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)


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  1. leongym United Kingdom My profile page joined 1/16
    Posted January 27th, 2016 at 4:24 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    I have made mine 2 days ago and I just found out that is too spicy, just wonder can I add some water in? Thanks.

  2. snub nyc My profile page joined 1/16
    Posted January 26th, 2016 at 5:09 am | # |

    i have 2-3 week old kimchi and used all the brine/juice to make kimchi jigae. how do i make more brine/juice for the kimchi i still have?

  3. AceBite My profile page joined 12/15
    Posted January 25th, 2016 at 6:24 pm | # |

    I used two medium onions. Can I fix this? :(
    It’s already fermenting

  4. AceBite My profile page joined 12/15
    Posted January 25th, 2016 at 10:31 am | # |

    Is it okay if I use frozen leftover kimchi broth for my new batch of kimchi?

  5. tdlinh Viet Nam My profile page joined 1/16
    Posted January 18th, 2016 at 9:35 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi, thanks for your amazing recipe. The steps are really easy to follow. I have just finish my first batch and now is day 2. The only problem is that my kimchi is a little bit bland. I thought maybe i should let it be fermented longer but it is crunchy enough and if I keep it outside, it may be too soft.
    So do you think that’s because i rinsed the cabbage too much after soaking it in the salt water, or should i put more salt and fish sauce in the porridge? I am so excited to do the next batch and try more kinds of kimchion your blog.
    Thank you

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted January 19th, 2016 at 4:23 pm | # |

      You can fix bland kimchi any time by adding more salt and fish sauce. Take some kimchi juice (brine) from your kimchi, and mix with more salt and fish sauce. Then pour it over the top of you kimchi. Then press down the kimchi to spread the saltiness evenly.

  6. ladyluxuryrn Nj My profile page joined 3/12
    Posted January 16th, 2016 at 6:40 pm | # |

    Maangchi!! Thank you thank you for this recipe! This is my third time making Kimchi!I gave them to a doctor I work with and he Loved it so much he said I make way better kimchi from the ones he was given before. He just gave me money to make a new batch! Thanks again!

  7. sanne Munich My profile page joined 8/14
    Posted January 7th, 2016 at 7:48 am | # |

    Just skip them – or use soy-sauce instead.

    Bye, Sanne.

  8. devine My profile page joined 10/15
    Posted January 7th, 2016 at 7:36 am | # |

    Hi again Maangchi…
    just want to ask you what can i use to substitute the fermented shrimps for a vegetarian kimchii version. thanksss

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