My living room is currently totally stinky and funky – my newest batch of vegan kim chi is in the works. Homemade vegan kim chi is made using just a few simple ingredients and a week’s worth of patience. The end result is a deliciously funky veggie side dish that can be used in noodles, alongside rice and veggies, tossed into salads, combined with scrambles (tofu or egg), and so much more.
Like other homemade fermented foods, like homemade vegan yogurt or homemade sauerkraut, kim chi is an awesome source of beneficial probiotics, which are good for your gut and for your overall wellness.
How to Make Homemade Vegan Kim chi
To start, you need Napa cabbage (also called Chinese cabbage or won bok). This is the longer, slightly curly type of cabbage. Kim chi can also be made with purple or green round cabbage, or an array of other veggies (think daikon kim chi!). Traditionally, Napa cabbage is what to use.
Choose a large head of cabbage, and slice into slices big or small (I prefer small). When making kraut I use my food processor, but this type of cabbage is so light and fluffy that it’s easy to chop by hand. I like to add other veggies to my kim chi, too. Shredded carrots, radish (or daikon), onion or green onion are all welcome here. I aim for about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of other veggies to about 2 cups of cabbage.
You wil also need the spice: this is the fundamental difference between kim chi and kraut. The trifecta is ginger, garlic, and red chili. Korean chili, called gochugaru, can be used if you can find it. Otherwise, use red chili flakes. I use only a small amount of garlic and chili in my kim chi, as I prefer it less spicy. So you choose how hot you want it! I like to process the ginger and garlic in the food processor so that it’s very fine, but you can also chop by hand for a chunkier mix. For a yellow kim chi, try adding 1 Tablespoon of grated or minced turmeric!
Homemade Vegan Kim Chi
1 medium-large head Napa cabbage, chopped
1-2 Tablespoons sea salt
1 cup chopped or shredded vegetables (daikon, carrots, etc. – optional)
2 green onions, sliced into 2 inch pieces, optional
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 Tablespoon Korean chili powder (more to taste)
- Have sanitized wide-mouth jars and lids ready for use (at least one quart jar per 2lbs cabbage; see How to Sanitize Jars for Fermentation projects here).
- Place cabbage into a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon of salt and toss together. Add any extra vegetables, garlic, ginger and chili powder. Toss together again and sprinkle on some more salt.
- Let stand for five minutes until salt begins pulling water from the veggies, creating a natural brine. If it seems dry after a few minutes, add a bit more salt and massage the cabbage to release the liquid.
- Once cabbage mixture has reduced and there is a little bit of brine at the bottom of the bowl, pack into sterilized jars. Press firmly as you go (with your hands or with a tool), making sure the cabbage is packed tightly. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar, and make sure that the cabbage is covered completely in the brine (liquid). If it is too dry, mix 1 teaspoon of salt with 1/2 cup water, stir to dissolve, and pour onto cabbage until it’s submerged (you can do this anytime during the fermentation process that you see the brine level drop).
- At this point methods differ: you can cover the jar with a lid, opening every day to let out excess carbon dioxide. I prefer to use a smaller (sanitized) jar atop the cabbage, which ensures that the cabbage remains submerged in the brine.
- Leave jar on at room temperature (probably on the kitchen counter) for seven days, being sure to check the brine levels every day, adding more if needed. Using clean utensils, taste each day for tanginess and let it ferment longer if you like. There might be bubbles- that’s good! Refrigerate after opening– it will keep for a long time!
- Use your kimchi in miso soup, fried rice, tofu scrambles and so much more!
Yield: 3-5 cups