Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (2023)

Everything you need to know about how to make kimchi! With this small batch recipe, you’ll find it not that difficult to make good authentic kimchi at home.

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (1)
What is kimchi?

Kimchi (김치) is a collective term for vegetable dishes that have been salted, seasoned, and fermented. The its history goes back to ancient times. Originated from pickled vegetables, there are now hundreds of kimchi varieties in Korea. You can find some of the most common ones in my 15 easy kimchi recipes.

Over the last decade or so, Korean kimchi has gained a global recognition as a healthy probiotic food. It’s a good source of useful lactic acid bacteria, has excellent anti-oxidation and anti-cancer effects, and helps prevent aging.

This recipe is made with baechu (배추), known as napa cabbage, hence the name baechu kimchi. Because the cabbage is kept intact at its head, it’s also known as pogi kimchi (포기김치). Pogi means a “head” of a vegetable.

In late fall, Korean households make this type of kimchi in large quantity for their kimjang (or gimajang, 김장), an annual kimchi making event in preparation for cold months. I grew up watching my mother do her kimjang using over 100 cabbages with her friends in the neighborhood who rotated their schedules to help each other.

I usually make it with 5 – 10 heads (pogi) of cabbages at a time because we eat it every day. Also, I provide regular supply to my grown-up children. Both my mother and mother-in-law did that for us for a long time, so I am gladly continuing the tradition.

In Korean homes, there can never be too much of it. So many Korean dishes are made with well-fermented kimchi, such as jjigae, mandu, bibim guksu, kimchijeon, dubu kimchi, etc.

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (2)

Buying napa cabbage

For this recipe, it’s best to use a medium to large cabbage that weighs around 5 to 5-1/2 pounds with some light green outer leaves. When cut, a good cabbage has a nicely straight white part that’s not too thick as well as bright yellow inner leaves.


Korean coarse sea salt (cheonilyeom, 천일염) is the best to salt the vegetables to make kimchi. It’s natural salt with a coarse texture that’s minimally processed. Commonly referred to as gulgeun-sogeum (굵은소금), meaning coarse or thick salt, this salt tastes good without bitterness, so it helps develop flavors in fermented foods.

When we first came to America, Korean sea salt wasn’t available, so we used American table salt to salt cabbages. Be sure to use less (about 1/4 less than the amount called for in the recipe) if using fine salt.

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (3)

Kimchi seasonings

The taste of kimchi varies widely, depending on the quality, type and ratio of the seasoning ingredients. Each Korean household has its own recipes, often driven by the regional flavors of their hometown. I find myself making it differently each time.

Good quality gochugaru makes a big difference in kimchi. In addition to gochugaru (고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes), garlic and ginger, kimchi recipes typically call for various jeotgal (젓갈, salted seafood) for the distinct pungency and depth of flavors and to aid the fermentation process. Saeujeot (새우젓, salted shrimp) and myulchiaekjeot (멸치액젓, fish sauce made with anchovies) are the most common ones. Read more about these ingredients in my Korean Pantry Seasoning Ingredients.

Sometimes, I also use fresh shrimp which is my mother’s secret ingredient for adding extra freshness to the kimchi flavor. If you can’t find saeujeot in your area, consider using some raw shrimp instead.

(Video) How to make traditional kimchi (김치) - easy small batch recipe with many tips

If you want to make vegan kimchi, skip shrimps and swap fish sauce with soup soy sauce (gukganjang, 국간장). Or simply check out my vegan kimchi recipe.

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (4)

How to make kimchi

To help you start making kimchi at home, I came up with this recipe using one head of napa cabbage. Start with one, and then move to 2 or 3 by doubling or tripling the recipe.

It typically starts with salting the main vegetable. For this pogi kimchi, you need to cut the whole cabbage in half lengthwise, and then into quarters. If you’re using 2 small cabbages, cutting in half should be enough.

Then, thoroughly bathe each cabbage half/quarter in the salt water one at a time. Using the other half cup of salt, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf. This process makes sure the white parts get evenly salted,

Meanwhile, make a kimchi paste by mixing all the seasoning ingredients, and then cut the radish into thin matchsticks and mix well with the paste. The rest is easy, rub a little bit of the radish mix over each cabbage leaf, mainly the white part.

How long does it last?

Although you can start eating your kimchi any time, it needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop its flavors. It will continue to age in your refrigerator and will be delicious for a couple of months, when the healthy bacteria count is the highest. It can last much longer than that, turning very sour over time.

