Kimchi (spicy pickled Korean vegetables)
Kimchi is so great for your gut, its full of probiotics and bacteria that is good for your body. Often served as a Korean side dish, these spicy pickled vegetables help reduce inflammation, low in sugar and has flavor to distract you from the vegetable component. The hardest part of making this recipe is the 3 days of impatient waiting!
Not only is kimchi super easy, delicious, and very affordable, you can control the flavor! I find store-bought kimchi has too much bite for my preference, so with this recipe as a guide, you can adjust to your liking. The longer the kimchi sits in your fridge, the more complex the flavors. The vegetables also tend to soften with more time.Jump to Recipe
I was once terrified to make kimchi because I was afraid of giving myself food poisoning. But I have learned, there’s nothing to be afraid of! Millions of Koreans make kimchi weekly– they even have kimchi refrigerators <yes, this is a real thing!> to keep 3-4 quart size buckets of kimchi in constant fermentation.
Keys to safe home fermentation include:
- Use clean containers and kitchen tools. If you use your dishwasher to wash everything, all your containers and tools will be sanitized.
- Salt is critical to the kimchi as it eliminates bacteria, extracts water from the vegetables and slows down the creation of lactic acid keep the vegetables preserved
- USE kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or Celtic salt. Iodized salt inhibits the good bacteria from growing, so avoid the use of table salt (it has iodine added)
- Use distilled water or fresh spring bottled water that does not contain chlorine. Where kimchi requires fermentation, chlorine interferes in the process and kills the bacteria for the fermentation process. Note: chlorine is often added in minute amounts to tap water. Alternatively you can dechlorinate water before use, https://www.masontops.com/blogs/masontops-blog/how-to-make-chlorine-free-water
- The process of kimchi fermenting is more formally as lacto-fermentation. First, the salt removes and kills the bacteria in vegetables that aren’t great for us. Hence, using a brine for the veggies. After the brining process, Lactobacillus bacteria will be leftover to convert lactose and other sugars in the vegetables into lactic acid. Lactic acid preserves vegetables by keeping the bad bacteria away. The lactic acid is also what creates the bite or tangy flavor. Its that simple. No need to be terrified anymore!
Be warned, when first opening, the daikon in particular imparts the smell of dirty socks. <insert eye rolling here, but truly, don’t judge kimchi by its smell, ok?> Once the smell dissipates, grab a fork (or chopsticks!) and dig in!!
This is my favorite version of Korean spicy pickled vegetables so far. I hope you enjoy it as well! I eat kimchi straight up as a main for lunch, add as a topping to baked potatoes, it’s a great addition to noodles, seasoning for rice, veggies for a scrambled egg omelet, everything! Its just spicy vegetables!
Kimchi (spicy pickled Korean vegetables)
- 2 x 1 quart jars
- ½ head of napa cabbage ~2lbs, cut into 1” pieces
- ¼ cup kosher or sea salt, salt should not contain iodine
- ½ gallon distilled water water can not contain chlorine
- ½ daikon radish ~1 cup before cut into matchsticks
- 2 scallions green onion, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
- 1 carrot sliced into thin 1” matchsticks
- 5 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons white miso paste
- 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar optional
- 2 tablespoons Korean red pepper flakes aka gochugaru 1 to 5 tablespoons depend on how much heat you like
- In a large bowl, sprinkle and toss napa cabbage in kosher salt.
- Pour distilled water over the napa cabbage until it covers all the napa cabbage and allow to stand for 1-2 hours. Napa cabbage will also soften at this time To keep the napa cabbage from floating, I placed a plate on top of the cabbage and another jar on top of the plate to weigh the plate down.
- Save the brine water in the large bowl. Using tongs, transfer the napa cabbage into another large bowl. Set bowl of brine aside.
- In the bowl of napa cabbage, add other vegetables – daikon, scallions, carrot and toss to combine. Set aside
- In a small food processor, blend the spice paste by adding garlic cloves, white miso paste, grated ginger, gochugaru and sugar (if desired).
- In the bowl of napa cabbage and vegetables, add spice paste. Using tongs or your hands (I recommend latex/nitrile gloves to prevent staining and the smell afterwards), toss the vegetables until the spice paste even coats the vegetables.
- Transfer the spicy vegetables into 2 x 1 quart jars. Pack the vegetables down, this recipe fills both jars. Ensure the vegetables does not enter the stem of the jar, as you will need extra space for the fermentation process.
- Pour the separated brine to fill the quart jars until vegetables are covered.
- Cover the jars with the lid, but do not press or close the jar too tightly.
- Set kimchi jars aside in a dark space at cool room temperature for 2 days. Bubbles will form inside the jar as gases form due to fermentation.
- At each ~12 hour increment, open the jars in the kitchen sink and use a clean fork to press or poke down on the napa cabbage. This will release the gases that form with fermentation. Opening the jars in the sink catches any extra liquid that may spray out of the jar. Close the jar and allow to continue fermentation.
- After 2 days, taste for tang. If you prefer more tang, allow to ferment up to 3 additional days in a dark space at room temperature. I like my kimchi fermented at 2-2.5 days.
- Once kimchi is at your preferred tang, store in the fridge (ensuring the brine covers the vegetables) up to several months.
- When serving, I use tongs or a fork to retain excess brine in the jar.