Napa cabbage kimchi

Tongbaechu-kimchi 통배추김치

Hello everybody!
Today I’m going to show you how to make classic, spicy, traditional napa cabbage kimchi called tongbaechu-kimchi, a.k.a. baechu-kimchi or pogi-kimchi. But this dish is so common and iconic among Koreans that we simply call it “kimchi.” When people talk about kimchi, this is the dish they’re referring to, despite the fact that there are many kinds of kimchi in Korean cuisine, and many made with napa cabbage, too.

Over the years I’ve posted recipes for a few of them, but I’ve never made an in-depth video for making tongbaechu-kimchi! I’ve made a video for mak-kimchi (easy kimchi), which is very similar but is easier because you to chop up the cabbage first, and I’ve made an ultra simple yangbaechu-kimchi (emergency kimchi). Many years ago I even posted a recipe showing how to make baechu-kimchi with kkakdugi in one batch. But until now, I’ve never posted the most classic and traditional napa cabbage kimchi.

This kimchi uses the whole cabbage leaf, which makes it more labor-intensive than the other ones on my website, because you’ll need to take time to spread the spicy paste leaf by leaf. It’s more work, but this is the traditional style and if you can make this kind of kimchi well, you can consider yourself good at Korean cooking.

As I mention in the video, my mom used to make kimchi from 200 heads of cabbage! This was kimjang kimchi, made with her friends at the beginning of winter, and meant to last until the spring. 3 to 4 of her friends would come over and help her chop vegetables and most importantly, spread the paste on the leaves. This always needs to be done by hand. They would bring their own rubber gloves, and spend the day talking and laughing, and always had pollock stew or beef radish soup for lunch. They had a lot of fun!

At the end of the day they would take some kimchi home with them, but my mom would get all the rest, which lasted my whole family through the winter. And when my mom’s friends needed to make their winter kimchi, my mom brought her gloves over to their houses and helped them, like they did for her.

In the video I also show you how to ferment it in a traditional onggi. Using an onggi is not mandatory, but for those of you who have one already, this is how you use it! If you don’t have one, just use a BPA-free plastic container, or a glass container.

I answer many other frequently asked questions about kinchi-making in this video:

I hope you enjoy the recipe, and if you love kimchi, I encourage you to make your own kimchi at home. It’s delicious, easy, and a fun thing to do!

kimchi_onggi (포기김치)


Makes about 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of Kimchi
For salting cabbage:

  • 6 pounds napa cabbage (3 to 4 heads of medium napa cabbage)
  • ½ cup Kosher salt

For making porridge:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sweet rice flour (glutinous rice flour)
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (brown or white sugar)


  • 2 cups radish matchsticks
  • 1 cup carrot matchsticks
  • 7 to 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped Asian chives (buchu), optional (substitute with 3 green onions, chopped)
  • 1 cup water dropwort (minari), optional

Seasonings and spices:


Prepare and salt the cabbage:

  1. If the cabbage cores stick out too much, trim them off.
  2. To split a cabbage in half without shredding the densely packed leaves inside, first cut a short slit in the base of the cabbage, enough to get a grip on either half, and then gently pull the halves apart so the cabbage splits open. kimchi_cut cabbage
  3. Cut a slit through the core of each half, 2 inches above the stem. You want the cabbage leaves to be loose but still attached to the core.napa cabbage_cut (배추)
  4. Dunk the halves in a large basin of water to get them wet. Sprinkle the salt between the leaves by lifting up every leaf and getting salt in there. Use more salt closer to the stems, where the leaves are thicker.Salting cabbage cabbage_salting (배추 소금절이기)
  5. Let the cabbages rest for 2 hours. Turn over every 30 minutes, so they get well salted. From time to time you can ladle some of the salty water from the bottom of the basin over top of the cabbages if you want to.kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기) kimchi_cabbage salting (배추소금절이기)
  6. After 2 hours, wash the cabbage halves a few times under cold running water. Giving them a good washing, to remove the salt and any dirt. As you wash, split the halves into quarters along the slits you cut into earlier. Cut off the cores, and put them in a strainer over a basin so they can drain well.

