickling your cabbage and waiting for your kimchi porridge to cool. Place all of the vegetables into a large bowl and set aside. You will use this mixture to season your cabbage and turn it into kimchi.
- Once the kimchi porridge has cooled and the cabbage leaves are fully brined and wilted, mix the kimchi porridge into the vegetables. Add the hot pepper powder and salted shrimp and mix by hand. Use gloves so you don’t burn your skin or turn your hands red.
- Drain the cabbage using a strainer but don’t rinse off the salt with water. Place the chopped cabbage into the bowl with the kimchi “sauce” and mix thoroughly. I recommend wearing disposable gloves while mixing by hand. See the video above for details.
- Place in a clean, airtight container or jar. Clean the rim of the jar of excess kimchi sauce prior to capping to prevent mold from forming.
- Allow to sit on the kitchen counter for 24 hours to allow fermentation to begin.
- Place in the refrigerator after 24 hours and store in the fridge. It is fully fermented when it tastes sour and pungent, fresh kimchi tastes a bit salty and the cabbage leaves are crisp and raw.
- Be sure and stir your kimchi with a clean spoon or utensil at least once a day. I made the mistake of not doing this with my first batch and had to throw out an entire batch because it formed white mold on the top layer. You took all of this time to make your precious kimchi so baby it!
- Serve with rice, soup, stews, any meal at all in my opinion! Once the kimchi is “too sour” to eat alone, use it to make kimchi soup, kimchi pancakes and kimchi fried rice. All of those recipes are coming soon!
It sounds like a ton of work, but the longest part of the prep is the brining and salting process. I use the overnight method to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the active toddler getting into everything around the house!
The actual time spent making kimchi is maybe 20 – 30 minutes. I also consider it totally worth the time it takes to make my kimchi because I only have to make a new batch every 2 – 3 weeks, depending upon how fast we eat it up. It also takes me far less time to make now that I have made numerous batches so it’s becoming one of those mindless activities where I don’t have to put a ton of thought into the process. Kind of like cooking a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s so easy after you make 1,000 of them!
You can save time and work by using a food processor or blender to chop your ginger, garlic, apple and onion. I don’t prefer this method because it changes the texture of my kimchi. It forms a kind of thick sauce and I like my kimchi juice on the more “watery” side, if that makes sense. Besides, the chopping is burning calories, building up muscle and food prep in the kitchen makes me eat less and appreciate my food more!
I will be making water kimchi using nappa cabbage today and if my recipe turns out well then I will be posting it soon! Along with those other kimchi recipes I mentioned below (soup, fried rice and pancakes).
What’s water kimchi? It’s basically pickled cabbage and Korean radish with a brine that you can drink and trust me, you want to drink it because it’s so tasty and refreshing! You can also use the brine to make a cold noodle dish that is really popular in the summer time called Nangmyeon.
There are plenty of recipes for leftover kimchi that is a tad on the too ripe side and overly fermented to eat as a stand alone side dish. We tend to call this kimchi super sour but we don’t waste it! I plan to write up and includes pictures of these recipes for super sour kimchi soon:
- Kimchi Soup/Stew
- Kimchi Fried Rice
- Kimchi Pajeon (Kimchi Pancakes)
Don’t be afraid to try making your own kimchi! Do you already make your own kimchi at home? Why not share your photos and stories with me in the comments section down below? If not kimchi, do you eat fermented foods? If so, what do you eat at your house?
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