Introduction: How to Make Kimchi / Kim Chee

Picture of How to Make Kimchi / Kim Chee

My father was stationed in Korea once upon a time and brought home a taste for Kimchi / Kim Chee.
My mother did make it a few times but from her description it sounded very complicated, and something no one should try without first getting a certification in Kim Chee Preparedness.
So when I no longer lived close to an Asian Market with gallon jars of it for a decent price, I learned either to do without, or pay $5 for a tiny little jar that would last me a week if I resisted the urge to eat it daily.

Then I got the book "Wild Fermentation" by Sandor Ellix Katz, and have been making delicious Kimchi easily, ever since.

Step 1: Assemble Tools and Ingredients

Picture of Assemble Tools and Ingredients

At its most basic, kimchee is chinese cabbage (can use napa, pac choi, or any chinese cabbage) fermented with garlic, pepper, salt, and ginger. Other ingredients such as daikon (or other radish), carrot, scallion / green onion or other onion, fish (in the form of dried crumbled fish, fish broth or fish sauce, or Hondashi fish broth powder), and even seaweed, are commonly used depending on preference.

Here I show Kosher Salt, scallions, daikon, fresh ginger, hondashi powder, dried pepper flakes specifically for making kimchee, fresh garlic, carrot, and a very large head of pac choi /bok choy.

You will also need a sharp knife, a large nonreactive mixing bowl, a smaller nonreactive mixing bowl, and glass or stoneware jars or crocks to hold the finished product.

You will need anywhere from several hours, to overnight, to soak the fresh chopped veggies in salt solution, and then anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks to ferment your kimchee depending on how warm the room is, how much salt to vegetables, and whether you had leftover kimchee "juice" to jump-start the fermentation with.

For those who want measured quantities either to follow, or to get a ballpark idea of what the proportions are:

For roughly two quart jars:

2 lbs chinese cabbage
1 whole daikon radish or several red radishes
1 to 2 carrots
onions and/or leeks, bunch of scallions, or shallots... as many or few as you like.
6-8 cloves of garlic, or as many as you like... your love of garlic is the only limiting factor
5-6 tablespoons of grated ginger, or grate up a 4 inch piece... again, more to taste if you like it especially
Seaweed if you like, but I didn't use it in this recipe
3 tsp. hondashi japanese fish broth powder ( or a handful of dried bonito, crumbled)

Brine will be 4 cups of water to 4 tablespoons of salt. If this isn't enough to cover the fresh veggies, then double the brine recipe.

Step 2: Chop the Vegetables

Picture of Chop the Vegetables

Chop the cabbage into roughly 1-inch slices across.
The daikon will wind up in rectangular slices about 1/4 inch thick by 1 to 1 1/2 inch long by 1/2 to 1 inch wide, as shown below (although there are other ways to do it also and the main point is getting it into bite sized pieces that are thin enough to ferment well but not so thin as to disappear into the dish).
Carrots can be julienned, but I prefer to shave them into very thin slices on the bias, using a Benri-na Japanese mandoline. Again, the point is to end up with bite-sized carrots thin enough to ferment and soften well.

I show the cutting of scallions on the bias in the same frame with the shaven carrots, but the scallions will be in the spice paste mix, although kimchee is, contrary to what everyone always told me, very forgiving, and if you decide to add scallions to the main vegetable brine instead of the spice paste, it doesn't seem to hurt anything in my experience.

Step 3: Mix the Brine and Brine the Vegetables

Picture of Mix the Brine and Brine the Vegetables

Put 4 Tablespoons of salt into 4 cups of water in a nonreactive mixing bowl, glass jar, or stoneware crock. Add all your chopped vegetables. If there isn't enough brine to cover and soak everything, add 4 more cups of water mixed with 4 more TBSP salt. Let it sit several hours or overnight.

Step 4: Prepare Spices

Picture of Prepare Spices

In this step, you will grate ginger, press or pulverize garlic, slice scallions or onions, chop or crush chilis if using whole ones, and add dish broth, sauce, or crumbled dried fish.

I recommend a Microplane grater for the ginger, though traditional ginger graters work well with the hairy root also. Many recipes say to peel the ginger, but I never bother; I just wash the root first, and the skin has never harmed a recipe.