Watch how to make it

More kimchi recipes

15 Easy Kimchi Recipes

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (5)

For more Korean cooking inspirations, follow along on YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (6)

Traditional kimchi (Napa Cabbage Kimchi)

4.35 from 297 votes

Side Dish

Prep Time: 1 hour

Resting time: 8 hours

Total Time: 1 hour

Servings: 1 big jar

Print Recipe


  • 1 large Napa cabbage about 5 to 6 pounds, or 2 small (about 3 pounds each)
  • 1 cup Korean coarse sea salt for making kimchi
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 pound Korean radish, mu or moo (무) mu/moo
  • 1/4 Korean pear (배) optional
  • 3 - 4 scallions
  • 1 piece dashima (about 2 to 3 inch square) Boil it in 1.5 cups of water for 5 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder, 찹쌀가루 Mix it with 1/2 cup water (or optional dashima broth) simmer over low heat until it thickens to a thin paste and cool. Yields about 3 - 4 tablespoons.
  • 1/2 cup gochugaru, 고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes - adjust to your taste
  • 1/4 cup salted shrimp (saeujeot), 새우젓, finely minced
  • 3 - 4 raw shrimps, about 2 ounces, finely minced or ground - optional
  • 3 tablespoons myulchiaekjeot fish sauce, 멸치액젓
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds - optional
  • 1/2 cup water or dashima (dried kelp) broth
(Video) Kimchi jjigae (김치찌개)

Kitchen tools

  • 2 large bowls or pots 7 - 8 quarts
  • a large colander
  • kitchen gloves
  • 3/4 - 1 gallon airtight container or jar


  • Cut the thick white part of the cabbage lengthwise in half. Then, slowly pull apart by hand to separate into two pieces. Do the same for each half to make quarters. Running the knife through all the way would unnecessarily cut off the cabbage leaves.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (7)

  • In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly bathe each cabbage quarter in the salt water one at a time, shake off excess water back into the bowl, and then transfer to another bowl.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (8)

  • Using the other half cup of salt and starting from the outermost leaf, generously sprinkle salt over the thick white part of each leaf (similar to salting a piece of meat). Try to salt all the cabbage quarters with 1/2 cup salt, but you can use a little more if needed. Repeat with the rest of the cabbage quarters. Pour the remaining salt water from the first bowl over the cabbage. Set aside for about 6 - 8 hours, rotating the bottom ones to the top every 2 - 3 hours.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (9)

  • The cabbages should be ready to be washed when the white parts of the leaves are easily bendable. Rinse thoroughly 3 times, especially between the white parts. Drain well, cut side down.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (10)

  • Meanwhile, make the optional dashima broth by boiling a small piece (2 to 3 inch square) in 1.5 cup of water for 5 minutes, and cool. Mix the rice powder with 1/2 cup water (or optional dashima broth) and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it thickens to a thin paste, and cool.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (11)

  • Prepare the garlic, ginger and saeujeot. Combine all the seasoning ingredients, including the rice paste and about 1/2 cup water (or the optional dashima broth), and mix well. Set aside until the red pepper flakes to dissolve slightly and become pasty.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (12)

    (Video) How to make Easy Kimchi (막김치)

  • Cut the radish and optional pear into matchsticks (use a mandoline if desired), transferring to a large bowl. Cut the scallions diagonally into about 1-inch long pieces.
    Add the prepared seasoning mix to the radish, and mix well by hand. Throw in the scallions, and mix everything lightly. Taste a little bit. It should be a little too salty to eat as is. You can add salt, more salted shrimp or fish sauce, as needed. Let it sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld nicely.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (13)

  • Cut off the tough stem part from each cabbage quarter, leaving enough to hold the leaves together. Place one cabbage quarter in the bowl with the radish mix. Spread the radish mix over each leaf, one to two tablespoons for large leaves. (Eyeball the stuffing into 4 parts and use one part for each cabbage quarter.)

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (14)

  • Fold the leaf part of the cabbage over toward the stem and nicely wrap it with the outermost leaf. Place it, cut side up, in a jar or airtight container. Repeat with the remaining cabbages. If you have lose large leaves, you can use them to cover the top of the kimchi (see note 1). Once all the cabbages are in the jar or airtight container, press down hard to remove air pockets. Rinse the bowl that contained the radish mix with 1/2 cup of water (or any remaining optional dashima broth) and pour into the kimchi container. Close the lid.

    Traditional Kimchi Recipe - Korean Bapsang (15)

  • Leave it out at room temperature for a full day or two, depending on the weather and how fast you want your kimchi to ripen. A half day is recommended during hot summer days. Then, store in the fridge. (See note 2.)


  1. You can cover the top of the kimchi with large outer green leaves (as I did in the video) if available. Some people also use a plastic wrap to cover. But, this is not absolutely necessary, especially for this small batch kimchi.
  2. Although you can start eating it any time, kimchi needs about two weeks in the fridge to fully develop the flavors. It maintains great flavor and texture for several weeks.

Tried this recipe?Mention @koreanbapsang or tag #koreanbapsang!

