How to Make Kimchi in 5 Easy Steps

Recipe, ingredients, and detailed instructions to make kimchi at home.

hand puts jar of kimchi into cupboard

Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

  • Working Time: 30 - 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 days
  • Yield: 5 cups
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

If you like spicy, intensely-flavored food, then kimchi—a traditional Korean side dish—is for you. Think of it as 5-alarm sauerkraut. (Kimchi is made by lacto-fermentation, which is the same process used to create sauerkraut.)

The highly-seasoned fermented cabbage, which boasts a range of flavors, is Korean comfort food. This is the sort of well-guarded secret passed down from parent to child. In Korean culture, kimchi is served with almost every meal and it is eaten by itself and also used as an ingredient in several Korean dishes.

Below is a vegetarian variation on traditional kimchi that substitutes nori, a saltwater vegetable used to wrap sushi, in lieu of fish sauce.

What You'll Need


  • Chef's knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Food prep gloves
  • Strainer
  • Cutting board
  • 6-cup Mason jar with lid


  • 2 lbs Napa cabbage, stemmed and cut lengthwise
  • 6 to 8 cups plus 1 tablespoon water, filtered or distilled*
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 daikon radishes, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 bundle scallions, trimmed, cut into 1-inch sections
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 to 5 tbsp coarse Korean red pepper flakes*
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1/2 nori sheet, torn into small pieces*


  1. Rinse and Prep Cabbage

    washing green cabbage in colander in sink

    Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

    Cut cabbage across into strips and place in a mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup salt and gently massage the salt into the leaves while using gloves.

    Pour water into the bowl until the cabbage is just covered. Place a plate on top of the cabbage to weigh it down. Set aside for at least 3 hours or overnight, folding once or twice.

    Pour cabbage into a strainer and rinse under cool running water. Set strainer aside to allow cabbage to drain, about 20 minutes.

    Dry mixing bowl and set aside for reuse.

  2. Mix Spices

    hand with spoon over kimchi spices

    Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

    Combine sugar, pepper flakes, nori, and sugar in a small mixing bowl.

    Add 1 tablespoon filtered water and stir contents until thick paste forms.

    In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups of water with 1 tablespoon of salt and stir to make brine. Set aside.

  3. Prepare Vegetables

    Rinse and prep daikon, ginger, scallions, and garlic.

    Think about the consistency you like in your kimchi. Scallions can be cut into 1-inch sections and a matchstick-size is appropriate for daikon radish, but you can make your pieces smaller or larger depending on how much of a bite you'd like your kimchi to have.

  4. Bring It All Together

    hand folds kimchi ingredients into stone bowl

    Treehugger / Alexandra Cristina Nakamura

    Combine the vegetables and cabbage in a large mixing bowl.

    Add your paste and mix using a folding motion until the cabbage is evenly coated, about 2 minutes.

  5. Allow to Ferment

    Pack the kimchi into a Mason jar and add just enough brine from step 3 (if needed) to cover the ingredients. Seal and place the jar on a shelf out of direct sunlight for 24 hours. Some liquid may seep out of the jar, so place it on a plate to avoid messes.

    After 24 hours, open the jar to release gases—it should have strong odors. Then, reseal and store kimchi in the fridge for up to 1 month.

    Add to soup, as a side dish, or with veggie burgers.

A Note on Ingredients

The amount of water used is dependent on the size of your mixing bowl. A bigger bowl requires more water.

Korean red pepper flakes, called gochugaru, are found in Asian markets or can be purchased online.

Many kimchi recipes call for fish sauce, which adds a savory dimension to kimchi known as umami. Dulse or nori, saltwater vegetables made from kelp and seaweed respectively, are good substitutes.