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:


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. Jane_wang San diego joined 11/17
    Posted November 15th, 2017 at 4:31 pm | # |

    Maangchi, I made some kimchi today. A small problem I ran into is with the porridge. It looks thick after boiling the sweet rice water. But the thick porridge cleared up after I added the fish sauce and salty shrimp. The kimchi looks more like sitting in cabbage juice than what it should look like. Did I miss anything? Thanks a lot!

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 20th, 2017 at 9:42 am | # |

      Hi Jane,
      It sounds like everything is normal to me. You can press it down and mix it up a bit. After kimchi is made, water still comes out of the cabbage, this is normal.
      Let me know how your kimchi turns out!

  2. funcooking Ontario joined 8/11
    Posted November 12th, 2017 at 1:20 am | # |

    I made kimchi today! It has been 10 years I have made my own kimchi since I followed Maangchi 언니’s recipe. 정보 감사합니다❤ I started it when I was a university student and because there was no place to buy kimchi in where I studied. Today I made 총각김치 and 배추김치 in my new house with my hubby’s help because I’m currently 6 months + pregnant We love homemade Kimchi

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 20th, 2017 at 9:44 am | # |

      Both kinds of kimchi look perfect! Especially the ponytail kimchi looks crispy and delicious!

      Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  3. Kuraip Lyon, France joined 11/17
    Posted November 11th, 2017 at 4:20 pm | # |

    I tried making kimchi using your recipe. I brought some at a party and everyone enjoyed it a lot. Thank you very much Maangchi!!

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 20th, 2017 at 9:45 am | # |

      Wow it looks well made! Congratulations!

  4. Ibi87 the netherlands joined 11/17
    Posted November 6th, 2017 at 5:06 pm | # |

    Hey Maangchi and readers i have a question what will happen if i ad igriedients like green onions more carrots and ginger to an already fermented kimchi wil it go bad?

    • Ibi87 the netherlands joined 11/17
      Posted November 7th, 2017 at 4:06 am | # |

      and daikon and my kimchi was already 2 weeks in the fridge can someone help me please.

  5. monie20 texas joined 11/17
    Posted November 4th, 2017 at 11:51 am | # |

    How can I make kimchi with out fish sauce and out any seafood in it? I’m allergic to seafood. And any other recipe that calls for fish sauce. if I leave it out will it taste the same?

    • sanne Munich joined 8/14
      Posted November 5th, 2017 at 6:24 am | # |

      The fermented seafood mainly acts as a starter as does yeast or sour dough for bread.
      You may use traditionally brewed soy sauce or even the soaking water from shiitake mushrooms instead – adjust the amount of salt you use then.
      But sea-salt is the best – I hope that’s no problem. ;-)

      Bye, Sanne.

  6. SilentDaisy Florida, USA joined 10/17
    Posted October 31st, 2017 at 10:13 am | # |

    Maangchi, thank you so much for posting this recipe!

    I was unable to visit my in-laws in 양평 to make kimchi during my pregnancy so I didn’t know what to do. Finding your recipes and website is a blessing. Thank you for sharing Korean cooking with the world.
    I’m patiently waiting for that wonderful, fermented scent to fill the air and remind me of Korea. I’ve been craving 김치찌개 since I had my baby. I am so excited!

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted November 6th, 2017 at 8:29 am | # |

      The kimchi looks so good! Congratulations!

  7. Hafizah Malaysia joined 10/16
    Posted October 30th, 2017 at 5:46 am | # |

    Why is my kimchi doesn’t have kimchi juice?

  8. Gabyvanraes Angus, Ontario, Canada joined 10/17
    Posted October 28th, 2017 at 10:48 am | # |

    Hi Maanchi, I tried your recipe but had to modify a lot due to not finding ingredients locally. I could not find dropwort, chili flakes, Asian radish/daikon or fermented shrimp. I used red radish, fish sauce and fresh hot peppers. I did not achieve a lovely red paste, while my mix was more watery and rustic. I did coat all my cabbage and covered each batch with any remaining liquid. I have good fermentation, after a few days the cabbage has a good effervescence but it is way too crazy hot! Is there anything I can do to tone down the heat?

    See full size image

    • Maangchi New York City joined 8/08
      Posted October 31st, 2017 at 8:06 am | # |

      Wow it looks amazing, you did a good job! As long as you added garlic and fish sauce, the taste will be good! I see you have everything packed into cute jars!

      When it starts to ferment, the heat will go down. Just keep it an enjoy!

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