If you use Hondashi, you may want to add a little of the vegetable soaking brine to moisten the resulting mixture into a paste. This will happen without any additions if you use fish sauce. You may also omit fish for a vegan kimchee.

Step 5: Mix and Stuff

Picture of Mix and Stuff

Drain the brine from the vegetables (reserving in case you need it later), and taste. They should taste nice and salty, but not so salty that you wouldn't want to eat it. If it is so salty that it is very unpleasant rinse a little. If it doesn't taste good and salty, add a little salt. I know this is very subjective, but usually the brine proportion works and doesn't require tweaking. But in case, you should know that tweaking is ok.

Mix the vegetables with the ginger-chili-onion-garlic paste. Mix thoroughly, then stuff into jars. I find two quart-sized mason jars are just about right, but you can also use more pint jars, or a single larger crock or jar. Pack it tightly, and put something on top to weight it down. This can be a slender glass tumbler, a ziplock bag filled with water or brine, a nice clean smooth rock that fits inside the jar, etc. And actually, I have made perfectly edible kimchee without weighting it down, just by packing very tightly in the jars and pushing the contents down firmly each day while fermenting. It's better if it is weighted though, which is why traditional pickling crocks were so handy. A small bowl-shaped Chinese or Japanese teacup pressed down on the mixture in the jar is something I have used from time to time.

Cover to keep out dust and flies (I like the plastic screw-on Mason jar caps because they are nonreactive and easy). Set on a tray to catch any juice that may come up and over the top of the jar while fermenting. You can ferment this on your kitchen counter, smelling and tasting it daily until it tastes like Kimchee and then refrigerate, or you can put it in a cool basement to ferment more slowly and develop more complex flavors.

Generally it is ready when the cabbage and daikon are somewhat translucent and softened, but you can start eating it any time, dependent on your taste. Usually when it smells right, it tastes right. If it is left in the refrigerator long enough to smell sweet or alcoholic, it has gone bad. We never have that problem though, because it is too delicious


gweedoh! (author)2010-05-12

Thanks for the instructable! I just started my first batch tonite, I was sick of the msg laden jars I found in stores. I'm adding a bit of honey to my spice paste to try and re-create a sweet/spicy kimchee I just had recently, I hope it works! I usually make quick shoyu pickles, so this will be a nice change up, and kimchee soup is one of my favorites....

hiroko.woods (author)gweedoh!2015-01-12

Hi, I too starting my first kimchi and made salty squid today(Hopefully it works)

You put honey in your paste but I warn you that honey is antiviral and anti bacterial, so it will prevent fermentation. Sounds like you put tiny amount and it won't be too much of a problem. I recommend you that next time not to use honey and instead use organic sugar. I make water kefir and heard someone killed the kefir gains by using honey. Good luck! Have an awesome day!

LeslieW18 (author)hiroko.woods2015-11-18

How do you explain mead?

lioness1955 (author)LeslieW182016-06-05

Mead is from yeast eating the sugar and producing alcohol.

Other kinds of fermentation use bacteria (and sometimes molds) - altogether different beasties.

Kimchi and sauerkraut ferment primarily form lactic-acid bacteria.

Yeasts and molds are in the kingdom of Fungi, they are eukayotes (have organelles even if only single-celled).
Bacteria are smaller and are a different branch of the biological family - prokaryotes, no internal organelles.

I hate to disagree, but when honey is diluted, it can be used in a fermented process. yes, if it is too concentrated, it will kill the bacteria, but I've never had any problems with it in other recipes. (honey mead is merely fermented honey water)

one thing to remember, though, is that if you are replacing honey with sugar, you will need more sugar than the amount of honey asked for.

Grayhawk1982 (author)gweedoh!2015-01-10

Any sugars you add will increase the acidity dramatically and speed up fermentation since there will be more food for the lactobacteria.You may end up with a more sour flavor. Also on the author's response, sardines work great!

megmaine (author)gweedoh!2012-03-05

My pleasure! I hope you'll share a picture when it's ready!
I also love kimchee soup, as do my kids.

simonides (author)2012-05-05

I really enjoyed making my first Kimchi from this recipe! Very tasty but a bit too salty for me. Could I halve the salt content without any problem?


megmaine (author)simonides2012-05-22

You can make it to taste, but be aware that too much salt, and it will not really ferment much, and too little, and it could just go straight to spoiling.

