• Lydia Chu

Vegan Cabbage Kimchi Recipe

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

One can not be Korean and not be associated with kimchi. Kimchi was originated in Korea and now has become one of the most popular food in the world.

There are possibly over 100 different kinds of kimchi. Most common ones are baechu kimchi (made with napa cabbage), water kimchi and Ggakdugi (cubed radish kimchi). You don't have to be a fan of Korean food to know what kimchi is nowadays. They're pretty much everywhere, and even though you can find them at pretty much at any grocery stores, the ones you buy at the store do not even come close to homemade kimchi.

I'm embarrassed to say that when I was growing up, I never took the time to learn how to make kimchi. Although I have fond memories of watching my mother make kimchi, I had never bothered to learn. So, before I learned how to make my own kimchi about three years ago, I used to buy them at Korean markets. Even though they tasted pretty close to homemade, they would contain ingredients like MSG (monosodium glutamate), fish sauce and a lot of refined sugar. Once I became more conscious about my health, I got interested in making my own kimchi so I asked my mother for her famous kimchi recipe. Once I learned how to make it, it wasn't as daunting as I had thought especially if you're making small batches.

Mind you, my homemade kimchi is still far from the traditional kimchi that people make in Korea. Traditional ways of making kimchi is far more involved but I have simplified the recipe, and since going plant-based and eliminating all animal products from my diet, I have tweaked my mother's recipe a little to leave out the fish sauce and refined sugar to come up with vegan recipe. I do have to admit that it doesn't quite have the same taste but as far as I'm concerned, it's still pretty tasty and even more healthy. So, here it is. This recipe uses all natural ingredients without refined sugar or fish sauce.


2 small or 1 large Napa cabbage

napa cabbage for baechu kimchi

1 small daikon radish

2 whole bulbs of garlic (peeled)

50 grams of ginger (approx)

1 large onion, diced

1 bunch of green onion, cut into 1” long

Coarse Sea Salt (don’t use regular table salt) 1 cup for soaking plus 2 - 3 tbs for taste

1 small Fuji apple or ½ large apple for sweetness (replacing refined sugar)

1 - 1 1/2 cup Korean Red pepper powder (Be sure to use flakes and not fine powder pepper)


Napa Cabbage

  • Slice the cabbage in half, lengthwise. Remove the core and slice the cabbage into small pieces, approximately 1 – 1 1/2” squares.

  • Put the cabbage in a big tub with about 5 – 6 cups of water or enough to cover the cabbages. Sprinkle 1 cup of coarse sea salt over the sliced cabbage and mix. (add more salt if you want to speed up the process of wilting the cabbage. Let it sit for about 30 min or until wilted.

  • Gently rinse the cabbage in clean water. Move the cabbage to a large strainer and let them drain for about 15 minutes.

  • Move the cabbage to a large mixing bowl or a tub for mixing


  • Cut the radish into squares about ¼” thick

  • Put the cut radish into the mixing bowl with cabbage

Garlic, ginger, green onion, onion, apple, salt, red pepper powder

  • Cut the green onions into 1 – 1 1/2” in length

  • Puree the garlic, ginger, onion and apple

  • Add the above ingredients along with salt and the red pepper to the mixing bowl


  • Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly for about 10 min using your hands. Be sure to wear a disposal kitchen gloves if you have them. Otherwise, your hands will burn afterwards from hot red pepper.


  • Transfer the kimchi to a large tupperware or a glass jar with a tight lid. Press down the kimchi and pack them in but leave about 2" of space at the top. When it starts to ferment, it will start bubbling and the kimchi in the jar will start to expand so don't overfill. You'll also be able to smell the difference once it starts fermenting.

  • In the Summer, let it sit out at a room temperature on the kitchen counter for about 24 hours. If it's in the Winter, leave it out for another 24 hours if you prefer to have it completely fermented before refrigeration. It will continue to ferment in the refrigerator so it's not necessary to wait until it's completely fermented.

  • After the initial 6 hours of fermentation, taste the juice and add more sea salt if needed. Be sure to do this before it’s completely fermented and refrigerated. Otherwise, it’s going to taste bitter if the salt is added after the fermentation. Just sprinkle a little bit more of the sea salt if desired.


  • Most koreans have a separate kimchi refrigerator which stores them at an idea temperature of 32 °Fahrenheit. At this temperature, it can last anywhere from 3 months to about 6 months before it starts to go sour.

  • At a regular refrigerator temperature at 37 °Fahrenheit , it will last about one month. The longer it stays in the refrigerator, more sour and wilted the kimchi will get. If you're using regular refrigerator, I recommend storing them in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

  • Too much fermentation will cause kimchi to turn sour which is fine if you like the taste. My daughters prefer more fermented kimchi but for me, I prefer fresh and crisp. Fresh kimchi is good as a side dish and goes well with just about anyting, and sour kimchi is great for cooking like kimchi soup, kimchi pancakes, kimchi fried rice and kimchi potstickers.



  • If you don't mind the fish sauce or sugar, you can include 1/2 cup of fish sauce and 1/8 cup of sugar for this recipe.

  • You can also use asian pear in place of apples

  • Same ingredients apply for radish kimchi leaving out napa cabbage



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