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Friday, October 9, 2015

Easy Homemade Kimchi (Vegetarian / Vegan Option)

For the longest time kimchi was one of those things I was too scared to try. It's contents were strange and the methods of creation dubious. Traditional Korean kimchi (for those who have yet to be indoctrinated into its delights), often made with cabbage, radishes, or cucumber fermented along with raw shrimp, octopus, or fish. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE raw sushi, but I don't feel in the least bit qualified to try fermenting seafood on my own.

As someone of European background with two German grandmothers and one Polish grandfather, fermented cabbage (i.e. sauerkraut) was not at all a foreign substance. I know they're loaded with probiotics and stuff that's good for gut health. But kimchi... well I hadn't even heard of it until a few years ago.

My dad, on the other hand, will eat almost anything. And a few weeks ago during a dinner at his place he served us kimchi as an appy. My husband, who is not keen on most other fermented foods, really liked it. So of course I had to try to make it myself! And you know what? It's super easy and doesn't require a lot of fancy stuff.

I've been eating it so much my husband told me the other day I'm starting to smell like kimchi... so maybe it's time to cut back a little ;)

Kimchi is also very, very healthy. It's high in probiotics, and next week I'm going to post an article on probiotics and whether or not heating them is a good idea, but this week let's start with the Kimchi recipe!

Kimchi has a ton of variations, and there doesn't seem to be one true recipe, so I don't feel too bad that I just mashed a bunch of recipes together to try and make this one. Most of the ingredients are things that you can find easily, and don't require a trip to an Asian market.

Traditional kimchi is often made in a large clay pot and buried under the ground to ferment. You don't need to do this! I put mine in an clean glass jar (fittingly, I used a large old sauerkraut jar I cleaned out!) and left it on the counter for a couple of days.

So as I said, the recipe is super flexible. I combined several and just used what I had in the kitchen. You can add shredded cucumber and / or radish if you like, or take out the carrot. You can add more or less spice, depending on your taste.

This recipe is fairly spicy, but those who like heat might want to add even more!

The most time-consuming part is just waiting for it to rest in the salt. I give this about 2 hrs, tossing part way through. 

Ingredients for Vegetarian / Vegan Kimchi (makes 1 head of cabbage, about 1L)

1 head napa cabbage
1/4 cup sea salt (or coarse salt), divided

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small white onion, diced
1 (1") piece ginger root, peeled and minced
1 scallion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped (or 1 pear or persimmon)
1 Tbsp gluten free soy sauce (like Tamari or Bragg's)  OR for a soy-free version try coconut aminos
1 Tbsp fish sauce (OR more soy sauce, for a vegan version)

1 Tbsp smoked paprika or Hungarian paprika
3/4 Tbsp hot pepper flakes

1 - 2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 small daikon (or other type) radish, peeled and shredded
1/2 cucumber, chopped


1) Cube the cabbage, or chop into chunks or shred. Sprinkle with 1/2 the sea salt and toss. Let sit 1 hr. Sprinkle with remaining salt, toss, and let sit 1 more hour. Rinse and drain the cabbage.

2) In a food processor or blender, blend garlic, onion, ginger, scallion, apple, soy sauce, fish sauce, smoked paprika, and hot pepper flakes into a paste.

3) Toss cabbage and any optional additions with paste, until well-coated. If needed, add a tablespoon or two of water to thin paste.

4) Press down into glass jars, pushing with the end of a spoon or chopstick to push out any air bubbles. Ensure the cabbage is coated with paste. You can eat this right away, or start fermenting now!

To ferment: Let sit for 1-3 days - the warmer the area is, the faster it will ferment. Continue to press down the cabbage every day. Once things start to get stinky, your fermenting is working!! You'll probably also see some bubbling of the paste when you press down. You can continue eating this before it ferments if you like (we did!)

Once it's good and stinky and bubbly, move it to the fridge to slow the fermentation. This should keep for at least a month in the fridge, if not longer. If white spots or mold begin to grow, personally I wouldn't eat it.

Kimchi fermenting on the counter

So what can you do with your kimchi now?

Lots! We've done a few things with it so far:
As an appy, with crackers, olives, etc.
Tossed with pasta
Added to scrambled eggs at the end of cooking just to heat it
Tossed with a mix of brown and wild rice
I made kimchi steamed buns (using the recipe for steamed buns in my book Recipes for Unusual Gluten Free Pasta: Pierogis, Dumplings, Desserts and More! (These were totally amazing, by the way, guys!!)
Kimchi pizza is next on the list!

And stay tuned for next week, because I'll be posting an article on whether or not heat kills probiotics, and if that's a bad thing. 

The answers might surprise you! 

Have you had kimchi?
How do you like to eat it?
What's your favourite fermented food?

Have you seen my gluten free pasta book  Recipes for Unusual Gluten Free Pasta: Pierogis, Dumplings, Desserts and More! ? Get yourself a copy and start making GF won tons, pierogis, dumplings, and orzo today :)

This post was shared on the following great link parties: Allergy-Free Wednesday, FitFoodieMama, Meatless Monday on Tina Muir and  Confessions of a Mother Runner, The Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, The Healthy Happy Green and Natural Hop,


  1. Looks amazing- great photos! Will it work without the hot pepper flakes? Want to serve it to kids???

  2. Oh cool! I had always wondered about this! Thanks for sharing :) Healthy and easy!

    1. Yep, super easy! Thanks for stopping by, Tina, and for hosting Meatless Monday :)

  3. I cannot have fermented foods but this truly does look delicious! Wish I could give it a try!

    1. Oh no! I'm sorry to hear it. That said, you could actually make kimchi without the fermentation, also (if you like spicy cabbage), and just pop it in the fridge right after mixing. My husband was eating it from day 1 without fermenting ;)

  4. I love Kimchi but have never made it wow that looks good thanks for linking up with us today!

    1. Thanks! It's super simple and flexible :) And thanks for hosting and stopping by!

  5. Never had kimchi before but this is the second recipe of our linkup this week featuring kimchi, so maybe I ought to give it a try! Thanks for linking up with us.

    1. If you're not ready to make it yourself, you can usually find a little container in most Asian grocery stores, or the fridge section of major supermarkets. It's quite tasty, although depending on your tastebuds it might be an acquired taste ;)

  6. I love kimchi! Who can resist these delectable ingredients? There is something so satisfying about this spicy homemade kimchi! Thanks for sharing your healthy and delicious Easy Homemade Kimchi with us at the Healthy Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop! I'm pinning and sharing.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Deborah! And yeah, kimchi is kind of addictive!


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