A Korean lady told me that refrigerators are actually too warm to keep kimchi in for very long, and that I shouldn't make so much at a time that we can't use it up in a couple of weeks, because trying to keep it for months in a standard refrigerator won't work. 33-34 degrees F is much better than 39 or 40 degrees F. On the other hand, making just enough for a few days, you can leave it on the counter. You just can't expect to keep it for too long. Souring can be quite good especially for adding to soups, but once it goes beyond sour, into sweet and alcohol-smell, that is spoiled. So if it sours, hurry and make soup!

You should be able to add a little less or more salt to taste. Just know that less salt will mean you need to use it up quicker.

SachetT (author)megmaine2016-01-14

It doesn't spoil, really it just goes beyond something that tastes good.

I ferment mine for 3-5 days and have kept it in my fridge for months before I finished it. No 'alcohol/sweet smell'.

You can keep and eat it as long as you enjoy the flavor. Even if it grows mold, you could actually eat the mold if you wanted, however I never can still remove moldy leaves and still eat the moldy leaves.

Koreans, a lot of times store kimchi in an open pot using cabbage leaves as a 'cover'. These regularly grow mold, and doesn't keep them from eating it.

I'm wondering how old this Korean lady is, The Koreans my father and I learned from were old timers on an Army base in the 70s....modern koreans have probably adapted western food safety habits.

simonides (author)megmaine2012-05-22

Thanks for the extra information. My latest batch was 4 cups of water to 3 tablespoons of salt and it seems just as tasty except I forgot the radishes so it wasn't as crunchy!

Bentley_Maniac made it! (author)2015-10-16

Just one word of warning...

Wear rubber gloves when making spicy kimchi. My hands are burning!!!

actually, I modified the recipe a little.

1 whole cabbage, 6 carrots, brine.

4/5 long onions (scallions) - homegrown, a large ginger root, 2 heaped soup-spoons of cayenne pepper, 2 heaped soup-spoons of hot paprika, 1 heaped soup-spoon of HOT chilli flakes - homegrown, 6 tsp of fish sauce, and 1 knob of spanish garlic (I don't use the asian stuff - no flavour)

and 2 hours later, my hands are burning worse than they were 15 minutes after finishing.

Bentley_Maniac (author)2015-10-14

I haven't yet made kimchi, but experience in other recipes suggests that oyster sauce would also work quite well in the place of bonito broth.

QjuanaC (author)2015-01-19

hi, where did you get the glass jars with plastic tops?

QjuanaC (author)2015-01-19

hi, where did you get the jars with the plastic tops?

dstone-1 (author)2011-03-10

I think I might try anchovies in a batch. they shouldn't have any mercury.

fenikkusu (author)dstone-12014-11-02

I'm wondering here why anchovies shouldn't have mercury. What do you know that I haven't heard... can you expand on this...

Cause I'm thinking about it and okay so mercury since its a heavy metal is more likely to have a higher concentration in bottom dwelling fish...? ... I'm not sure ... Just trying to think this through logically.... and tuna also don't dwell at the bottom. My son just recently told me that the proportional amount of mercury in tuna is different in different species according to size...

Face palm... going to have to get that lecture from him again... didn't pay enough attention the first time.

Can you give me the anchovy lecture..I'm interested in your thoughts...


Marcos_El_Malo (author)fenikkusu2014-11-03

Apex predators have higher concentrations of mercury; thus the closer to the top of the food chain, the more mercury. Anchovies and sardines are far from the top. They also have shorter lifespans, meaning they have less time to accumulate mercury.

As a side note, the shorter lifespan means the small fishes replenish more quickly. Sardine and anchovy fisheries are much more sustainable than tuna or other large fish fisheries. I do love tuna, but I eat a lot more sardines. I know a lot of people are grossed out by sardines, but you can get boneless and skinless and mash it up with a condiment as a tuna fish sandwich replacement.

