Making Your Own Kimchi

January 11, 2013

Every week, a DIY expert spares us a trip to the grocery store and shows us how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today, Lauryn Chun shares a recipe for a simple and dependable kimchi that you can make at home. Lauryn is the founder of Mother-in-Law's Kimchi and the author of The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi.

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It continues to amaze me that a whole new American audience has so enthusiastically embraced kimchi since the launch of Mother-in-Law's Kimchi in 2009. In light of this recent craze, I was inspired to write The Kimchi Cookbook to showcase the seasonal aspect of kimchi. I wanted to show that kimchi can be more than just cabbage -- in fact, it can be made with just about any vegetable seasoned to one’s liking.

The book is divided into seasons for making spring/summer and fall/winter kimchi and dishes that use kimchi as an ingredient in cooking. I’ve included traditional Korean kimchi recipes and contemporary ones using ingredients such as cauliflower that show how easy and versatile kimchi making at home can be. With a few pantry ingredients, including the highest quality Korean chile pepper flakes (gochugaru) and fish sauce you can find, you will be well on your way to fantastic homemade kimchi.

In Korean, the word mak refers to the simple, everyday, casual, or common. And mak kimchi is just that -- a simple, basic way to make kimchi and enjoy it freshly fermented.

This recipe features a quick dry salt brine that calls for just enough salt to initiate fermentation and season the vegetables. A light rinse ensures that a balance of sweetness and salinity of the cabbage is achieved. Within three days of fermentation, you’ll have a homemade batch of crunchy, spicy and tangy kimchi whose flavors will develop in complexity as it continues to age. Use it as a condiment to add healthy probiotics and depth of flavor to a meal of grilled chicken, sausages, eggs, tofu and brown rice or add it to flavor the American classic grilled cheese sandwiches. An all-time favorite!


Mak Kimchi
Makes one jar

1 head (1.5 to 2 pounds) napa cabbage or green cabbage, cut into 2 by 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 large cloves)
1 teaspoons peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons fish sauce (omit if vegan, see note below)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons Korean chile pepper flakes (gochugaru)
4 green onions, green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced (1 medium)

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage with the salt and set aside for about 50 minutes. Drain the liquid and very lightly rinse the cabbage just enough to remove any traces of salt. Drain the cabbage completely in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and sugar until a paste forms. Mix in the chile pepper flakes and let the paste combine for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the green onions, yellow onions, the seasoning paste, and the cabbage until combined thoroughly making sure the seasoning paste is distributed evenly. Pack the mixture tightly into the glass container pressing down as you fill the container. Add 1/4 cup water to the mixing bowl, and swirl the water around to collect the remaining seasoning paste. Add the water to the container, cover tightly, and set aside for 3 days at room temperature. The cabbage will expand as it ferments, so be sure to place the jar on a plate or in a bowl to catch the overflow. Refrigerate and consume within 6 months to a year.

Tip: You can check the fermentation by opening the lid; you should see some bubbling juices and taste the tanginess of the freshly pickled cabbage. It will keep fermenting slowly in the jar for up to 6 months. The flavor will evolve and change with time — and a steady cold temperature will ensure an even, slow fermentation.

Save and print the recipe here.

Reprinted with permission from The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi, by Lauryn Chun, copyright © 2012. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Photos: Sara Remington © 2012


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kimmyluna
  • gerry nucifora
    gerry nucifora
  • Jen0315
  • Vanessa
  • Lauryn Chun
    Lauryn Chun
I am the founder of Mother-in-Law's Kimchi, a line of artisan kimchi based on an original recipe from Jang Mo Jip ("Mother-in-Law's Kimchi"), my mother's beloved restaurant in Garden Grove, California. From my mother's kitchen to working in the fine dining and wine industries, my deep love for food and wine led me from the Rhone Valley and Spain to Italy's hills, where I worked harvesting grapes. While living in New York City, I recognized the beauty of Korea's tradition of handcrafted kimchi, which inspired me to launch Mother-in-Law's Kimchi in 2009


kimmyluna June 6, 2015
How big is your jar, please?
gerry N. July 17, 2014
Hi there ... great recipe for my first attempt at kimchi ! would it be ok to ferment this in a plastic kitchen container ? just realised I don't have a glass container big enough ...thank you
Jen0315 December 4, 2013
This is a sound basic recipe, but you'll find countless, and I MEAN countless, variations in Korea. More often than not there aren't yellow onions added. Kimchi that people intend to keep for longer will have cooked rice blended with water to make a thin slurry, and that gives more of a softened version of the tanginess of yogurt that wraps up and completes the flavors of whatever it's paired with. Often raw seafood is added too- oysters or baby shrimps and squid add sweetness, while little baby fish like tiny croakers or anchovies add umami.
AlisonSpaude December 8, 2013
Hi Jen0315,
Do you know how raw seafood--oysters, shirmps, squid, "cook" while the kimchi is fermenting. I would love to make kimchi with oysters, but I am afraid I will get sick from raw oysters sitting out while the kimchi ferments. Thanks.
Vanessa July 12, 2013
Would umeboshi vinegar work as a vegan substitute in place of the fish sauce?
Author Comment
Lauryn C. May 13, 2013
Chili pepper flakes differ vastly in heat and flavor so not a good idea to substitute. I would try to order gochugaru online. We offer a 4 oz packet on Amazon. It's a key ingredient in achieving kimchi flavors - its distinct earthy, fruity, moderate spice flavors.
Patterson F. May 13, 2013
Question. I don't know if I can find gochugaru in my area, would just regular red pepper flakes work alright?
RawLizzy January 14, 2013
Looking froward to making my own Kimchi...I grew up with my family fermenting our own vegetables, from carrots to whole cabbage heads in barrels (my parents are from Europe). So, anything pickled appeals to me. Now that I eat mostly vegand and raw foods, Kimchi fits in perfectly. Thank you so much for the recipe.
@JulieBee...not sure that your comment was did not bring anything to the "table".
myong6 January 14, 2013
I'm a korean. But I can't make Kimchi. Bc it's not easy. This recipe is helpful. Thanks!
AlisonSpaude January 13, 2013
Thanks for the recipe. Love any type of kimchi and it's great to make at home. I have seen other traditional recipes that call for raw oysters. I was curious to know Lauryn's take on adding oysters to kimchi. Does the fermentation "cook" the oysters? Is is safe? What are you thoughts about adding other seafood to kimchi during the initial process?
easknh January 13, 2013
I appreciate whats4dinner's comment on the missing note re: fish sauce but would also like to hear Lauryn's reply.
Chandy January 13, 2013
I've been thinking about kimchi and your book for the past few days. I opened my email and saw this recipe yay! However I'm buying the combo pack before I try the recipe. A) not in the mood to cook. B) I am dying to taste your style so when I make it, I know what to expect or compare it with. Thanks so much for sharing.
ca412 January 13, 2013
This looks great, and I'd like to try it, but what is the substitute for the fish sauce? I don't see the note referred to in the ingredients list.
Whats4Dinner January 13, 2013
I'm vegan and am Korean. I think the purpose of the fish sauce is just to introduce more of a salty flavor to it. I've seen people just add a little soy sauce (or tamari if gf) and a little more salt. I might make a small batch and add a little nutritional yeast to add a little fishy/funkiness to it?
PMarie January 13, 2013
good idea!
Austin D. January 11, 2013
Great recipe, Lauryn! I'm going to go to your mother's restaurant soon!

Question-- would you ever ferment it longer than 3 days outside the refrigerator? I've read that the good bacteria "peak" after 3-4 days, but then other fermented veggies like sauerkraut can go as long as 6 months at room temp.