How to Make Kimchi: A Guide for Beginners


Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that consists of fermented vegetables, mainly napa cabbage, and various seasonings. It is a staple food in Korean cuisine and a source of probiotics, vitamins, and minerals. Kimchi has a spicy, sour, and savory taste that can enhance any meal. In this article, we will show you how to make kimchi at home with simple ingredients and steps.

What You Need to Make Kimchi

To commence the preparation of kimchi, one must gather a selection of specific ingredients and tools. These essentials include:

  • 1 medium head of napa cabbage (about 5 pounds)
  • 1/4 cup of coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • Water
  • 5 to 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 to 5 tablespoons of Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru), depending on your preferred spiciness level
  • 8 ounces of radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • A large bowl
  • A colander
  • A cutting board
  • A knife
  • A small bowl
  • A glass jar equipped with a lid, ensuring a minimum capacity of one quart, which is crucial for storing the kimchi as it ferments.
  • a plate, accompanied by a weighty object like a can or an additional jar. This setup is instrumental in maintaining the cabbage’s position, fully submerged in its brine. This submersion is vital for the fermentation process, ensuring that the cabbage is evenly and effectively fermented.

How to Make Kimchi: Step by Step Instructions

What is kimchi

Follow these steps to make your own kimchi:

Step 1: Cut and Salt the Cabbage

Cut and Salt the Cabbage

  • Rinse the cabbage and pat it dry. Cut it into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter into 2-inch wide strips or cubes, depending on your preference.
  • Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle the salt over it. As you progress with the kimchi preparation, the next step involves massaging the salt into the cabbage. As you embark on this key stage of crafting kimchi, it becomes essential to engage your hands in the task. Delve into the process with diligence, meticulously infusing the cabbage leaves with salt.
  • This hands-on approach ensures each leaf becomes tender, a subtle transformation signifying progress. Wearing gloves during this phase of kimchi preparation is a prudent decision. Gloves offer protection from the drying effect of the salt, and later, they act as a defense against the spicy heat of the pepper flakes.
  • This thoughtful step not only contributes to the overall quality of the kimchi but also makes the cooking process more comfortable and enjoyable.
  • Pour enough water into the bowl to cover the cabbage. Place a plate on top of the bowl and put a heavy object on the plate to weigh it down. Let the cabbage soak in the salted water for 1 to 2 hours.

Step 2: Make the Paste

  • In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce. Continue stirring the mixture vigorously until all the ingredients combine into a smooth, homogenous paste. This step is crucial for achieving the right consistency and flavor distribution in your dish.
  • Add the red pepper flakes and mix well. Adjust the amount of pepper flakes according to your taste. The more you add, the spicier your kimchi will be.

Step 3: Drain and Rinse the Cabbage

  • After the cabbage has soaked, drain it in a colander. Rinse it well under cold running water to remove the excess salt. Squeeze out the excess water and return the cabbage to the bowl.
  • Add the radish and scallions to the cabbage and toss well to combine.

Step 4: Add the Paste and Mix Well

Add the Paste and Mix Well

  • Add the paste to the cabbage mixture and use your hands to coat the vegetables evenly with the paste. You can wear gloves to avoid staining your hands and nails.
  • Pack the kimchi into a clean glass jar, leaving some space at the top. Press down on the kimchi to remove any air bubbles and release some liquid. The liquid should cover the kimchi. If not, add some water to the jar.

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Step 5: Ferment the Kimchi

Ferment the Kimchi

  • Seal the jar with a lid and place it in a cool and dark place, such as a cupboard or a pantry. Let the kimchi ferment for 1 to 5 days, depending on your preference. The longer you ferment, the sourer your kimchi will be.
  • Check the kimchi every day and press down on it with a clean spoon to submerge it in the liquid. You may see some bubbles or hear some fizzing sounds, which are signs of fermentation. You may also notice some white sediment at the bottom of the jar, which is normal and harmless.
  • Taste the kimchi after 1 day and see if you like it. If not, let it ferment for another day or two until it reaches your desired taste. Once you are happy with the taste, transfer the jar to the refrigerator to slow down the fermentation and preserve the kimchi.

How to Enjoy Your Kimchi

How to Enjoy Your Kimchi

You can enjoy your homemade kimchi as a side dish with rice, noodles, soup, or any other dish that needs some extra flavor. Kimchi’s versatility extends to a myriad of culinary creations. This range of dishes encompasses a variety of flavors, starting with the hearty kimchi stew, moving on to the beloved kimchi fried rice, then to the crispy kimchi pancakes, and finishing with the mouth-watering kimchi dumplings, among others.

Additionally, kimchi’s impressive shelf life is worth mentioning; when stored in a refrigerator, it maintains its quality for several months, allowing for extended use in numerous culinary creations. This ensures that you can always have this flavorful ingredient at your fingertips, ready to enhance any meal.


Making kimchi at home is not difficult and can be rewarding. You can customize your kimchi with different vegetables and seasonings to suit your taste. Kimchi is a healthy and delicious food that can add some spice and variety to your meals. Try making your own kimchi today and enjoy the benefits of this fermented wonder.


  • What is kimchi?
    • Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish that consists of fermented vegetables, mainly napa cabbage, and various seasonings. It is a staple food in Korean cuisine and a source of probiotics, vitamins, and minerals.
  • How do you make kimchi?
    • To make kimchi, you need to cut and salt the cabbage, make the paste, drain and rinse the cabbage, add the paste and mix well, pack the kimchi into a jar, and ferment the kimchi for 1 to 5 days.
  • How long does kimchi last?
    • Kimchi can last for several months in the refrigerator, as long as it is submerged in the liquid. The taste and texture of kimchi will change over time, becoming sourer and softer. You can use older kimchi to make cooked dishes, such as kimchi stew or kimchi fried rice.
  • How do you know if kimchi is bad?
    • Kimchi is bad if it smells rotten, moldy, or rancid, or if it has visible signs of spoilage, such as mold, slime, or discoloration. If you are unsure, it is best to discard the kimchi and make a new batch.
  • What are the benefits of kimchi?
    • Kimchi offers numerous benefits; it aids in improving digestion, enhances immunity, contributes to lowering cholesterol, helps in preventing infections, and is effective in fighting inflammation. Additionally, kimchi is rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber, all of which play a crucial role in protecting against various diseases.


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