Learn how to make Homemade Vegan Korean Kimchi with this quick and easy recipe + simple fermentation guide! This Korean fermented vegetable dish is not only loaded with healthy nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and microbes but also with delicious spicy flavors, making it to the perfect exotic side dish that goes well with any Asian food!
Have you ever tried kimchi? The Korean version of the local sauerkraut is getting more and more popular. And that’s for a reason! It’s packed with delicious flavors, exciting textures and it is super healthy, too – An absolute superfood! With this simple fermentation instructions, kimchi is very easy to make and can be perfectly combined with a lot of different flavors and ingredients. So what are you waiting for?
What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables that’s kind of like sauerkraut, but with Korean flavors such as garlic, ginger, and chilis. Most often napa cabbage and white radish are used for the basis but there are endless options for how to make kimchi so you can swap out the ingredients to your liking!
What happens during the fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process by which small lactic acid bacteria convert carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that gives the kimchi along with the spicy marinade its unique aroma. It’s like a metamorphosis of taste.
Preserving vegetables by fermentation
Many years ago there were no refrigerators or other electric cooling methods. So the fruits and vegetables had to be preserved by fermentation because not all fresh foods could be used up or eaten immediately. At that time, kimchi was a very popular winter dish in Korea as a source of vitamins and minerals. Thanks to this original form of preservation, it’s very healthy because it’s loaded with vital minerals, vitamins, and probiotics.
Where does kimchi come from?
The fermented cabbage is originated in Asia, or rather in Korea. Kimchi can be dated back to many thousands of years and it is an integral part of Korean (eating) culture. That’s why it is claimed as a popular national dish and has a traditional status. Whether for breakfast in the morning or for lunch or dinner, kimchi is served at any time of the day!
In Korea, there are kimchi competitions, kimchi songs, and even stage play about kimchi (no joke!). When an entire nation pays so much attention to a dish, it means something special. Because of the health benefits and the deliciously spicy taste, fermented cabbage is becoming more and more popular in many cuisines all over the world.
Why do I share a kimchi recipe right now?
That’s a good question. I haven’t made kimchi as long as the Koreans, but I’ve been fascinated by this delicious dish for ages. I never got around to share it until my friend Marius messaged me. Marius is absolutely passionate when it comes to fermentation and he has just published his first vegan cookbook “It’s alive!” about the same topic (click here to check out his book).
During the quarantine period, when freedom of movement and contact possibilities were restricted, completely new worlds of taste emerged in his small room in Hamburg. It bubbles, it sparkles and it lives! All due to small microbes, like in our kimchi recipe.
The whole fermentation topic is incredibly exciting and fascinating. Small bacteria or yeasts create completely new flavors and aromas. The play of sweetness, saltiness, and acidity is a real firework for our taste buds and, like kimchi, it has many health benefits. There are endless ways to make food “alive”. From homemade coconut yogurt to fermented kombucha to vegan raw cakes, everything is represented in Marius’ book. All reason enough to finally write and share this blog post for you.
Vegan Kimchi Ingredients and Variations
If you don’t have all the ingredients for our vegan kimchi recipe on hand, feel free to get creative and to swap them out to your liking. I assure you the results will always be healthy and delicious!
Ingredients for this kimchi recipe with variations:
- Chinese or napa cabbage: or kale, white cabbage, etc.
- Rice flour: or all-purpose flour.
- Raw cane sugar: or coconut sugar or regular white sugar.
- Daikon radish: also known as white radish or use other radishes.
- Yellow onions: or shallots, red onions.
- Spring onions: or leek, chives.
- Ginger: or galangal, turmeric.
- Soy Sauce: or Tamari (gluten-free).
- Chili flakes: or Gochugaru (Korean chili flakes).
- Nashi pear: or native pear or grated apple (preferably sweet varieties).
- Cold vegetable broth: or just cold water.
… do you have everything ready? If so, let’s start with the recipe!
How to make kimchi from scratch
First, check out this step-by-step guide. Then find the full recipe including ingredients, exact quantities, and instructions in the recipe box below!
Step 1: Prepare the Chinese or Napa cabbage.
Start to cut the cabbage into halves. Then cut into quarters and finally into bite-size pieces. Put the chopped cabbage in a colander and rinse it thoroughly under running cold water. Then drain well, and transfer to a large bowl or container. Mix the cabbage with the sea salt and let it rest for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours at room temperature. During this time the cabbage loses water and gets its typical soft kimchi consistency.
Once it’s soft (after a maximum of 2 hours), rinse it under running water and drain well. To speed up the process, you can use a salad spinner or pat dry the cabbage with paper towels.
Step 2: Prepare the rice paste.
Whisk together the rice flour and cold vegetable broth in a small saucepan. Be sure to use a whisk to avoid any lumps. Bring the water-flour mixture to a boil and cook until it starts to thicken. Then stir in cane sugar until it has dissolved. Finally, allow to cool.
Step 3: Cut the vegetables.
