If you love Korean food, you probably already know about the wonders of kimchi. Whether on its own or as a side dish, kimchi is a flavorful and healthy fermented food that can be customized using different vegetables and add-ons.
Our kimchi recipe has Chinese cabbage as a base, alongside freshly sliced carrots, radishes, and spring onions. Unlike the kimchi you find in many restaurants, in our easy kimchi recipe, the chili flakes are optional, meaning it’s extra kid-friendly and suitable for those of us who might not like or tolerate too much spice. Perfect for newbies to fermentation, our homemade kimchi recipe is almost effortless. Try it for yourself!
What is kimchi?
Kimchi originates in Korea, where it’s been a staple in the population’s diet for centuries. In a nutshell, kimchi is a mixture of fermented vegetables served alongside the main course in typical Korean cooking. Some favorite kimchi vegetables include Napa cabbage, radishes, soybean sprouts, cucumber, spring onions, and spinach.
You may associate kimchi with red chili pepper flakes, but chili peppers weren’t introduced to the Korean kitchen until the 17th century when Portuguese traders brought them with them from the New World. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the pepper became more widespread and made its big kimchi debut.
Initially, people fermented kimchi in large earthenware pots that they buried under the ground. This method allowed the kimchi to survive the winter months without freezing, while also keeping it cool enough during the warm summer months.
Thanks to modern amenities like refrigeration – in Korea, some people even use a special kimchi refrigerator – the underground fermentation method isn’t as common, but this traditional practice can still be found in parts of Korea.
The colorful world of kimchi recipes
If you've ever been to a Korean restaurant, you've probably received a main dish served with an array of small plates called banchan. These little sides are usually served together with a hot bowl of rice, creating the symphony of unique textures and flavors that make Korean cooking so famous and fun to share.
The great thing about kimchi recipes is that they all vary from family to family and restaurant to restaurant. Some popular kimchi varieties include:
Baek kimchi: Also known as white kimchi, it’s similar to our kimchi recipe. Made with napa cabbage and without the addition of chili flakes – this variety is bright, fresh and zesty.
Baechu kimchi: This variety is most likely comes to mind when you think of kimchi. The red tinge is from the chili flakes, baechu kimchi usually comes readily available at your local grocery store or Asian supermarket.
Oi sobagi: A Style of cucumber kimchi, oi sobagi is especially unique as it makes use of cucumbers stuffed with veggies like carrot, onion, ginger, and garlic – just when you thought kimchi couldn’t get any better!
Why eat kimchi?
Aside from being refreshing and delicious, kimchi is exceptionally healthy. Esteemed for its proliferation of healthy digestive bacteria, fermented foods can support gut health, aid against infection, and improve digestion. It’s nutritious, low in calories and, like most fermented vegetables, may promote weight loss.
The cabbage in kimchi delivers a decent dose of nutrients, including vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate. Cabbage also boasts a significant amount of insoluble fiber, which pushes things along digestion-wise. There’s a reason why your grandma wants you to eat sauerkraut!
Try our quick and easy kimchi recipe
If you’re looking to get test the waters and try to make kimchi yourself, this easy kimchi recipe is an excellent jump off point for first-timers. There’s no special equipment required – all you need is a few bowls, some basic ingredients, and a sealable jar.
Are vegan or vegetarian and can't stomach the fish sauce? No worries – just substitute the fish sauce with a light, low sodium soy sauce. It won't taste the same, but it'll still be delicious. Once you get used to making this easy kimchi recipe, you'll be ready to experiment and try other more elaborate variations. Happy fermenting!
Simple Homemade Kimchi
- 1 Chinese cabbage
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1-inch ginger grated
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 3 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 8 radishes, coarsely grated
- 4 spring onions, finely shredded
- 1large carrots, cut into matchsticks or coarsely grated
- Slice the cabbage into 1-inch strips.
- Tip into a bowl, mix the sea salt in, then set aside for 1 hr.
- Meanwhile, make the kimchi paste – mixing the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, rice vinegar and optional, fresh chilli in a small bowl.
- Rinse the cabbage under cold running water, drain and dry thoroughly.
- Transfer the cabbage into a large bowl and toss through the paste, add the optional radishes, carrot and spring onions at this point.
- Serve straight away or pack into a large jar, semi-seal and leave to ferment at room temperature overnight, then chill. Will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.