Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

Ingredients like garlic, ginger, and chili flakes combine with cabbage and radish to make the classic dish known as Kimchi.

napa cabbage kimchi recipe

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that dates back to over 3,000 years ago. It is a fermented dish that is usually comprised of cabbage, radish, garlic, salt, and a plethora of other ingredients we’ll dive into later in this post. Ancient Koreans once used a variation of this recipe to enjoy the taste and nutrients of vegetables all winter long. Today there are hundreds of adaptations of this classic dish ranging from Korean cuisine to Mexican, American, and beyond.

Fermented foods like Kimchi are full of health benefits and probiotics. As Kimchi has gained global recognition, we have found that it is a great source of probiotics such as lactic acid bacteria which are linked with many health benefits. Harvard even noted that fermented foods have been linked to improved heart health as well as better digestion. In addition to these benefits, Kimchi is also a low calorie option to add into your diet, and this recipe will show you just how easy it is to make.

DIY napa cabbage kimchi


Fermentation is the process by which bacteria and yeast consume sugars, digest them, and transform them into byproducts such as alcohol, organic acids, and gases. Although there are many different forms of fermentation, the one taking place in this recipe is lacto-fermentation. Lacto- fermentation is performed by a group of bacteria called lactic acid bacteria (LAB). This produces lactic acid, which is most famous for cheesemaking due to its ability to process lactose, aka milk sugar.

While making fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, this process works because the vegetables are submerged in salt water. LAB is already present on all plant matter, especially those that grow close to the ground, which makes the fermentation process easy for all vegetables. This process also creates enzymes and vitamins that make nutrients more bio-available in your body. Lacto-fermentation has been around as long as humans have been preserving food and is the reason we have classics in global cuisines like sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough, and so much more! Be sure to check out our other fermented food guides, like our traditional sauerkraut recipe.


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  • 1 Head Napa Cabbage – Napa cabbage is a traditional choice for kimchi as its leaves are soft enough for a quick fermentation but can also hold up to longer fermentation for richer, tangier flavor. You can substitute green or red cabbage, cucumbers, radish cubes, carrots, or most vegetables, but you may want to adjust the fermentation time depending on the desired texture.
  • 1 Small Daikon Radish, Julienned – Radish adds a nice crunch and varied texture. You can use any radish you’d like. Daikon radishes are a bit sweeter and yield their flavor to the kimchi spices beautifully.
  • 1 Bunch Scallions, Chopped – Scallions add a vivid pop of color and a fresh, mild onion flavor
  • 1.5 TBSP Salt – Salt provides the ideal environment for the lactic acid bacteria to thrive. Any non-iodized salt will work. Sea salt is ideal as the naturally occurring minerals nourish the microbes and boost fermentation.
  • 1/4 Pear – Pear is added for balance. A little sweet, fresh pop goes a long way with the salty tangy kimchi.
  • 1-2″ Knob Of Ginger, Roughly Chopped – Fresh ginger adds depth and spice. If you must, powdered will do, however, fresh is superior
  • 1 Shallot, Cut Into Quarters – Shallot provides a rich onion flavor. The sharpness mellows as the fermentation progresses.
  • 4 Cloves Garlic – Garlic helps form the paste and like the shallot, the raw garlic sharpness mellows out during the fermentation. If you must, powdered garlic is better than nothing.
  • 2 TBSP Korean Chili Flakes (Gochugaru) – Gochugaru is arguably the most notable ingredient in kimchi. While you can substitute with red chili flakes or a mix of different chili powders, it’s worth finding Gochugaru for that well-balanced, spicy rich flavor.
  • 1 TSP Fish Sauce – Adds umami and depth. For vegan kimchi, you can substitute miso paste, soy sauce, or seaweed with similar results.
  • 1 TSP Sugar – The sugar adds flavor balance but is generally optional.
  • Filtered Water – As needed to make sure the vegetables are submerged.






Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

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Recipe by Fermentaholics Course: Fermented Foods, Kimchi, Kimchi RecipeCuisine: KimchiDifficulty: Easy

32 Oz Jar



Prep time




3-14 Days

This Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi recipe is for one 32 oz jar. For a larger batch, scale this recipe by multiplying the ingredients or toggle the serving size above.



  • Remove the outer leaf from the cabbage and reserve it for later.
  • Chop the remaining cabbage into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl with the daikon radish, pear, and scallions, then sprinkle with the salt.
  • Using a tamper or your hands, work the salt into the cabbage. Set aside at room temperature for 30 mins to 1 hour during which time the salt will draw out moisture from the cabbage.
  • Meanwhile, make the paste – add the remaining ingredients into a food processor and blend into a paste. (If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely chop all ingredients for the paste).
  • Massage paste into the cabbage mixture until it is well incorporated, then pack into the jar, using a tamper to pack it in firmly and remove any air bubbles.
  • Take the reserved cabbage leaf and place it on top to act as a follower, then place the glass weight on top and press firmly until the weight is submerged by the brine. If there is not enough liquid to submerge, add filtered water to top it off.
  • Place lid with airlock on top and let ferment for 3-14 days, ideally around 75°F. The longer the fermentation, the tangier and more sour the flavor gets. Taste it along the way and when you are happy with the flavor, place it in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation.


  • Using the freshest produce you can find will always yield better, tastier results. And while napa cabbage is popular for making kimchi, you can branch out to other substitutes that may better fit your pallette or diet.

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