Rawismyreligion (author)2014-08-13

Kimchi can be made easier and with fewer ingredients that you already
have at home, its gonna taste even better! my recipe is here
on my blog

VrncHls (author)2013-01-11

To avoid MSG and methyl mercury, get short grain rice (and/or sweet rice) and cook them and blend it to the soup consistency. Mix this with Kombu juice (Kombu is seaweed like kelp, but thicker. You can get it really cheap at H-Mart, listed as Daa-Si-Maa(다시마) in Korean. If you don't have H-mart near you, you can also order online and they will deliver to you). To get kombu juice, soak 4-6 pieces of kombu in water and use that water. This mix can be used for any fish sauce while making any kimchi. Also use sea salt instead of regular salt both for soaking napa and for the sauce.

nookmum (author)2012-09-20

kimchi @ quy @ carlisle 17015

flio191 (author)2011-10-31

Hey folks, just so you know, there's nothing wrong with MSG. The "problems" with msg weren't around until it blew it up into something as "what's wrong" with chinese food in 1969. Since then, there have been rigorously controlled experiments with inconclusive evidence against MSG. There was only one person who described reacting to it, and was due to a placebo of previously believing that they were MSG reactant.

But I'm not saying that large amounts aren't bad for you. It's still a sodium salt of glutamic acid, and these salts among many salts are found to indirectly cause obesity (but I think there's obvious social reasons behind this). Glutamic acid though, is found in most cheeses, soy sauce, grape juice, peas, tomatoes, etc.

Anyway, I don't think a little ajinomoto or hondashi is going to hurt ya.

tussockgal (author)flio1912012-06-17

Obviously you are not intolerant or allergic to MSG and I'm happy for you. However, I get raging, blinding, debilitating migraines from ingesting added MSG, and it took a while to discover what the cause/s was/were without having any preconceived notions about MSG or any other substance. BTW, aspartame has the same effect on me. It's easy to find "scientific" studies to back any standpoint, but genuine suffers know what they know, anecdotal or not. The MSG that occurs - in miniscule amounts - naturally in some foods is not the problem.

flio191 (author)tussockgal2012-06-17

Fair enough. I'm not saying nobody's reactant to it, but I know there's a whole lot of people who think that MSG-free or gluten-free is for them just because they think it's somehow healthier, not necessarily because they're actually reactive to those things.

tussockgal (author)flio1912012-06-25

I agree on that score. gluten-free has become fashionable.

Clive5 (author)flio1912012-02-16

Years ago, before it was widely reported that MSG can be harmful, I had persistent pains in my side. The doctor kept suggesting more tests, which I couldn't afford. I soon ran out of MSG, which I used quite frequently, and noticed that the pain went away. To this day, when I feel that same pain come back, I can trace it back to some food I inadvertently ate that contains MSG. I suppose each person's system is different, but I just cannot tolerate MSG.

bcnu147 (author)flio1912012-01-16

Check out videos on MSG, Aspartame, Fluoride and Vaccinations on YouTube:

Dr. Russell L. Blaylock -- Excitotoxins [MSG, Aspartame]

Dr. Blaylock on Fluoride, Aspartame, MSG and Vaccinations (1)

Dr. Russell Blaylock M.D. is a retired neurosurgeon and author whose trailblazing research has tirelessly documented the fact that there is an epidemic of neurological disorders in the western world which are directly connected to toxins in our environment, and how this relates to the larger global eugenics program behind population reduction. In this fascinating interview, Blaylock reveals how depopulation programs forged by the Rockefeller foundation in association with the Nazis were the basis of modern day incarnations of eugenics like fluoride poisoning and vaccinations.

Disillusionment is a positive thing!

jlh357 (author)2012-06-23

This question is about the fermentation part, do you not tighten down the lids of the jars, or do you open ferment by leaving the lids loose?


keithmanbrown (author)2011-03-08

i just completed this. i didnt know how much chili to put in. i used red radish and yellow onion because whole foods didnt have anything!!!! we'll see....

dstone-1 (author)keithmanbrown2011-03-10

from "The Joy of Pickling" I learned that cayenne mixed with sweet paprika 1:1 (a Tbs of each) makes a good substitute for Korean chili in kim-chi. I've made several batches this way and think it's perfect

jlh357 (author)dstone-12012-06-21

Do you use a half cup of your cayenne and sweet paprika mix to this recipie?

