If you’re like me, you might be a little intimidated by kimchi. While this Korean side dish is simply seasoned fermented vegetables, the prospect of eating it, let alone making it, might seem farfetched. But I encourage you to embrace kimchi, because it’s a delicious way to spice up a fried rice, dumplings, spring rolls, or really anything. And, if you follow this easy kimchi recipe, making it at home has never been easier. So smile and say “kimcheese” because this picture perfect recipe will make you a kimchi pro!
Kimchi has a rich history in Korea, where it is the national dish. Although we are providing our easy kimchi recipe here, there isn’t much consistency in the way of kimchi preparation. The dish is typically made of radish, scallion, or napa cabbage (which is what we opt for in our recipe), but there are hundreds of kimchi varieties found regularly. A staple of kimchi tends to be red pepper flakes, which provides the heat of the dish and helps to create its signature spicy and sour flavor.
Before trying this recipe at home, it’s worth understanding the process of fermentation that occurs to make kimchi… not because you need to understand the actual science for the recipe to work, but because it’s cool and good for the next time you’re on a date at a Korean restaurant (or when you need to explain to anyone you made this for what they’re eating).
Kimchi is made through the same fermentation process that creates sauerkraut and dill pickles: lactofermentation, so named because the illustrious Lactobacillus bacteria is responsible for most of the fermenting. In the first stage of fermentation, the salty brine that the cabbage is soaked in kills off the bad bacteria. Then, in the second state, the Lactobacillus bacteria gets the party started by converting sugar into lactic acid, which preserves the cabbage and gives it that signature, tangy flavor.
Now that you’re well equipped with your kimchi history and theory, let’s crack open our easy recipe so that you can indulge in some kimchi yourself. Keep in mind that kimchi needs about a week to ferment, so plan ahead!
Click here for the full Kimchi Recipe
1. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 2-inch pieces. After discarding the root ends, place the chopped cabbage in a large bowl. After sprinkling the cabbage with salt, toss the cabbage to thoroughly mix. Add enough cold water to submerge the cabbage (about 12 cups), and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap let it sit at room temperature for between 12 – 24 hours.
2. After 12 – 24 hours has passed, drain the cabbage in a colander, rinsing it with cold water. Gently squeeze out the excess liquid and transfer to a medium bowl, and set the cabbage aside.
3. Place the remaining ingredients (radish, scallions, red pepper, fish sauce, ginger, garlic, minced shrimp, and sugar) in a bowl together and stir to combine the mixture completely.
4. Add the cabbage in with the rest of the ingredients. Toss everything together until the mixture is evenly distributed throughout the cabbage and everything is combined.
5. Pack the mixture tightly into a clean 2-quart glass jar with a tightfitting lid and seal the jar.
6. Let the mixture rest in a cool, dark place for 24 hours, and don’t be alarmed if it bubbles (that’s our friend Lactobacillus talking). Open the jar to let the gases escape, then reseal and refrigerate at least 48 hours before eating, but for ideal results let it ferment for a week. This will make for a much more robust and flavorful kimchi! The kimchi will keep for one month if refrigerated.
And that’s the basics of how to make an easy kimchi. The wonderful thing about kimchi is its inherent diversity. Some people include carrots, some opt for a vegetarian (shrimp and fish-free) style, and the amount of red pepper and sugar added always vary based on preference. So try making some for yourself, and let us know how you put your stamp on your kimchi!