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 (about 2.7 kg) napa cabbage
  • ½ cup Kosher salt (2.5 ounces: 72 grams)


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. BerfinK London joined 4/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi Maangchi, I’ve been following your YouTube channel and now with this lockdown I wanted to try making kimchi at home. I just realised in your recipe you said to use 2 tablespoons of rice flour but I misread that too 1 cup would that be a problem? And I opened the container today and it made a pop sound and it didn’t taste bad but I think the sauce I made was too thick, so I don’t know what to do with it.

  2. alimama ny joined 9/11 & has 2 comments

    hi what’s the difference between this making whole cabbagr or cut up kimchi besides it being easier to eat?

  3. carenyrastorza Philipppines joined 4/20 & has 2 comments

    Hi! I ran out of cabbage to ferment but I already made the porridge mixture(including carrots, daikon, spices, etc). May I just keep it in the ref first until the time I get to buy cabbage? How long may I keep the kimchi porridge mixture in the ref?

  4. delaflota Germany joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    I’d like to try out your recipe an therefor I need to know how much in ml is a cup you mention in your recipe.

  5. Tenacious B Suffolk, United Kingdom joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    Having looked for a recipe for Kimchi online, I found your video on YouTube. I made a batch, though I didn’t have all the ingredients, and it was very nice. THEN, I saw your website and saw there was a Korean store about 25 miles from my house. So, I went there (and spent a small fortune!), but got everything I needed. Large Napa, radish, paste, flakes, they even had saeujeot! I was so happy!
    Anyway, I made another larger batch of Kimchi and it tastes absolutely wonderful with all the ingredients! The only thing I did differently was to cut the Napa into smaller manageable chunks.
    I was so pleased, I bought your new book!
    Now I can’t wait to try the recipes, including the Kim hi pancake!
    Thanks for your wonderful recipes.

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,854 comments

      When you found a nice Korean grocery store in your area, you must have been so excited! I know how you felt. : ) Your kimchi looks superb! As you know, you can make so many different kinds of dishes and meals with fermented kimchi. Cheers!

  6. shey singapore joined 3/20 & has 1 comment

    Hi maangchi..been a follower on youtube and have tried a lot of yur dishes ..yesterday i have tried to make kimchi and left it for fermentation..hmm maybe about 20 hrs now..and was wonderin if its been done alrdy so i tried to test for bubbles and yeah there was but when i tasted the liquid it doesnt taste sour i wrapped it again and covered the lid and left it at room temp i doing it correctly? when should i start putting it in the fridge and get the sourness done..thank you

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08 & has 11,854 comments

      “i tasted the liquid it doesnt taste sour i wrapped it again and covered the lid and left it at room temp again” Great! Yes, wait a little longer until it tastes a little sour and transfer the kimchi to the fridge. Good luck!

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