I just made my first batch and used some red pepper flakes I had in the house. It's looking great so far and is fermenting very hard.

dstone-1 (author)jlh3572012-06-21

not a half cup, just 2 tablespoons..a half cup would be VERY spicy

jlh357 (author)dstone-12012-06-22

Thank you so much, I was putting together another batch as the first is
turning out great.
This is the best recipie I've come across and it's a great one. I will let you konw how I do with the cayenne and sweet paprika.

Thanks again.

valkgurl (author)2012-05-27

I would love to try some of the more "interesting" looking things at our Asian Market--BUT I live in a house with 4 anaphylacticly allergic to SHRIMP people. Any hints as to how to tell if anything HAS shrimp in it--or not?

I think I will try this without any of the "fish" sorts of things---husband loves things like this and our "local" Asian Markets are 1 1/2 hour drive away and the one and only time I got him "kimchee" packed in the nicest little ceramic jar the stuff smelled SO BAD the dog ran off. Prob just from some air leak or who knows but nothing like what he has had elsewhere and not a good sour smell--def a rotten eeewy smell. The crock was nice so I kept that tho!

I wish I knew some one who could take me for a "Guided Tour" of the Asian MArkets and tell me what is IN those packages! The people who run the one we have gone to might speak English--or might not!--and are not that friendly and when ever I have asked a Asian person shopping a question they just look at me like I have three heads. Sigh.

Maybe they know I have a secret wish to liberate the poor doomed turtles swimming in their bucket.

Thanks for de-mystifying this process tho! Oh--one way to keep the level of the liquid over anything pickling is to use a clean china plate weighted down with either a very clean rock; a glass jar filled with water on top of the plate; or (I have not used this) a plastic zip bag with water in it. This allows you to see what is happening on top without messing around with the product. Cover the whole affair with a cloth tied around the side or weighted down with small weights sewn on the edge to keep out dust and bugs and critters. My great great grandmothers trick for her famous pickles. And yep I was lucky enuf to actually live with great great grand ma when I was a kiddie and remember the pickles!

lwalker crespo (author)2012-04-18

I have been making fermented vegetables for about a year now and love them. I have been looking for a good kimchi recipe and cannot wait to try this one. I only plan to change the seasonings to get the flavor...I love the mix of green and purple cabbage because it looks so wonderful. I already use seaweed but no salt. I am looking forward to see how this changes the flavor of the veggies.

BTW...I was reading some of the posts, I make my fermented vegetables in sealed quart jars and keep my house between 70-72 degrees. I open the jars every day to release the gas and I let them ferment for 7 days...the only drawback is that many times the jars leak so I keep my jars in a cardboard box that I discard after they are done fermenting.

megmaine (author)lwalker crespo2012-05-22

I know that Sandor Katz had a salt-free sauerkraut recipe in his book, but don't recall whether there was a salt-free kimchi one. Worth looking into!

simonides (author)megmaine2012-05-22

No, all the Kimchi recipes in Katz require salt, however there are three salt free saurkraut versions using wine, savory seeds or seaweed however Katz advises that they are better made low salt rather than salt free if possible for better sour flavour and crunchiness.

bob_d2 (author)2012-04-23

I did this and think the kimchee is very good. I'm very happy I ran across this recipe and instructions. I used hon dashi and I did not use seaweed. I'm going to make a second batch and will try 1/2 hon dashi and 1/2 Pufina (Philippines) fish sauce and will use kelp. (I don't know why I mess with success.)
I was so excited about making kimchee, I promised most of the first batch out to three young people at my church. Two have Korean ancestry and one, Japanese.

megmaine (author)bob_d22012-05-22

Wow, you'll have to get their opinions on it, and come back to share the results with us! Whether they have pure admiration or constructive criticism, I would like to cheer for you or also learn what can be done better. I wonder what someone more used to Tsukemono would think of kimchi? If you want to try Tsukemono (a simple Japanese pickle) feel free to check out my Instructable on that as well!

felin (author)2012-03-15

Oops, sorry. Should have read up on your comments. I see, now, that you already discovered and posted the same info. What type of seaweed do you recommend buying and how would one put it in this recipe. Just chop it up?? Though I'm not new to eating seaweed, I am new to using it in my kitchen.


megmaine (author)felin2012-03-15

No harm, no worries. Most people wouldn't read so far down the comments, so posting things new, is a good thing.

the seaweed I buy is dried, so I usually just break it into bits or cut it if it's a bit leathery. It's wonderful in kimchi, and it hardly matters which type. Just whatever type you enjoy eating.