(Video) Fresh Kimchi - Baechu Geotjeori (겉절이)

This kimchi recipe was originally posted in January 2012. I’ve updated it here with new photos, more information and minor changes to the recipe.

You may also like:

  • 15 Easy Kimchi Recipes
  • Cucumber Kimchi (Oi Kimchi)
  • Kimchi Mandu (Kimchi Dumplings)
  • Kkakdugi (Cubed Radish Kimchi)


How is kimchi made traditionally? ›

The process of making kimchi involves brining (salting) the vegetables to draw out the water, which helps in preservation and allows the seasonings to penetrate the food over time; the final salt concentration ranges from 2-5%. Kimchi is typically fermented by 'wild cultures' naturally present on the vegetables.

What is the main ingredient in kimchi? ›

Basic ingredients for kimchi: napa cabbage, radish, carrot, salt, garlic, fish sauce, chili powder and scallions. A sticky, glutinous paste of rice flour is also needed to make the seasoning of the kimchi.

What is unfermented kimchi called? ›

Fresh or unfermented kimchi is called 'Geotjeri. ' There's also 'Yeolmu-kimchi,' which is made from radishes and doesn't have to be fermented.

How long should kimchi be fermented? ›

Kimchi can be made at home using a few simple steps. Typically, it needs to ferment 3–21 days depending on the surrounding temperature.

How did the Koreans make kimchi? ›

Kimchi, Korea's representative food, is an excellent fermented food that is recognized worldwide. Unlike salted vegetables that are common in many countries around the world, Kimchi is fermented by mixing it with red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, green onion, and a seasoning made from salted fish and starch paste.

What kind of kimchi is healthiest? ›

5 best kimchi brands loaded with gut-healthy benefits:
  • Photo: Mother In Law's. Mother In Law's Kimchi — $9.00. ...
  • Photo: Lucky Foods. Lucky Foods Kimchi — $35.00. ...
  • Photo: Wildbrine. Wildbrine Kimchi — $7.00. ...
  • Photo: Mama Kim's. Mama Kim's Kimchi (2 32 oz. ...
  • Photo: Cleveland Kitchen. Cleveland Kitchen (4-pack) — $37.00.
Dec 15, 2021

What is the most popular kimchi brand in Korea? ›

Jongga. Jongga is classic Korean kimchi made with Napa cabbage and customary ingredients. These robust ingredients increase complexity as the kimchi ferments, bursting with flavorful heat but delightfully balanced. They are the number one kimchi brand in Korea.

What type of kimchi is best? ›

After 12 hours of research and testing as many kimchi brands as we could get our hands on, we can conclusively say that Tobagi is the best kimchi brand in the United States! With their fresh crunch, deep and full flavor, and throwback to Grandma, Tobagi earned a spot on anyone's table.

Does kimchi need rice flour? ›

*If you don't have sweet rice flour, it's fine — all the flour does is help create a porridge to more evenly distribute and infuse the kimchi paste flavor. Just replace the mochiko flour with 1 tbsp sugar to make up for the sweetness.

How do you make kimchi taste better? ›

Add it To Rice

Steamed rice is instantly more delicious if you stir some finely chopped kimchi into it, giving it a nice little kick of tangy spice. Same goes for fried rice—just stir it in right at the last minute after everything is fried.

Is kimchi pickled or fermented? ›

Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, the same process that creates sauerkraut and traditional dill pickles. The process begins by salting the chopped cabbage and letting it soak at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.

Is kimchi salty before fermentation? ›

If it's your first time making kimchi, don't be shocked if it seems too salty at first. A few days of fermentation can balance out the salty flavor batch.

Is fresh or fermented kimchi better? ›

It is always made fresh everyday while supermarket kimchi are more fermented. Fresh kimchi is more crunchy and less sour. On the other hand, fermented kimchi is less crunchy and it tends to be more floppy.

How do you know if kimchi has probiotics? ›

Short of contacting the manufacturer, there's no way to know for certain whether or not it may contain live cultures. Kimchi, like sauerkraut and similar cultured foods, will continue to ferment and change flavor and texture if it has live cultures.

Can you open kimchi while it's fermenting? ›

According to Eun-ji, the key to getting kimchi to its signature sour flavor is to let it ferment a little more after you bring it home. All you need to do it open the jar, set the lid loosely back on top, and then let the jar sit out on the counter for the rest of the day.

How do I know if kimchi has gone bad? ›

When it comes to other changes, that is altered flavor or smell, if it's more sour than usual, that's alright. It's the result of ongoing fermentation. But if either of these has turned “funny,” or “off,” or there's something wrong about the kimchi, discard the product.

Can kimchi expire? ›

Kimchi can go bad, and you should toss it if it grows mold, develops an off odor, or gets too sour for your liking. That said, kimchi lasts months after opening if you store it properly.

