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. Asianwaterdrop0422 California My profile page joined 6/16
    Posted June 26th, 2016 at 2:35 am | # |

    I made this recipe today does it look okay to you? It’s not as red as yours and seems to be getting pretty watery. i haven’t tasted it yet since I’m not a particular fan of kimchi my itself but it smells really fishy. It’s not going to taste really fishy is it?

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    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted June 26th, 2016 at 6:20 am | # |

      It looks and sounds fantastic! “.. smells really fishy” That’s my favorite smell! : ) It will be better when the kimchi ferments. Congratulations on first time making kimchi!

  2. LoveToCook78 Denver, CO My profile page joined 6/16
    Posted June 20th, 2016 at 8:09 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi. First of all, I love your videos and recipes. I’ve learned so much about Korean cooking from you. I decided to make kimchi using this recipe, but instead of napa cabbage I used packaged broccoli slaw from Trader Joe’s. It turned out great. It’s not as juicy as I’d hoped, probably because broccoli shoots have less water than cabbage, but it’s still very good. I can’t stop eating it! Thanks again!

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  3. Jeju Asian My profile page joined 6/16
    Posted June 14th, 2016 at 7:32 am | # |

    It’s my first time making kimchi and I followed the recipe. Can I ask if the kimchi will become more sour as we ferment it in the fridge( not freezer compartment) for more than 2-3 weeks?
    Also, is it ok to eat the sour ones? Thanks.

  4. yoon10 Davao city My profile page joined 2/16
    Posted June 12th, 2016 at 10:55 pm | # |

    Hello maangchi…is it normal if the kimchi has too much sauce/watery..been making kimchi for like 3 yrs following your ingredients and procedure its all turn good..but this kne which i made last got too much sauce/watery when i check this normal?

    • yoon10 Davao city My profile page joined 2/16
      Posted June 12th, 2016 at 11:00 pm | # |

      “but this one which i made last night got too much sauce/watery when i check it out this normal?

  5. aubergines Vancouver My profile page joined 6/16
    Posted June 6th, 2016 at 2:01 pm | # |

    I made this last week (exactly as written, minus the water dropwort, which wasn’t available at my local H-Mart). It is amazing! It is everything that I want kimchi to be, and the instructions were clear and easy-to-follow. I can’t believe I waited 10 years to make kimchi! Thanks, Maangchi. My boyfriend has been gobbling it up like there’s about to be a national shortage, and he isn’t even a big Korean food guy. I will be making another batch soon.

  6. leely Malaysia My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 30th, 2016 at 11:43 pm | # |

    Hi Maangchi,

    I wanted to make this kimchi for my friend that is vegetarian, i can substitute fish sauce with soya sauce and salt right?

    thank you


  7. Mi Heui Iran - Tehran My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 28th, 2016 at 1:15 am | # |

    언니 안녕하세요?
    I have some question ^^
    1) can i add fresh shrimp or fresh fish in a kimchi?
    2)which kind of fish is better for add in a kimchi ?
    3) how can add fresh shrimp or fresh fish in a kimchi?
    4) can i add soup soy souce stead fish souce?? or remove fish souse from the recipe??
    5) how many times can keep kimchi in refrigerator is good until don’t comming fungi?? ^^
    감사합니다 ^^

  8. Ray52 Netherlands My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 26th, 2016 at 2:42 pm | # |

    Today i made your tongbaechu-kimchi, i substituted the fermented salted shrimps for 6 tbls shrimppaste. I tasted a bit after i made it right away and tasted allready very good. I can’t wait to taste it when its done fermenting.


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    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted May 27th, 2016 at 3:59 pm | # |

      Shrimp paste is a great substitute! Thank you for sharing your delicious kimchi photo!

  9. Soyeggs Australia My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 26th, 2016 at 4:48 am | # |

    Hi Maangchi! Great recipes!
    If the kimchi juice looks pale and runny, it doesnt look very rich and red like usual reataurant kimchi, does it mean that the kimchi fermented too much or just because the seasoning ingredients were not enough?

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted May 27th, 2016 at 3:54 pm | # |

      I think seasoning ingredients were not enough. Add more hot pepper flakes to the kimchi paste to make your kimchi more red.

  10. verwijaya indonesia My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 16th, 2016 at 12:08 pm | # |


    i tried this recipe…. the first time i tried, i used too much table salt and the kimchi tasted too salty… but i manage to use the kimchi on soup and made the soup taste good….

    now i try making it the seond time and this time i used kimchi salt and follow your recipe… and when i try right away it did not taste salty enough… what should i do? should i add more salt ? how? please help….

    btw, i tried your buddae jjigae soup… it was great… love your recipes….

    • Maangchi New York City My profile page joined 8/08
      Posted May 17th, 2016 at 4:01 am | # |

      “when i try right away it did not taste salty enough” You can fix bland kimchi any time by adding more salt and fish sauce. Take some kimchi juice 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.

  11. LouiseG Canada My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 15th, 2016 at 9:19 pm | # |

    I was wondering if I can substitute the pepper flakes with the red chili powder use in the Chili con Carne recipe?

    Also If one is alergic to fish sauce and shrimp, can Soy Sauce be used instead?

  12. Suzannep05 Aurora CO My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 14th, 2016 at 12:33 am | # |

    I used to spend so much money butyng kimchee that doesn’t even come close to how maangchi’s kimchee tastes. Best kimchee hands down. Everything I’ve made from yippee website had been absolutely authentic and delicious. Thank you for sharing your recipes!!

  13. Psc Sydney My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 1st, 2016 at 11:45 pm | # |

    I love your website! Can I make kimchi without using sugar?

  14. matty Nigeria My profile page joined 5/16
    Posted May 1st, 2016 at 10:06 am | # |

    Sorry if this question sounds stupid.. But can I substitute with English cabbage?

    • Banks208 London My profile page joined 6/16
      Posted June 19th, 2016 at 11:47 am | # |

      Urm I would recommend you not to and try and find Napa cabbage (its some times called chinese leaf) since english regular cabbage doesn’t get as soft and juicy as napa. However that being said, Im pretty sure Maangchi uses English cabbage in her Emergency Kimchi recipe.
      Hope this helped

  15. mcenizal New Mexico My profile page joined 4/16
    Posted April 14th, 2016 at 7:54 pm | # |

    The family wants pizza tonight but I want Maangchi homemade kimchi! Thank you for the recipe, it’s so delicious! My first time making it!

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  16. Stephani08 Indonesia My profile page joined 3/16
    Posted March 31st, 2016 at 8:24 am | # |

    This is my first time make kimchi,i follow your directions.. And you know? This is awesome taste! I have been live in China for 6month,and regularly i go to korean restaurant,i think im fall in love with korean food,and now i just came back to Indonesia. i think i cant eat korean food with the same taste i love the most. and i try to searching recipe and i find your blog. and i try make kimchi and again i fall in love with this taste! I love you so much Maangchi. Thank you for sharing korean food recipe. i will try to make any food from your recipe. and i will leave comment every time i had a good cook :D
    고맙습니다 :D

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