I used to use Wakame primarily, sometimes some kombu too. You can use any. Wakame I break into "twigs" dry, and in it goes.

These days I prefer to buy a year's supply of local Maine seaweed at a time, from or else

Both are good places to buy from, for anyone, especially if you live closer to Maine than to Japan, China, or Korea.

The local seaweed does taste a bit different or have a different texture, but it's good.

kimsfocus (author)2009-12-27

Yum! I can't wait to try this. I am going to go shopping tonight to get everything! I tried to make it once from a recipe in a book and well lets say it was not successful. I love Kim Chee and have yet to find a store brand that is as good as my brother in laws mothers homemade one (she is from Korea!). Thank you for the recipe!

megmaine (author)kimsfocus2012-03-15

Hope it was the beginning of a happy journey without end!

ymchi (author)2010-01-28

Kudos to ALL of you for attempting to make this labor-intensive staple that even some Koreans shy away from making (myself included). For great (and entertaining--you'll see) video instructions on korean cooking (which includes kimchi), check out:

megmaine (author)ymchi2012-03-15

I didn't mean any disrespect, however. Your comment was nice and supportive. And learning to make kimchi does feel like an art. Thank you for the video post, and I am deeply sorry whenever I hear that more people are losing touch with the fermented foods native to their's a worldwide problem that Sandor Katz attempts to address in his book. Happily, now through connectivity, people everywhere can learn and embrace not only their own, but any culture's fermented foods and pickles, which in natural state are healthy too.

megmaine (author)ymchi2010-02-19

I have to disagree that it is labor-intensive. The only labor is chopping, mixing salt and spices, and packing into a jar. That's less effort than would normally go into the making of one meal, and it makes a healthy delicious condiment and side dish to last through many meals, or many months, depending on use.
Thanks for the kudos though!

Tedinski (author)2010-01-20

So...  I've made a large batch of Kimchi, and saved a bit out in jars (the fresh stuff is great!).  I used a large bucket with a fermentation lock...  hopefully keeping out the O2 will help with consistency!

Unfortunately, the large batch seems to be "stuck".   It's been in 70F temps for over 48 hours, and not a single bubble!

Any tips?

megmaine (author)Tedinski2010-01-20

I don't know, having never used a fermentation lock. The methods I am familiar with do not attempt to keep out air, just to keep out dust and flies. Then again, maybe someone familiar with the "winter" kimchi made by burying the jars (and presumably keeping out oxygen) could offer advice.  Does it smell at all changed? If not, could it be too much salt? That would prevent fermentation.
Or, if there is enough salt to really slow things down, but not enough to halt them entirely, it might just take a bit.
Alternatively, I do believe a really large batch may take longer to get started.

I would give it a few more days and before figuring something is wrong, but tasting some each day should tell you what changes are taking place.

Keep us posted on the progress, because maybe I too will have a new use for the beer brewing equipment in the basement, if this works out well!

Tedinski (author)megmaine2010-01-21

I've opened the bucket [negating the effects of a fermentation lock! ;P] and tasted the kimchee.  It tastes good.  Not too salty, but salty enough.

I think you're right about the large batch, and perhaps I should just give it a bit of time.  apparently, some sources say fermentation won't start for up to a week! 

The fermentation lock is supposed to stop molds from growing.  Once the kimchi starts to "work", the gasses are trapped in the bucket, and the whole thing becomes anaerobic... so, no goo!

On MANY people's recommendations (here and elsewhere) I bought a copy of Sandor's book.  Kindle is handy when you wish to read.   ;)

Thanks so much for your quick reply.   I'll report back w/ info on success, or failure.  (failures are such useful learning tools!)


About This Instructable




Bio: Raising and educating several children over a wide range of ages with my husband and learning along with them as a way of life.
More by megmaine:Low-hassle User-Friendly Marmalade, (no canning or stovetop!)Create recycled/repurposed cloth pullups/training pantsEasy Vegan low-carb homemade breakfast cereal
Add instructable to: