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)



  1. Sav_sss Canada (near Montreal) My profile page joined 3/15
    Posted August 15th, 2015 at 10:41 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi :) ,

    I was wondering for how long can we keep fermented shrimp in the fridge? I have it for about 5 months now and i will do another bach of kimchi in like 3 weeks and i wanna know if i need to buy fermented shrimp again or if you can keep this in the refrigerator for a long time ?! Oh and ehm last time i’ve been to the korean grocery store it was my first time going so i got kind of excited while i was there and i didn’t look if there was a degree of spicyness in gochujang and mine is crazily hot like serioudly hot lol and the paste is like red-blackish haha so i was wondering if you could tell me if there is a version less spicy than the one i bought ? Here a photo

    Thank you in advance :)

    See full size image

  2. hanirang My profile page joined 8/15
    Posted August 15th, 2015 at 1:48 am | # |

    Just wanna say thank you for the recipe :). I can’t wait to eat it…

    See full size image

  3. yunxuan84 My profile page joined 8/15
    Posted August 14th, 2015 at 7:40 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi,I’m use your recipe to make this Kimchi.But at malaysia some place is hard to get the fish sauce so I buy this brand to make Kimchi.
    But after 1 day I saw my Kimchi colour is too red and more water.
    And also some water is dark I think that is fish sauce because only the fish sauce is not korea brand.
    I’m try the taste is salty,how can I do right now?is it still can eat?

    See full size image

  4. uyanga308 Ulaanbaatar My profile page joined 1/15
    Posted August 4th, 2015 at 2:35 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi!! I made kimchi for the third time this time i used your recipe for it. Previously, my kimchi didnt turn out as red as this time so i really liked my kimchi this time. Except that my kimchi became a little bit dry i say so what should i do? I love my kimchi sour but its turning sour so what can i do to make it a little bit sour and juicy? Maybe i have too much paste?

    See full size image

  5. tischlagerr My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted August 3rd, 2015 at 11:59 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    How do I adjust it so it’s more spicy? I remember going to Korea and eating really spicy kimchi.

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted August 4th, 2015 at 5:02 pm | # |

      Your hot pepper flakes must be mild. Get spicier hot pepper flakes or use more hot pepper flakes. Your Korean store salesperson will let you know which one is spicier.

  6. jonny_bohemian My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 31st, 2015 at 7:50 am | # |

    Hello Maangchi,

    so I tried my first ever batch of kimchi based on this recipe and even though I followed all the instructions, my kimchi sauce became partially gelatinized after the initial fermentation (my family used the harsher sounding word “slime” to describe it). It did not have any impact on the taste, but the look was not very appealing. Any ideas what went wrong or how to fix this if it happens?

    Thank you,


    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 31st, 2015 at 8:46 am | # |

      Hi Jon,
      It sounds like the porridge made the paste too thick. Next time, make thinner porridge or use less of it.

  7. monicagp My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 30th, 2015 at 8:48 am | # |

    Hi, maangchi.
    I am going to make this traditional kimchi.
    But i cant find the fermented salted shrimp.
    Can i just not use it or is there any substitute ingredient which can be used?
    thankyouuuu :)

  8. mibrito My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 29th, 2015 at 7:48 pm | # |

    Hi from Texas!

    I wanted to show you how my kimchi turned out! I can’t wait to start eating it in a few days! Thank you for the video and recipe!


    See full size image

  9. stage89 singapore My profile page joined 2/15
    Posted July 20th, 2015 at 11:16 am | # |

    Maangchi, I peishan from Singapore, can know why my kimchi sauce become water and chill was splitting like not like yours when press down goy bubbles come out?? Can I know what step I do wrong? And can do the paste then shock the cabbage?