kimchi-cabbage wash (배추씻기)

While the cabbage is salting for 2 hours, and in between the times you’re turning it over, you can make the porridge:

  1. Combine the water and the sweet rice flour in a small pot. Mix well with a wooden spoon and let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it starts to bubble. Add the sugar and cook 1 more minute, stirring. Remove from the heat and let it cool off completely.
  2. Pour cooled porridge into a large mixing bowl. Add garlic, ginger, onion, fish sauce, fermented salted shrimp, and hot pepper flakes. Mix well with the wooden spoon until the mixture turns into a thin paste.salted fermented shrimp (saeujeot: 새우젓)kimchi_seasoningskimchi_paste (김치양념)kimchi paste
  3. Add the radish, carrot, and green onion, plus the Asian chives (or more green onions) and the water dropwort if you’re using them. Mix well.Kimchi making (김치)kimchi paste (김치속) kimchi paste

Make kimchi:

  1. Spread some kimchi paste on each cabbage leaf. When every leaf in a quarter is covered with paste, wrap it around itself into a small packet, and put into your jar, plastic container, or onggi.
  2. Eat right away, or let it sit for a few days to ferment.

kimchi makingwhole-cabbage-kimchifresh-kimchi (포기김치)

On fermentation:

  1. The kimchi will start fermenting a day or two at room temperature, depending on the temperature and humidity of your room. The warmer and more humid it is, the faster the kimchi will ferment. Once it starts to ferment it will smell and taste sour, and pressing on the top of the kimchi with a spoon will release bubbles from beneath.
  2. Once it starts to fermented, store in the refrigerator to use as needed. This slows down the fermentation process, which will make the kimchi more and more sour as time goes on.

fermented kimchi (포기김치)


Other delicious stuff on maangchi.com:


  1. mskatiecakes_ My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 29th, 2015 at 8:45 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    i am very addicted watching your YouTube videos.
    You are amazing! tonight I finally made this napa kimchi recipe, but mine turned a bit salty, how can i fix it, or should I wait for 2 days and put the kimchi in room temperature before i taste it again? I rinsed the cabbage twice after salting, is that what I did wrong? really sad as I make a big batch :(

    Hoping for your response, Thank you :)

  2. Jam Gallardo My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 23rd, 2015 at 2:38 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi! I tried making kimchi using your recipe and it was awesome!!! Two days ago, I made 13lbs of kimchi! That was real work! Im just worried because the second container had too much brine and is not as red as i want it to be. Is that okay?

    Anyway, this is the 1st container and it’s perfect! So red! :) thank you Maangchi! as red as i want it to be. Is that okay?

    Anyway, this is the 1st container and it’s perfect! So red! :) thank you Maangchi!

    See full size image

  3. jk1794 My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 21st, 2015 at 7:22 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi :)

    I just wanted to start by saying thank you so much for all of the wonderful recipes you post! You are the sole reason I want to start making Korean food, and I feel such a connection with your culture. I was looking online to see where I could get all of the staple ingredients required for your recipes, and I was shocked to learn how close my local Korean grocery store is. I am so excited to visit it and buy all of the great ingredients.

    I decided, if I’m going to start cooking the glorious Korean cuisine you share, that there is no better dish to start with than Kimchi. My only question is, I’m vegetarian and your recipe calls for fish sauce, so would you suggest substituting that with soy
    sauce? Or would you just recommend leaving it out all together? If you would suggest leaving it out altogether, do you think I’m going to lose much of the authentic taste by not including the fish sauce of the fermented salted shrimp, or do you think I can still enjoy the wonderful Kimchi experience? Lastly, are you able to tell me if hot pepper paste and soybean paste is vegetarian? I know this particular recipe doesn’t call for either of them but I would love to know because they are such dominant ingredients on most of the dishes you cook.