Is kimchi Japanese or Korean? ›

"Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that originated over 3,000 years ago. The tradition of making kimchi started as a way to ferment and store vegetables during the cold winter when many Koreans died of starvation.

Is kimchi Korean or Chinese? ›

"Kimchi is South Korea's national dish, not only because Koreans consume it for nearly every meal, but also it is the most well-known Korean food in the world -- many Westerners still cannot distinguish gimbap from sushi, but can recognize that kimchi is from Korea," says Elaine Chung, a lecturer in Chinese Studies at ...

What's the oldest kimchi? ›

An ever-changing dish that emerged out of pure necessity around 4000 years ago, the bridge over troubled waters in snowy, bitterly cold winters that saw no availability of food – kimchi is a sacred, foundational keystone in the Korean cuisine.

What happens when you eat kimchi everyday? ›

Nutrition. Kimchi is full of beta-carotene and other antioxidant compounds that can help reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as stroke, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Kimchi is also an excellent source of: Vitamin A.

Can I eat kimchi everyday? ›

In order for the benefits of kimchi to be effective, probiotics and beneficial bacteria need to be consumed regularly. Regular can mean a lot of different things to everyone so more specifically, it is recommended that one serving (100g) of kimchi is consumed daily.

Can you eat too much kimchi? ›

“We found that if you were a very, very heavy eater of kimchi, you had a 50% higher risk of getting stomach cancer,” said Kim Heon of the department of preventive medicine at Chungbuk National University and one of the authors.

Which kimchi has the most probiotics? ›

For an authentic, flavorful, probiotic-rich kimchi, try Mother in Law's Kimchi. Mother in Law's Kimchi is made using traditional methods, which allow for deeper flavors and more balanced fermentation.

Is kimchi eaten hot or cold? ›

Is kimchi hot or cold? Kimchi can be eaten cold, straight out of the container or cooked into dishes, like this fried rice and served hot.

Does kimchi need to be refrigerated? ›

Kimchi should be stored in the fridge as chilling is the only thing that keeps its level of fermentation (i.e. the activity of those happy little probiotics) slowed down. If you leave kimchi outside of the fridge, over time it will become over-fermented and won't taste so great anymore.

Is kimchi good for your liver? ›

Kimchi also helped sustain healthy liver function. Levels of AST and ALT, which are indicators of liver damage, were both lower in the kimchi group. Elevated AST and ALT levels are generally associated with damaged liver cells caused by hepatitis, fatty liver, and hepatocirrhosis.

Can you put white onion in kimchi? ›

Assemble the kimchi paste by adding Minced Garlic (1/2 clove) , Minced Fresh Ginger (1/2 Tbsp) and chopped White Onion (1) in the base, followed by Fish Sauce (1/2 cup) and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (1 1/2 cups) .

How can I make my kimchi sweeter? ›

Pears or apples, you want to make sure these are sweet. No tart fruits allowed here. Another sweetening agent I use is honey. You can also use sugar or corn syrup, but I like the healthier alternative (and taste) in honey.

Can you use cornstarch instead of rice flour in kimchi? ›


It also makes a perfect substitute option for rice flour for kimchi recipes. It can also replace rice flour in some baking recipes because it has a similar light, airy texture.

What does the sweet rice flour do for kimchi? ›

This rice flour porridge is a staple in traditional kimchi seasoning pastes. Adding a viscous texture to the mixture, rice flour porridge acts as a binder. Use it in the Mother-in-Law Signature House Kimchi from The Kimchi Cookbook recipe as well as any other home kimchi experiments.

What can be used instead of rice flour in kimchi? ›

To replace it as a thickening agent and substitute sweet rice flour in kimchi, you can try cornstarch or potato starch.

Why is kimchi buried in the ground? ›

Traditionally, kimchi was buried underground, which was helpful in regulating the temperature during the fermentation process (via Laura Lemay). Similar to pickles or sauerkraut, kimchi is a food that is made by using the fermentation process.

How long is kimchi buried? ›

According to research, when it is buried in the ground, the temperature remains quite constant – at 32 – 35 F all winter long. At this temperature it takes about 20 days for the kimchi to fully ripen but it is definitely worth the wait.

What is the oldest kimchi? ›

An ever-changing dish that emerged out of pure necessity around 4000 years ago, the bridge over troubled waters in snowy, bitterly cold winters that saw no availability of food – kimchi is a sacred, foundational keystone in the Korean cuisine.

What is buried cabbage called? ›

The notion of burying one's food for seasonal safekeeping strikes most contemporary eaters as old-fashioned and odd. But cooks who grew up burying their cabbages — colloquially known as "holing it up" — have been understandably slow to abandon what they consider a delicious tradition.


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