In the meantime, prepare the vegetables. For the marinade, peel the ginger, onion, and garlic. Rinse, clean, and finely slice the spring onions, then set aside. Also, cut the carrot and radish into thin strips or grate them finely with a vegetable grater. If you use an apple instead of pear, be sure to finely grated it, too.
Step 4: Prepare the marinade.
Put the ginger, nashi pear, onion, garlic, chili flakes, paprika powder, soy sauce, and the prepared rice paste in a blender. Then blend the ingredients into a smooth kimchi paste. Be careful when doing a taste test, because it is super spicy but delicious.
Step 5: Mix the cabbage, vegetables & marinade.
Now mix the cabbage with the spring onions, grated apple (optional), carrots, radish, and kimchi paste until everything is marinated evenly. Transfer the kimchi in clean mason jars and press it firmly to the bottom. The vegetables must be completely covered with liquid to prevent them from drying out. So be sure to add a little extra salted water as needed.
Step 6: Let the kimchi ferment.
Finally, seal the kimchi airtight and let rest at room temperature for about 2-3 days. Depending on the room temperature, the fermentation process may take less or more time. If you like the kimchi a little more sour and aromatic, leave it at room temperature a little longer. For a milder taste, transfer it to the refrigerator sooner. After that, place the vegan kimchi in the fridge where it keeps for at least 2 months.
Please note that the fermentation continues slowly when chilled. It tastes best when served in the first few days after the fermentation at room temperature.
Why should I ferment my vegetables?
The whole topic about fermentation is incredibly exciting and complex so it really needs its own book. Anyway, this vegan kimchi recipe is the perfect easy guide for beginners in the world of fermentation.
What can be roughly summarized is that small microbes (bacteria and yeast) do their work in all fermentation processes. They feed on sugar structures in vegetables, fruits, or beverages and, under comfortable conditions, produce essential substances and vitamins that benefit the body.
The perfect source of nutrients for a healthy gut!
The small microbes can significantly support our intestinal flora, gut, and even positively influence our mood. If you want to learn more about it, have a look at Marius’ book.
Fermentation is fascinating, versatile, healthy, and above all one thing: alive. Therefore it is worth learning how to make Kimchi or other fermented foods at home!
This Korean Kimchi Recipe is:
- Gluten-free (use Tamari)
- Slightly sour
- Full of vitamins and minerals
- The perfect superfood for everyone!
Here are some vegan recipes that you can serve with homemade kimchi:
- Korean Bibimbap
- Scallion Pancakes
- Vegetable Dumplings (Vegan Gyoza)
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- Crispy Sesame Tofu with Tahini Peanut Sauce
Would you like to see more similar recipes or informative step-by-step guides on my blog? Then feel free to leave a comment! And if you’ve tried this homemade kimchi recipe, please leave me a feedback! Of course, you can also share your photo on Instagram and tag me @biancazapatka #biancazapatka so I won’t miss your post. I can’t wait to hear from you! 🙂
Homemade Vegan Kimchi
- 3 lbs napa cabbage or kale or white cabbage
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- ⅔ cup cold vegetable broth or water
- 2-3 tbsp rice flour
- 2-3 tbsp cane sugar or other sugar
- 7 oz white radish grated, or small pink radishes
- 1 carrot about 3,5oz (100g), grated
- 2 spring onions finely sliced
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 6 large cloves of garlic peeled
- 1,2- inch piece of ginger grated, or sub galangal/turmeric
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free)
- ½ cup chili flakes e.g. Gochugaru
- ⅓ cup red paprika powder
- 1 Nashi pear or apple, grated
- *Note: See step-by-step photos in the blog post above!
- Chop the cabbage into bite-size pieces. Then place in a colander and rinse thoroughly under running cold water. Drain well and place in a large bowl/container. Toss with the salt and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours, until it has softened.
- Whisk together the rice flour and cold vegetable broth in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until it starts to thicken. Then stir in the sugar until it has dissolved and allow to cool.
- Rinse and slice the spring onions. Cut the carrot, radish, and apple (optional) into very fine strips or finely grate using a vegetable grater.
- Peel the ginger, onion, and garlic. Then add them along with the nashi pear, chili flakes, paprika powder, soy sauce, and rice paste to a blender and blend until a spicy paste forms.
- Once the cabbage has softened, rinse it under running water. Then drain well in a colander or salad spinner.
- Put the cabbage back in the bowl/container. Add the prepared vegetables and the marinade and mix well to combine.
- Spoon the kimchi into a clean airtight container or glass jars, pressing it down firmly so it's well packed. (Add a little extra salted water as needed so the vegetables are covered completely with liquid). Then seal the jars airtight.
- Serve the kimchi right away or let it ferment for 2-3 days at room temperature. Then transfer to the refrigerator where it keeps for at least 2 months.
- Depending on your room temperature, the fermentation process may take less or more time. If you like the kimchi a little more sour, leave it at room temperature a little longer. For a milder taste, transfer it to the refrigerator sooner. Also, note that the fermentation continues slowly in the refrigerator.
- Homemade Kimchi tastes best when served in the first few days after the fermentation at room temperature.
- You can find more information about fermentation and helpful tips on this recipe in the blog post above!
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