    Thanks again for inspiring me. Sending lots of love from the UK.

  4. Tessa93 My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 15th, 2015 at 9:45 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi,

    Thank you for your amazing recipes, I always enjoy making them.

    I made this kimchi recipe, but I used black garlic instead of white garlic (because of the smell I don’t like to eat garlic during week days and the black garlic has no smell at all and doesn’t give garlic breath). At first the mix of garlic and onion from the food processor was black, but as soon as I mixed it with the porridge and other ingredients it became red as normal. The kimchi tastes great!

    Many thanks from Holland!

    See full size image

  5. monsweedy My profile page joined 9/15
    Posted November 14th, 2015 at 4:10 am | # |

    Hi maangchi! i am your very big fan from Turkey i made the kimchi but it was so spicy :) my mom so like it and she said “wow i dont know what it is but it is so delicious. i think you should make again when i finish this.” :D Thank you so much. i am very happy couse my mom liked kimchi!!

    See full size image

  6. gabriellewhy My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 12th, 2015 at 9:37 am | # |

    Dear Maangchi,

    Wan to ask after wash the Napa cabbage,need to drain it how many hours?or just drain it few mins and apply the kimchi paste?

  7. Roman My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 10th, 2015 at 2:12 pm | # |

    Dear Maangchi,

    Thank you a lot for your detailed recipe !

    I have one question, my friend bring from Korea salted shrimp like on picture, but we both didn’t know Korean,

    Kindly tell is it right one ?

    Thanks !

    See full size image

  8. Nico My profile page joined 11/15
    Posted November 5th, 2015 at 3:39 pm | # |

    Dear Maangchi,

    I’ve been trying your recipes in the last months, and it always turned great.
    My Kimchi got really popular among my friends and I had today much fun making Kimchi for the third time with a friend of mine. And as always it tastes great, I couldn’t help and had to eat a whole blend rice bowle with fresh Kimchi. Now I wish I made some more ^^.

    I wait for your next recipes.

    All the best from Berlin

  9. beckaivans My profile page joined 10/15
    Posted October 30th, 2015 at 8:43 pm | # |


    I just made this today! So excited to see how it turns when it starts fermenting in a few days. I made some of your kkakdugi with the leftover radish too. Thank you so much for your recipes!! I love all the pictures and videos. You’re a great chief and teacher!

    See full size image

  10. Vin My profile page joined 10/15
    Posted October 23rd, 2015 at 10:08 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi, I just finished my first big jar of Napa Kimchi from your recipe. It was seriously delicious… and highly addictive… thank you for sharing you recipe. I enjoyed making kimchi so much now. I have 1 questions though, how come my kimchi doesn’t produce as much liquid as yours? thank you.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted October 23rd, 2015 at 10:40 am | # |

      It sounds like you made delicious kimchi!
      “how come my kimchi doesn’t produce as much liquid as yours?” It happens when cabbage has thin leaves, is well salted, and then well drained. When I make winter kimchi (gimjang), I add more salt when I salt cabbage so that the kimchi won’t create lots of brine later.

      But if you like to make your kimchi more juicy and watery, add more radish matchsticks.1 day after the kimchi is made, lots of water from the radish and the cabbage will be drawn out so that the kimchi will have more brine.

  11. JayJayJay My profile page joined 10/15
    Posted October 11th, 2015 at 12:04 pm | # |

    I’ve been wanting to make kimchi for some time now and today I decided to make it. But while making it I ran out of the kimchi paste, so 1½ napa cabbages out of 3 were left without paste and I didn’t preserve them. I guess I used too much paste on each quarter of the napa cabbages which I used.

    Are you supposed to add the paste only on one side of each cabbage leaf because I added it on both sides of each leaf? I guess that’s why I ran out of the paste.

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