My Aunt’s homemade kimchi recipe is delicious, flavorful, refreshing and easy to make! Plus, I’m sharing a naturally sweetened vegan kimchi version, too!
This month has been a whirlwind. I can’t believe January is almost over! I promised to share this homemade kimchi recipe this month, so here it is! With my last minute trip to NYC last week, I didn’t think I’d be able to post this, but here it is! I hope you guys give this recipe a try. Oh, and if you need a vegan kimchi recipe, I’m sharing one further down in this post.
My aunt has been making homemade kimchi at my parents’ restaurants and grocery stores ever since I was a little kid. This recipe is so fresh tasting and delicious and so easy to make! When I was home for Christmas, I asked my mom to ask my aunt if she would share it. Obviously, she said yes!
Where to Buy Everything You Will Need
I highly recommend exploring your local Korean or Asian market, Hmart or mom and pop shop close to you for the ingredients. If you do not have any Korean or Asian markets close by, I have linked most of what you will need, with the exception of the produce, here on Amazon.
Does Kimchi need sugar?
Some kimchi recipes out there call for sugar, but I prefer to use fruit (Korean pear and apple) to naturally sweeten homemade kimchi. We’re also pretty particular about the brand of Korean red pepper powder (or hot pepper flakes), gochugaru that we use. They recommend buying Wang Korean gochugaru. My mom and aunt think the Wang brand is the best, and I’m not going to argue with them.
Which Gochugaru To Purchase
You definitely want to make sure you are purchasing coarse gochugaru and not the fine powder. The fine powder is used to make gochujang. Here are some brands that I recommend for gochugaru. Also, please note, I would rather you support your local Korean market or Hmart for everything, but I know some people don’t have those resources or places to shop near them, so I am linking Amazon links here:
Wang Brand, as mentioned above
Taekyung Chili Powder For Kimchi (Flake, 1LB) – Korean Gochugaru
Can vegans eat kimchi?
This recipe uses all plant based ingredients:
- Napa cabbage
- green onions, and more
Our homemade kimchi uses fish sauce. The brand that I use and love is Three Crabs. You can also use Korean Fish sauce. I tend to use what I already have at home.
If you want to make vegan kimchi, simply purchase a vegan fish sauce, like this one. You can find several brands online simply by searching for “vegan fish sauce.”
Now, this recipe is not difficult but it does take time. You start by washing and chopping your Napa cabbage. And then comes the brine: Salt in layers!! This is key! Lay down some cabbage, sprinkle on some coarse sea salt and repeat. Pour in water, press down on the cabbage and then let everything sit for 2 to 3 hours. Mix and then let sit for another 2 hours, or overnight (at room temp).
Then, you will blend the garlic, ginger, onion, radish, apple and pears. Blend until smooth. Then, by hand, you mix in the fish sauce and Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru): 2 cups!
When the cabbage is ready, you will need to rinse and wash the cabbage at least three times, running it under cold water. Place all of the washed cabbage into a clean container. Then, you’re going to mix the cabbage, gochugaru sauce and green onions.
Place your kimchi into a large jar or containers. Close the jar/s with a lid and leave the kimchi out overnight. You can continue to let it sit for a few days to ferment if preferred.
- The kimchi will start fermenting within a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity in your kitchen. The warmer and more humid it is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Once it starts to ferment it will smell and taste sour, and pressing on the top of the kimchi with a spoon will release bubbles from the bottom.
- Once it starts to ferment, store the kimchi in the refrigerator to use as needed. This slows down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.
Other Kimchi Recipes to make:
- Kimchi fried rice
- Kimchi jjigae
- Deviled Eggs with Kimchi
- Korean Kimchi Scallion Pancakes
- Kimchi Brown Rice Veggie Bowl
- Hot Dogs with Kimchi Relish
- Kimchi Ramen Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Kimchi Bruschetta
Homemade Kimchi with Vegan Kimchi Option
- 8 to 9 lbs. Napa cabbage
- 1 1/4 cups coarse sea salt split
- 3 cups cold water
- 24 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ to 2 inches fresh ginger peeled and chopped
- 1 medium white onion peeled and quartered
- 1 1/2 cups Korean radish cubed (1 small radish or 3/4 of a medium radish)
- ½ Fuji apple peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- ½ Korean pear peeled and cut into 4 pieces
- ½ cup fish sauce plus more, if needed
- 2 cups Korean red pepper flakes gochugaru
- 1 to 2 bunches scallions chopped into 1 to 2 inch long pieces
- ½ cup water if needed
- Thoroughly wash your Napa cabbage. Wash every single piece, discarding any bad or flimsy pieces. Chop whole cabbage leaf into square pieces and place into a large tub or bowl. Once all the cabbage is clean and chopped, get ready to brine the cabbage.
- Using a very large tub or container, lay down a layer of cabbage. Sprinkle on some coarse sea salt. You are going to salt every layer; lay down cabbage, sprinkle on some coarse sea salt and repeat. You will use about a 1/2 to 1 cup of coarse sea salt during this process, maybe less.
- Pour in 3 cups of cold water, press down on the cabbage and let sit for 2 hours. (You only need 3 cups of water, the cabbage should not be covered in water.) Feel free to cover with plastic wrap if desired. After 2 to 3 hours, mix your cabbage and let sit for another 2 hours, or overnight (at room temperature). If letting sit over night, check the cabbage before you go to bed and add in more cold water. You are doing this so the cabbage doesn't get too salty.
- While the cabbage is sitting in the brine, using a food processor, blend/puree together the garlic, ginger, onion, radish, apple and pears. Blend until completely smooth. If needed, you can blend in groups; if your food processor isn't large enough to fit everything. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed, or to your taste.
- Remove from the food processor and into a large bowl. Pour in the the fish sauce and the 2 cups of Korean hot pepper flakes (gochugaru) and mix together by hand (using a rubber spatula) until completely combined and somewhat smooth. Set aside.
- When the cabbage is ready, rinse and wash the cabbage at least three times, running it under cold water. Place into to a clean container. Using your hands, mix together the cabbage, gochugaru sauce mixture and green onions.
- Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. You can add a touch more fish sauce or salt if needed. Mix together and taste one more time. Place into a jar/s or container. To get the leftover gochugaru paste mixture that will be left at the bottom of your tub, add a ½ cup of water to the kimchi tub and a pinch of salt and pour over your kimchi into each jar. Close each jar with lid and leave kimchi out overnight. You can continue to let it sit for a few days to ferment. Enjoy!
- This recipe yields about 4 quarts of kimchi.
“The kimchi making process actually involves four stages: brining, seasoning, fermenting, and storing. Brining creates an environment inhospitable to harmful microorganisms, while encouraging the growth of good lactobacillus bacteria. Those friendly bacteria eventually convert the natural sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid, a preservative that is also responsible for kimchi’s distinctive tang. The salt in the brine also “opens the pores” of the vegetables to absorb the seasoning, which is applied after the brining step either by smearing the vegetables with a seasoning paste or submerging them in a highly seasoned solution. The kimchi is then left to ferment in airtight containers, to mitigate the risk of contamination by airborne microorganisms.
While the fermentation process is often begun at room temperature, it’s typically continued in a colder environment, which helps the kimchi keep for longer.”
Read more on fermentation and the entire kimchi making process here.