  10. Jana H. My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 16th, 2015 at 8:31 am | # |

    Hiii maangchi I really enjoy your videos they are interesting! I am a big fan of korea, it’s food, it’s traditions, and also the dramas . I would love to make kimchi but I can’t make this amount so please can I know how much quantities does it need to make kimchi with one cabbage. Thank you!
    Plus I love your bread rolls (paang) I make them everyday with my mom, we tried putting inside the bread cheese and it turned out delicious thank you for this amazing food

    • Jana H. My profile page joined 7/15
      Posted July 21st, 2015 at 9:10 am | # |

      Hi maangchi ! I was wondering do I have to put the fish sauce ? Is there anything I can put instead? Thank you

  11. emiliaaoki My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 15th, 2015 at 11:23 am | # |

    Hi! I just want to show how my first kimchi looked like! xD
    I used only one cabbage ^^
    Thank you again for this recipe!

    See full size image

    • Jana H. My profile page joined 7/15
      Posted July 16th, 2015 at 8:21 am | # |

      Hii please I want to make this recipe with only one cabbage too can you tell me how much you used, the quantities of the ingredients please. Thank you!!

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 21st, 2015 at 9:31 am | # |

      It looks awesome!

  12. Sharlenenyc My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 13th, 2015 at 12:52 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi!

    Sadly, I am allergic to onions, green onions, chives, leeks, and garlic (or anything in that family). Is there anything I can substitute those ingredients for (although I know they are essential) such as adding more ginger?

    • gerry c My profile page joined 3/15
      Posted July 24th, 2015 at 12:49 am | # |

      It’s pretty hard to replace the flavor of alliums (onion etc.)
      I’d definitely try some chopped celery and extra carrot to boost
      the flavor a bit.
      Maybe experiment with a small amount of citrus and an aromatic oil too.
      Perhaps some nice herbs just to boost that flavor up.

      These are things I do when making pasta sauces for a friend who is
      intolerant to alliums and it works quite well.

      I haven’t actually tried it with kimchi, give it a go on a small batch and see.

    • gerry c My profile page joined 3/15
      Posted July 24th, 2015 at 1:11 am | # |

      The other thing you can try using is Asafetida (sorry don’t know the correct spelling)
      That’s the way I say it and the Indian store know what I mean :)
      It looks and tastes a bit like garlic powder and is used sometimes in Indian cooking.

      I don’t think it’s an allium but you might want to research it a bit more…

    • SergioD Madrid, Spain My profile page I'm a fan! joined 11/10
      Posted August 26th, 2015 at 3:47 pm | # |

      Hi! I know Buddhist monks don’t eat any of the alyum because of religious reasons, but they still make kimchi, so maybe you can find out how they manage.

  13. Cutemom Indonesia My profile page joined 3/13
    Posted July 8th, 2015 at 2:26 pm | # |

    Hi, Maangchi ssi!

    Do I make saewoojeot for kimchi the same way i would prepare ojingeo like in your other kimchi recipe? I like saewoojeot.



  14. Meg16 My profile page joined 7/15
    Posted July 3rd, 2015 at 11:09 am | # |

    Hi. Is it a must to put fermented shrimp ? Is there anything else to substitute the shrimp? As I don’t have it selling in my country :(

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted July 3rd, 2015 at 11:11 am | # |

      no, fermented shrimp is optional. Skip it if it’s not available. The kimchi will still turn out delicious.

    • gerry c My profile page joined 3/15
      Posted July 24th, 2015 at 1:01 am | # |

      I’ve used the dried shrimp most asian grocery stores have.
      I chopped it fine and added some fish sauce to make it into a paste.

      I did this because I realized I had no fermented shrimp AFTER I’d started salting the cabbage. Turned out nice!
      But as Maangchi says, the shrimp is optional.
      I also have made it without fish sauce or shrimp for my vegetarian friends, and it’s still delicious, just doesn’t quite have the oomph! that the authentic version does.

  15. Diane9 My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 26th, 2015 at 5:23 pm | # |

    Can you add water to the recipe to make more juice?

  16. aderjanos My profile page joined 6/15
    Posted June 21st, 2015 at 3:07 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,
    Why don’t you just do dry salting instead of pre-salting?
    You could mix the rub mixture with 3% salt (of total weight) and rub that into the leaves… It would make the process much faster and you don’t lose precious cabbage juice either. I’m writing this from Hungary. We make sauerkraut called savanyú káposzta with that method. Love the site! Looking forward to buying the book. Would love to see more dessert recipes.

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